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I'm considering learning guitar and am interested in electric guitar. I do, however, like the sound of acoustic guitar as well.

I know that in selecting a guitar, I need primarily to find something that has the tone I want, and is inspiring in look/feel, etc.

I understand that semi-hollow electric guitars have a different weight and tone. I also know they can more easily cause feedback in some situations (though not a factor for me).

Other than this, are there differences I should consider when deciding between semi-hollow and solidbody electric guitars? (For an absolute beginner.)

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    Without amplification, semis are more audible. Which may help in practice situations. – Tim Feb 19 '18 at 20:48
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    In reference to Tim's comment, thats true. But it may not be a plus if you don't like the sound of it unplugged. They (semis w/ center blocks) are not really meant to be acoustic instruments and the sound is often not great. It's certainly not on par with an actual acoustic guitar. I mean it's audible and could be suitable for running scales etc. But I find that not only do I not like playing my semi unplugged, I have to turn my amp up loud enough so that it masks the extra (acoustic) pick sound or it bothers me. To each their own, though. And I do love the (amped) tone and the versatility. – user37496 Feb 19 '18 at 21:33
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    A couple of considerations: 1) An acoustic might be good to learn on at first, especially if you like acoustic guitar. They tend to be more difficult to play, but your hands will get in shape fast, making later transition to an electric easy. Acoustics are also easy to haul around so you can play for family and friends whenever you want. 2) Don't get too hung up on finding the perfect guitar; you can always sell it and buy another, or trade up. – ex nihilo Feb 19 '18 at 21:45
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One thing to consider is that the Gibson ES-335 (and perhaps other semi-hollows) does not have an opening in the back. This makes maintenance more complicated.

Another consideration is that a solid body will be very sturdy, able to withstand drops and other accidents more easily.

Thirdly, I imagine a solid body would be less effected by humidity. This would impact both tuning (especially if you play an outdoor venue), and maintenance (I live in a very dry climate and guitars often crack because their wood is too dry). While a solid body can crack due to dryness (my Les Paul did), it seems like the unfinished interior of a semi-hollow would be even more sensitive.

  • Good answer. does not have an opening in the back - that seems to be the norm on most hollow bodies. If you want to be able to fix guitars you need to know how to negotiate that. – Stinkfoot Feb 20 '18 at 0:29
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    @Stinkfoot - it's closely akin to keyhole surgery... – Tim Feb 20 '18 at 8:09
  • @Tim - somebody on one of the bass sites I sometimes visit said that he could not become a certified guitar tech until he learned how to do that type of surgery. – Stinkfoot Feb 20 '18 at 9:07
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I understand that semi-hollow electric guitars have a different weight and tone. I also know they can more easily cause feedback in some situations (though not a factor for me).

Those are the main reasons to buy a semi-hollow guitar in general, so no, there are no other reasons - except sort of one recent reason for a specific brand - see below the line.

I'd say the main goal in buying your first guitar is twofold: Price and preference. You want a guitar that you just like for some reason. That will help you enjoy the difficult early stages of learning. And it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money on your first guitar. The most affordable guitars are almost entirely solid body electric guitars.

I recommend solid body electric guitars from companies like Fender to all of my beginning students because the affordable Fender guitars are wonderful instruments with great feel and tone at very low prices, and an electric guitar has some advantages for beginners over acoustic guitars. My students who are more interested in acoustic guitars I recommend go with that instinct, but anyone who wants to play rock music in general and doesn't have a strong preference for acoustic, I recommend starts with electric.


(The following information is as of February 2018) Gibson has put their Memphis factory, where they have been making all of their US-made semi-hollow guitars (AKA their "ES" line) for a long time, up for sale. That means there will likely come a time in the nearish future when Gibson will no longer be making those guitars on the exact same line that they have for decades. Does that even matter? Maybe not. Probably not. But if you have long wanted a Gibson ES guitar for their particular tone and feel, and you don't want to buy a used one or you don't want to risk the prices on Memphis made ones going up, now might be a better time to buy one than next year. Of course, it might be that Gibson declares bankruptcy in July and never makes guitars again, or they reorganize and by 2020 are making the best guitars they've ever made for much better prices than today. So it's pretty much a gamble. If you want the "historicity" of the Memphis factory, now would be a good time. Since you're a beginner, this is probably not an appropriate choice for you, as these guitars start around USD 2800 in price and go up rapidly from there.

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@meetalexjohnson has provided some good reasons besides those you've already mentioned.

  • I'll add that the body size and shape of semi-hollows are different than solid body models: Generally larger, thicker and wider, with shapes and proportions that often make them more difficult to hold and play comfortably. It's necessary for their acoustic properties, but not always so comfortable. This is an important consideration for some people.

    One of the marketing points of the early Fenders was their slim, trim and contoured body shapes. Aside from the aesthetics, they were easier to hold and play, and that still applies today.

Gibson ES-335: Semi-Hollow:
enter image description here

Fender Stratocaster: Solid Body:
enter image description here



  • Another point is that semi-hollows will make enough sound for practicing without any amplification, even though they're not performance-worthy when played that way. If you're going on a trip and you want to bring your guitar to practice with, you don't need to bring any gear besides your guitar if you've got a semi-hollow, and it will be quiet enough so that you can practice in a hotel or guest-room without disturbing anyone else.

  • Additional point: I am a bass player these days - haven't played guitar seriously in a long time. Many bass players, myself included, don't like the feel of semi-hollow basses - they feel somewhat light and flimsy, and many of them tend to rattle somewhat, because the of way they are constructed. I have owned several semi hollow basses (I still have one that I never play) - good brand names, well recieved models - but I never cared for them for that reason.

    I assume this is more relevant for bass, because of the lower registers, and the heavy pounding you often do on bass - you like to feel a very solid, stable foundation underneath your hands. But I believe it might also be relevant to semi-hollow body guitars, particularly the broad, open models like the Gibson ES-335 and so many similar models. When it comes to basses at least, Les Pauls and other such sealed body instruments generally feel firmer.

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As the owner of a semi-hollow guitar (Washburn HB30), I can say that the neck is wider than that normally found on a solid-body. Once I tried playing a strat, and found that the strings were much closer to each other than I prefer. This, of course, is a personal preference and yours may be different from mine. On the other hand, I have a 12-string whose neck is wider than the Washburn....

The non-amplified sound of the guitar is not much louder than the non-amplified sound of a solid body - in other words, quiet. It's fine for practicing alone but an amplifier is required when playing with people.

  • Excellent point. Seems that often semi-hollows tend to be a bit bigger all around - I suppose the acoustic design mandates that, or maybe it's just the acoustic guitar tradition. – Stinkfoot Feb 20 '18 at 9:04
  • @Stinkfoot: Probably the design of semi-hollows is aimed for an acoustic player transferring to electric. – No'am Newman Feb 20 '18 at 10:20

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