Gibson Semi Hollow

Guitar Guide

Read our guide if you want to learn how to decode and decipher the Gibson semi hollow 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 semi hollow and hollowbody guitars, especially with the new range released in 2019. There are loads of sound and style specialisations for each model - there's definitely one out there for you. This guide will give you a quick rundown on Gibson ES guitar so you can make an informed decision on your next purchase.

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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’.

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.

While the ES-235 certainly has the look of a Les Paul in shape, its construction, tone and feel is much closer to that of an ES-339. 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. Because of the build it still has the sound of your classic ES model. You wouldn’t expect to see this at any metal gigs soon but you are going to see more of these used for blues, rock and even hard rock, where the classic Les Paul look is desired but a more uncommon tone is favoured.

Which Gibson Semi Hollow Should You Buy?

All Gibson ES guitars feel drastically different. While a lot of them share similar tones, they differ in size, necks, fretboards, hardware and woods. 

For vintage fans, the ES-335 and older models like the ES-175 would serve you well. These are classics and have been a part of the Gibson lineup for a long time. If you want the legendary ES sound but with modern playability, the ES-339 or ES-235 may be the answer.

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