Brief Guide To Gibson Semi Acoustic Guitars

Read our guide if you want to learn how to decode and decipher the Gibson semi acoustic lineup.

The next time you're shopping for a hollowbody, you'll know exactly what you're looking at and how they may differ from guitar to guitar.

Introduction

Gibson make a lot of different guitars that all come under different lines. This can make it quite difficult to work out exactly what you want. If you are looking more towards the Semi Acoustic ES styles that Gibson is known for we hope this quick guide will give you the information you need to find the right guitar for you.

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ES-335

When you think of a Gibson ES guitar this is probably what comes to your head. A wide bodied semi hollow guitar that is actually rather thin. Originally launched in 1958 this guitar has been part of the lineup ever since and has been the basis of most other modern ES guitars.

The ES-335 is made by using a centre block (normally Maple) running through the body under the pickups and bridge. Then on either side you have hollow ‘wings’ that are part of the back and side construction.

Unlike a solid body guitar where the back and sides are one piece the ES-335, and in fact most ES guitars have separate ply back, top and sides that are shaped and glued to form the shape of the guitar.

Used in genres from Blues to Jazz, Indie to Alt Rock, and Pop to Punk the ES335 is a great all round guitar that can be used for almost any situation. It has a warm tone with a smooth attack from the open f hole design that some may call ‘woody’.

ES-339

The ES-339 is a much more modern guitar than the ES-335. In fact it has only been around since 2007 but in that time it has already grown to be a very popular staple of the Gibson ES line.

Made in the same way the ES-335 is made the ES-339 has a smaller body but everything else is the same, depending on series of course. If you get both 2016 studio models for example you will see they are buit in the same way, using the same parts, one just has a larger body than the other.

Tonally this smaller body does less than you might think. While it does clear up some of the low midrange coming from the large ES-335 as a whole it still sounds very similar.

The feel does change quite drastically however when you shrink down the body to something similar to a Les Paul. It is less cumbersome on stage, is easier to move with and for some people it will just be a lot more comfortable to play. For others who want the more vintage vibe or just like playing with big guitars the ES-335 may be the better choice.

ES-175

The ES-175 is the last remaining member of the Gibson fully hollow family to be part of the 2016 line. That is excluding limited edition models that pop up every now and then but as part of the core line this is it. Originally released in 1949 it has been a part of the lineup ever since.

Like the ES-335 and ES-339 we have talked about already on here it uses separate pieces for its back, top and sides. The difference here is that there is no centre block. This comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side you have a much lighter guitar without a heavy block of Maple running through your guitar. You also get a very open and responsive sound that sounds great for Jazz especially when you put on some flatwound strings that give you a sweet and mellow tone.

The downside is that the guitar is much more prone to feedback. If you are using it with a clean or very light crunch sound you will be fine but if you want to add a bit of overdrive expect plenty of feedback at stage volumes.

ES-Les Paul

While this guitar certainly has the look of a Les Paul (if you ignore the F holes) its construction, tone and feel is much closer to that of an ES-339 than of your standard Les Paul. This is another more modern release only finding its way in to stores in 2015 making it one of the most recent designs

Like the ES-339 this has a solid Maple centre block with separate back, sides and top that creates the warm semi hollow response we expect out of the ES line. Like the other Semi-Hollow ES models it also comes in loads of different versions to fit almost any budget.

Because of the build it still has the sound of your classic ES model. I wouldn’t expect to see this at any metal gigs soon but you are going to see more of these at blues, rock and even hard rock gigs where the classic Les Paul look is desired but you may be after a different kind of tone.

Midtown

The Midtown is technically not part of the ES line as it is made in the standard USA factory not the Memphis factory where all the other models on this list are from.

If the ES -Les Paul is that happens when you make a Les Paul at the Memphis factory the Midtown is what you get when you move the ES-335 to the standard USA factory.

Instead of using the standard separate pieces to build the body the Midtown has a solid Mahogany back and sides that has been carved out to simulate the internals of a standard 335. You have the centre block running down the middle with rather thin wings either side.

The top is made out of Maple meaning you can get the same look as an ES-335 but with a flat top instead of a carved design.

Sonically it sounds like a more open Les Paul. You lose a bit of brightness and attack compared to a solid Les Paul but it still sits in the same kind of ballpark. While it is still a bit prone to feedback you will be more likely to see these being played with high gain than the ES counterparts partly due to the solid mahogany construction.

Summary

All of these guitars do feel drastically different. While a lot of them do have similar tones there are very small differences between all of them.

For the lovers of vintage you have the ES-335 and ES-175. These are classics and have been a part of the Gibson lineup for a very long time.

If you want the classic ES sound but with modern playability the ES-339 or ES-Les Paul may be the kind of thing you are looking for.

Finally if you are after a more solid body like tone but want something with a different look and feel the Midtown is an amazing choice.

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