Electro String Instrument

Electro String Instrument

Patented August 10, 1937

Tom Morillo demonstrating some electric guitar techniques
Electro String Instrument
Rickenbacker Frying Pan

Acoustic guitar fine, but…

        An acoustic guitar has many advantages. It is lightweight. It is portable. Manufacturers can make them inexpensively.

        For centuries string-instruments held a high place among musicians.

Big bands…

        In the early 20th century, big brass band became more popular and its powerful sound simply overpowered the acoustic guitar.

Enter electricity

        As electricity became more and more a part of everyday life and also more accessible, inventors increasingly designed devices to use that power.

Electro String Instrument

        The United States Patent Office on August 10,1937 awarded Patent #2,089.171 to G.D. Beauchamp for an instrument known as the Rickenbacker Frying Pan.

Electro String Instrument

        Inventor G.D. Beauchamp, partnered with Adolph Rickenbacher in the Electro String Instrument Corporation of Los Angeles, California. They had spent more than five years pursuing his patent on the Frying Pan.

Technology similar to a telephone

        The idea is a simple one. Simple to understand. Complicated to design. An electro-magnet placed near a vibrating string place will pick up the vibration and can amplify that vibration.

        A problem that Beauchap and Rickenbacher faced was the telephone worked in a very similar manner. They had to revise the guitar's design several times before the Patent Office accepted their guitar as a guitar and not a telephone.

        Their design resembled a circular magnet that surrounded the strings. That design is no longer used. 

The same, but different

        All the things that a guitarist could do with an acoustic guitar to play with its sound could, of course, be done with an electric guitar such a bending the strings.

        What an acoustic guitar couldn't do (at least not at first and not without magnetic pickups) was color the sound.

        The simple current set up by the vibrating string within the magnetic field is not enough to make a loud sound. An amplifier is necessary. Put some other electronics between the guitar and the amp and a rainbow of sounds is produced.