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Electric guitar

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An electric guitar is a type of guitar that uses electronic pickups to convert the vibration of its steel-cored strings into electrical current. The signal may be electrically altered to achieve various tonal effects prior to being fed into an amplifier, which produces the final sound which can be either an electrical sound or an acoustic sound. Distortion, equalization, or other effects can change the sound that is emitted from the amplifier.

The electric guitar is used in many popular styles of music, including almost all genres of rock and roll, metal, country music, pop music, jazz, blues, and even contemporary classical music. Its distinctive sound and intimate association with many legendary internationally-famous musicians has made it the signature instrument of late twentieth-century music. Specialized steel guitars, although they are also electric instruments descended from the guitar, are normally not considered electric guitars but rather as a separate instrument. This distinction has important consequences on claims of priority in the history of the electric guitar.


[edit] Solid body electric guitars

Solid body electric guitars are guitars that have no holes for sound or internal cavity to accommodate vibration (used to amplify string vibrations in acoustic guitars). They are generally made of hardwood with a lacquer coating and have 6 steel strings. The sound that is audible in music featuring electric guitars is produced by pickups on the guitar which convert the string vibrations into an electrical signal. The signal is then fed to an amplifier (or amp) and speaker (or speakers).

[edit] Hollow body electric guitars

These guitars have a hollow body and electronic pickups mounted on its body. They work in a similar way to solid body electric guitars except that because the hollow body also vibrates, the pickups convert a combination of string and body vibration into an electrical signal

[edit] Electric-acoustic guitars

Some steel-string acoustic guitars are fitted with pickups purely as an alternative to using a separate microphone. They may also be fitted with a piezo-electric pickup under the bridge, attached to the bridge mounting plate, or with a low mass microphone (usually a condenser mic) inside the body of the guitar that will convert the vibrations in the body into electronic signals, or even combinations of these types of pickups, with an integral mixer/preamp/graphic equalizer. These are called electric acoustic guitars, and are regarded as acoustic guitars rather than electric guitars because the pickups do not produce a signal directly from the vibration of the strings, but rather from the vibration of the guitar top or body. These should not be confused with hollow body electric guitars, which have pickups of the type found on solid body electric guitars.

[edit] One-string guitars

Although rare, the one-string guitar is sometimes heard, particularly in Delta blues, where improvised folk instruments were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Eddie "One String" Jones had some regional success with a version of "Rolling and Tumbling Blues" on a single string with a pickup, and Mississippi blues musician Lonnie Pitchford played a similar, homemade instrument. In a more contemporary style, Little Willie Joe, the inventor of the Unitar had a considerable rhythm and blues instrumental hit in the 1950s with "Twitchy", recorded with the Rene Hall Orchestra.

[edit] Four-string guitars

The best known four-string guitar player is Tiny Grimes, who played on 52nd street with the beboppers and played a major role in the Prestige Blues Swingers. Grimes' guitar omitted the bottom two strings. Deron Miller of CKY (band) only uses four strings, but plays a six string guitar with the two highest strings removed. Many banjo players use this tuning: DGBE, mostly in Dixieland. Guitar players find this an easier transition than learning plectrum or tenor tuning.

[edit] Seven-string guitars

Seven-string guitars exist, most of which add a low B string below the E. They were popularized by Steve Vai. Together with Ibanez,Vai and Ibanez created the well known Jem and others in the 1980s, and have been recently revived by some nu metal bands (such as Korn). Jazz guitarists using a seven-string include veteran jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John Pizzarelli. The seven-string guitar has also played an essential role in progressive rock, and is commonly used in bands such as Dream Theater and by experimental guitarists such as Ben Levin. Another less common seven-string arrangement is a second G string situated beside the standard G string and tuned an octave higher, in the same manner as a twelve-stringed guitar (see below).

[edit] Eight-string guitars

Eight-string electric guitars are rare, but not unused. One is played by Charlie Hunter (manufactured by Novax Guitars). The largest manufacturer of 8- to 14-strings is Warr Guitars. Their models are used by Trey Gunn (of King Crimson) who has his own signature line from the company. Also, Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendahl of Meshuggah used 8 string guitars made by Nevborn Guitars and now guitars by Ibanez.

