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Solid body, hollow body and semi-hollow body guitars: the differences explained

Nick Coyle

Solid body, hollow body and semi-hollow body guitars: the differences explained

For guitarists or aspiring guitar players, there are many factors that determine which guitar is right for you. One of the most fundamental of these factors is the type of guitar body: solid, hollow, or semi-hollow. Each of these three types of guitar bodies has its advantages and disadvantages, and each will be ideal for different genres and playing styles.

Before choosing a guitar type, it’s so important for you as a musician to consider the type of music you’ll predominantly be playing, so you can identify the tone and style you want to produce. The type of guitar body you choose will determine the type of sound for which your guitar’s tone will be best suited, whether that’s jazz, hard rock, acoustic, blues, country, or something else entirely. While a given body style will not limit you to just one of these genres, you will benefit greatly from understanding the type of sound that each guitar body best produces, to help you choose the best model for your needs.

In this article, we’ll go over each type of electric guitar body, explain its pros and cons, and help you determine which bodystyle will be right for you and the type of music you want to produce.

Solid body guitars

For those who really want to rock, a solid body guitar may be the way to go. These guitars are normally made from a solid piece of wood, often ash or alder (the two types of wood most commonly used to make solid body electric guitars.) One major defining feature of a solid body guitar is the greater sustain it has over hollow or semi-hollow body guitars. This means that they can be amplified at a greater volume without the risk of jarriing feedback noise.

More than any other guitar type, solid body models are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. This is because the resonance of sound within the body isn’t much of a factor, since the body is solid and not hollow. Solid body guitars are ideal for heavier styles of music like hard rock, metal, punk, and other rock genres since they can be amplified at a great volume without feedback noise. They are also much more responsive to the use of creative effects, since they don’t have any resonating chambers and instead rely almost entirely on amps.

Solid body pros:

  • Heavier, fatter tone. Solid body guitars produce a heavier and richer tone than hollow or semi-hollow bodies, making them ideal for heavy styles of music like rock, punk, and metal.
  • Wide variety of styles. If you’re into really creative-looking guitars, that’s what you’ll find with a solid body.

Solid body cons:

  • Not as clean of sound. If you want to play with a clean and bright acoustic tone, look elsewhere than a solid body, as these are more ideal for heavier music styles.

Hollow body guitars

A hollow body guitar is exactly as it sounds: completely hollow inside. This type of guitar tends to have a thinner, hollower type of sound that’s ideal for acoustic music. The hollow nature of the guitar body causes the sound to bounce around more than it would with a solid or semi-hollow body, which means that when played at a loud volume, this bouncing sound can be repeatedly picked up to create jarring feedback noise.

Because of this, most hollow body guitars are used for more acoustic type of music than heavier styles. The tone produced is clean and bright, yet full and round, with an excellent bass response. True hollow bodied guitars tend to have a niche following with jazz musicians, but because of their high susceptibility to feedback noise, most guitarists opt to go for a solid body or semi-hollow body instead.

Hollow body pros:

  • Clean, acoustic sound. The hollow body guitar will produce your brightest, cleanest tone that’s ideal for acoustic music.

Hollow body cons:

  • Sound can be too thin/brittle. Some find the sound produced by a hollow body to be a bit too limiting as far as the tone that can be produced.
  • Can produce feedback when amplified too loudly. It’s important to be careful when amplifying the sound from a hollow body guitar, since it can produce an unpleasant feedback sound more easily than the other types.

Semi-hollow body guitars

If you’re looking for something in between the thin, ultra-bright tone of a hollow body, and the heavier and richer tone of a solid body, the semi-hollow might be a good choice. These guitars produce a nice warm tone that really helps bridge the best of both worlds. Their woody, resonant sound creates a harmonious richness that is can also be amped up without as much risk of feedback as you would get with a hollow body.

Semi-hollow body guitars can produce a punchy sound similar to a solid body, but are more lightweight and capable of producing the more delicate sound of a hollow body as well. This type of guitar is ideal for players of jazz, power pop, early rock and roll, and country, as well as players just looking for a versatile guitar type.

Semi-hollow body pros:

  • Rich, warm, resonant tone. Many guitarists love the tone produced by a semi-hollow body, as it crosses the bridge between the acoustic sound of a hollow body, and the richer and heavier tone of a solid body.
    • Versatile and lightweight. The semi-hollow body crosses over between the qualities of the other two, making it ideal for players who want to produce different styles and tones. It is also more lightweight than a solid body.

    Semi-hollow body cons:

    • Good hybrid, but not idea for super heavy or light styles. While the semi-hollow body is a great hybrid between the heavier and lighter tones, if you’re really looking to specialize in a heavy metal or acoustic style, you may want to go with the solid body or hollow body, respectively.

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