Semi-hollow body electric guitars are versatile instruments that you can play in a huge range of genres.
If you want to rock out hard and heavy, they deliver deeply resonant tones with plenty of low end oomph to make your hair stand up.
If you’re more of a softy, they can produce beautiful clean tones bordering on acoustic aesthetic that will make your soul soar.
And if you’re somewhere in the middle or looking to try your hand at every genre, semi hollow guitars are tonally balanced in a way that lets them fit nicely in nearly every musical style.
We’ve tried out the best of the best on the market to bring you this list of some of the greatest semi hollow guitars around.
For this list, I’m keeping things around my own budget, which as a man of rather average means, should encompass the price range that the typical player will find reasonable for a guitar of good quality.
You’ll see in the last and #7 spot the Dean Boca 12-string. It hits all the quality markers of a good semi hollow, but is too susceptible to warping and feedback to rank any higher on this list of the best.
Awarded the win, the best of the best semi hollows, is the Gretsch G2662T Streamliner.
We’ve raved on this guitar before, and personally I rave on Gretsch guitars a lot, because they’re solid, dependable, sound great, and are true classics in the semi hollow category.
The Top 7 Best Semi Hollow Body Electric Guitars – Overview
- Top: Rose Wood
- Body: Mahogany
- Back: Rosewood
- Neck: Maple
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Beautiful Flamed Maple top adds brightness to the warm tone
- 12 strings for extreme chorus effect
- Dependable Dean electronics
- Can easily warp if kept in poor storage conditions
This is the first 12 string semi hollow electric I’ve seen, and Dean did a great job of putting it together.
This Boca 12 String is an absolutely beautiful guitar, both in appearance and in tone, and it’s one I’d be happy to call my own.
12 strings on a semi hollow body guitar is rather unusual, and for good reason. Semi hollow electrics are often heavy in harmonics and overtones, and can be subject to feedback when played at high volumes.
In the Boca 12, the over-abundance of overtones is somewhat dampened by the maple neck, which is also the best would they could have chosen to prevent warping caused by the tension of 12 strings.
The DMT Design humbuckers do a good job of tamping down unwanted buzz and feedback, but you can still have a problem if you play at full volume.
Its mahogany body does what mahogany does, which is present a warm, earthy tone that is heavy in the bass and low midrange. If it weren’t for the maple, the subtleties of the 12 strings would be almost completely ignored, but this neck material brings out just enough brightness that you can value this guitar for what it was made for.
The Dean Boca 12 is great for blues and jazz, and can even hold up pretty well in some hard rock scenarios. However, I much prefer its tone clean over distored.
Despite having the hard, dense maple neck, you’ll still need to be careful about how you store this guitar, as 12 strings put excessive tension on the neck and can cause it to warp badly if subjected to high levels of humidity.
- Top: Maple Wood
- Body: Maple
- Back: Laminated Maple
- Neck: Maple
- Fretboard: Maple Wood
- Bright, crystalline tone
- Dual humbuckers cut down on the treble of the all-maple build
- Comfortably contoured body shape
- Overabundant high range
Another unusual semi hollow body electric, we’re following up with the Squier Affinity Series Starcaster.
This is a really unique looking semi hollow guitar, following the body shape of the original 1976 Fender Starcasters and looking like a Stratocaster molded by Salvador Dali.
It’s an all-maple guitar, which in most cases would yield a tone that I find too flat and lacking in the low end. However, thanks to its semi hollow build and dual humbuckers, the low and mid ranges are boosted just enough to keep up with the glassy highs produced by maple.
Its pickups are the Squier Standard humbuckers, which are nothing special but do a good job of cutting back the buzz and putting forth a tone with enough power to let you rock out in most genres.
I’d recommend this guitar especially for jazz, as its clean tone is super articulate and there aren’t a lot of overtones. Overdriven, it can sound a bit harsh, but with a little bit of distortion it performs well.
If you upgrade the pickups in the Squier Starcaster, you can have a really nice and interesting semi hollow electric in your collection. Otherwise, you have a decent guitar for practicing your chops.
- Top: Layered Maple
- Body: Maple, Cherry
- Back: Layered Maple
- Neck: Maple
- Fretboard: Indian Laurel
- Vintage looks and tones in a modern re-issue
- Classic ES sound nicely replicated by Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers
- Gibson style SlimTaper “D” neck for fast licks and firm chords
- Wiring can become loose if jolted too hard
Gibson debuted the original ES back in the 1950s, and now Epiphone has crafted this modern remake to bring you a vintage sound at an affordable price. You can hear a full history of this famous Gibson model here.
The ES-335 PRO is so close to the original Gibson that it’s amazing they sell it at such a low cost.
The woods are virtually identical, with a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard set in to a maple body with a maple center block.
Sound-wise, this tonewood combo exudes great balance in every range, with poppy highs and cool lows and a middle range that sinks just low enough for vocals to fill the scoop.
It has two humbuckers designed in the same fashion as those that appeared in Gibson’s original ES-335, sending forth a tone that is reminiscent of classic rock and mid-century blues hits.