[edit] Twelve-string guitars

Twelve string electric guitars feature six pairs of strings, usually with each pair tuned to the same note. The extra E, A, D, and G strings add a note one octave above, and the extra B and E strings are in unison. The pairs of strings are played together as one, so the technique and tuning are the same as a conventional guitar, although creating a much fuller tone. They are used almost solely to play harmony and rhythm. They are relatively common in folk rock music. Lead Belly is the folk artist most identified with the twelve-string, usually acoustic with pickup. George Harrison of The Beatles and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds brought the electric twelve-string to notability in rock and roll. During the Beatles' first trip to the U.S., in February 1964, Harrison received a new "360/12" model guitar from the Rickenbacker company; this was a 12-string electric made to look onstage like a 6-string. He began using the 360 in the studio on Lennon's "You Can't Do That" and other songs. Roger McGuinn, looking for the sound of a twelve string but on an electric had an epiphany when viewing The Beatles "Hard Days Night" movie, when he realised that George was playing a twelve string electric. He liked the sound so much that it became his signature guitar sound with The Byrds.

[edit] 3rd bridge guitars

The 3rd bridge guitar is an electric prepared guitar with an additional 3rd bridge. This can be a normal guitar with for instance a screwdriver placed under the strings, but can also be a custom made instrument. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth plays 3rd bridge guitars. Famous luthiers who built 3rd bridge guitars are Yuri Landman, Bradford Reed and Glenn Branca.

[edit] Guitar Necks

There are several different necks on guitars, these different necks including C necks, and V necks refer to the feel and shape the neck of the guitar has been constructed in

[edit] Double neck guitars

Double-neck (or, less commonly, "twin-neck") guitars enable guitarists to play guitar and bass guitar or, more commonly, a six-string and twelve-string. Jimmy Page's use of a custom-made Gibson EDS-1275, to enable him to replicate his use of two different guitars when performing Led Zeppelin's song "Stairway to Heaven" in a concert setting, brought double-necked guitars into the public eye. Don Felder also used the Gibson EDS-1275 during the Hotel California tour. There were also some double necks that had two 6 string necks. These would have two different pickup configurations for two entirely different sounds and tones. The most popular 6 and 6 were made by Ibanez in the early 80's. These were copies of the Gibson SG style 6 and 12. Also referred to as the pre lawsuit guitars. Ibanez stopped production when they lost a law suit to Gibson. In some cases the "lawsuit" guitars played just as well as the Gibsons, and sometimes better, at a fraction of the cost. The Gibson 6 and 12 was also popularized by the Eagles hit "Hotel California". The guitar can be heard noticeably in the intro and solo.

English progressive rock bands such as Genesis used custom made instruments produced by the Shergold company. Rick Nielsen, guitarist for Cheap Trick, uses a variety of custom guitars mostly made by Hamer Guitars, many of which have five necks, with the strap attached to the body by a swivel so that the guitar can be rotated to put any neck into playing position. Guitarist Steve Vai occasionally uses a triple-neck guitar; one neck is twelve string, one is six string and the third is a fretless six string.

[edit] History

Adolph Rickenbacker invented the electric guitar or some may call the lap steel guitar. The popularity of the electric guitar began with the big band era because amplified instruments became necessary to compete with the loud volumes of the large brass sections common to jazz orchestras of the thirties and forties. Initially, electric guitars consisted primarily of hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies to which electromagnetic transducers had been attached.

[edit] Early years

Electric guitars were originally designed by an assortment of luthiers, electronics enthusiasts, and instrument manufacturers, in varying combinations. Some of the earliest electric guitars,then essentially adapted hollow bodied acoustic instruments, used tungsten pickups and were manufactured in the 1923s by Rickenbacker.

