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Listen to part of lecture in a musical history class, the professor has been discussing music of 20th century.

And what instrument comes to mind when you think of rock 'n' roll?

The electric Guitar?

Exactly. I think it's fair to say that the sound of electric guitar typifies the rock 'n' roll genre, which became popular in the 1950s. But really the instrument we know today was the result of a continuing development that started for our practical purposes in the 1920s.

But long before that even, people were experimenting with ways to modify traditional acoustic guitars. The first guitars were wooden. This is the Spanish guitar and the strings were made from animal products. Then came steel strings. And that led to the lap guitar, which is also called the steel guitar because the player slides a steel rod up and down the neck. And those are all acoustic guitars. OK?

But then eventually we have electric guitars. Over the years, many inventors and musicians contributed to the design of these instruments. And each design was intended to alter the sound in some way, at first at least with the electric guitar, to make it louder.

So let's get back to when the steel guitar was first introduced in the United States. It was right  after the Spanish-American war in the late 1890s. US sailors who were stationed in Hawaii-- then a US territory--were a very enamored with the music they heard there. Uh, Hawaiian music was based on the steel guitar I just described.

Some sailors learned how to play the steel guitar and brought it home to the States. Before long, Hawaiian steel guitar music was all the rage in the mainland US. It actually had a strong influence on the development of several musical genres, rock 'n' roll most notably, but also jazz and blues.

Anyway, by the 1920s, with the advent of the public dance movement, people were gathering in large groups to listen to steel guitar music. But they had trouble hearing it, especially in large public settings.

As I mentioned, the instrument was played horizontally, on the lap. Since the strings faced upward, the sound was projected toward the ceiling rather than outward toward the audience. Something had to be done, because the music venues and the audiences kept getting largers and larger. So what would you do?

Find a way to amplify the sound?

Yes. And to do that, inventors started attaching electronic devices, electrical coils to the acoustic guitars. And the electronics worked! But attaching electronics didn't just affect how loudly you could play. It also changed the quality of the sound.

These early electric guitars were hollow and these early amplifiers caused vibrations in the bodies of the instruments. So as the sound got louder, it became more distorted, fuzzy-sounding. And what musicians at the time wanted was a pure, clean sound.

So where does Les Paul fit in? Wasn't he the first to electrify acoustic guitars?

Uh...no. Electrified guitars already existed by the time Les Paul came into the picture around 1940. What Paul did was experiment with ways of removing the distortions and he succeeded. He designed a guitar with a solid body that relied solely on electronics. Paul's solid body eliminated the vibrations, and thus the distortions.

Excuse me. But when I think of electric guitar music, I think of Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix, one of my favorites.

But Hendrix's style really was all about distortion, that's what's so great about his music, all those special effects. I think a lot of rock 'n' roll fans prefer that to pure sound.

Yeah. You are getting ahead of me here. But good, because the point I was going to make is that the sound of rock 'n' roll changed over the years. And the designs and technology of electric guitars made those changes possible.

So whereas Les Paul's goal was to remove the distortion, later muscians wanted to produce it. And by the time Jimi Hendrix came around. Well, essentially, Hendrix reinvented the electric guitar, in the sense that he created amazing effects and vibrations that changed the sound of rock 'n' roll completely. So eventually, people tried to improve on Les Paul's model, well, to modify it I should say.

关于musical history lecture不得不提两个传奇人物——Les Paul 莱斯·保罗&Jimi Hendrix 吉米·亨德里克斯(Jimi Hendrix)

Les Paul改良的吉他是偏向于保留原声、去除噪音,而Jimi Hendrix由于自己的风格就是失真和噪音,导致之后的电吉他一直都在模仿制造出他那样的。大多数是在Les Paul的基础上改良。


经过多次改良,Les Paul最终设计了一个纯电吉他,去掉了多余的震动和失真。


  • instrument 器械
  • rock 'n' roll 摇滚乐
  • typifies 代表
  • genre 类型
  • experimenting 实验中
  • modify 调整
  • acoustic 声学的
  • acoustic guitars 原声吉他
  • strings 弦
  • steel 钢
  • lap guitar 膝上吉他
  • slide 滑动
  • rod 竿
  • alter 改变
  • sailors 水手
  • territory 领土
  • enamored 迷恋
  • notably 尤其
  • horizontally 水平地
  • lap 膝
  • ceiling 天花板
  • venues 场地
  • amplify 放大
  • electrical coils 电线圈
  • hollow 空洞的
  • amplifiers 功放;扩音器
  • vibration 振动
  • distorted 扭曲的
  • fuzzy-sounding 听起来很模糊
  • Les Paul 莱斯·保罗
  • solely 独自
  • vibrations 震动
  • distortions 失真
  • Jimi Hendrix 吉米·亨德里克斯(Jimi Hendrix)
  • whereas 然而
  • versatility 通用性
  • precede 先例
  • defect 缺点
  • manipulate 操纵
  • distinctive 独特


  • stationed in 驻扎
  • You are getting ahead of me here. (这里特指学生抢了老师的话题先说了)




This article was last edited at 2021-02-25 09:37:04

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