Ten great semi-acoustics to tempt you
You could say hollow body guitars are the pessimism/optimism dilemma of the guitar world. Is it an electric? An acoustic? Both? Neither?! However you see it, semi-acoustic guitars have cemented their place in guitar folklore thanks to their versatility across a number of styles. From their iconic big-body looks to their unmistakably warm tone, these guitars ooze class.
Hollow body guitars have been around since the 1930s when the big band players of the time wanted a way to make their instrument loud enough to compete with the cavalcade of other instruments sharing the stage. Building a guitar which was both able to be played through an amplifier, yet resonant enough to have a loud unplugged volume in its own right, was hugely appealing to plenty of players. Gibson were among the first to introduce hollow body guitars to the market with their ES 150 (an abbreviation of Electric Spanish, fact fans) guitar. In truth, it was an experiment. Gibson wanted to see if there was any interest and subsequent financial sense in creating the range.
Thankfully, there was indeed interest. So much so that we still see ES series guitars among the first names announced each year when Gibson announces a new range. Largely the new designs echo the characteristics of the old ones, even down to the choice of colours, but as manufacturing and production techniques improve each year, so does the quality of the guitar. Now most of the big manufacturers have some form of hollow-body entry on their ranges. Here’s a look at 10 of the best hollow body guitars around today.
It makes sense to start with the pioneer, perhaps the best known hollow body on the market today. This American built masterpiece demonstrates the pinnacle of semi-acoustic guitar building, featuring a 3-ply maple and poplar body, mahogany neck and two Burstbucker pickups. If you’re looking for tonal warmth and exceptional build quality, the Gibson ES-335 is the one for you.
For the more value-conscious, there is a superb quality Epiphone version of the above guitar to consider. The Epiphone Dot 335 uses a full maple neck and body with a rosewood fingerboard, and comes equipped with two Alnico humbuckers which deliver superlative vintage tones.
Proof, if it were needed, that the hollow body guitar is more than a jazz and blues machine. The Epiphone ES-333 Tom Delonge is the signature model for one part of pop-punk kings Blink 182. Traditionally, players of heavier styles like punk and rock would steer clear of hollow body guitars on account of their susceptibility to create piercingly loud feedback at higher volumes. The ES-333 gets around that by featuring a solid mahogany block within the body, which negates the feedback and also improves the guitar’s sustain.
Fender were relatively late to the hollow body party, waiting until the 1960s to release their first effort, the Coronado. For years these guitars have sat on the walls of pawn shops or on auction sites, fetching incredibly high second hand prices, so in 2014 Fender released the reissue version. It features the same maple body as its peers, but includes an alder centre block for sustain. Two vintage flavoured Fideli’Tron pickups accurately recount the more jangly tones of the time, making the Fender Coronado perfect for anyone looking to relive the sounds of the 60s. Also available in 3 colour sunburst.
Around the same time that Fender re-launched the Coronado it also restored the Starcaster to its line-up. This semi-acoustic marvel features amazing, if slightly obscure, visual stylings. From the offset body shape through to the oversized fin-shaped headstock, the Fender Starcaster is a guitar designed to turn heads. It recently found favour as one of Royal Blood’s touring arsenal too, giving it credentials among those favouring a heavier style of guitar.
We couldn’t talk about hollow body electric guitars without Gretsch! New for 2016 the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner is the brand’s budget friendly option for those who want that unmistakable Gretsch sound and feel but don’t want to stretch to the higher budget options. The G2420 is a modestly priced guitar that certainly doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality of build and tone. Beautifully crafted rich, warm tones are achieved through combining a maple body with signature Broad’Tron humbucking pickups whilst the Adjusto-matic bridge and Brooklyn Burst finish turn heads. This guitar definitely sounds as good as it looks!
Anyone who reads this blog may know how partial this particular author is to a Gold Top, so when Gibson released this special-run version to its 2015 line-up it was of particular interest. Offering a perfect blend between hollow bodied clarity and resonance, and good ol’ fashioned Les Paul grunt, the Gibson ES-Les Paul is a collision of two worlds which is as pleasing to play as it is to ogle. And ogle we did.
As with the Les Paul mentioned, there is a definite charm to classically solid body guitars which are given the hollow body treatment. This Fender American Elite Telecaster Thinline combines a compact, hollow Telecaster body with two new 4th Generation Noiseless pickups, which deliver depth and that signature Telecaster sound in spades without the unwanted feedback or interference.
Well we couldn’t have a best hollowbody guitars blog without including the Epiphone Casino could we? The likes of Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and of course John Lennon of The Beatles have favoured the Casino, and for good reason. The build quality and sound out of the P90R and P90T single coil pickups is absolutely beautiful. It’s been utilised by both Jazz and rock musicians owing to the powerful sound that the Casino is capable of and its versatility. If you haven’t played one of these yet, you really should try them out.
Ibanez is another brand which has huge heritage in the world of hollow body guitars, with its semi-acoustics often going under the radar compared to the brand’s more traditional metal guitars. But players of a few other genres, particularly jazz, also look to Ibanez to supply them with superb quality, great sounding hollow body guitars. This rather splendid Ibanez AFV10A-TCL Spot Run is a highly limited and stunning addition to the brand’s repertoire featuring a pair of Ibanez Classic Elite passive humbucking pickups and an AR1 bridge and VT60 tailpiece for optimal intonation and sustain. The weathered and won look makes it stand out and is perfect for the musician who wants a gorgeous sound as well as something that is aesthetically pleasing – or just downright pretty!
We hope this list showing 10 of the best hollow body guitars was enough to inspire you. Perhaps you’re an acoustic player looking for a smooth entry into the world of electric, or maybe you’re a die-hard electric player looking to vary and develop your tonal palette. Either way, there’s something for every player – check our selection here, or call 01925 582420 and speak to one of our product specialists for more information.