The first recording of an electric guitar was by jazz guitarist George Barnes who recorded two songs in Chicago on March 1st, 1938: Sweetheart Land and It's a Low-Down Dirty Shame. Many historians incorrectly attribute the first recording to Eddie Durham, but his recording with the Kansas City Five was not until 15 days later. Durham introduced the instrument to a young Charlie Christian, who made the instrument famous in his all-too-brief life and is generally known as the first electric guitarist and a major influence on jazz guitarists for decades thereafter.

The version of the instrument that is best known today is the solid body electricguitar, a guitar made of solid wood, without resonating airspaces within it.

Rickenbacher, later spelled Rickenbacker offered a cast aluminum electric guitar, nicknamed The Frying Pan or The Pancake Guitar, beginning in 1933, which reportedly sounded quite modern and aggressive when tested by vintage guitar researcher John Teagle. The company Audiovox built and may have offered an electric solid-body as early as the mid-1930s.

Another early solid body electric guitar was designed and built by musician and inventor Les Paul in the early 1940s, working after hours in the Gibson Guitar factory. His log guitar (so called because it consisted of a simple 4x4 wood post with a neck attached to it and homemade pickups and hardware, with two detachable Swedish hollow body halves attached to the sides for appearance only) was patented and is often considered to be the first of its kind, although it shares nothing in design or hardware with the solid body "Les Paul" model sold by Gibson.

[edit] Fender

In 1950 and 1951, electronics and instrument amplifier maker Clarence Leonidas Fender - better known as Leo Fender - through his eponymous company, designed the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar with a single magnetic pickup, which was initially named the "Esquire". The two-pickup version of the Esquire was called the "Broadcaster". However, Gretsch had a drumset marketed with a similar name (Broadkaster), so Fender changed the name to "Telecaster" in homage to the new phenomenon of television. Features of the Telecaster included: an ash body; a maple 25½" scale, 21-fret neck attached to the body with four-bolts reinforced by a steel neckplate; two single-coil, 6-pole pickups (bridge and neck positions) with tone and volume knobs, pickup selector switch; and an output jack mounted on the side of the body. A black bakelite pickguard concealed body routings for pickups and wiring. The bolt-on neck was consistent with Leo Fender's belief that the instrument design should be modular to allow cost-effective and consistent manufacture and assembly, as well as simple repair or replacement. Due to the earlier mentioned trademark issue, the earliest Telecasters were delivered with headstock decals with the Fender logo but no model identification, and are commonly referred to by collectors as "Nocasters".

In 1954, Fender introduced the Fender Stratocaster, or "Strat". It was positioned as a deluxe model and offered various product improvements and innovations over the Telecaster. These innovations included an ash or alder double-cutaway body design for badge assembly with an integrated vibrato mechanism (called a synchronized tremolo by Fender, thus beginning a confusion of the terms that still continues), three single-coil pickups, and body comfort contours. Leo Fender is also credited with developing the first commercially-successful electric bass called the Fender Precision Bass, introduced in 1951.

[edit] Vox

In 1962 Vox introduced the pentagonal Phantom guitar, originally made in England but soon after made by EKO of Italy. It was followed a year later by the teardrop-shaped Mark VI, the prototype of which was used by Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, and later Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls. Vox guitars also experimented with onboard effects and electronics. In the mid 1960s, as the sound of electric 12 string guitars became popular, Vox introduced the Phantom XII and Mark XII electric 12 string guitars as well as the Tempest XII which employed a more conventional Fender style body and thus is often overlooked as a Vox classic from the Sixties. The few that were manufactured also came from Italy. Vox also produced other traditional styles of 6 and 12 string electric guitars in both England and Italy.

[edit] Pickups

Electric guitars are amplified by using with magnetic pickups that sense the vibration of the metal strings. Some hybrid electric-acoustic guitars are equipped with additional microphones or piezoelectric pickups (transducers) that sense mechanical vibration from the body. The guitar's magnetic pickups are embedded or "potted" in epoxy or wax to prevent the pickup from having a microphonic effect.

A rather new and exotic type of pickup is the optical pickup [1] that senses string and body vibrations using light. This type is totally insensitive to ambient electromagnetic noises.

