How Does Electric Guitar Work (Explained for Beginners)

The electric guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Millions of people play it on a daily basis, but how does electric guitar work?
This is a question that many people struggle to answer. The short and sweet answer is: by converting the vibration of strings into electrical signals, which are then amplified through pickups.

How Does Electric Guitar Work

The History of the Electric Guitar

Before the electric guitar was invented, guitars were acoustic. They had to be played in front of an amplifier to produce any sound.

One of the first people to create an electric guitar was a German inventor named Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp in 1931. He called his creation the “frying pan” because it resembled one. The “frying pan” had six strings and two pickups, just like most guitars today.

The first successful mass-produced electric guitar was the Fender Stratocaster in 1954, which had very neatly arranged pickups and were individually adjustable and allowed a lot more control overtone.

The early days of the electric guitar were not about amplifiers but instead about how to shape the instrument’s sound. Guitarists were always hungry for that thick, high-powered sound but required more than just a hollow body guitar to achieve it. The solid-body electric guitar was invented in 1954 by Les Paul himself.

The solid-body electric guitar is now the most popular kind of guitar. There are many different kinds of pickups, and they’re all very versatile. Whether you need a twangy sound or a high-pitched squeal, there’s a pickup made for that.

How does an Electric Guitar Work

Electric guitars and amplifiers have changed a lot over the years, but the basic principle has remained relatively the same.
Strings vibrate at many different frequencies. This is why they sound different when played on an acoustic guitar. The vibrations in the strings are transmitted to a pickup in a language that it can understand.

Electric guitar pickups are electronic devices that detect this language of vibrations and send it through an amplifier, which then broadcasts this information to your ears as sound waves.

There are three main types of pickup: single-coil, dual-coil, and humbucker. All three pickups work pretty much the same way as described above. The only difference is that some pickups emphasize or idealize certain aspects of a guitar’s tone.
The humbucker is the most popular type of pickup nowadays. It’s used in many different guitars, even bass guitars.

Different Types of Electric Guitars

As technology progressed, so did electric guitars. New materials were introduced, and new techniques were perfected, soon making it possible to create more complex and awesome electric guitars designs.

But if we are to categorize the types of guitar, there are only three types of electric guitars: solid-body, semi-hollow body, and hollow body.

1. Solid-Body Electric Guitar

The most popular kinds of electric guitars are solid-body electric guitars. They have a solid wood body, which gives them a richer tone compared to their hollow-bodied musical counterparts. Due to the complex arrangement of pieces in this type of guitar, it is considered the most complex one among the three. Besides that, these types of guitars give you ultimate control over how your sound will be distributed among your audience.

As there are so many types of solid-body guitar, let’s break it down into categories.

a) Les Paul: This is a famous guitar that all beginners have heard of. It was invented in the late 1940s by in-demand guitarist Les Paul and played the same chords as you do. The only change that this guitar has made since then is that it now has two humbucking pickups instead of one.

b) Stratocaster: This guitar’s popularity is rivaled only by the Les Paul. It was also invented by another famous guitarist, but this time, it was Leo Fender. The Stratocaster is a stronger type of electric guitar compared to the Les Paul, and comes with three pickups instead of just two.

c) Telecaster: The Telecaster uses two single-coil pickups instead of one humbucker or three single-coils. It is also kind of a cheap guitar, which has become more widely recognized as of late.

d) Super Strat: This guitar is the perfect combination of a Stratocaster and telecaster. It has a solid body made of mahogany and is light in weight. You can transform it into almost any kind of guitar you want through the neck and bridge pickups alone.

e) SG: This was the original model of which all other SGs were modeled. It is now only produced by Gibson but costs more than most other models due to its quality materials.

f) Offset: These guitars come with a sound that suits those who like playing blues and jazz. While the more expensive versions of this guitar are made of mahogany, the lower end ones are made of less expensive materials and can be had for as low as $200.

g) Flying V: The Flying V is a unique type of electric guitar because it comes with a body that is shaped like a triangle. This type of body gives it a distinguishable sound, which is why many punk rock and alternative bands have made use of it.

How Does Electric Guitar Work
Flying V

h) Explorer: The Explorer has an even more unique design in that its body is shaped like an upside-down pear. To add to this uniqueness, this guitar also has more strings than the average electric guitar (six strings).

Even though there are many other types of electric guitar, these are the more famous ones and are the ones that are most used in music.

2. Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar

These guitars are almost like hollow-bodied electric guitars, but with a pickup installed at the end of its body cavity. These types of pickups enable a semi-hollow body guitar to have more sustain and to be able to withstand more of a beating before it needs repairs.

Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar

A semi-hollow body is build in such a way that they have a solid center block which runs down in the length of the body. As a general rule, they are also the most used electric guitars in blues and jazz music.

3. Hollow-body Electric Guitar

These guitars are basically hollow-bodied electric guitars. They are very similar to semi-hollow body electric guitars, except that a hollow-body electric guitar does not have a solid center block that a semi-hollow has.

Hollow-body Electric Guitar

Like semi-hollow body electric guitars, hollow-body electrics produce a very rich tone with a lot of sustain. They are also very popular among blues players because of their relatively low price and are considered to be the best choice for playing jazz and blues music.

Best Electric Guitar for Beginners

As I have mentioned in the articles, there are mainly three types of electric guitar. But which is the best for you, especially when you are just starting out. Here are some tips for you:

You can consider many things before buying an electric guitar, and there are many different types of electric guitars on the market, with all of them being equally deserving of a place in your collection.

First and foremost, you need to ask yourself what kind of music genre you want to play on the guitar before buying one.
If you want to play rock, metal, progressive, etc., you should buy the solid-body guitar, but if you want to play pop, blues, or jazz styles music, you should consider buying the hollow-body electric guitar.

When choosing an electric guitar, always look at the hardware. The most desirable hardware worldwide is Floyd Rose Tremolo, better known as the double-locking tremolo system.

Because of this system, your playing will be more stable, more flexible, and it will allow you to tune your strings and change them quickly.  Then the next thing to consider is the body shape. Electric Guitars come in different shapes and sizes, like a guitar or a bass.

The most desirable body shapes are the electric guitars with a thin, hollow body that is how you would describe an electric guitar. These guitars tend to be lighter as well, which will make them perfect for you if you’re looking for a light-weighted instrument – especially when playing live.

Another thing that you should definitely consider before buying an electric guitar is your budget. Electric guitars come in many different ranges of prices, so you should definitely consider your price range between expensive and cheap.

Why is it important? It’s because most of the sellers on the internet will have a wide variety of items for sale online. If you’re looking for a budget instrument that would fit your needs, you will be able to find one by comparing the various prices.

Another thing that you should definitively consider before buying an electric guitar is the volume knob. Crank that puppy all the way up, and you better be ready for extreme levels of output.

Of course, if you’re playing the sort of music that requires that kind of volume, chances are you’re going to want some headphones or earbuds in your life. And if someone is jamming out on an electric guitar at any hour, the last thing they probably have time for is their roommate yelling at them to turn down the stereo.

In that case, you should definitely consider a guitar with an active pickup system. These guitars provide a clean sound, and they are great for live performance.  A couple of good active pickups to check out are the PRS SE Custom 24 or the Fender S-1 Single-Coil Telecaster.

Final Thought – How Does Electric Guitar Work

Electric guitars are a huge part of our lives now. People love them, and the sound they produce is just awesome. You can play all sorts of songs using an electric guitar, and if you’re playing alone, it will be like a cheering tool for you.

I hope this article answers your questions on how an electric guitar works and the different types of electric guitars out there.
If you like this article, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and fellow musicians!

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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