Which Came First Electric Guitar Or Bass: Unveiling the Origin Story

The electric guitar and bass have undeniably revolutionized the world of music, becoming essential instruments in various genres such as rock, jazz, blues, and beyond. Their invention not only provided musicians with new opportunities for creative expression but also shaped the evolution of modern popular music.

The History Of The Electric Guitar And Bass

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Electric guitars and basses, as we know them today, have a long and fascinating history dating back to the early 1900s when musicians began experimenting with amplification techniques to make their instruments louder.

The Origin And Evolution Of Electric Guitars

The origin of the electric guitar can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s, when musicians began experimenting with attaching magnetic pickups to amplify their acoustic guitars.

The purpose was simple: they wanted a louder sound that could cut through other instruments in big bands, making it easier for audiences to hear guitar solos.

As music evolved over time, so did electric guitars. Guitarists demanded more from their instruments during the wild times of jazz and swing music – and later into the rock ‘n’ roll era.

Les Paul was a key figure in this evolution due to his technical innovations like multitrack recording and solid-body design, while Leo Fender revolutionized mass-production techniques for creating affordable models popular among working-class musicians.

In turn, companies such as Gibson began focusing on developing hollow-body or semi-hollow body designs that offered unique tonal qualities sought after by players across genres like blues and country-western music.

The Emergence And Evolution Of Bass Guitars

The emergence of electric bass guitars can be traced back to the 1930s when Paul Tutmarc, a musician and instrument maker from Seattle, started experimenting with different designs.

His initial inventions included the Model Bass Fiddle and an acoustic upright bass that used pickups for amplification. However, it wasn’t until Leo Fender introduced the Precision Bass in 1951 that solid-body electric basses gained widespread popularity.

Over time, other manufacturers such as Gibson and Rickenbacker developed their own models of electric bass guitars like the Jazz Bass, which offered different sound options compared to the Precision Bass.

The sound production techniques also evolved including slapping techniques by famous players like Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins which further expanded on what was possible with an electric bass guitar.

The Significance Of Electric Guitars And Basses In Music

Electric guitars and basses have played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of modern music, from the iconic jazz melodies to today’s rock anthems.

Jazz And Rock Music Influence

Jazz and rock music have played a significant role in the popularity of electric guitars and basses. Jazz musicians like Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, and Jim Hall pushed the boundaries of what could be done with their guitar playing using amplification to showcase their skills.

Similarly, rock musicians such as Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page made use of the electric guitar as a dominant sound within their genre. The bass also found its place in jazz with players like Charles Mingus and Ron Carter creating new techniques for bass playing that allowed it to take on more soloistic roles.

In rock music, iconic bass lines were created by legends like Paul McCartney (The Beatles) and John Entwistle (The Who).

Their Role In Various Music Genres

Electric guitars and basses have played a significant role in shaping various music genres. Jazz musicians like Charlie Christian, who popularized the electric guitar in the late 1930s, set the stage for other musicians to use it as well.

The emergence of rock n’ roll saw artists such as Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly electrify their sound with guitars.

In addition to jazz and rock n’ roll, electric guitars and basses are now vital instruments in blues music as well as metal bands. Guitar makers Fender and Gibson created iconic models such as the Telecaster or Les Paul that provided distinct sounds for specific genres.

Meanwhile, Rickenbacker created unique-sounding basses used by The Beatles and many others.

The Debate: Which Came First, Electric Guitar Or Bass?

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There has been a long-standing debate about which came first, the electric guitar or bass, with arguments for both sides.

Arguments For The Electric Guitar Coming First

Some argue that the electric guitar came first, citing the fact that Leo Fender is widely credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar in 1951 with his Telecaster model.

Prior to this, there were already semi-acoustic guitars with pickups, which could plug into an amplifier for louder sound projection. However, it wasn’t until the development of solid-body guitars that musicians had access to a truly unique and versatile instrument.

Some also believe that Rock n Roll music played a huge role in popularizing electric guitars, thanks to trailblazers like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. The ability to manipulate sound through amplifiers and effects pedals allowed these artists to create innovative sounds heard never before in traditional genres.