Single coil magnetic pickups also tend to pick up ambient electromagnetic noises, the so-called "hum", with a strong 50 or 60 Hz component depending on the frequency used in the local power transmission system. All sorts of electric appliances produce this kind of interference.

Double-coil or "humbucker" pickups were invented to counter the unwanted ambient hum sounds. Humbuckers have two coils of opposite magnetic polarity, so that electromagnetic noise hitting both coils simultaneously cancels itself out. The two coils are wired in phase, so that the signal picked up by each coil is added together. This creates the richer, "fatter" tone associated with humbucking pickups. The same effect can be achieved on guitars such as Fender's Stratocaster, in which two single-coil pickups can be active at the same time to cancel the hum.

[edit] Operational principles

The working principles of electric guitars are primarily based on induced currents and circuits. Magnets are located under each ferromagnetic string, magnetising the strings and causing them to behave as magnets themselves. When a string is played, it oscillates at a certain frequency, causing the magnetic field it creates to oscillate with it. Solenoids (electromagnetic coils) are wrapped around each magnet, giving an induced alternating current at the same frequency. When this travels to an amp, the result is a sound produced at exactly the same pitch as the string.

[edit] Tremolo arms

Some electric guitars have a tremolo arm (sometimes called a whammy bar or a vibrato bar and occasionally abbreviated as trem), a lever attached to the bridge which can slacken or tighten the strings temporarily, changing the pitch, thereby creating a vibrato effect. Edward Van Halen frequently uses the tremolo to embellish his playing, as heard in Van Halen's "Eruption."

Early tremolo systems tended to be unreliable and cause the guitar to go out of tune quite easily, precluding extensive use of the tremolo. Floyd Rose was a noteworthy innovator who worked to resolve this problem. Rose introduced one of the first improvements on the vibrato system in many years when in the late 1970s he began to experiment with "locking" nuts and bridges which work to prevent the guitar from detuning even under the most heavy whammy bar acrobatics.

The word Tremolo properly describes variation of volume, not pitch (vibrato); however, the misnaming (likely originating with Leo Fender printing "Synchronized Tremolo" on the headstock of his original 1954 Stratocaster) is too well-established to be easily reversed. Thus the correct name for it is "Vibrato bar".

[edit] Sound and effects

An acoustic guitar's sound is largely dependent on the vibration of the guitar's body and the air within it; the sound of an electric guitar is largely dependent on a magnetically induced electrical signal, generated by the vibration of metal strings near sensitive pickups. The signal is then "shaped" on its path to the amplifier by using a range of effect devices or circuits that modify the tone and characteristics of the signal.

In the 1960s, guitarists began distorting the sound of the instrument by increasing the gain, or volume, of the preamplifier. This clips the electronic signal and generates harmonics. In the 1960s, the tonal palette of the electric guitar was further modified by introducing an effects box in its signal path. Traditionally built in a small metal chassis with an on/off foot switch, such "stomp boxes" have become as much a part of the instrument for many electric guitarists as the electric guitar itself.

Typical effects include stereo chorus, fuzz, wah-wah and flanging, compression/sustain, delay, reverb, and phase shift. Some important innovators of the heavily effects-altered electric guitar include guitarists such as Frank Zappa, John Petrucci, Jimmy Page, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Syd Barrett, Kevin Shields, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Joe Satriani, technicians such as Roger Mayer and experimental luthiers like Yuri Landman.

In the 1970s, as effects pedals proliferated, their sounds were combined with power-tube distortion at lower, more controlled volumes by using power attenuators such as Tom Scholz' Power Soak as well as re-amplified dummy loads such as Eddie Van Halen's use of a variac, power resistor, post-power-tube effects, and a final solid-state amp driving the guitar speakers. A variac is one approach to power-supply based power attenuation, to make the sound of power-tube distortion more practically available.

By the 1980s, and 1990s, digital and software effects became capable of replicating the analog effects used in the past. These new digital effects attempted to model the sound produced by analog effects and tube amps, to varying degrees of quality. There are many free to use guitar effects software applications for personal computer downloadable from the Internet. By the 2000s, PC with specially-designed sound cards could be used as a digital guitar effects processor. Although digital and software effects offer many advantages, many guitarists still use analog effects.

