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The Gibson ES 339 semi-hollow body guitar is a slightly smaller variant on the iconic ES-335 model, first introduced in 1958. The original impetus for the semi-hollow design was to find a bridge between the large, hollow-body jazz guitars of the '40s and '50s, and the smaller solid-body electrics that were just becoming widely available in the early 1950s, such as Fender's Telecaster and Gibson's own Les Paul model. Generally, the jazz boxes were larger arch-top acoustics, fitted with a floating bridge and a pickup, and they produced a rich, warm tone, but were particularly prone to feedback when amplified. The solidbody electrics, on the other hand, were much more resistant to feedback, and so could be played louder. They tended to produce a much brighter, crisper tone, especially when equipped with single-coil pickups. The ES-335 combined the best of both designs, featuring a solid wood block down the center of the guitar, to which the bridge and a pair of humbucking dual-coil pickups were mounted. The sides of the guitar were hollow, with violin-style f-holes, to provide some acoustic resonance and mellow the tone. The result was a highly versatile guitar that immediately caught on with jazz, blues and rock players alike, from Larry Carlton and T-Bone Walker to Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Alvin Lee.
While the ES-335 has been in continuous production since its introduction, there have been numerous variations of the model, such as the ES-345 and -355 models, which were upgraded versions with modifications like additional tone circuits, stereo output, and fancier inlays, and BB King's signature Lucille model, based on a 355, but without the f-holes. These models, however, all have body silhouettes which are based on the larger hollow-body guitars. These may prove a little cumbersome to players who are used to the more compact forms found on solidbody electrics like the Telecaster or Les Paul, which brings us to the Gibson ES 339. The body is still of the versatile semi-hollow design, but the smaller size is similar to the Les Paul, providing the familiar warmth and growl of a 335, but in an easier-to-handle and lighter-weight package. The 339 is loaded with two '57 Classic Humbucker pickups for plenty of power and sustain, and sports a few modern design improvements, such as having the output jack mounted on the side, rather than the top of the body; and Gibson's Memphis Tone Circuit, which maintains the 339's high frequencies, no matter where the volume control is set. The ES-339 is sure to be another classic from the Gibson Custom Shop, but it is only available from select retailers. Check out the latest innovation in semi-hollow guitar design, from the company that invented it. Order an ES-339 today, and continue the innovation!
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