A solid-body musical instrument is a string instrument such as a
guitar, bass or violin built without its normal sound box and relying
on an electric pickup system to directly receive the vibrations of the
Solid-body instruments are preferred in situations where acoustic
feedback may otherwise be a problem and are inherently both less
expensive to build and more rugged than acoustic electric instruments.
Fender Esquire 1st prototype in 1949 at Fender
Guitar Factory museum
The most well-known solid body instruments are the electric guitar and
electric bass. These were instrumental in creating new genres of music
such as rock and heavy metal. Common woods used in the construction of
solid body instruments are ash, alder, maple, mahogany, korina,
spruce, rosewood, and ebony. The first two make up the majority of
solid body electric guitars.
Solid body instruments have some of the same features as acoustic
string instruments. Like a typical string instrument they have a neck
with tuners for the strings, a bridge and a fingerboard (or
fretboard). The fretboard is a piece of wood placed on the top surface
of the neck, extending from the head to the body. The strings run
above the fingerboard. Some fingerboards have frets or bars which the
strings are pressed against. This allows musicians to stop the string
in the same place. Ebony, rosewood and maple are commonly used to make
the fingerboard. Some electric guitar necks do not have a separate
piece of wood for the fingerboard surface. All the solid bodies have
variations in scale length or, the length of the strings from the nut
to the bridge. The action, or the height of the strings from the
fingerboard, is adjustable on solid body instruments. Most solid
bodies have controls for volume and tone. Some have an electronic
preamplifier with equalization for low, middle, and high frequencies.
These are used to shape the sound along with the aid of the main
amplifier. Amplifiers allow solid body instruments to be heard at high
volumes when desired.
2.1 Early prototypes
2.2 Commercial models
2.3 Additional history
3 See also
5 External links
Solid-body instruments :
Example : Mid-1970's "Lawsuit Era", solid-body, set neck,
Mann/Ibanez electric guitar
Some electric guitars
Most bass guitars
Electric upright bass
Some Electric ukuleles
Few electric mandolins
Most electric violins
Most electric sitars
Most electric violas
Solid-body instruments do not include :
Electric pianos, even those with strings such as the electric grand
Pedal steel guitar
Electric lap steel guitars without sounding boards are considered to
be solid-body instruments by some authorities, and not by others. This
has a major effect on some claims of historical priority, as they
predate the first models of solid-body electric guitar, which may
otherwise be claimed to be the first commercially successful
solid-body instruments. While noting this, it will be assumed that
electric lap steels without sounding boards are solid-body instruments
for the purposes of this article.
Rickenbacker "frying pan" lap steel guitar from 1934 patent
The first commercially successful solid-body instrument was the
Rickenbacker frying pan lap steel guitar, produced from 1931 to 1939.
The first commercially available non lap steel guitar was also
produced by the Rickenbacker/Electro company, starting in 1931 The
model was referred to as the "electric Spanish Guitar" to distinguish
it from the "Hawaiian" lap steel.
The first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar was the
Fender Broadcaster in 1950. A trademark dispute with the Gretsch
Corporation who marketed a line of Broadcaster drums led to a name
change to the current designation,
Fender Telecaster in 1951
(Transition instruments produced between the two model names had no
model name on the head stock and are now referred to as 'No Casters").
Fender also produced a one pickup version called the Fender Esquire
starting in 1950. These were followed by the
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul in 1952.
Solid Body Electric Guitars
The solid body electric guitar is one of the most well-known solid
body instruments. Instrumental in rock, metal, blues, and country
music, the electric guitar has been responsible for creating various
There are some common characteristics of solid body electric guitars.
They typically have six strings although there are some seven- and
eight-string models. Most have at least a volume and tone control. If
they have more than one guitar pickup they have a switch that allows
them to switch between the different pickups. There are various types
of pickups that can be outfitted to a guitar. They can have
single-coils, a P-90, or a humbucker. These pickups can be either
passive or active (require batteries).
Sometimes guitars are outfitted with pick guards which prevent the
guitar from being scratched by a guitar pick.
