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Guitar History

Related Instruments:
The Guitar's most closely related instruments are the 16th century version of the Lute and the Vihuela.

First Guitar:
The Classical or Spanish Guitar didn't appear until towards the end of the 18th century. Invented by the Italian luthier Gaetano Vinaccia in 1779, this six-stringed instrument is considered by many to be the first true Classical Guitar. It is however a smaller and narrower version than today's Classical Guitars.


Early Popularisation of the Guitar:
Between the years 1800-1850 the Guitar was hugely popular both in performances and publishing. The most famous Guitarists of the time, Dioniso Aguado, Matteo Carcassi, Mauro Guiliani, and Fernando Sor all performed, taught, and had their compositions published.

The Modern Classical or Spanish Guitar:
It was in the 1850s, using Vinaccia's existing model for inspiration, that Antonio Torres Jurado expanded the Guitar's size and focused on the soundboard dynamics. While Vinaccia laid the foundations for the Classical Guitar, it was Jurado who created the first version that resembled the guitars used today, thus he is credited with bringing the Classical Guitar into the mainstream.


First Nylon Guitar Strings:
Albert Augustine founded a company in 1947 that manufactured the world's first nylon classical guitar strings. They were stronger, louder, and more reliable than the animal gut-based strings that had been used previously.





First Electric Guitar:
As early as 1925 George Beauchamp had been conducting experiments, in the hope of creating an electric guitar.


He believed that a device could be developed which could "pick up" the vibrations of each individual string, convert the vibrations to electrical current, and then amplify them via tube type amplifiers used typically in the PA and Radio systems of the day.

After Beauchamp and his colleague Paul Barth developed a working "pickup" out of two horseshoe magnets and six pole pieces, Beauchamp contacted Harry Watson, a plant superintendent for National, who carved the neck and body of the first working electric guitar in a few hours at Beauchamp's kitchen table, they called it the "Frying Pan".

Photo of the actual Guitar "Frying Pan" by Beauchamp and Watson shown below.

First Guitar

Beauchamp approached Adolph Rickenbacher who owned a local tool and die company, and with George's "Frying Pan" prototype in hand, together they formed a company called Rickenbacker Guitars, which they agreed on as Beauchamp (pronounced Beechum) was too difficult to pronounce.


They began manufacturing the "Frying Pan" which became very popular as an Hawaiian lap style slide guitar, making the Rickenbaker company the first manufacturer of electric guitars.

Frying Pan Guitar




Further Development of the Electric Guitar:
In 1935 a prominent slide guitarist by the name of Alvino Rey was commissioned by the Gibson company to assist them in developing a new guitar pickup.

Alvino Rey

The final version was built by Gibson employee Walter Fuller. Initially, the pickup was put onto a late 1935 lap steel model, but shortly thereafter it was put onto a standard f-hole archtop guitar and called the ES-150, (ES for Electro Spanish, 150 was the price in dollars). The first Gibson ES 150 was shipped on May 20, 1936. This marked the birth of the modern electric guitar.

Gibson ES-150

From a selling point, the ES-150 was a great success, but it's hollow body vibrations, feedback, distortion, and undesirable overtones were a problem.

Prominent jazz guitarist Les Paul constructed a solid body guitar that he took to Gibson in 1946, to which they were less than impressed.

In 1949 Leo Fender, who owned a radio repair shop in Anaheim, released what would become the first successful solid body guitar the "Esquire", later renamed the "Broadcaster", and eventually the "Telecaster". It became a favourite of country, blues, and later on, rock guitarists.

By 1961 Gibson had introduced Humbucking" pickups into the Les Paul to eliminate unwanted hum. These pickups utilized two coils wrapped out of phase to cancel out the common mode hum on previous models.

Around 1961 the Gibson company's president Ted McCarty introduced the ES-335, a semi-hollow body guitar incorporating the best of both hollow body, and solid body designs. It was used by influential guitarists like B.B. King and Chuck Berry.

Then Gibson and Fender introduced futuristic looking designs, the Gibson SG (solid guitar) and the Fender Stratocaster, both becoming standard guitars for rock artists in the 1960's.




The 7-String Electric Guitar:
The idea behind creating a seven-string electric guitar was an obvious one: to extend the guitarist's chordal and soloing possibilities.

The first mass-produced solid body seven-string electric guitar was the "Universe" developed by Steve Vai and the Ibanez company.

First 7 String Guitar

It entered production in 1990, and features a low B string to follow the guitar's mainly standard 4ths tuning.

Ibanez's Universe Seven-String Electric Guitar is still in production today.

There are currently countless Guitar Players using seven-string electric guitars including shredders like Rusty Cooley, John Petrucci, Andy James, Michael Batio, Jeff Loomis, Keith Merrow, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, and more.

Words that sum up what the low B string does for the seven-string electric guitar include brutal, chunky, heavy, powerful, strong, ferocious, and intense. So I guess you could say that the seven-string electric guitar feels right at home within the heavy metal genre. That's not to say that it can't be used for other styles of course.

The electric guitar continues to evolve, recently undergoing additional modifications to include an eight-string version. The question is, where will it stop? Many of today's top electric guitar players draw the line at seven strings. One such Guitarist, Michael Batio, views guitars with more than seven strings to be a little redundant, as their very low registers start to invade the Bass Guitar's territory almost rendering it obsolete.

One thing for sure is that the seven-string electric guitar is here to stay. Many guitarists share the view that eight and nine string electric guitars are a gimmick and will not stand the test of time.

guitar Scientists

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