Through out history, music has played a big role. It has let people communicate and others release their creative minds. Throughout the life of music, instruments have made it happen. The guitar has become one of the most popular of all instruments. In fact, almost every band heard on the radio has a lead guitar accompanying the vocals.
Thanks to the greats like B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Andres Segovia, and Eric Clapton the guitar has been made the lead instrument in much of music. With contributions from each one of these legendary players, the guitar is used in a variety of styles; heavy metal to classical. Now a days, guitars are seen and heard everywhere.
There are so many different types and styles. The two major categories are electric and acoustic. Electric guitars where first introduced in the 1940's to enhance and amplify the sound of acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitars have hollow, wooden bodies. When the strings are played, the sound is amplified and echoes in the resonating body (New Grove 827). Today the common guitars, acoustic and electric, have six strings and on average of nineteen frets that range 3 1/2 octaves.
An octave is a unit of measurement obtaining to tones. Each string has a name. The bottom and thinnest string is the high e, next is b, then g, onto d, then A, and finally low E. Sound is made by strumming or plucking these strings while placing the fingers of the opposite hand on the frets and strings to produce different notes (Turnbull 825).
The guitar is hard to trace back beyond the Renaissance period but it is known the guitar has roots in Spain. The first known guitar was small with four sets of strings; each set called a course. Later a fifth course was added. At the end of the Baroque period, single strings replaced the double strings and a sixth was added. Since then, the guitar was changed little until Manuel Torres worked with the design and body.
First, he increased the overall size. Making the body bigger and the neck longer added more notes and more amplification. He was the first to use the fan brace design on the inside of the resonating body. This increased the sound quality that was produced by the echo.
This design is still in use today (Some Guitar History 2). B. B. King was born on September 16, 1925 in Itt a Bena, Mississippi. He was given the name Riley B.
King after his uncle. His Mother left his father and sent Riley to live with his grandmother. Riley was very active in the church as a youth. He went to church every Sunday with his grandmother. In his parish, music was of great importance. The preacher used it as the main tool for teaching the word.
Young King was inspired by his pastor's method of preaching and guitar playing. The pastor taught B. B. the basics of the guitar and he fell in love. At age sixteen he bought his first guitar for two dollars and fifty cents that was lent to him (Kerekes 1). After his grandmother passed away, Riley wanted to make a future for himself.
He moved to Indianola, Mississippi and started a gospel group called The Famous St. John's Gospel Singers. He sang and played his guitar for this group. On the side, he played the blues on the street corners (Kerekes 2). In 1946, King went to Memphis in search of his cousin Bukka White.
After finding him, Bukka taught Riley everything from how to hold the guitar to phrasing lyrics in the ten months that followed. Bukka taught Riley the art of the blues. The two guitarists jammed together in private and played impromptu with others they had met (Kerekes 2). King left Memphis for Indianola but returned later to find his friend Sonny Boy Williams. Sonny had a blues radio show on a local radio station and Riley thought he could get on it and play. He was allowed a 10 minutes session on W DIA as long as he promoted Pepticon health tonic.
One of the tunes was, "Pepticon, Pepticon, sure is good - You can get it anywhere in your neighborhood... ." (Sawyer 2). Soon he became a DJ and went by the name "Blues Boy King." This name shortened to B. B. King and it stuck with him (Kerekes 3). B.
B.'s first hit was "3 O'clock Blues." His second hit, "Woke Up This Morning," was inspired by the divorce of his first wife who could not handle being apart from B. B. for long periods of time. He remarried but the same tension was placed on this marriage. His biggest hit song, "The Thrill Is Gone," was the result of his second divorce (Kerekes 3). B.
B. King became very popular with the black community. He was introduced to the main stream when the Butterfield Blues Band said that they had learned to play their guitars by watching and copying B. B. King. In 1969 he played the Tonight Show and in '71 he played the Ed Sullivan Show.
An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show would boost almost any musician and B. B. was a huge hit. B. B. King was the king of the blues guitar.
His swift fingers, blending notes and strong gospel voice made him the king he is today (Kerekes 4). Born on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, Johnny Allen Hendrix was god's gift to pop music. He was renamed James Marshall after his father. At a young age James took interest in the guitar playing of B. B. King, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Holly (Pesant 1).
His first instrument was a one-stringed ukulele that his father had found. In 1958, his father bought him a second-hand acoustic guitar for five dollars. The following summer he bought his first electric guitar, which was a Supra Ozark 1560 S. Young Hendrix could not read music so he depended on repeating what he heard. He taught himself to play by listening to music, finding the right notes and chords and then playing them back (Pesant 1). His first band was called the Velvet ones.
He played with them for quite a while. After he left the band he played with people such as Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, and Little Richard. In 1965 he parted with Little Richard to form a new band. This band was named Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.
