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1 .<-NARRATOR:->Listen to part of a lecture in a music history class.The professor has been discussing music of the twentieth century.
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->And what instrument comes to mind when you think of rock and roll?
1 .<-FEMALE STUDENT:->The electric guitar?
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Exactly. I think it's fair to say that the sound of the electric guitar typifies the rock-and-roll genre, which became popular in the 1950s.
2 .But really, the instrument we know today was the result of a continuing development that started, for all practical purposes, in the 1920s.
3 .But long before that even, people were experimenting with ways to modify traditional acoustic guitars.
4 .The first guitars were wooden-this is the Spanish guitar-and the strings were made from animal products.
5 .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.
6 .And those are all acoustic guitars, OK?
7 .But then, eventually, we have electric guitars.
8 .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.
1 .[Slight pause to get back to chronology] Eh, so let's get back to when the steel guitar was first introduced in the United States.
2 .It was right after the Spanish-American War...in the late 1890s.
3 .U.S. sailors who were stationed in Hawaii,[brief aside] then a U.S. territory, were very enamored with the music they heard there; uh, Hawaiian music was based on the steel guitar I just described.
4 .Some sailors learned how to play the steel guitar and brought it home to the States.
5 .Before long, Hawaiian steel guitar music was all the rage in the mainland U.S.
6 .It actually had a strong influence on the development of several musical genres-rock and roll, most notably, but also jazz and blues.
1 .Anyway... by the 1920s, with the advent of the public dance movement, people were gathering in large groups to listen to steel-guitar music.
2 .But they had trouble hearing it, especially in large, public settings.
3 .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.
4 .Something had to be done because the music venues and the audiences kept getting larger and larger.
5 .So, what would you do?
1 .<-MALE STUDENT:->Find a way to amplify the sound?
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Yes. And to do that, inventors started attaching electronic devices-electrical coils-to acoustic guitars. And the electronics worked!
2 .But attaching electronics didn't just affect how loudly you could play; it also changed the quality of the sound.
3 .These early electric guitars were hollow, and these early amplifiers caused vibrations in the bodies of the instruments.
4 .So, as the sound got louder, it became more distorted.
5 .Fuzzy sounding.
6 .And what musicians at the time wanted was a pure, clean sound.
1 .<-MALE STUDENT:->So, where does Les Paul fit in? Wasn't he the first to electrify acoustic guitars?
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Uh, no. Electrified guitars already existed by the time Les Paul came into the picture, around 1940.
1 .What Paul did was experiment with ways of removing the distortions. And he succeeded! [lowly]
2 .He designed a guitar with a solid body that relied solely on electronics.
3 .Paul's solid body eliminated the vibrations, and thus, the distortions.
1 .<-FEMALE STUDENT:->Excuse me, but when I think of electric guitar music, I think of Jimi Hendrix.
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Jimi Hendrix, one of my favorites!
1 .<-FEMALE STUDENT:->But Hendrix's style really was all about distortion. That's what's so great about his music-all those special effects.
2 .I think a lot of rock-and-roll fans preferred that to a pure sound.
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Yeah, you're getting ahead of me here...
2 .but good! Because the point I was gonna make is that the sound of rock and roll changed over the years, and the designs and technology of electric guitars made those changes possible.
1 .So whereas Les Paul's goal was to remove the distortion, later musicians wanted to produce it.
2 .And by the time Jimi Hendrix came around...
3 .Well, essentially, Hendrix reinvented the electric guitar-in the sense that he created amazing effects and vibrations that changed the sound of rock and roll completely.
4 .So, eventually, people tried to improve on Les Paul's model, [to be diplomatic] well, to modify it, I should say.