Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Every Bunny Gets Drunk After Easter #10

We're leaking fuel and breaking guitar strings at a record pace this week. John hasn't played, and neither have I (for reasons I can't go into yet). Thank goodness for Expedition Leader David Gloier, who writes this week about the different types of electric guitars and how it influences their sound:
Electric guitars come in three major types: hollow-body, solid-body and semi-hollow body.

For many of you out there, your Squier Stratocaster controller is your first "real" guitar. It's the only one you've held, played and known. The Strat, though, is a relative late-comer to the electric guitar scene, even though it's design is nearly sixty-years old.

The first electric guitars were hollow-bodies. In the 1920's, with the advent of big band music, a need arose for the guitar not to be drowned out by the band. They were essentially arch-top guitars with pickups retrofitted. Hollow-body guitars generally have a nice mellow tone and tend to be favored by jazz musicians. The major shortcoming of the hollow-body is that it is susceptible to feedback due to the the open cavity, large size and the thin shell. They also tended to lack sustain. These were all features that, while beneficial to an acoustic instrument, led to the search for a guitar that would correct these issues. Hollow-body guitars also tend to be a bit fragile.

Solid-body guitars began to take shape in the 1940's as the need arose for guitars that were louder and more durable. Two of the biggest figures in the development of the solid-body electric guitar were Les Paul and Leo Fender. Their designs are still prominent today. Les Paul created "The Log", which was essentially a 4x4 piece of lumber with a bridge, a pickup, and a neck attached. He split an acoustic guitar lengthwise and attached both halves to his log to make it look more like a traditional guitar. In the meantime, Leo Fender produced his "Esquire" in 1946, which is essentially a Telecaster with just a bridge pickup, followed shortly thereafter by the "Broadcaster" (1950), a two pickup version, which, due to a legal dispute became the "Telecaster". Fender's designs were the first mass produced solid-body guitars and Gibson quickly realized there was a market and began producing their solid-body guitars based on Les Paul's designs in 1952. In 1954, Fender followed up his Telecaster with the solid-body Stratocaster, which all you Rock Band players should now be familiar with.

The advantages of the solid-body are increased volume and sustain, without the feedback at higher volumes that can be common with hollow-body guitars. It's no surprise that shortly after a guitar was produced that could be played reliably at louder volumes, Rock and Roll emerged. (God bless Les and Leo.)

The solid-body is also much more durable. Stories abound of disasters that Telecasters have survived. Keith Richards even clobbered a guy over the head with one in the middle of a concert, strapped it back on, and kept playing.

Gibson, in 1958, introduced the ES-335, a semi-hollow body guitar which offered the benefits of both the hollow-body and solid-body guitar. Semi-hollow bodies provide the resonance of a hollow-body guitar with some of the sustain and bite of a solid-body. The solid center design of the semi-hollow makes it more resistant to feedback, unlike hollow-bodies, which, as discussed, tend to feedback at higher volumes. The advantages of this design are that it gives the resonance of a hollow-body with the sustain of a solid-body.

So there, in a very basic nutshell, are the three major electric guitar designs. Hopefully, when you're staring at that wall full of guitars at your local guitar store, you'll have a better idea why they all seem so different.

Site Meter