I would like to take you back to the early days
of left handed electric guitars, to discover the history of an
instrument so dear to our hearts! Letís start with the guitar in
general. We can even go right back to the early 1900s, when the
acoustic guitar was already an essential to the production and
playing of popular music (at least popular in those days!)
Incredible as it sounds, our 6-string acoustic was self harmonizing
and joining forces with song even before we were conceived. Yes -
those medieval kings and queens were making shapes on the
dance-floor a long time before we would coin guitars 'legendary'.
Shortly thereafter, brass instruments would reign supreme and the
acoustic would need to pull out some tricks if it was going to
continue pleasuring fans of music. Thankfully, it did. During the
1920's and 30's, the guitar was modified to come with a metal slide.
All of a sudden, people realized that this metal slide could amplify
the sounds produced.
Even so, it would not bring it to jazz fame as the brass instruments
and piano were too striking to overcome. Instead, the metal-slide
guitar was merely playing chords and providing some rhythm. Times
were changing though and as more and more people would come
fanatical with the advancement in technology - someone, somewhere
would pick up that guitar and give it the treatment it deserved.
Still in the early years of the 1930's, a well regarded Hawaiian
guitar player by the name of George Beauchamp would befriend Adolph
Rickenbacker. The second fellow happened to be an electronic
engineer working in Los Angeles, California. Between them, the ideas
of reanimating the acoustic would flow - for days, weeks and then
some. The electric guitar would join hands with its inventors and
start its journey into musical establishment. Now, it would still
take some time to get to where it is today in terms of technology
and class, but the two young men had some good ideas.
Now, picture two magnets on the guitar and a vibrating metal coil,
add to that a magnetic field which could carry the string vibrations
to the coil. Copper coils were placed around the magnets and when an
electric current was sent through, the magnets let them pass through
the metal coil and various resistors for volume and pitch. The
volume resistor could decrease the magnitude of sound waves whereas
the pitch resistor prevented higher frequencies. The signal created
would be sent through a cable to the PA system.
The Rickenbacker went to on be patented in 1937 and the two men gave
each other a pat on the back (okay I made that last part up, but
itís quite possible things went like that). For all their efforts,
we would later name the Rickenbacker - Frying Pan Guitar, due to its
metal overload and shape. That would be the least of their worries
though as just around the corner came a stampede of companies making
their own electric guitars. Hollow bodied acoustics were fit up with
magnetic pickups, but the sound produced often came with too much
feedback to make it a pleasure to listen to. Les Paul would bring
forth a solid wood guitar that diminished a lot of that feedback.
Just before the 1950s, Big Band and Jazz compositions would throw
their arms open to the electric guitar, giving it some more status.
Then Fender wanted to get into the act, patenting the Broadcaster
and producing it for the masses. Its stats included a solid body,
dual-pickup and a selection of volume controls. It would later
switch its name to Telecaster (due to trademark quarrels) and hit
the stages worldwide.
In 1952, another big player by the name of Gibson came on the scene
with the Les Paul - a dual humbucker pickup guitar. They would go on
to be the biggest manufacturers of the electric guitar in the world.
Fender, a little disheartened perhaps, gave us the Stratocaster
which had most of the same functions as their first effort, but the
design was more of a nostalgic one very similar to Hawaiian guitars
of the early days. The Les Paul and the Stratocaster would become
the leaders in guitar playing and travel through the following
generations and decades with force. Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton,
Billie Joe Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly would all
play a Stratocaster Electric Guitar in their careers. Marc Bolan,
Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Noel Gallagher and John Lennon with their
As a result of the efforts of engineers and designers across the
20th and 21st centuries, left handed electric guitars have a strong
hold on the world of music, in particular rock music. It wasn't an
easy journey and we hope that having a grasp on its history, you can
enjoy your jam sessions and performances with more gusto. Long live
the electric guitar!