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What Does Semi Hollow Actually Mean?

The guitars that we discuss here are called semi hollow. They are sometimes referred to as semi-solid (but not by us here). The exception here is the ES-330 and we’ll cover that in depth eventually. The term hollow body speaks for itself-the guitar is a hollow box full of air that resonates when the strings are plucked or strummed. A solid body is pretty self explanatory as well. It’s a solid block of wood and while it still resonates, it does so differently. Since it isn’t a box of air, it doesn’t get terribly loud when it isn’t plugged in. The hollow guitar is the same as an acoustic guitar only it’s electric. The solid guitar wouldn’t make a very good acoustic guitar since it doesn’t play very loudly but once it’s amplified, it gets as loud as you want it to. The solid guitar has the advantage of not feeding back as easily as the hollow guitar and that became very important when rock and roll happened because the louder you play, the more likely your guitar is to feed back. OK, so back to semi hollow. An ES-335, 345 and 355 are all semi hollow. They look like hollow body guitars but they have a solid block of wood (usually maple) running right down the middle. So, you get the advantage of a hollow body tone and the advantage of a solid body not feeding back. That’s a gross oversimplification but it’s the essence of the concept. You also get the increased sustain of a solid but you don’t lose the “roundness of the hollow body tone. It is truly the best of all possible worlds to many guitar players-myself included. The invention of the semi hollow is usually attributed to the great Les Paul who took a plank of wood and strung it and put pickups on it. he then glued two halves of a hollow body guitar to the plank and voila-the semi hollow guitar. he called it “The Log” and he made his point.

Les Paul's "Log"

Inside an ES-335. Half the center block has been removed. Thanks to Tom Hollyer and ES-335.net

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