Strings of Fire- legacy of the electric guitar | Sunday Observer

Strings of Fire- legacy of the electric guitar

B.B. King
B.B. King

Music is a universal language that captivates the listener. It has an alluring power. Perhaps one instrument common globally in every genre of music is the electric guitar. The acoustic or box guitar has been around for decades, some believe it was formed from the banjo. It was in 1931 that a man from Texas, USA named George Beauchamp brought forward his invention of the electric guitar. At that time he was the General Manager of the National Guitar Corporation. George did not live long enough to see how is invention helped innovate and uplift music, he died of a heart attack aged 42 years. Pioneers of electric guitar were Les Paul, Lonnie Johnson and Charlie Christian.

The “frying pan” model guitars were famous in 1935 and in 1936 the Gibson Company launched their ES model guitar for 150 US dollars. The electric guitars use pickups to convert the vibration of the strings. This is done via electromagnetic induction, whereby the signal is modified and expressed using reverb, distortion and overdrive. Electric guitars became popular in pop, rock, country and blues and subsequently in rock n roll and heavy metal. It is in heavy metal bands that the lead guitar is musically exploited with individual solo acts which send the crowd into frenzied rampage. Rock n Roll music went on to define an entire generation. Heavy metal has its own ardent following and is deeply rooted among young people. The rhythm guitar plays chord sequences and sustains the beat whilst the lead guitar plays melody lines. The guitars are made using wood from alder, swamp ash, maple, mahogany and basswood. In 2002 Gibson introduced the digital guitar.

Some of the magnificent guitarists of all time are Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Helen (his rock song Jump), Chuck Berry, Saul Hudson (known by his stage name Slash is the guitarist of Guns n Roses, his famous solo is found in the song November Rain ) Riley King (known as B.B.King - his favourite guitar was called Lucille), George Harrison of the Beatles, Carlos Santana, Ozzy Osborne and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. The guitars came as 4 string instruments and with time and demands by bands came to be manufactured in 8 string, 10, string and 12 string models. The famous twin “double” neck guitar was used by Don Felder of the Eagles during their successful Hotel California tour, where they held audiences spellbound. The electric guitar enhances the visual appeal as well as the sound of any band. As Chuck Berry once said “I grew up thinking art was pictures, until I got into music and found out that I was an artist and didn’t paint”.


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