Jimmy took lead guitar in the band for a year until he signed to move to London to form a new band. His name was changed again, to Jimi Hendrix. This was the beginning of the groundbreaking group, Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966 (Pesant 1). Jimi had a unique style of playing his guitar. For one, he had a right-handed guitar though he was a lefty so he played it upside down. He combined fuzz, feedback, and controlled distortion to create his own new musical form.
According to critics "The music of Jimi Hendrix embraced the influences of blues, ballads, rock, R&B, and jazz" (Pesant 2). Jimi's renegade version of the Star Spangled Banner played at Woodstock '69 defined this style... his style perfectly (Pesant 1). The fact that Jimi Hendrix taught himself how to play the guitar along with his hard work and determination gave him his original and talented sound. Unfortunately, he died from a drug overdose like so many greats of the past.
Though his life was short but sweet for certain, Jimi Hendrix mastered his instrument and along the way, inspired people such as George Clinton, Miles Davis, Steve Vai, Johnny Lang, and many others (Pesant 2). Andr " es Segovia was born in Linares, Andalusia, Spain on February 21, 1893. His father was a struggling lawyer who had a hard time supporting the family so Andr " es moved to Granada to live with his uncle and aunt. There he was introduced to music and loved it. He first studied the piano then the violin but soon found the guitar. Segovia taught himself to play by watching other musicians play.
Since the guitar was a disreputable instrument at the time, he played in secret and practiced in neighbor's garages (Ewen 756). Andr " es' first concert was in 1909 in Granada. He was one of the very few musicians to play classical music on the guitar. He built up a reputation by playing pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Segovia played small concerts in Spain for years, then moved onto playing in Madrid then Barcelona.
From 1919-1923, he toured South America, which was his first real success (Ewen 755). In Proctor, Vermont Andr " es played his first gig in the United States. It was not what he expected. He did not play in a concert hall but in a room of a recreational cabin.
Twelve people were in attendance; Mr. Proctor, his sister, and ten hand-picked guests. Though it was a small session, he was such a hit and word spread so fast; it became the front-page story of the New York Times (Ewen 756). At the New York town hall on January 8, 1928, Andr " es played his first U. S. concert.
His concert contained works by Bach and Haydn. The room was only half full but many important, leading critics were there. Everyone listening was very impressed and Segovia was on his way to fame (Ewen 756). After many great concerts and shows, Andr " es went on to teach classes on guitar playing. He taught masters classes at the University of California in Berkeley. These classes were taped and played on the National Education network.
Because of Segovia's teaching, guitar classes were established in Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, and London (Ewen 756). I n his old age, Segovia practiced five to six hours each day. Through out his life, this kind of determination and drive brought him many achievements. He was the first man to play a guitar in a classical concert hall (Some Guitar History 2). Andr " es took the guitar from humbleness and gave it an importance on the concert stage. Many notable composers wrote works for him and his guitar and he inspired many classical guitarists who brought more recognition to their instrument.
Andr " es Segovia was definitely one of the forefathers of the guitar (Ewen 757). In England on March 30, 1945 Eric Clapton came into the world. Eric's father was in the military so he was left in the custody of his grandparents. As a child he saw Jerry Lee Lewis on television and Jerry inspired the blues-loving youngster. He picked up the guitar and stuck to it (Biography 1). At Kingston College of Art, Clapton was expelled for playing his guitar in class.
After being kicked out of school he joined many British bands including the Roosters and Casey Jones. Eric became famous along with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in their group the Yardbirds. After that band, he went onto form the band Cream and became well defined as a guitarist (Biography 2). Cream broke up after many successes because of the member's addictions to drugs. Clapton was a heroin addict and in the early 70's he laid low and abused. The Who's, Pete Townsend, gave Eric advice and he took it.
He got electro-acupuncture treatments that helped tremendously to cure his addiction (Biography 2). Clapton came back to write many great songs and release more albums. But he still had problems. In 1981 he was hospitalized because of his severe drinking problem. During this time, he became very creative and after released many more successful albums (Biography 3).
Clapton's solos made him the first guitar hero of the modern rock era. He has been loved by his fans for more than three decades. During those thirty years, he became a double inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "Clapton is living proof of not only how those near-death experiences deepened his playing but how the urge and need to keep playing got him through those hells" (Fricke 2).
In 1990, Eric wrote Grammy-winning song Tears In Heaven for his son who died by falling three stories. He also raised five million dollars in an auction for only two of his guitars. "Clapton's rich, precise guitar work showed why he is worth seeing anytime, anywhere" (Fricke 2). The history of the guitar is very broad but certain individuals have made it a very popular instrument. These same people have brought the guitar into the spotlight by using their own special styles. Thanks to them, the guitar has a spot in every type of music; heavy metal too classical.
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