The first coil-wound pickup was designed and used by Lloyd Loar on a solid-body viola in the 1920s. Not long after,
electric guitars were invented during the 1930s out of the necessity to be
heard with the loud brass orchestras of the Big Band Era. In 1931,
the Electro String Company, now the Rickenbacker International Corporation, produced the "Frying Pan,"
a cast aluminum electric guitar. Several years later, the Gibson guitar company produced the first hollow-body electric guitar,
the ES-150 model. In 1951, Leo Fender introduced the
first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, originally called a
Broadcaster. However, Gretsch produced a line of Broadkaster drums,
which forced Fender to change the name of its new guitar, resulting in the
Fender "Telecaster." With the further release of the Fender
Precision Bass and the Fender Stratocaster, electric guitars gained
popularity and continue to be high in demand by today's musicians.
Before buying an electric guitar, decide what kind of bridge and
pickups you prefer. An electric guitar comes with a fixed bridge, a
fulcrum bridge, or a floating bridge. As the name of the fixed
variety indicates, this bridge is immovable and tends to stay in tune
well. The latter two bridge varieties have a tremolo bar, which
allows for interesting effects. However, the fulcrum bridge tends to
cause the guitar to go out of tune, and the floating bridge is difficult
to tune initially, as the position of the bridge depends on the tension
of the six guitar strings.
Pickups come in two main varieties: single-coil pickups and dual-coil pickups (humbuckers). Single-coil pickups produce a brighter, clearer
tone and have been around longer, but they often pick up hums or buzzes
from lights, computers, or nearby electronic devices. A humbucker is
basically a pair of single-coil pickups placed side by side and wired with
opposite polarities. This setup causes the guitar pickup to "buck"
the "hum," as extraneous sounds register on both pickups with equal
amplitude, thus canceling themselves out. Humbuckers produce
a rounder, fuller tone than single-coil pickups.
A close-up photograph of a solid body, six-string guitar focuses on the
sound pickups. Turn the top knob to control the volume, and the
bottom two knobs to control the tone. Create the unique sound you
desire simply by manipulating these pickup controls.
Some guitars employ both pickup varieties and depend on the pickup
selector switch to toggle between the various pickups.
Before you buy an electric guitar, plug the guitar into an amplifier,
play a few songs, and test out the volume and tone controls and the
pickups via the pickup selector switch. Keep in mind that the scale
length, the distance between the nut and the saddle, will affect the ease
of bending strings. Avoid guitars that produce static, buzzing, or
Electric Guitar Manufacturers
Gibson This electric guitar company offers the Epiphone and Kramer Brands,
as well as a range of custom, art, and historic guitars.
Fender Fender is a manufacturer of well-known Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars.