From the earliest days of the electrified guitar through rock’n’roll, rockabilly, punk, and classic rock, the hollowbody has seen the lot. Sure, it might have come under threat from the convenience and sheer abundance of solid and semi-acoustic electrics, but the hollowbody's massive innards isn’t just home to air, it holds a tonal secret that its construction rivals simply cannot recreate. Take a look at the options, and it’s clear that the hollowbody sound - of which there’s definitely more than a couple - is still going strong today, but with so many variations on the theme it’s a wide road to navigate when choosing the best hollowbody guitar for you.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at the plethora of options on the market, from the smoky, round pluck of a jazz box to the biting rock’n’roll brightness of ’50s-inspired models, but we’ll also be making a stop at funk, Americana, blues, fusion, classic rock and more along the way.
Best hollowbody guitars: Our top picks
We’ve done our best to make this list as varied as possible - buying a hollow body shouldn’t mean that you’re tied to one or two examples of the format. Obviously, a hollowbody Gretsch has its own sound, and thanks to a comprehensive range it’s possible to achieve at multiple price points. The Gretsch Falcon will be a ‘one day’ for many, but if you’ve got the readies, it’ll deliver its pedigree right now.
The PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo has a lot to offer, particularly if you’re looking beyond old-school jazz sounds or 50s twang, so if versatility an options are key it’s a must-try.
Guild puts two alternative feet forward too, with the T-50 offering something for modern songwriters who’d like something out of the ordinary.
Best hollowbody guitars: Product guide
Born in 1954 as a showbird in order to display what Gretsch was capable of producing, the Gretsch 6136 White Falcon is an icon of rock ’n’ roll guitar tones. Just ask Billy Duffy, John Frusciante, Don Felder and more for the proof. The Falcon exists in multiple guises, but it’s the blingy white singlecut bird, bedecked with gold hardware that’s most famous.
There’s no single White Falcon in the current Gretsch line-up that covers the models used by high-profile artists across the decades, but the ’59GE here gives you everything you’re likely to want: that large wingspan maple body, TV Jones Filter’Ton Classic mini humbuckers, three-position switching for the pickups and a separate toggle for tone options, classic Gretsch individual and master volume controls, a Bigsby B6G, plus a whole lotta gold!
Read the full Gretsch G6136T-59GE review
Forget retro designs, the PRS Hollowbody II brings the familiar PRS doublecut shape, with a laminate maple top and back (both capped with flamed maple) sandwiching the mahogany sides, and it offers a very different proposition to the rest of the guitars in this selection. The pickups are a pair of PRS 58/15 S humbuckers, giving this guitar a warm, vintage electric tone with added richness thanks to the hollow construction that fits right into the PRS wheelhouse of jazz, blues and rock. But there’s more, and the clue is in the name because this guitar is also carrying a PRS Piezo Stoptail bridge - mounted to a small feedback-busting sound block which bridges the top and back internally - co-designed with LR Baggs, to give you some very convincing acoustic tones.
It’s not truly totally hollow, as that bridge is mounted to a soundpost that bridges the front and back of the guitar internally, but it’s certainly not a semi-style centre channel. So, not only do you get some excellent magnetic sounds that go beyond spank-a-like rock’n’roll, but the hollow, acoustic properties are present too. Best of all, there’s two outputs offering a blend of the magnetic/piezo sounds, or you can send them to individual outputs for even greater control. It’s a bit of a wildcard in the pack, offering a lot of tonal variation that you just won’t get without that piezo.
Read the full PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo review
You may remember a few years ago, Epiphone relaunched its Century in honour of glossy-haired UK pop guitar sensation, James Bay. It was a hit, but it also didn’t hang around. Well, back in the ‘60s Guild produced a similar design to the Century in its T50 - a slimline hollowbody with the outline of an acoustic guitar, and it’s available to buy right this minute.
This 1-and-3/4” thin beauty, sprayed in a rich cherry-flavoured Vintage Sunburst looks like a rare find from a jazz club storeroom, equipped with an arched maple top and back as well as maple sides, Franz Dogear P90, Guild Harp tailpiece and pinned Tune-O-Matic bridge. That thin body should minimise feedback. Ideal for troubadours, rootsy blues, jazz, and - with the action ramped up - even slide guitar, it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
Read the full Guild T-50 Slim review
Ever since John Lennon and George Harrison got their hands on an Epiphone Casino each, it’s been a hollowbody legend, and since its launch in 1961, is one of the brands longest-serving six-strings. Keith Richards was a fan too, as is Noel Gallagher, Dave Grohl, and modern blues icon, Gary Clarke Jr had his own signature model. That should tell you everything you need to know about the types of sounds this affordable archtop is going to provide. Fitted with P-90s, the current-day Casino features a 5-ply laminated maple top, braced with basswood, laminated maple back and sides and Gibson’s familiar 24.75” scale-length.
You get a mahogany neck, Pau Ferro fingerboard and pearloid parallelogram inlays, LockTone tune-somatic bridge and the iconic trapeze tailpiece. It comes in a choice of Natural, Turquoise and Vintage Sunburst finishes, while incredibly, a more affordable Casino exists in the Casino Worn Range with Worn Olive Drab, Worn Ebony and Worn blue Denim on offer.
Guild cut its teeth making hollowbody archtop guitars, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands with its reissue Starfire models. Revived under the ownership of Cordoba, the brand’s electrics all fall into the Newark St Collection, which recalls the designs Guild was building in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Unlike many of the guitars here, the M-75 Aristocrat (not to be confused with the chambered, solid body Aristocrat) has the appearance of a solid body singlecut thanks to that virgin spruce top and Franz P90 Soapbar pickups.
The back and sides are mahogany, and thanks to its smaller dimensions and thinner body, it presents a different kind of hollow body guitar that while easier to wield, doesn’t compromise on sound. The pickups have enough vintage jazz flavour mixed with brightness to lend the M-75 to classic jazz, funk and soul tones, even pushing into rock territory under some moderate gain making this an excellent choice hollowbody away from the pointed stereotypes.
Read the full Guild M-75 Aristocrat review
With so many guitars deriving their design from big-box singlecut designs, what makes this Ibanez any different to the rest? Well, for a start (as we’ll find out) Ibanez has an incredibly strong heritage in the hollow body game. But as well as that, the Artcore AF75 offers something a little different from the pigeonholed P90/bright humbucker options you’ll often find in these types of guitars. It’s loaded with a pair of classic-style, medium-output humbuckers. There’s no Bigsby either, Ibanez instead opting for a Gibraltar T-o-M-style bridge.
This is an affordable guitar, with linden wood used for the body and walnut on the fretboard. We’d say that if you want darker, thicker tones for jazz and blues styles on a budget, the AF75 will deliver.
Think Ibanez, and you might think angular bodies and lollipop shred necks. However, jazz guitar legend, George Benson is Ibanez’s longest running endorsee, and this cut-price version of his GB300, the LGB30 (that’s “Little George Benson”) is the jazz box for those who also want a bit of versatility. The spruce top/flamed maple back and sides are home to a pair of Super ’58 humbuckers which are wired in a very familiar two-volume/two-tone/three-way switch configuration.
There’s a lot of tradition here, with the sharp Florentine cutaway, ebony tailpiece and factory-fitted flat wound strings. But sonically, the LGB30 deals a solid line in everything from vintage jazz to blues and fusion tones that will make this a workhorse within those styles.
Read the full Ibanez LGB30 review
The twang’s the thang with a big-bodied Gretsch, but if you’re approaching the brand’s hollow bodies from the less 50s, and more gritty school of guitar, how about this Electromatic Rat Rod?
The all-maple body is decked out with Matte Black, Phantom Metallic or Vintage White paint jobs, all fitted with red-finish Black Top Filter’Tron humbuckers, rosewood fingerboard, a thinner, feedback-fighting and comfort-enhancing 2.5”-thick body, and an all-important Bigsby, the Rat Rod delivers a pimped, muscle car vibe.
Tonally, you’ll get the rounder punch and clarity from the neck position, while the bridge pickup delivers that biting Gretsch snap in spades, and while this punk is from the more affordable Electromatic line, it still respects its elders with traditional large F-holes, Neo-Classical Thumbnail inlays and knurled controls. It’s a hollowbody with attitude.
Read the full Gretsch G5410T Electromatic Rat Rod review
If you’re after the classic Gretsch hollowbody look and feel on a budget, then its Streamliner series should be at the top of your list. In the case of the 2420, you get the single-cut big body shape, which is made of laminated maple and features parallel bracing on the top.
The pickups are Gretsch’s Broad’Tron BT-2S humbuckers: lower output models that are perhaps slightly more generic ’bucker than bespoke bite. Gretsch aficionados may baulk at the smaller details: 24.75” (that’s 629 vs traditional 625mm) scale length, smaller F-holes and standard guitar strap buttons, but the inclusion of a great quality licensed bigsby, plus the fact that these guitars also represent a strong modding platform make it a cheerful purchase.
Read the full Gretsch G2420T Streamliner review
Taking its cues from D’Angelico’s flagship Excel EXL-1, this Premier Series EXL-1 delivers the blueprint of its bigger brother at less than half the price. At its core it’s the same 17-inch-wide/3-inch-deep body size with laminated flamed maple back and sides, and a laminated spruce top.
Other changes are in the fingerboard material, (offered here in Ovangkol); fingerboard radius (14-inch instead of 16-inch), chrome rather than gold hardware, and a Duncan Designed mini-humbucker. It’s an old-school jazzbox through-and-through with that pickup floating in the neck position, floating ebony bridge/staircase tailpiece and pickguard-mounted controls, leaving nothing but a mass of air inside. It’s a great choice if you’re after the rounded attack and short sustain associated with these budget electric guitars.
Read the full D'Angelico EXL-1 review
Best hollowbody guitars: Buying advice
What is a hollowbody guitar?
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First, let’s define what a hollow body is, or rather isn’t. Solid body guitars, that’s your standard no-holes electric are exactly that - dense pieces of solid wood. Semi-hollow body guitars such as Gibson’s ES-335 feature a top, back and sides, but also use a large wooden centre channel to help reduce feedback, giving them a distinctly more solid-type tonality. Hollow bodies, as you might expect, are made up of a top, back and sides and are empty inside, much like an acoustic guitar.
This chamber of air gives a hollow body guitar a much more acoustic-like tonality, but comes with a trade-off. That big chamber of air allows the guitar to resonate freely as well as project further, which was less of a problem for the politer, clean tones of the 40s and 50s where gain was kept to a minimum and guitar amps weren’t designed to make your trousers flap at the ankles. However, put these wooden lungs under some grit from your amplifier and you’ll potentially find yourself in a world of feedback. At least so-says common wisdom.
Are hollow body guitars versatile?
The Cult’s Billy Duffy, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, Noel Gallagher, The Beatles… you get the idea, all used hollow body guitars under overdrive and distortion. A common antidote to endless feedback is to stuff the guitar with foam or soft fabric in order to absorb the sound waves which are bouncing around inside. Defeating the point of owning a hollow body? Possibly, but until we’ve sold as many records as just one of the names above, we’ll refrain from arguing.
Just as with electric guitars, hollow body models span a wide world of designs. From acoustic guitar-shaped models, to jazz boxes that look like fat singlecuts with floating pickups and hardware to chromed-up rockabilly monsters with pinned (anchored for stability) bridges sporting muscle car visuals.
The construction of a hollow body guitar isn’t a million miles away from an acoustic, either with a top, back and sides rather than a carved-out dense block of wood.
The tonal output of the best hollowbody guitars is most-definitely electric rather than electro-acoustic, usually featuring soapbar-style single coils, Gretsch’s ‘Trons and associated bright, punchy humbuckers, and traditional P.A.F.-like ’buckers. However, as we’ll see, it’s possible to get convincing acoustic sounds from a hollow body with the use of bridge-mounted piezos. Your desired sound will govern the type of hollow body you go for, and despite the typical association with either jazz or rock’n’roll there’s a lot of ground to be covered with a hollow victory.
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