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ES-330. Odd Duck

This one just sold at auction for over $11,000 which is pretty healthy in such a crappy market. I guess rare sells sometimes. Still, that's block neck 335 territory and a lot of dough for a 330. I was tempted but not that tempted.

It walks like a duck but it doesn’t quack like a duck. And it will probably even float if you throw it in the pond. The ES-330 really is a very different guitar from it’s half brothers. It’s really part of the “other” ES-line that includes the ES-350, ES-295 and the ES-225 among others. These are fully hollow and have a very different tone and feel. The fact that the 330 has P90s rather than humbuckers is only one of a number of reasons that they don’t command anywhere near the premium prices you see for same year 335s. In fact, you can buy an excellent ’59 ES-330 for around $5000. Compare that to a 59 ES-335 which will cost you closer to $30K in the same excellent condition. The biggest difference, to me anyway, is the tone. A P90 is a great pickup but so much better suited to a solid body guitar. Crank up a 330 and it will howl like a wolf under a full moon; yes, they tend to feed back. My very first ES was a 330 that I bought for $200 back in 1966. It was a 62 or a 63 (nobody cared back then) with a factory Bigsby. I played that guitar for years, constantly fighting the feedback unless psychedelia was the order and then I exploited that same feedback for earsplitting drug drenched effect. I don’t remember why I sold it or even when I sold it-hey, it was the sixties. I remember playing a friend’s 335 and noticing how much better the upper fret access was and I compared them and, sure enough, the 335 joined the body at the 19th while the 330 joined at the 16th. It made a difference. In 68 or so, Gibson changed the 330 to what some folks call the “long neck” version which joins at the 19th like a 335. Here’s the thing-the neck of a 335 is glued into the center block and is as stable as any neck on any solid body. Not so for the hollow 335. It has a conventionally glued heel with no tenon in the manner of a 335 and most Gibson solid bodies. All 330 came with a trapeze tailpiece or a Bigsby. You can’t put a stoptail on a hollow guitar-it will rip the top right out of it. That accounts for some of the tonal differences but most of it comes from the fact that it doesn’t have the center block. The 330 sounds like a hollow body. The 335 more like a solid. Makes sense. That was the intention of the center block in the 335. What’s good about them? Quite a lot actually. They weigh next to nothing. Six pounds and change is pretty average. They sound great unplugged and while the tone won’t blow away that J200 you have in the closet, it’ll be loud enough to enjoy during those moments when your wife is trying to read or watch TV. ┬áThe 330 was clearly a guitar that cut some corners. On the sunburst models, the back is brown. No sunburst on the back of a 330. The tuners are the same Klusons as a 335 except they have the little oval buttons. Like the 335, they had dot markers until 62, then small blocks. The rest of the hardware generally follows the same timetable as the 335. Nickel turned to chrome in 65 and the knobs became witch hats in 67. I think the ones to get are the earliest ones. I’ve had a couple of 59s with that great neck profile but what I really love are the red dot necks with the old style black dogear P90s. That’s a great look. You’ll only find them in ’60, ’61 and maybe early 62. Then the pickups were chrome plated and the dots were gone. There are a few block necks with the black pickups from 62 as well. The “ears also followed the 335 timeline with Mickey Mouse ears from 59 until early 63. There is a single pickup version but I don’t like the pickup placement on them and I don’t think you will either if you play rock and roll. The ES-330 is a very cool looking guitar for not too much money. If you love 335s, you owe it to yourself to own at least one 330.

You gotta love the look of these. The black pickups on the red guitar is a very cool look. Check out those ears too.

Me with my '63 ES 330 in Spring of 1968 (age 16) at Scotia Glenville HS. Check out the Vox Royal Guardsman behind me. It was very cool to turn the head around. I'm sure I thought I was a pretty cool guy. I was, after all, the guitar player.

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