THE SEMI-HOLLOW GUITAR: CONSTRUCTION AND SOUND
The way electric guitars are designed and constructed affects how they sound. Period. One type, the semi-hollow guitar, has a unique fascinating blend of acoustic resonance and electric versatility that gives it a distinct sound. This blog post’ll explore how semi-hollow guitars are built and what makes their sound special.
The 3 points:
- How they’re made.
- How they sound.
- How they fit your music.
1. HOW SEMI-HOLLOW GUITARS ARE MADE.
Let’s take a closer look at how semi-hollow guitars are constructed to better understand its characteristic sound.
SOLID CENTER BLOCK.
A solid block of wood is at the core of a semi-hollow guitar. Typically made from dense tonewoods like mahogany or maple, this block runs through the center of the guitar body, providing stability and sustain.
The center block makes the semi–hollow guitar more resistant to changes in humidity, and overall more stable to use for gigs night after night compared to a full-hollow-bodied guitar.
We use mahogany as the center block in our semi-hollow guitars.
Like an acoustic guitar, the hollow chambers are often covered by a soundboard, commonly known as the “top.” This top is typically made from a thin piece of wood, such as spruce or maple, which further enhances the guitar’s resonance and tonal complexity.
We use maple tops on our Conquer 59 and Revolt, and spruce on our Leaper Tone.
A distinguishing feature of semi-hollow guitars is the use of F-shaped sound holes on the top, reminiscent of violins. These holes not only add to the aesthetic appeal but also help to project the sound, increase volume, and contribute to the overall tonal character of the instrument.
We use our own Baum Signature F-hole design instead of the commonly used violin-inspired F-hole.
2. HOW SEMI-HOLLOW GUITARS SOUND.
The construction of semi-hollow guitars affects their sound in a few important ways:
The combination of the solid block and the hollow chambers creates a unique synergy. The hollow chambers allow the guitar body to resonate and vibrate more freely, like an acoustic guitar, resulting in enhanced natural sustain and richness of tone. This acoustic element gives semi-hollow guitars a warm and woody character that sets them apart from their solid-bodied counterparts.
The resonance and increased air volume within the hollow chambers contribute to a more complex and harmonically rich sound. The semi-hollow design adds depth and dimension to the instrument’s tone, particularly in the midrange frequencies, giving the guitar a distinct voice that is often described as sweet, bell-like, or glassy. These tonal characteristics make semi-hollow guitars well-suited for genres like blues, jazz, and classic rock.
While being able to produce impressive sustain, semi-hollow guitars are designed to minimize unwanted feedback. The solid center block acts as a feedback suppressor and helps reduce squealing or howling sounds when playing at high volumes or with lots of distortion.
3. ARE SEMI-HOLLOW GUITARS VERSATILE?
Semi-hollow guitars can be used in various genres and playing styles because of their unique sound. Let’s dive into what makes the semi-hollow sound and namedrop those known for this sound:
CLEAN TONES: Semi-hollow guitars are great for clean sounds, where each note is clear and distinct. The natural resonance of the instrument adds a touch of warmth and a touch of airiness to clean tones, making them ideal for jazz, country, and soulful ballads. Think George Benson
BLUES AND JAZZ: The warm and resonant tones of semi-hollow guitars perfectly complement the expressive nature of blues and jazz music. From BB King to Larry Carlton and John Scofield, the guitar’s woody, and resonant qualities, combined with its ability to handle dynamic playing, lend themselves well to soulful bends, smooth legato lines, and improvisational passages.
CLASSIC ROCK: Semi-hollow guitars have a long history in classic rock music, with iconic players like George Harrison and John Lennon, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters or Noel Gallagher from Oasis writing iconic songs using the unique characteristics of the semi-hollow guitar.