The Epiphone ES-335 PRO could be a near-perfect semi-hollow guitar if it were more dependably soldered. Unfortunately, due to Epiphone’s streamlined production process, the wires in the pickups are often easily bumped loose, causing crackle and static and sometimes entire loss of sound.
A quick trip to the guitar tech can remedy this issue should it arise, but as long as you take care not to knock your guitar too hard on anything (no smashing over heads), this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
- Body – Maple
- Neck – Maple
- Fingerboard – Ovangkol
- Electronics – Neck: Seymour Duncan HB-102N humbucker Bridge: Seymour Duncan HB-101B humbucker
- High quality humbuckers deliver powerful semi-hollow tone
- Comfortable C-shaped neck
- All-maple build for highly articulated riffs and chords
- Unconventional ovangkol fretboard
This guitar is more on the expensive side for this list, but that’s due to the great pickups it comes with.
The D’Angelico Premier SS is a semi hollow electric in an all-maple build, similar to the Squier we looked at earlier.
If it weren’t for its pickups, it wouldn’t be on this list at all, but these are high quality Seymour Duncan humbuckers that perfectly transmit the guitar’s vibrations.
Since it is completely maple, you don’t get a lot of low end depth, but there’s enough resonance from the hollow wings that it doesn’t sound too tinny and sterile.
It’s a great jazz guitar, and if your amp has enough boost to fill out your low end it can do well in rock genres as well.
It would be a place or two higher in this review had D’Angelico opted for a higher quality fingerboard. There’s nothing particularly wrong with ovangkol, but I much prefer the smoothness of rosewood or the responsiveness of ebony over the rather standard feel of this wood.
If there’s no chance you’ll upgrade your pickups at any time and you have the cash, this is probably the best choice for you.
- Top: Maple
- Body: Maple
- Back: Maple
- Neck: Maple
- Fretboard: Resinator wood
- Great tone at an affordable price
- Dependable construction for years of playing pleasure
- Versatile for many genres
- Synthetic fingerboard material
I have to start this review by saying I don’t know what Hagstrom’s secret is. Theoretically, this should be lower on the list, as I’m not super fond of all maple guitars or synthetic materials.
However, the Hagstrom Viking is an amazing sounding, super fun to play semi hollow body.
It’s probably their pickups, which though not a well-known brand, are bold and punchy without being over the top in hotness.
Hagstrom started as an accordion manufacturer, which isn’t exactly a skill I’d think would transfer to guitar craftsmanship, but whatever it is, they do a great job.
The VIK-SHB is the first guitar on this list I’d recommend for any genre. It’s not too bright, it’s not too warm; it’s in the Goldilocks zone of semi-hollow perfection.
You can crank the gain to max and play metal, or keep it clean for super funky progressions, or go somewhere in the middle for rockabilly and blues.
I had a hard time moving on from this guitar, and am seriously thinking of adding it to my personal collection.
- Top: Sapele
- Body: Sapele
- Back: Sapele
- Neck: Mahogany
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Unbeatable price for a quality semi hollow electric
- Infinity R humbuckers good enough for small shows
- Fast playing Ibanez neck profile
- No traditional tonewoods
Mostly, the Ibanez AS53 is in the number 2 spot for its price, which is about the lowest I’ve seen for a decent semi hollow body electric guitar.
I surprised myself by liking this guitar as much as I did. Normally, when I see that a guitar is made entirely from non-standard tonewoods, I won’t even consider it for a best of list. But, Ibanez is a big name with a lot of experience in making high quality low cost instruments, so I gave the AS53 a closer look.
In an acoustic, sapele is a fine enough wood for the back and sides, but I wouldn’t want it as my top wood. With the AS53, it’s a bit different, and seems to really put out a nice, complex tone.
It’s not a huge sounding guitar, but it does have enough force and proud enough voice that I’d play it at small gigs.
For practicing in home, yes, it’s a perfect little semi hollow. It has an undersized body which is really comfortable to hold, and a Ibanez custom Artcore AS neck profile that is sleek, slim, and speedy to play on.
Although its pickups aren’t remarkable, they’re not bad either, and I could see myself having a great time owning the Ibanez AS53.
- Body: Maple
- Neck: Nato Wood
- Fretboard: Laurel
- Great traditional sound
- High-standard Gretsch design
- Bigsby vibrato tailpiece for funky tonal warping
This isn’t the first time that we’ve awarded Gretsch first place. This same guitar is also the number 1 spot in our review of the best semi hollow body guitars for the money.
If this wasn’t a list trying to keep things within a moderate budget, most of the top spots would go to various Gretsch models, as there’s hardly any competition for them when it comes to top quality semi hollow body guitars. They’re simply one of the best, with several decades of expertise in this category.
In the Gretsch G2622T Streamliner, this expertise is apparent in the pairing of a treble-rich maple body with the warming properties of a nato neck, topped up with Gretsch’s house-brand BroadTron humbucking pickups.
The resulting tone is super versatile and can be used in blues, jazz, rock, country, pop, funk… you name it, you can probably manage it with the G2622T.
It’s the only guitar in this review with a vibrato tailpiece, which is really a shame. More semi hollow guitars should have this feature, because a little whammy goes a long way to having a fun, experimental jam session. You can just get a lot more out of your sound with this addition. It’s one of the main reasons this Gretsch is our winner in this list.
