The History of Electric Guitars

Come on a journey through the history of the electric guitar.

It all started with an exciting experiment in the early 1900s, and now, it’s a huge part of modern music. Learn about the people who improved it and listen to the amazing sounds that transformed how we play and enjoy music.

From influencing culture to inspiring musicians everywhere, the electric guitar is a symbol of creativity and expression. Let’s explore the cool story of the electric guitar and its big impact on the music world.

The Inventor of the Electric Guitar

Back in the early 1900s, two guys named Adolph Rickenbacker (an electrical engineer) and George Beauchamp (a musician) teamed up to create the very first real electric guitar. They took ideas from earlier inventions and improved them, so their electric guitar was modern and could be sold to people. 

Some others had tried before, like attaching microphones to the guitar, but Adolph and George were the first to design a real electric guitar that could be made louder with electricity. It sounded really good and became popular among professional musicians.

A Brief History of the Electric Guitar

The history of the guitar witnessed a significant turning point when guitar players faced a problem with the classical guitar’s volume in large concert halls. The increasing crowds at concerts demanded a guitar that could bring the required energy to their performances. It was George Beauchamp who recognized this need and took action to create a solution.

Drawing inspiration from earlier attempts and fueled by his love for Hawaiian music, George Beauchamp designed the first complete electric guitar. Though its appearance was crude compared to modern guitars, it marked the beginning of a revolutionary change in the world of music.

Before George’s breakthrough, others had tried attaching devices to existing wooden guitars to amplify their sound, but with limited success. The electrification of lap steel guitars added to the experimentation, leading manufacturers to explore the use of metal and electrical amplification.

Enter Adolph Rickenbacker, a prominent figure in the electric musical instruments industry. When he teamed up with George Beauchamp, they made history by creating an electromagnetic device that could pick up guitar string vibrations with exceptional clarity. This breakthrough marked the birth of electric guitars, paving the way for a whole new world of music, particularly rock music.

electric guitar was createdv

Transformations of the Electric Guitar Over The Years

Like many modern gadgets and musical instruments, the electric guitar has gone through various transformations to become what it is today. So, let’s dive into the fascinating history of the electric guitar and its transformative journey through the years.

The Rickenbacker Frying Pan Guitar (1931)

The very first electric guitar ever made was called the Rickenbacker Frying Pan. George Beauchamp invented it in 1931, and later, Rickenbacker Electro manufactured it in large quantities. The name “Frying Pan” came from its shape, which resembled a frying pan. Originally designed as a lap steel guitar, it became popular because of the Hawaiian music trend in the 1920s. It went on sale in 1932 and quickly gained popularity among rock stars.

The Rickenbacker Electro String (1935)

This guitar followed the Frying Pan model as an improved version. The company that originally created the electric guitar was called Electro String, but it later changed its name to Rickenbacker in honor of Adolph Rickenbacker. In 1953, the company was sold to F.C. Hall, and Adolph Rickenbacker stepped away from the music scene, marking the beginning of a new era.

Les Paul “Log” (1941)

In 1941, Les Paul convinced Epiphone to let him use their workshop on Sundays. This led to the creation of the Les Paul “Log.” He mounted a Gibson pickup onto a block of maple wood, attaching the strings to deal with feedback issues common in acoustic guitars. He used an Epiphone hollow-body guitar for its look and style. His design quickly became popular as it solved major sound and sustain problems found in acoustic guitars.

Bigsby-Travis Guitar (1947)

Paul Bigsby gained popularity in the 1940s for inventing the “Bigsby Vibrato.” He was friends with Merle Travis, a country-western musician. When Travis asked Bigsby to fix a Kaufman Vibrator unit, he ended up creating something entirely new. This new creation featured elements that would later be useful in developing solid-body electric guitars.

acoustic guitar with a pickup

Fender Broadcaster (Telecaster)(1948)

After some changes and improvements, people wanted a guitar that was practical and useful. Leo Fender took up the challenge and created the Broadcaster, a guitar focused on sound rather than just looks. He aimed to produce sounds similar to those of Hawaiian guitars while solving feedback issues. His experiments led to the Broadcaster, which had two pickups and truss rods on its neck.

Gibson Les Paul Guitar (1953)

Gibson Guitar Corporation collaborated with Les Paul to make this model. The Fender Telecaster’s success in the music market led to a demand for similar guitar designs. To respond to this trend, Gibson’s president, Ted McCarty, brought in Les Paul, an innovative guitarist, as a consultant. Les Paul had already experimented with his “Log” model. After signing with Gibson in 1950, their partnership brought a significant leap in the electric guitar world.

Fender Stratocaster (1954)

The popularity of electric guitars in the 1950s was undeniable, and inventors had to step up their game to meet the growing demand. In 1954, Leo Fender, Freddie Tavares, and George Fullerton teamed up to design the Fender Stratocaster, also known as “Strat.” This guitar was revolutionary for three main reasons: it had a unique double cutaway neck, its tremolo unit allowed for a floating bridge, and it became the first solid-body guitar to have up to three pickups.

Van Halen “Frankenstrat” (1979)

After a long time, another evolution was needed, and this time, Eddie Van Halen wanted to combine the features of both Fender and Gibson guitars. This marked the beginning of an era when guitar playing became more technical and lightning-fast. The “Frankenstrat” allowed for higher output pickups, better tremolo units, and improved necks, making it a complete overhaul in appearance, sound, and playability.

Ibanez 7-String Guitar (1994)

In the 90s, the popular solid-body 7-string guitar made its debut, thanks to Steve Vai collaborating with Ibanez guitars. Its popularity soared even higher when the band Korn featured the Ibanez Universe guitars in their debut album released in 1994. This sparked a trend, and many manufacturers started creating 7-string guitars. Today, rock artists continue to use the 7-string guitar to bring an electrifying touch to their stage performances.


The history of the electric guitar is a story of constant innovation and cultural impact. From its humble beginnings to iconic designs like the Fender Stratocaster and Ibanez 7-String Guitar, each stage has left a lasting mark on music. Visionary individuals like George Beauchamp, Leo Fender, Les Paul, and Eddie Van Halen played key roles in shaping its evolution. Today, the electric guitar remains a symbol of artistic expression and continues to inspire musicians worldwide. Its legacy as a transformative instrument is a testament to the power of human creativity and its ability to electrify our world with music.

More about the history of the guitar you can learn in our article The History of the Guitar.

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