The first types of electric guitars have been in use since the 1930s, almost one hundred years
now. The first production model was Gibson's ES-150: their Electric Spanish guitar initially priced
at $150 dollars. Although he was not the first to play it, it was the great jazz musician Charlie
Christian that made this guitar famous.
The principles of electric guitar design were now in place. Steel strings vibrating across an
electromagnetic coil, the pickup, pass a small electric current to an amplifier which boosts the
incoming signal and in turn drives a loudspeaker.
Theoretically speaking, the physical construction of these types of electric guitars had little
effect on the characteristic tone quality of the instrument. It’s the design of the pick-up, the
amplifier, and the speaker system that shape its sound. Today, various effects are added into the
sound-chain both before and after the amplification stage. In recordings, the guitar's sound can be
further shaped at the mixing and mastering stages.
Solid body electric guitars do in fact exist, the most famous types of electric guitars being
the competing Stratocaster and Les Paul guitars, built by Fender and Gibson respectively. These two
models of guitars were favored by 1970s rock icons and became an identifiable part of the music's
sound. Today many other brand names and models compete for the attention of players.
In addition to the solid body types of electric guitars are hollow body ones where the body's
vibration does become a contributing factor in its sound. Most famous of these types of electric
guitars are the arch-top guitars of the jazz player. The designation arch-top does have several
possible variations itself. On the more expensive side are the carved tops of the high end jazz
boxes. Emulating these guitars are hollow body types of electric guitars that use varying types of
laminate construction. Once again it was up to Gibson with their ES-175 and the Fender Telecaster
to set the standard for the classic jazz guitar tone.
More recently, synth and midi types of electric guitars are coming into their own. The Canadian
manufacturer Godin originally won its claim to fame with guitars that could drive particular models
of Roland synthesizers. Initially the latency problems of the midi protocol, limited these
instruments to the studio. With further refinements, these types of electric guitars are
increasingly accepted and used by top players looking to define a particular sound, as well as
explore the possibilities of synthesized music, once the exclusive playground of keyboard
Electric guitars, long known for their identifying sounds when compared to their acoustic
cousins, have in recent years been challenged by the newer sounds of the acoustics. Acoustic
manufacturers are doing a stellar job of designing various models of traditional acoustic guitars
with on-board amplification systems. These types of electric guitars often use a combination of
piezoelectric pickups and mics, as well as modified body designs. At their best, these guitar
systems try to strike a balance between recreating a realistic acoustic sound and feel while
limiting feedback problems and bleed-over from other sound sources.