The BroadTron pickups are no joke. They’re hot, but not too hot, and really pronounce the resonance of this semi hollow with perfect boost and clarity.
It’s a joy to play, and sounds great clean or distorted.
So, once again Gretsch, my hat’s off to you for beating out the rest in the semi hollow body electric guitar category.
For more of this great brand, check out our full review of the Gretsch G5420T.
What Are Semi Hollow Body Electric Guitars Good For?
For the most part, these are great guitars for jazz and blues. They’re earthy sounding instruments, with a lot of resonance due to the hollow wings and usually a fairly prominent mid range.
Clean, their applications extend in just about every musical direction. You can hear them in country, pop, bluegrass, folk, jazz, blues, rockabilly, rock’n’roll, and so on and so forth.
Distorted, they make exceptional guitars for jam bands, dirty blues, rockabilly, and rock from hard to soft.
You can see them played by a wide array of artists, from Lady Gaga to Paul McCartney to Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.
They’re extremely versatile, and probably the only exception to their capabilities is heavy metal. Though, if you’re daring, you might even venture into this territory with a semi hollow body electric guitar.
Who Should Buy a Semi Hollow Body Electric Guitar?
Normally, I’d say these are best for players with at least a little bit of experience.
If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend you think about what you want to play more, acoustic or electric, then pick one and get good at it.
Semi hollow body electric guitars have a more niche kind of sound and artist following, and are best if you really know what tone you’re aiming for.
This is hard to be sure of when you’re just beginning to play, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll vacillate over the first couple years between wanting to be the heaviest metalhead that’s ever been to only wanting to play beautiful fingerpicked folk progressions.
If you do have experience, semi hollow body guitars are great for blues and jazz, considered maybe to be the best guitar for these genres. They fit nicely into the mix of these types of bands, and are only the dominant voice when you want them to be.
Want to know some other great guitars for blues? We’ve got you covered in this review.
Of course, I can’t tell you not to buy one if you’re a beginner, but I truly think you’d be better off learning the basics on a guitar that swings either full hollow or solid body.
What’s the Difference Between a Semi Hollow Body and a Hollow Body?
In tone, semi hollow body electric guitars are less resonant than full hollow body guitars and offer less in the way of overtones and harmonics. They’re a more “closed” sound, more similar to solid body electrics than to acoustics.
Hollow body guitars have a more “open” sound, being much more resonant, more full of harmonics and overtones, and so similar to acoustics that they are often called semi-acoustic guitars.
These differences are attributable to their variations in construction.
A hollow body electric guitar started simply as an acoustic guitar with a pickup added. Over the years they became a category all their own, with slimmer body profiles, f-holes rather than round sound holes, different bracing patterns, and different choice tonewoods.
Today, they stand apart as a separate type of guitar altogether and are used largely in country-style music genres.
Semi hollow body electric guitars were designed to decrease the issue of feedback that is inherent with full hollow body guitars. They are usually constructed with a solid center block attached to two hollow wings.
Sometimes, they are simply solid body guitars that have had some of their wood routed out and covered with a solid top, giving them the appearance of a solid body electric while actually being semi hollow.
This semi hollow construction reduces feedback, while at the same time reducing resonance. They are often much slimmer than hollow body guitars, and can weigh a bit more due to this solid center block.
Interested to learn more about hollow body guitars? Check out our review of some great hollow bodies here.
What’s the Difference Between a Semi Hollow Body Electric and a Solid Body Guitar?
This question’s answer is basically in the asking.
A semi hollow body electric guitar is very similar to a solid body electric guitar; it just has less wood in certain spots.
Sometimes, they can look identical. This is the case if the semi hollow body guitar is of the type that has wood routed from its body and then covered with a solid top. It creates the appearance of a solid body guitar, while having less weight and more resonance than a solid body electric.
Solid body guitars, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like. Their body is a solid piece of wood, with no air pockets, no holes for resonance, no gaps and spaces in which air can vibrate. Their sound is the most “closed”, and unamplified you’ll get almost no tone from them.
Solid body guitars can do a lot of the same as semi hollow electrics, but are less well-suited for genres that favor a resonant guitar tone such as country, blues, and jazz.
Solid body sounding more like your style? We’ve reviewed the best value electric guitars here.
The Final Word
If you’ve made up your mind that a semi hollow body is the right choice for you, more power to you.
There are a lot of great options out there, and I’ve barely scratched the surface with these seven more affordable models.
If none of them really speak to you, keep searching, though you’ll have a hard time finding better models of comparable cost.
When we’re talking the best guitars, we have to take cost into mind and consider what the average player will be able and willing to spend.
This cost to quality ratio turns up some good choices, and I’m confident that from among those we have chosen the best semi hollow body electric guitars in production.
Whether you go with the all-traditional Gretsch or the modernized Dean 12-string, these are guitars of great quality that will bring you joy for as many years as you play guitar.
If semi hollow doesn’t sound like your thing, keep tuned in to us at BeginnerGuitar.pro for in-depth looks at the best of the best guitars.