Hollow body electric guitars have sound holes which help in producing a fuller and warmer sound.
It works by allowing sound vibrations to resonate inside the body producing a less aggressive tone that’s great for jazz and blues.
I personally own a rather inexpensive hollow body guitar from Amazon to try out what it’s all about. What surprised me the most was how little sound hotels can impact the sound – I could even play it acoustically without any amp.
In this article, I am going to share more details about hollow body guitars – it should be everything that you want to know (at least it was for me).
- What’s The Use Of Hollow Body Guitars?
- Hollow Body Guitars: Pros & Cons
- Are Hollow Body Guitars Worth It? (& Cost)
- Can You Play Hollow Body Guitars Acoustically? (No Amp)
What’s The Use Of Hollow Body Guitars?
Hollow body guitars are great for playing warmer tones in a band filled with other amplified instruments.
Hollow body guitars help your guitar sound stand out among the others – suitable for Jazz and blues orchestras with many other instruments (where your sound can easily drown).
Hollow body guitars have sound holes that work the same as regular acoustic guitars. They produce a clean sound that’s warm, full and not sharp like how (solid body) electric guitars usually are.
Generally, hollow body electric guitars are louder and sharper than electro acoustic guitars but not as much as regular electric guitars – making it great for clean tones.
That said, hollow body guitars are prone to feedback and don’t have long sustain. You shouldn’t use hollow body guitars to play heavy rock and metal songs – where gain is high and you are expected to shred.
As a regular guitarist that only plays at home, I suggest looking into semi hollow guitars instead. They are more versatile – not as warm as full hollow but they are much less prone to feedback issues.
With semi hollow guitars, you can play rock and metal songs as well as warmer clean songs. Just make sure your EQ settings are correct.
Related article: Clean Distortion: What Is It & How To Get (5 Improvement Tips)
Advantages Of Hollow Body Guitars
1. Playable without amp
Hollow body guitars can still be played acoustically and sound great without an amp. This is because the sound holes and hollow body amplifies the sound vibrations – the same way as regular acoustic guitars.
When you play hollow body and solid body guitars unplugged side by side – you can definitely hear the difference. The hollow body is fuller, louder and sounds better.
However, the hollow body guitar will still be quieter than a traditional acoustic guitar that’s large and has a sound hole in the middle. Set your expectations straight.
Here’s a YouTube video showing you the sound difference between hollow body and solid body guitars unplugged. Jump to 5:59
2. Not drowned when performing in band
Hollow body guitars produce sound that’s fuller and will be distinguishable when played alongside other instruments.
This means, your guitar sound won’t be drowned in the sound of other instruments – suitable when performing live in bands or orchestras with multiple (loud) instruments.
3. Can play clean and dirty tone well
Hollow body guitars can play both clean and dirty tones. Though, semi hollow guitars are even more versatile and will sound great for both clean and dirty tones.
Generally, full hollow body guitars are better at playing clean tones than dirty tones – because of feedback issues (more on this later).
If you want to play both clean and dirty tones well, you should look into a semi hollow guitar. It plays both clean and dirty tones well – without the feedback issues.
Hollow body guitars are lighter because the body is hollow – without any block of wood inside like semi hollow or solid body guitars have.
Weight of a guitar plays a major role if you perform life and for a long period of time. It helps even more if you play standing using straps.
A lighter hollow body guitar allows you to play at your best for longer periods of time.
Disadvantages Of Hollow Body Guitars
1. Prone to feedback
Hollow body guitars are prone to feedback when playing with high gain / volume.
This happens because vibrations from strings and sound enter the hollow body and resonate. This resonation in the body reaches back to the guitar pickup and becomes amplified – causing feedback.
Full hollow body guitars are impacted the most, followed by semi hollow. Standard solid body guitar will not have such feedback issues.
To reduce the feedback issue, you may need to cover the F-holes using foams. (I couldn’t find it on Amazon so I had to cut out the foams myself)
When you need to play with high gain, cover the F-holes. When you need to play clean warm tones with low gain, remove the F-holes. It’s a hassle but it worked for me.
2. Lower sustain
Hollow body guitars have much lower sustain than solid body guitars. This happens because more string vibrations are converted into sound waves by the hollow body.
More energy conversion means, lesser string vibrations remain – resulting in reduced sustain.
The only fix to this is to use a compressor pedal. Compressor pedals makes sure you are playing at constant volume by automatically boosting or capping the volume coming from your pickup.
3. Has larger body
Hollow body guitars usually have larger and wider bodies to accommodate the hollow space inside the body.
This is the same reason why traditional acoustic guitars are much larger than solid body electric guitars.
This is in general though. You can still find hollow body guitars that are the same size as solid body guitars. Like this Gibson Memphis ES-275.
4. Less impact when changing component
When changing the components of a hollow body guitar like the pickups, nuts or saddles, the change will be less significant because of the hollow design.
No matter how much you change its components, the hollow body will still resonate sound and you will not notice as much change as you would with regular solid body guitars.
Which means, it’s important you like the sound of the hollow body guitar before you buy it. It’s very hard to change the tone after.
5. Loud when unplugged
Hollow body guitars are much louder than regular solid body guitars when played unplugged.
This can be a pro or con – depending on you. If you want to play quietly with headphones on, then hollow body guitar is not for you – they are quite loud and will definitely disturb your roommate.
Related article: Playing Guitar With Headphone: Is It Bad? (Pros & Cons)
Are Hollow Body Guitars Worth It? (& Cost)
Hollow body guitars are definitely worth it if you are specifically looking to play warmer clean tones. Buying a hollow body guitar for a dirty tone is not worth it.
If you play Jazz and Blues a lot, hollow body guitar should be a good buy because the tone produced is great for those genres.
Hollow body guitars are also harder to play live because of the feedback issue. If you don’t have a specific use case, then better get a solid body or at least a semi hollow body guitar.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. I personally got a cheap $300 hollow body guitar from Amazon and it was a good experience.
Hollow body guitars are very niche. For regular players, I suggest getting a solid body guitar first (especially if it’s your first guitar).
If you know you need that warmer tone and you need to play with many other instruments in a band, then a hollow body guitar may be worth it. Otherwise, stick with the standard solid body or semi hollow!