Arguments For The Bass Coming First

Many music historians argue that the bass guitar actually predates the electric guitar. In fact, they point to the “Bass Fiddle” as a precursor to modern-day bass guitars.

The Bass Fiddle was first introduced in the early 1900s and was commonly used in jazz bands. It was larger than today’s standard upright bass and had a deeper sound.

Another argument for the Bass Coming First is based on musical theory. Many musicians believe that having a powerful low-end foundation is essential to creating great music.

The upright acoustic bass has been used for centuries as a foundational instrument in classical and orchestral music because it provides this crucial element.

Overall, while arguments can be made for both sides of this debate, there is evidence pointing towards the existence of precursors to modern-day bass guitars well before their six-stringed counterparts arrived on the scene.

Timeline Of Electric Guitar And Bass Models

Throughout history, there have been countless electric guitar and bass models created by various manufacturers. From the first production electric guitars and basses to popular models used in rock music today, learn about the timeline of these instruments and how they evolved over time.

The First Production Electric Guitars And Basses

The first production electric guitar was the Rickenbacker “Frying Pan” introduced in 1931 by George Beauchamp and Paul Barth of the National Guitar Corporation. The Frying Pan had an electromagnetic pickup that converted string vibrations into electrical signals, which were then amplified through a speaker.

This invention revolutionized music as we know it today.

Paul Tutmarc is largely credited with pioneering the development of the electric bass when he created his Model Bass Fiddle (also known as Audiovox Model 736) in Seattle around 1935/36 – before Leo Fender made his Precision Bass or any other notable manufacturer commercialized one.

It was an upright bass that used a magnetic pickup mounted onto body and produced sound via amplifier like its predecessor did with guitars.

Popular Electric Guitar And Bass Models

Over the years, numerous electric guitar and bass models have emerged to cater to different music styles and player preferences. Some popular electric guitars include Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul, and Rickenbacker 360/12.

The Fender Precision Bass remains one of the most popular electric basses today alongside its jazzier sibling, the Jazz Bass. Other notable bass guitars are Music Man Stingray and Hofner Violin Bass favored by iconic musicians like Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

Each model has its unique design features that distinguish it from others. For instance, the Stratocaster’s double-cutaway body shape sets it apart from other single-cutaway guitars like Les Pauls or SGs while Gibson Thunderbird boasts a unique reverse body style with humbucking pickups fitted for harder rock styles.


In conclusion, the debate on which came first, electric guitar or bass, may never be fully settled. However, it’s clear that both instruments have made significant contributions to the world of music.

Thanks to innovators like Paul Tutmarc and Leo Fender, we now enjoy a wide range of electric guitar and bass models tailored to fit various styles of music.

As the history timeline shows us, musical instruments continue to evolve thanks to constant innovation within the industry. Electric guitars and basses are no exception.

So whether you’re strumming chords on an acoustic or slapping strings on a solid body bass instrument – let’s all appreciate how far these musical tools have come over time!


1. Which instrument was invented first – the electric guitar or bass guitar?

The electric guitar was actually invented before the bass guitar, with the first commercially successful models dating back to the 1930s. The first known prototype of a modern-day bass guitar, however, wasn’t developed and mass produced until several decades later in the 1950s.

2. What distinguishes an electric bass from a regular electric guitar?

One of the main differences between these two instruments is their design and sound capabilities. Bass guitars typically have longer necks and heavier gauge strings that produce deeper tones than standard guitars which usually have fewer strings and lighter gauges for higher notes.

3. Who are some famous musicians associated with each instrument?

Famous musicians who are strongly identified with playing either electric guitars or bass include Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page (electric), Paul McCartney, Flea, Jaco Pastorius (bass). While many artists play both types depending on their genre preference!

4. Can you use similar techniques when playing an electric guitar versus a bass?

Because both instruments share similar physical features and basic musical principles like rhythm & timing; Many techniques used in one instrument can easily translate to another once familiarized enough with unique aspects of each specific type of stringed instrument!

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