The origins of the solid body electric guitar are confusing. The first
commercially available solid body electric Spanish guitar was produced
Rickenbacker company in 1931. Les Paul, a guitarist, is often
erroneously credited with inventing the first solid body, but Fender
is often incorrectly credited as the first to commercially market a
solid body electric guitar, which itself was based on a design by
Merle Travis. Also it is reported that around the same time (1940) a
solid body was created by Jamaican musician and inventor, Hedley
Jones. In the 1940s,
Les Paul created a guitar called the “Log,”
which came “from the 4” by 4” solid block of pine which the
guitarist had inserted between the sawed halves of the body that
he’d just dismembered. He then carefully re-joined the neck to the
pine log, using some metal brackets.”  He then put some pickups
that he designed on it. He soon went to companies asking if they would
buy his guitar. They turned him down. However, after the Fender
Telecaster electric guitar became popular, the Gibson company
contacted him and had him endorse a model named after him, The Les
Paul guitar. It came out in 1952.
Les Paul was looking for a manufacture for his log, Leo Fender
was working on the Fender Telecaster. It was released in 1950. The
telecaster had a “basic, single-cutaway solid slab of ash for a body
and separate screwed-on maple neck was geared to mass production. It
had a slanted pickup mounted into a steel bridge-plate carrying three
adjustable bridge-saddles.”  Its color was blond. It is
considered “the world’s first commercially marketed solid body
electric guitar.” . The Telecaster continues to be manufactured
The follow-up to the Telecaster, the Stratocaster, appeared in 1954.
It had three pickups instead of two. It had a vibrato bar on the
bridge. This allowed players to bend notes. “The contoured body with
its beveled corners reduced the chafing on the player’s body.”
It also had cutaway above and below the fretboard to allow players
easy access to the top frets.
In 1958, Gibson introduced the Explorer and the Flying V. Only about
100 Explorers were produced. Very few of the Flying V were produced
either. Both were discontinued shortly after. The Flying V did manage
to find a few followers and Gibson reintroduced the guitar in 1967.
The Explorer was also reintroduced, in the mid-1970s. Both guitars are
still in production today.
In 1961, Gibson discontinued the
Les Paul model and replaced it with a
new design. The result was the Solid
Guitar (SG). It weighed less and
was less dense than the Les Paul. It had double cutaways to allow
easier access to the top frets. Eventually the
Les Paul was put back
into production in 1968 because Blues and Hard Rock guitarists liked
the sound of the Les Pauls. The SG and the
Les Paul are still in
Fender and Gibson went on to make more well-known models. Gibson made
the Melody Maker and the Firebird. Fender later created the
Jazzmaster, and Jaguar.
Some of the designs that Gibson and Fender created provide the basis
for many guitars made by various manufacturers today.
Solid Body Electric Bass
A typical solid body bass guitar has specific characteristics. It
usually consists of four strings (some have been made with more), a
34” scale neck, at least one pickup, sometimes a pickguard, frets,
and a bridge. It also has a volume and tone control. Some solid body
basses have a three-band equalizer to stabilize the low frequency of
the bass. Woods typically used to make the body of the bass are alder,
maple, or mahogany. Rosewood or ebony are used for to make the
fingerboard. The pickups are of the same style as used for guitars
except they are designed for basses.
The double bass guitar was very heavy and not as easy to carry as
other string instruments. Paul Tutmarc built an electronic bass that
was played the same way as a guitar. This bass was called the Audiovox
Model 736 Electronic Bass. “About 100 Audiovox 736 basses were made,
and their distribution was apparently limited to the Seattle
area.”:29 The idea did not catch on and the company folded.
In the late 1940s when dance bands downsized,:31 guitar players who
lost their positions playing guitar were told they could play double
bass. However, “they did not want to take the time to learn upright
technique. They needed a bass they could play like a guitar-a fretted
Leo Fender heard these criticisms and took his
telecaster model and adopted it to a bass guitar. The result was the
Fender Precision Bass. It consisted of an ash bolt-on maple neck. The
scale for the bass was 34.” “It also had “cutaways for better
balance.”:33 Now guitarists could double on bass, and the bass
player of the band would not have to carry around a huge upright bass.
It entered the market in 1951.
Fender’s second bass model, the Jazz Bass, was introduced in 1959.
