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Changes in the electric guitar’s role in pop music

The guitar remains one of the best-selling instrument in large part because it is portable, relatively easy to learn, and let’s face it, people just look cooler when they play one.

The electric guitar in particular has amped up these qualities since its debut in the 1930s as part of American popular music. Over the course of time, the guitar became as popular as the music it was a part of.  In the 1940s, it really took off when Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar.

The Les Paul model and the musicians who played it, made some of the most iconic music in history. Some notable examples include Don Felder of the Eagles, Steve Lukather of Toto, and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

Randy Buckner, a musician and guitar teacher from Springfield, MO, talked about his experience with electric guitars and pop music in the 1970s,

“The guitar WAS pop music in the ‘70s. Think Zeppelin, KISS, Aerosmith, Springsteen, etc. For many bands it replaced the horn sections of previous bands. It became the rhythm and solo sections in bands.”

This trend continued through the 1980s with bands such as Guns N Roses, Queen, and AC/DC. It was at this time when guitars became more than instruments; they became art

Drury University’s own Dr. Natalie Wlodarczyk gave her opinion of electric guitars in the 1990s.

“My opinion of guitars in the 90s was that they were important! The dirty sound of a grunge guitar riff or power chords (i.e. Nirvana) is what the 90s sound like to me, and wouldn’t be the same without that distorted guitar.”

At this time, Nirvana was one of the many popular bands that used guitars in all of their music. Bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Green Day, and Weezer were also very guitar-heavy in their music.

Today, the electric guitar is not very prominent in most pop music. In Bobby Owsinski’s article, “The Demise Of The Electric Guitar In Music,” he states that, “[Electronic dance music] has totally blended with pop music to become the current background music of our lives. It’s now in every nook and cranny where the latest music is required to be seen as hip.”

Despite its decline, guitar companies are still manufacturing large quantities of them for collectors and so-called “rockers.” Hopefully, the adage that what’s old is new is correct and the electric guitar once again regains significance in popular music.

By Roxy Kraber


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One thought on “Changes in the electric guitar’s role in pop music

  1. Your words are very reasonable, i think so. It has quietly change the role of pop music. It work as a complement to each other. However, electric guitar is popular in all over the world and i hope like you.

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