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Does the shape of an electric guitar affect its tone?

This is a tough question because there is sort of two answers. The first answer is that shape really doesn’t affect the sound of an electric guitar since electric amplification is basically an application of Lenz’s law…essentially vibrating strings over magnets create an electro magnetic field (EMF). Well, this mechanism allows motion to be turned into energy and, in this way, variations in this EMF (frequency signals) are sent through the guitar via electronics and hence into your amp. That’s the more or less simple explanation. On the quest for the perfect sound side of things –  quality guitar headphones with the right guitar amp, will enable a guitarist to appreciate their work – let’s save this for another discussion though.

So..the short answer is that “shape” doesn’t affect tone that much. The much ballyhooed Gibson “Log” guitar is often listed evidence of this fact. Also, if you’ll look at all the hundreds of shapes of electric guitars out there, I think you’ll agree that shape probably doesn’t stack up high on the list. I’m not saying shape doesn’t affect the tone, I’m just saying there are other factors that weight in more heavily.

What people are really asking when they ask this question is what affects the tone of an electric guitar. Honestly, there are so many different contributing and complementary factors to how a guitar sounds that it’s pretty difficult to generalize them. The five broad areas include:

1) Aspects of the guitar itself
2) Playing style
3) Amplification system
4) Effects
5) Environment

If I just focus on number 1 above then I’ll give you *opinion* on the things that affect the tone of the instrument itself. They are probably in this order.

1) Your fingers. Look, if Eric Clapton plays a $10,000 Fender or a $100 Chinese knock-off, he’s going to sound like Eric Clapton. The quicker you get the idea the most of your tone comes out of your fingers, the easier life will be.

2) Pick-ups. Think about the pick-ups as the guitar’s “voice” – the better the pickups, the better the voice.

3) Woods and construction. Now, above I went through a whole thing above about how shape does not really affect tone. That is true in a general sense, but thickness and density of the wood, chambered bodies, and various other construction techniques can change the resonance, string energy transfer, and other qualities that ultimately get “picked-up” by the pick-ups. I’ll extend this thought to include bridge and nut styles as well (e.g., graphite, bone, chrome, brass, Floyd-Rose, string-through, stop-tail, etc.)

4) Strings. I find various strings to have different qualities in both feel and sound – largely due to thickness, construction, and materials. All of these things affect how I play and how the strings vibrate.

5) Electronics. Hey – the signal has to be routed, doesn’t it? Crappy wires + crappy pots = crappy tone.

Did I forget anything? Please post a comment below!

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Vintage Electric Guitars for Collectors

Vintage Electric Guitars for Collectors

The debate rages on as to what was the first modern electric guitar, however, the Rickenbacker (aka the Ken Roberts) electric guitar is one of the front-runners of that race. One, in particular, a 1935 Rickenbacker, a
full-scale electro Spanish guitar, sold with a price tag of $7.5 million dollars on March 3, 2017. Although the receipt was notarized, the sale could not be independently verified.

The guitar wasn’t very popular when it was in its prime, but it laid down the basics for current guitar designs. Very few of these guitars are left making the typical cost of them around $3,000 to $5,000.

Rickenbacker also made the Electro-Spanish Model B (aka the Electro Hawaiian) which was the Ken Robert’s more popular twin, with a solid body made of Bakelite walls. This instrument lit the way for solid body guitars
to come to the spotlight in the 1950s.

Rickenbacker was founded in 1931 as the Ro-Pat-In Corporation in order to sell Hawaiian guitars. They were based in Santa Ana, California and in 1932 were the first to produce electric guitars.

Guitar Notes on Electric Innovation:

The most innovative creation after that has to be the “log guitar” which was a 4×4 post with a neck attached and homemade hardware and pickups. It had Epiphone hollow body haves for decoration. This franken-guitar was built by none other than Les Paul in 1940.  Here is a look at this guitar.

He understood that the solid body would combat the terrible feedback of the hollow models. The designers knew of the feedback issue long before “the log” came into creation as the Rickenbacker models had some solid Bakelite models then. Most guitar manufacturers didn’t show interest in his solid body electric guitars until Fender had its own line in the 1950s.

Guitar Notes on Interesting Sales this Month:

1954 Gretsch Round up – A rare guitar and one that rarely comes up for sale. They have so many bells and whistles that they are sure to have something wrong with them by the time they come to the shop whether its cosmetic or not. It’s a bit country-western looking, it even has a leather western motif bridge piece that gives it a look like a western belt buckle.

1958 Gibson Korina Flying V – One of the most cool looking vintage guitars. They really were out of their time. They were produced limitedly in 1958 from korina wood and fewer than 100 Vs were ever made in the original production. The guitars were discontinued in 1959. It was initially an unpopular axe, but now they are on the top of the most coveted list. Blues guitarists Lonnie Mack and Albert King both started using these guitars

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Rare Electric Guitars

Rare Electric Guitars

To carve a niche for yourself, there has to be something unique that differentiates you from others. This does not relate to humans alone as some objects have been known to stand out from the rest. Take the case of Niagara Falls as an instance. There are just a few people on this planet who have not heard the name. Although they do not thunder like the waters of the Niagara Falls, the following are some rare guitars which are renowned for different reasons. They include:

1. B. B. King Lucille: Riley B. King, best known as B. B., was a famous disc jockey in his time. He plied his trade in Memphis, Tennessee, and named the guitar he played “Lucille.” Now here is his reason.

B. B. King had an unforgettable experience where he realized his guitar was left behind in a burning building. He hurried back in and got his guitar out safely. Upon inquiry, he learned that his Gibson guitar, worth $30 at the time, would have burned simply because the two men who started the fire had been fighting over a woman. Since she worked in the hall named “Lucille”, B. B. King named his retrieved guitar after the hall.

2. Carl: If you are familiar with the band “Metallica”, then the name James Hetfield should not be a stranger. He writes songs for the band, performs as a vocalist, and most importantly, plays the rhythm guitar.

Although he now endorses ESP guitars, James was associated with a particular guitar for so many years. The guitar which he used exclusively all through this period was designed by Electra in Japan. James only played guitars built to last and also fit his playing style. Carl was constructed from wood in an old garage which the band used when they started out.

3. Frankenstrat: You guessed right if your thought ran to the lead guitarist of the famous rock band “Van Halen. This Dutch-American songwriter and musician left a mark as well as far as rare electric guitars go.

He created this guitar which can be seen at the National Museum of American History. Before its present color of black and white stripes against a red background, this guitar donned black and white stripes only. It was designed by Eddie Van Halen to combine a Fender’s physical attributes with a classic Gibson’s guitar’s sound.

These rare guitars were played by master guitarists and have stood the test of time. This is what makes them special.

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