Yes, there is a certain attitude or feeling when you play a hollowbody.  You get a lot of respect and interest from other guitarists…and since it is a “real guitar” people think you are a “serious musician.”

By the way, Do you know why the NBA has their players wear suits when they travel?  Partially, it’s because when you’re wearing a suit you behave differently than when you’re wearing sweats or street clothers: more dignified and refined.

There are both hollowbodies of laminate and solid wood construction.  Examples of some solid wood hollowbodies are the Gibson Super 400, the L-5, and my personal favorite, the Byrdland.  Usually these have a maple body and a spruce top.  Spruce is a softer wood than maple to the tone of these is a little mellower, which is part of the reason they are the guitar of choice for jazz cats.


Gibson L-5

Some of the laminated hollowbodys are the Gibson ES-175, the Gretsch 6120, and, of course, the Gretsch Electromatic G5420.  The harder maple ply top provides a brighter tone.

Regardless of whether the body is laminate or solid wood, there is bracing under the top to resist the pressure of the strings…which is also the reason the top is arched. An arch is stronger than a flat board.  The arch on laminate tops is formed by pressing the top wood to shape; this method is also used on some solid wood tops.  However, on the finer solid wood archtop guitars, the top is carved to form the arch.  How about that!  Start with a 2″ or 3″ thick piece of solid wood are carve away at it until it is nearly a uniform thickness and forms a graceful raise in the center and lower on the edges.  Now the $10,000+ price tag for one of these babies doesn’t seem quite so ridicules, does it?

Gretsch Brian Setzer G6120

Most of these guitars are true hollowbodies, but some (like the Gretsch Electromatic) have a “sound post” which is placed inside the guitar underneath the bridge, and it connects to the top and the back of the guitar.  The reason the post is on this particular model of guitar is to inhabit the vibration of the top of the guitar to reduce feedback.  On some models of the Gretsch 6120, the sound post evolved into a much heavier “trestle bracing” which is glued to the standard top bracing.  The two trestles have one post under the bridge (one trestle for the bass side and another for the treble side) and the other post close to where the neck joins the body.  Needless to say, this tremendously reduces feedback.

Gibson BB King Lucille

There are also semi-hollow body guitars which have a center block that runs all the way through the body, from the neck block all the way to the endpin (Gibson ES-335, B.B. King Lucille).  This block is on the inside of the guitar, so the face of the guitar looks normal, but since this block of wood adds some weight, the guitar’s depth is usually pretty shallow.  These guitars are sometime referred to as “thinline” guitars, but beware…some thinline guitars (Epiphone Casino, Gibson ES-125) are fully hollow.

Epiphone Casino

The floating bridge on hollowbody guitars can sometimes move, usually during travel, but sometimes in less opportune moments like when it accidentally bumped on stage.  If it moves, the strings will not be aligned with the pickups, and the guitar will most like fall out of tune.  Some guitarists place double stick tape on the underside of the bridge’s wood base to help hold it in place, but there are those that believe that this absorbs some of the vibration between the bridge and the top and affects the top.  But, the tape can be removed and the guitar’s originality would remain intact.

Other guitarists have their bridge “pinned”.  This could be done a couple of ways, some visible and others more discrete.  On the late great John Entwhistle’s Gretsch 6120 (or was it White Falcon, or both), there’s a screw on either side of the bridge on the wood base.  On my Gretsch, my tech used longer posts on my bridge which now extends down into the top of the guitar.  I just heard of the creative option, which was too place two studs on the guitar’s top under the bridge, and then drill two small receiving holes on the underside of the wood base exactly where the studs are. NEEDLESS TO SAY: This kind of work should only be done by a qualified guitar technician, and great care and consideration should be made in the case of altering a vintage instrument in any way.

One thing is for certain…those hollowbodies have a tone of their own!


Related Articles:

Gretsch Electromatic Review

Filtertron Pickup Comparison

Originally posted 2012-12-02 22:04:03.