Some innovations have been made recently in the design of the electric guitar. In 2002, Gibson announced the first digital guitar, which performs analog-to-digital conversion internally. The resulting digital signal is delivered over a standard Ethernet cable, eliminating cable-induced line noise. The guitar also provides independent signal processing for each individual string.

Also, in 2003 amp maker Line 6 released the Variax guitar. It differs in some fundamental ways from conventional solid-body electrics. For example it uses piezoelectric pickups instead of the conventional electro-magnetic ones, and has an onboard computer capable of modifying the sound of the guitar to model the sound of many popular guitars.

[edit] Uses

The electric guitar can be played either solo or with other instruments. It has been used in numerous genres of popular music, as well as (less frequently) classical music.

[edit] Contemporary classical music

While the classical guitar had historically been the only variety of guitar favored by classical composers, in the 1950s a few contemporary classical composers began to use the electric guitar in their compositions. Examples of such works include Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen); Morton Feldman's The Possibility of a New Work for Electric Guitar (1966); George Crumb's Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death (1968); Hans Werner Henze's Versuch über Schweine (1968); Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden); Michael Nyman's Facing Goya (2000); and countless works of Ástor Piazzolla.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a growing number of composers (many of them composer-performers who had grown up playing the instrument in rock bands) began writing for the instrument. These include Steven Mackey, Nick Didkovsky, Scott Johnson, Lois V Vierk, Tim Brady, Tristan Murail, Omar Rodriguez, John Fitz Rogers, Randall Woolf, and Yngwie Malmsteen with his Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra. The American composers Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham have written "symphonic" works for large ensembles of electric guitars, in some cases numbering up to 100 players, and the instrument is a core member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Still, like many electric and electronic instruments, the electric guitar remains primarily associated with rock and jazz music, rather than with classical compositions and performances.

[edit] Largest electric guitar

The largest playable electric guitar was completed by 11 students in the Academy of Science and Technology with their physics teacher Scott Rippetoe in 2000. The Gibson '67 Flying V replica guitar measures 13 meters (43 feet, 7 1/2 inches) long, 4.89 meters (16 feet, 5 1/2 inches) wide, and weighs 1018 kilograms (2,244 pounds) .

[edit] Some famous guitars

Some electric guitars have become as famous as their players.

An icon to heavy metal fans and one of the most famous guitars ever built was owned by Randy Rhoads. The unique design by Randy himself was built by Karl Sandoval and became synonymous with the Rhoads name.

Maybe the most famous individual guitar, Queen guitarist Brian May's home built "Red Special", is an important part of Queen's sound.

Eric Clapton's "Brownie" (a 1956 Fender Stratocaster) and "Blackie" (a composed Strat, mainly based on '57 models) are icons. Clapton played them from the early 70s to the mid 80s. He has now a Stratocaster named after him.

In Europe, Hank Marvin, lead guitarist for the legendary Shadows, had what was the very first Strat in the UK. His '58 Fiesta Red model started the phenomenal success of the Stratocaster there, and especially the huge demand for the Fiesta Red color Marvin became associated with. He also has now a Stratocaster named after him.

David Gilmour owns a whole collection of Strats. Among them, the famous '54 Custom Color model bearing the serial number 0001 - although it wasn't at all the first Stratocaster to be built.

George Harrison played on a number of Beatles albums with a 1961 Stratocaster, originally Daphne Blue (as John Lennon's one), that he colored later in psychedelic design. He named his Strat "Rocky".

Musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher or Buddy Holly Stratocasters became famous on their own too.

Jake E. Lee was quickly associated with Charvel guitar's after he used a number of different models including a white Stratocaster with a black pickguard.

BB King's ES-355 Gibson "Lucille" is also famous, and so is the 335 model of Chuck Berry.

Eddie Van Halen's Kramer is also strongly associated to heavy metal music.

[edit] Common brands

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

This article was started using a Wikipedia guitar article
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