Music technology pioneer dies

Les Paul was not just about his guitar

While he is famous for creating the Gibson electric guitar, the death of Les Paul, 94 is also the end of an era for pioneering music technology.

It is fair to say that Les Paul’s fame as Jazz guitarist are overshadowed by his music technology contributions.  It was his work on music technology which earned him an entry in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In the mid-1930s, Paul experimented with building an amplified guitar, using a plank of lumber as the starting point, and adding a pickup connected to an external amplifier.  This solid-body electric guitar  made Paul a household name.

But more importantly Paul was among the first musicians to employ multitrack recording which is used in nearly all modern recorded music.   In 1947 his recording of, “Lover” was made from eight separate guitar parts, dubbed over the top of each other.

The early experiment was used acetate disks and developed into first magnetic tape and nonlinear hard-drive recording.

Paul’s work led to the development of other recording techniques such as phasing and delay, which he managed to do by fiddling with magnetic tape used in the recording process.