It had a slimmer neck at the nut, a different two pickup combination,
and an offset body shape. While it did not become extremely popular
among jazz players, it was well received in rock music.
Many companies today produced models based on the body shapes first
started by Fender.
Gibson created the Gibson Electric Bass to be introduced in the 1953.
The scale, 30 ½” was shorter than the Fender basses. Its body was
designed to look like a violin. It had a single pickup. It also had an
endpin which allowed the bass player to play it vertically. In 1959
Gibson created the EB-0 which was designed to complement the Les Paul
Junior. In 1961 it was redesigned to match the SG guitar and the EB-)
designation was retained. A two pickup version was later introduced
called the EB-3 and a long scale variant was made called the EB-3L.
Gibson also created the Thunderbird in 1963, which complemented the
Firebird. It had the 34” scale for the neck. This was the same scale
as the Fender basses.
Other companies have created designs that are different from the
Fender and Gibson models.
Solid Body Electric Mandolin
Electric mandolins are similar to electric violins because they
traditionally have one pickup. Some manufacturers produce electric
violins because they also have a single pickup.
Epiphone currently produces an electric mandolin called the Mandobird
IV and VIII, IV and VIII standing for four and eight strings
They usually have a bolt on neck and a rosewood inlay. Both Mandobird
models have a single coil pickup.
Solid Body Electric Violin
The solid body electric violin is different from the traditional
violin because it does not have a hollow body and has a “Piezo
Pickup with Passive Volume and Tone Controls.”  These features
allow it to be amplified. The body is made of wood, usually maple. The
fingerboard is made out of ebony. The top of the violin might be made
out of flame maple or solid spruce. The body of the electric violin
compared to an acoustic violin has cutaways that allow for weight
reduction and a lighter body.
Solid Body Electric Sitar
While a regular sitar has 21, 22, or 23 strings an electric sitar is
designed similar to a guitar. It first appeared in 1967 when “Vinnie
Bell invented the Coral electric sitar, a small six-string guitar-like
instrument producing a twangy sound that reminded people of its Indian
namesake.”  It is played like a regular guitar. An electric
sitar’s electronics consist of “Three pickups with individual
volume and tone controls are standard, including one pickup over the
sympathetic strings.” The bridge of the electric sitar is creates
the sound of a sitar. Like electric guitars, made by Fender
especially, the neck of a sitar is usually “made of bolt-on, hard
maple wood with an optional mini-harp.” The sitar also has 13 drone
strings located above the six strings that reach from the fretboard to
Solid Body Electric Viola
Electric violas are designed similar to electric violins. They usually
have the same features.
Solid Body Electric Cello
Electric cellos are similar to regular cellos, but they have a smaller
body. Some electric cellos have no body branching out from the middle
where the strings are. Some electric cellos have the out line of the
traditional body around the middle, creating the feel of a traditional
cello. It is played like a traditional cello.
The electric cello contains a volume control. Some have eq controls
also. The fingerboard is made out of ebony. A piezo pickup is mounted
at the bridge for amplification.
The body can be made out of alder.
3rd bridge guitar
^ Dave Hunter, Lee Hodgson, Pete Madsen, Barrie Cadogan, Paul Balmer,
Guitar Facts: The Essential
Reference Guide, (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press), 37.
^ a b Tony Bacon, Paul Day, The Fender Book: A Complete History of
Fender Electric Guitars (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998),
^ Andre Millard, The Electric Guitar: The Complete History of an
American Icon, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004),
^ a b c d Jim Roberts, How the Fender Bass Changed The World (San
Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2001).
^ "Epiphone Mandobird-IV". Epiphone.com.
^ "Epiphone Mandobird-VIII". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 23 February
^ Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, "FV3 Deluxe Violin
Specifications," Fender Musical Instruments
(accessed November 20, 2009).
^ Joe Bennett, Trevor Curwen, Cliff Douse, Douglas J., Noble, Richard
Riley, Tony Skinner, Harry Wylie, The Complete
Guitar Player (Old
Saybrook: Konecky & Konecky, 2004), 110.
The History of the Electric Solid Body Guitar.
From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric
Guitar at the
Smithsonian Institution's Lemelson Center site.
Les Paul Story at the Gibson Guitar