Solid, Chambered, Hollow and Semi-Hollow Body Guitars, what is the difference?
Author: Rory W Date Posted:12 July 2022
The various different guitar body types can be confusing, and it’s important to understand what the differences are so you can select the right tool for the job! I’ll outline below the main construction types for electric guitars and the common features of each. Use this resource to choose the right style of guitar for you!
Solid Body guitars are the most popular and common style of electric guitar that you’ll find today. In fact, most of the guitars you will have tried or heard on record tend to be of normal Solid body construction. They have been the most popular electric guitar style for decades due to the easy and inexpensive construction, and their tonal characteristics lend themselves to being amplified instruments.
Often made of various wooden parts glued together, solid body guitars sustain well, are usually lightweight, and have solid, wooden construction throughout the body – with only the pickup and hardware space routed out from the body material. Note that this doesn’t refer to the neck construction, they can be bolt-on, set neck or neck-thru, provided the body is solid wood throughout. These often feature a veneer or cap, and can be constructed from many different kinds of wood. They generally have a tight low-end, and as the majority of the tone is produced by the pickups and can be manipulated by pedals and amps, these are popular for every style of music from gentle pop to headbanging metal.
Guitars with a Chambered body are often Solid Body style instruments that have had material removed from the body to form internal cavities. These are then covered with a top or cap, to keep things looking pretty, but underneath, this chambering helps to relieve some weight and can also increase sustain and resonance. This is common in some LP-style instruments, which are known for their weight, and can make these a much more functional and lightweight instrument. Many Chambered instruments feature F-holes and keep the chambering open, such as the Artist TL69BND.
Guitar bodies are often chambered to be functional rather than for the tonality, and as the majority of the tone comes from the pickups these are again very popular for many styles of music, and have no problem handling anything from country to high-gain rock and roll.
The original electric guitars had completely hollow bodies, hence the name, and this construction style dates back to the 20s. Hollowbody guitars have an entirely hollow body, unsurprisingly, and sound characteristically loud when played unplugged. They often feature F-Holes in the top, to help resonance and to project their sound, and different tonewoods, bracings and construction styles can have a much bigger impact on the tone than you would find in a solid body guitar.
These are still popular today, and guitar companies like Eastwood and Gretsch still make iconic Hollowbody guitars such as the White Falcon. Hollowbodies can come in a few different styles, and as such can be referred to as Archtops, or Jazz Boxes. They have a much more open sound than a solid body electric guitar, with less low-end, and due to the space in the body, they are much more prone to feedback. As such, they are popular for jazz and other genres that don’t rely on gain and amplifier distortion. Their warm, rounded tones generally lend themselves to simple electronics, and it’s common to see hollowbodies with P90s and low-output humbuckers to capture their broad, throaty tones.
Semi-Hollow bodied guitars are the middle ground between the old-fashioned Hollow Body construction and the more modern and versatile Solid bodies. Very similar to Hollowbodies, these feature large bodies with hollow construction in each bout, with a solid wooden centre block in the middle of the body. This wooden centre block is often made from specific tonewoods to help increase sustain and resonance, and can have chambers connecting each side/bout, but not always. The centre block is the key to the Semi-Hollow, allowing the player to take the warm, mellow tones of a Hollowbody guitar and push it to its limits, reducing feedback significantly and allowing the pickups to do their work.
They often have a jazzy and rounded tone but can handle higher gain and volume much easier without the characteristic feedback of their Hollow cousins, making them very popular for Blues and Rock’n’Roll. Artists such as BB King have typically favoured Semi-Hollow bodies for Blues, although these guitars have been associated with rock, grunge and even punk thanks to artists such as Dave Grohl and Tom Delonge.
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