In the world of electric guitars, everything changed when solid bodies were brought to the market back in the 1950s. This innovation hugely shaped the character of many musicians and contributed to the diversification of genres, especially rock. Nevertheless, hollow bodies have not become extinct, they do still serve their purpose and remain niche instruments for various musical genres. Today we are going to discuss what are the key factors that keep hollow bodies alive and what makes them so special.
What is a hollow body guitar?
If you have only played solid bodies, you might be wondering what the hell is hollow-body guitars. Well, my friend, they were the predecessors of solid body guitars. They are completely empty inside and, in that sense, resemble acoustic guitars. Unlike semi-hollow bodies, they do not have a center block. For this reason, they are different from solid-body electric guitars.
Hollow body electric guitars are capable of producing their sound without amplification. Their shape enables the strings to resonate and create tones, which cuts down on the needed gear. They have warm, thick, rounded sound that is admired by many musicians. Unlike solid bodies, they do not have sustain and gain. The main issue of hollow bodies is that they are prone to feedback at higher volumes, which makes them unsuitable for rock and other louder styles of music. They are largely associated with jazz music due to their acoustic presence and the ability to create spectacular clean tones. For this reason, hollow body electric guitars are often referred to as jazz boxes.
Even though I have mentioned that hollow bodies are not generally suited for rock, many musicians have found their way around feedback issues and have incorporated such kind of instruments into their performances. The first solution to the unwanted feedback is utilizing the humbucker pickups. Or you could always take a piece of cloth and shove it into the body of your guitar just like Billy Duffy of the Cult did. Or, you can use excessive feedback to your advantage and roll with it. One way or another, hollow bodies are guaranteed to deliver completely different sounds and crank your performance up a notch.
The difference between semi hollow and hollow body guitars
From what I have said above, you might have a general idea of the difference between semi-hollow and hollow-body guitars, but I decided to underline the distinguishing factors between these two types of instruments.
Semi-hollow body guitars have a solid center block, while the rest of the instrument is hollow. Typically, they have two F-style holes on their bodies, which contribute to the resonating process. This slight variation in design hugely impacts the sound of the semi-hollow guitars. They have way less feedback than hollow bodies and are closer to solid bodies with their tonal character.
Semi-hollow body guitars maintain that piercing, rich sound of the solid-body electric guitars and add an acoustic character to it. This way the overall result is distinctive and unique and is the perfect combination of the qualities of acoustic and electric guitars. Semi-hollow bodies are also widely utilized by jazz and blues players, but are quite ubiquitous in rock as well. Dave Grohl is famous for his performances with the semi-hollow bodies, as well as his signature Gibson DG-335.
As you can see, hollow body electric guitars will be your best friend if you are looking for something completely different. The sound they create does not come close to anything else you might hear from other instruments. Their specific bodies guarantee to deliver unique performance no matter what. Regardless of what genre you play, you can make them work. In my book, their downside (a.k.a. feedback) can easily become their advantage if you let your creativity take over. Be daring and adventurous and this instrument will take you to the ethereal world of sounds. Just trust your craftsmanship and the magic of hollow bodies. Good luck!