If you’re in the market for a new guitar, then you might be wondering exactly what the difference between semi-hollow and hollow electric guitars actually is?
In this guide I’ll go through all the key differences so you know which is the best option for you. So let’s get started!
I’ll go through an in-depth look at both hollow body and semi-hollow electric guitars later on, but first, I’ll go through the key differences between the two body styles. Here’s a quick overview of each.
- Hollow body electric guitars have no wood inside the body, similar to an acoustic, but instead of a sound hole, they have pickups.
- Semi-hollow body electric guitars are in between solid body and hollow body styles. They either have most of the inside empty and have only a centre-block left inside the body, or they only have two small sections removed (referred to as f-holes).
- The more hollow the guitar means the more acoustic the sound is, but the more feedback you’ll get when you use gain.
- Hollow guitars are great for clean tones so they are commonly used in blues and jazz music.
- Semi-hollow guitars are capable of dealing with more gain so are good for rock ‘n’ roll as well.
- Semi-hollow and hollow guitars look pretty similar on the outside, the difference usually only occurs on the inside of the body.
Hollow Body Guitars
Semi-Hollow Body Guitars
Hollow Body Electric Guitars
Unlike semi-hollow body guitars, the hollow-body models have absolutely nothing inside them.
They are similar to acoustic guitars, except they don’t have a sound hole. Instead, the sound is still captured by pickups, the same as the solid body and semi-hollow variants of the electric guitar family.
Hollow body guitars, like semi-hollow models, are usually a lot larger than solid body electric guitars.
Since hollow body guitars have all the space inside them that solid body guitars don’t have, they produce a more acoustic kind of sound. This is great if you’re looking for cleaner tones, and it’s why hollow body guitars are great for jazz music.
However, all this space inside the body means that they aren’t a good choice if you play with a lot of gain or distortion. This is because you’ll get a lot of feedback as the pickups have a lot of space and air behind them so they’re not shielded like they are with solid bodies.
That’s why you’ll pretty much never see them used by metal or hard rock guitarists.
Completely hollow body electric guitars are pretty niche, and that’s why you won’t see loads of manufacturers producing them. However, there are a few specialist hollow-body guitars that definitely deserve a mention.
- Godin are well known for producing guitars in this category, as they are also well known for producing acoustic guitars. The Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin guitar has a vintage looking design and features two P90 pickups, maple neck, rosewood fretboard and cherry body.
- D’Angelico are also well know for producing hollow body guitars. The D’Angelico Premier Series SS has a maple neck and body, rosewood fretboard, and single mini humbucker pickup.
- Last but not least, Gretsch is a huge hollow and semi-hollow body guitar manufacturer. The Gretsch G5422TG has a double cutaway maple body and neck with a rosewood fretboard and features two humbucker pickups.
Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitars
Generally, hollow body and semi-hollow body guitars look pretty similar. They’re larger than the usual solid body counterparts and have cutouts in the body.
The main difference between semi-hollow and hollow bodies, is on the inside. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but semi-hollow bodies do have some wood on the inside as well. So where is it?
Well, there are a few variants of semi-hollow bodies. Some guitars only have some a small section hollowed out, usually referred to as the “f-hole”. Check out the picture below. The other main variant has more of the body hollowed out. This is when most of the body is hollow but there is a centerblock present.
The sound of the semi-hollow body guitar will vary depending on how much of the body is hollowed out. But generally, you’ll get the more acoustic sounding tone, however, not quite as much as with a completely hollow body.
You’ll also experience less issues with feedback if you crank up the gain, however, this is still definitely more of an issue than with solid body guitars.
Semi-hollow body guitars are definitely more common than hollow-body models. Hence, more manufacturers produce them, and some that you usually would associate with solid body models.
- Gibson is the most popular semi-hollow guitar manafacturer out there. The most famous model is the Gibson ES-335 out there. It’s a double cutaway design with two humbuckers each with independent volume and tone controls. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, then check out the Epiphone ES-355.
- Ibanez are also pretty well-known for producing great semi-hollow electric guitars. The Ibanez Artcore AS73 is a really good affordable option that has two humbuckers and a double cutaway maple body.
- PRS are great at producing excellent value for money guitars. Their SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar is perfect if you don’t want something big and bulky, as it’s the same size as a solid body model. You’ll get a really great looking maple cap plus the unique bird fret inlays.
Here’s an image showing the “f-hole” on a semi-hollow electric guitar. On this model, only the cutout you see is hollow, the rest of the body is solid wood.
More Frequently Asked Questions
Now you know the differences between semi-hollow and hollow body electric guitars, here are some other FAQs that you might have.
Can a Hollow Body Guitar Be Played Acoustically?
Hollow and semi-hollow body guitars can be played acoustically, however they are nowhere near as loud as normal acoustic guitars when unplugged.
If you want to achieve a more acoustic tone on an electric guitar, then check out our post on how to make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic.
Can Hollow Body Guitars be Used for Rock Music?
Hollow body guitars will produce feedback at high gain, so they are typically not used for heavier genres. Semi-hollow guitars usually make a better alternative.
However, some guitarists use hollow body guitars for rock music, for example, George Thorogood used a Gibson ES-125 through a driven amp using single coil pickups.
Are Semi-Hollow and Hollow Guitar Better than Solid Body Electric Guitars?
I’ll start by saying that no one body type is better than the others, it really depends on the type of songs you’re playing and the kind of sound you want to achieve.
Here’s a quick rundown of the differences between solid body and hollow/semi-hollow electric guitars to give you more of an idea of which is best for you.
The main difference with the sound, is that solid body guitars don’t have feedback issues when the gain is high, whereas semi-hollow/hollow body guitars do. However, solid body guitars are also less resonant.
Solid Body guitars
Semi-Hollow and hollow body
I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.
So there you go! That’s the difference between a hollow-body and a semi-hollow body guitar! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading, and have fun shopping for a new guitar or amp! Here are some other posts you might find useful: