What Is a Semi-Hollow Body Guitar?

by Alexander Rudinski
Semi-hollow body guitars, like the one shown here, often have holes on the top called

Semi-hollow body guitars, like the one shown here, often have holes on the top called "f-holes" for their distinctive shape.

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Commonly used in jazz and rockabilly, semi-hollow body guitars are a mash-up of an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar, featuring some of the innate characteristics of both. Semi-hollow body guitars have large, hollow openings inside, allowing the vibration of the string to resonate within the guitar, and pick-ups that pick up the sound of the strings' vibrations for amplification.

Hollow Body Guitars vs. Acoustic Guitars

While a semi-hollow body guitar (often shortened to "hollow body") has some of the characteristics of an acoustic guitar, the two are distinctly different. A hollow body guitar contains an acoustic sound box, hence the hollow, open areas within the body of the guitar. This means that a hollow body guitar played without amplification will be louder than a traditional electric guitar. However, an unplugged hollow body guitar will not be nearly as loud as an acoustic guitar, which is designed to be played without amplification.

Hollow Body Guitars vs. Electric Guitars

In this match-up, there are many more similarities between the two contenders than there are differences. Both guitars have pickups, which are essentially small electromagnets designed to detect and amplify the sound of the vibrations of the guitar's strings. Each guitar can be plugged into an amplifier to project the guitar's sound, which travels through the pickups, out the guitar's jack, through the cable, into the amplifier and out the amplifier's speaker. However, the tone of a solid-body electric guitar is vastly different than that of a hollow body guitar.

Why Hollow Body?

The biggest different between hollow body guitars and other types of electric guitars is the tone they produce, which any guitarist knows is one of the most important qualities of a guitar. The acoustic sound box combined with the electric pickups creates a unique blend of acoustic and electric tone, providing a warm, full sound. When the vibration of the strings passes through the guitar's body, the acoustic sound box lends the unique tone that is the semi-hollow body guitar's trademark.

Some Semi-Hollow Body Guitars

Some of the most famous semi-hollow body guitars are those in the Gibson ES series, one of which is shown in the photograph accompanying this article. Though older models are more desirable, Gibson still makes a "reissue" version of this guitar; an inexpensive version called the Dot is made under the Epiphone label, which is a subsidiary of Gibson. Hollow body Telecasters, made by Fender, are also popular, as are guitars made by Gretsch, whose line is almost entirely semi-hollow body guitars. The Epiphone Casino, which is still made today, was played by John Lennon on the album "Let It Be."

About the Author

Alexander Rudinski has been writing professionally since 2008. His work appears on the Nerve website, where he continues to work as a photographer and writer. Rudinski has a Bachelor of Science in communications, concentrating on documentary video, photography and professional writing. He graduated from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

Photo Credits

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