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Electric Guitars

Amplifying the sound of a guitar by means of electricity involved many inventors and musicians working since the 1920s to develop, design, and popularize a louder instrument. The electric guitar may be the most important and popular instrument of the last half-century in American music. Certainly its introduction brought a major change to American musical technology and has shaped the sound and direction of modern musical styles.

At first shunned as something of a novelty, electric guitars today are at home in the classroom and conservatories, in the concert hall, in garages, and even in marching bands. They are valued as much for the artistry of their craftsmanship as for the sounds they make. Musicians and avid collectors prize certain vintage models, and many electric guitars made in the years before World War II up through the 1960s sell for thousands of times their original price.

The story of the electric guitar reaffirms an important historical theme. Any technology, no matter how prosaic or grand, is the result of dynamic relationships among inventors, purveyors, and users. The electric guitar came to prominence through the desire of musicians and inventors for a louder, better, and different sound. It grew to be such an important element in American music through the interactions of listeners, players, luthiers, manufacturers, engineers, dealers, and, eventually, scholars and connoisseurs. Because the electric guitar helped musicians to create in new ways, they and their listeners heard new things and imagined new possibilities about their music and, ultimately, about themselves and their world.


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Solid body electric guitars
Solid body electric guitars

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