Milestones in Electric Guitars

The Beginning

George Beauchamp invented the first effective magnetic pickup for an electric guitar and it was incorporated into the Ro-Pat-In Frying Pan, later Rickenbacker, in 1931. Electric guitars can have solid, semi-hollow or hollow bodies and make little sound without amplification. Electronic pickups convert the vibration of the steel strings into signals, which are fed to an amplifier through a cable or radio transmitter. Following the Frying Pan other manufacturers began to install pickups into their guitars, including Gibson and Fender.

Design Revolution

The electric guitar then underwent a design revolution with hundreds of models appearing over the years utilising different headstock arrangements, different materials for fret boards and different woods for the bodies including maple, ash, poplar and Mahogany. Electric guitars generally have 6 strings but guitars with up to 18 strings are available. The combination of design and materials give a guitar its own sound and personality and every musician has his or her favourite model but some guitars were truly milestones in musical history and are still the market leaders today.


The Fender broadcaster first appeared in 1950 and is often referred to as the most important guitar ever made. The solid bodied, easy to play Broadcaster was the first guitar of its kind to be produced on a large scale and featured a clean bright sound. The Broadcaster was instrumental in the evolution of various forms of music including country, electric blues and rock and roll. The name was changed to Telecaster in the late 1950’s. Many great rock artists have played the Fender Telecaster including Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen, David Gilmour and Freddie Mercury.

The Legend

The Gibson Les Paul, also known as the legend, was first introduced in 1952 as a result of a collaboration between the Gibson Guitar Company and jazz musician Les Paul, although Paul’s contribution was questionable and may only have extended to cosmetic details. The instrument was a response to the market craze for electric guitars following the introduction of the Fender Telecaster. The Les Paul was a solid body guitar and was offered in a variety of exotic colours and finishes. Unlike the Telecaster the strings of the Les Paul are mounted on top of the body rather than through it. Originally available in just two models the Les Paul became a series of solid bodied guitars aimed at all market levels. Celebrated players of the Les Paul include Eric Clapton, Slash and Pete Townsend.

The Stratocaster

The Fender Stratocaster first appeared in 1954 and is the most played, most popular and most copied guitar in history. This all-time great featured a six-on-a-side peghead together with a sleek, contoured body both designed as a foil to the Telecaster’s minimal looks together. Like the Les Paul the Stratocaster was launched with two models but technological developments and design changes have spawned a series of fine guitars played famously by Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and John Lennon.

The Classics

There have been more electric guitars than anyone would care to count but these three giants of music set the standard and remain at the top of the market to this day.

Peterborough Music offer a great range of electric guitars from Rickenbacker, Gibson and many other top brands.

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