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Buying Guide:Semi-Hollowbody Electric Guitar Buying Guide

Table of Contents




Introduction: Hollowbody/Solidbody/Semi-Hollowbody

The style of music you play will influence the type of electric guitar you choose. There are three types of electric guitar bodies: hollowbody, solidbody, and semi-hollowbody. This guide will help you learn the difference between each type and how to decide which semi-hollowbody electric guitar is right for you.



In the 1930s, the first electric guitars are hollowbody, typically a jazz archtop acoustic with a pickup added.


By 1951, guitar maker Leo Fender is using a solid slab of wood to mass produce a solidbody electric guitar, the Fender Telecaster.


In 1958, Gibson creates an electric guitar that is part hollowbody and part solidbody —the semi-hollowbody ES-335.

The semi-hollowbody guitar looks like a hollowbody but has characteristics of a solidbody. It has a solid block of wood running through the center of the guitar that is glued to the back and top of the guitar, in effect creating hollow "wings" on the sides. Depending on the design of the guitar and who is describing it, semi-hollowbody electrics are also called semi-solid and semi-acoustic.

Semi-hollowbody advantages

The semi-hollowbody guitar was created for players who wanted some of the resonance of a hollowbody guitar with some of the sustain and bite of a solidbody. Unlike hollowbodies, which tend to feedback at higher volumes, the solid center design of the semi-hollow makes it more feedback resistant.

A summary of semi-hollowbody advantages:

  • Thinner body than hollowbody
  • Hollowbody resonance
  • Feedback resistance
  • Lighter body than solidbody
  • Solidbody sustain

The semi-hollowbody sound

The semi-hollowbody guitar is generally described as having the woody, resonant sound of a jazz hollowbody as well the bright, punchy sound of a rock-and-roll solidbody. This best-of-both-worlds sound continues to make semi-hollowbody guitars a favorite of players from a wide range of musical genres. Here are a few examples:

  • Country - Roy Clark

  • Rock - Chuck Berry, Alex Lifeson, Dave Grohl

  • Pop - Roy Orbison, Noel Gallagher, Carl Wilson

  • Blues - B.B. King, Otis Rush, Freddie King

  • Jazz - Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, John McLaughlin

  • Soul - Dennis Coffey, Travis Wammack

Here are some notable semi-hollowbody electric guitars:

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335 – the first successful semi-hollowbody electric guitar. Has become the archetype of the semi-hollowbody design. It spawned a succession of variations.

Gibson ES-339 - a smaller, lighter version of the ES-335 that has its own distinctive sound with a little more bite. A semi-hollowbody for solidbody players.

Gibson ES-339
Epiphone Dot

Epiphone Dot - Epiphone’s lower-cost version of the ES-335 offers the same tone that blues, rock, and jazz players prefer.

PRS SE Custom - has the distinctive PRS craftsmanship and looks, with a tone that includes a little high-end bite.

PRS SE Custom
Gretsch Duo Jet

Gretsch Duo Jet - more accurately described as a semi-solid body, it has routed chambers that provide acoustic resonance.

Ibanez AS73 - entry-level semi-hollowbody model with humbuckers and an adjustable bridge.

Ibanez AS73
Fender Telecaster Thinline

Fender Telecaster Thinline - a solidbody routed with chambers to make it lighter and more resonant. Can be called a semi-solid or semi-acoustic.

Italia makes several distinctive semi-hollowbody electrics.

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