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Archtops/hollow bodied guitars...


The_Sentry

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If this thread has been done before, I will apologize in advance, but I am curious about this and I haven't seen one that specifically dishes on archtop guitars since I've joined the forum.

 

As a leftie, I don't have a lot of experience with archtops/hollow body/semi-hollow body guitars. I've heard 'em on records, and I've seen 'em on stages....

 

...but I've never played one.

 

Now, even though Epiphone is this daughter company of Gibson, their reputation was built (and rebuilt) on their archtop guitars. So, to be fair, I'd like to ask some questions about the archtop guitars.

 

First, my impression of archtop guitars: They're big, beautiful pieces of craftsmanship that historically were designed at a time when a guitar was still considered primarily a rhythm instrument, and were electrified so said guitarist could be heard in a big band. In terms of tone.....most who have used them are either jazz guitarists or in the case of someone like BB King, blues guitarists who either play clean or with a slight crunch. The guitars IMHO give off a nice, warm round tone that might be slightly deeper in tone than most solid body electrics. (And, more acoustic in terms of overall sound....I believe the biggest reason that acoustics are still popular other than overall traditional sound which is adored, the guitars are actually more percussive vs. a lot of solid body electric guitars.)

 

BUT...at the same time, sonically, and when electrified, I don't really see the advantages to these guitars vs. a solid body electric. Yes they look great, but is there anything these guitars can do that a solid body can't and then some?

 

(And yes, please chastise me on this topic. Sell me!!!)

 

So....some questions for someone who is curious about these guitars:

 

1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?

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[quote name=So....some questions for someone who is curious about these guitars:

 

1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?

 

Ok - answers that reflect my opinion on archtops from my experience.

 

1. I think that this type of guitar' date=' as you suggest, is best suited to clean, rythm sounds. I just rewired my Sheraton II to be more of a dedicated "clean" guitar with PAF pickups. It has a beautiful sound now, very clear and rich. But although I now consider this my guitar for clean playing, I have to say also that they can rock pretty hard. I bought this guitar before I knew enough about the different types of guitar to make an educated choice, and for 11 years this was the "best" guitar I had (until I more recently bought my Gibson Faded SG) - it was classier and better sounding than my Epi Flying V, Squier Strat and Tanglewood Les Paul, and therefore it was usually the guitar I would go to for playing most things. I remember seeing Billy Corgan playing a Gibson archtop around the time that I was really into the Smashing Pumpkins and that encouraged me to use it for rocking out on too. You can get a pretty good lead out of one of these, and you want feedback? There is no end of it with these suckers!

 

2.It doesn't have as much "crunch", but that is because there is more depth to the sound, so it isn't so hard sounding if that makes sense. But what it lacks in high end crunch, it makes up for in low end guts.

 

3. Ok, owning up time here - I was a MASSIVE Oasis fan back in the mid '90s - so, I saw the Sheraton II and I knew that was the guitar for me. I'm still glad I got it!

 

4. Playing live whilst distorted - watch out for that feedback! It sounds great though on appropriate songs (although I must admit that I by no stretch of the imagination play live often!). Recording I think it can sound better than a solid body, because the hollow body gives the sound more depth. Solid body guitars can sound great recorded, but they can also sound a bit flat, the archtop always sounds "alive" IMO.

 

Those are my thoughts anyway ](*,)/

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My lefty Dot is a lot of fun.

When you play them clean is where you here the biggest difference if you ask me.

Or maybe with a bit of tube break up.

That warm, full, not quite electric, not quite acoustic, slightly nasal "analog" sound.

Great for many types of music.

Jazz and Blues come to mind first for me.

I love playing on the neck pup with tube break up.

I like to pretend I'm Alvin Lee. ](*,)/

They also adapt very well to overdrives, fuzz and maybe distortion. Not sure I don't use distortion.

I run mine in to a crybaby classic -> Analogman beano boost -> Jh-f1 silicon fuzz face-> EVJ 5W.

I find the the semi hollowbody allows me to get those classic rock and blues rock tones I hear in my head everyday.

 

Mind you.........my next purchase will be a Les Paul Custom black because I do get tired of play the dot at times.

 

But a great investment!!

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My lefty Dot is a lot of fun.

When you play them clean is where you here the biggest difference if you ask me.

Or maybe with a bit of tube break up.

That warm' date=' full, not quite electric, not quite acoustic, slightly nasal "analog" sound.

Great for many types of music.

Jazz and Blues come to mind first for me.

I love playing on the neck pup with tube break up.

I like to pretend I'm Alvin Lee. :D/

They also adapt very well to overdrives, fuzz and maybe distortion. Not sure I don't use distortion.

I run mine in to a crybaby classic -> Analogman beano boost -> Jh-f1 silicon fuzz face-> EVJ 5W.

I find the the semi hollowbody allows me to get those classic rock and blues rock tones I hear in my head everyday.

 

Mind you.........my next purchase will be a Les Paul Custom black because I do get tired of play the dot at times.

 

But a great investment!![/quote']

 

Cool! Yet ANOTHER leftie! (I think that makes 5 of us I've seen on this forum since joining! Awesome!)

 

Do you mind if I ask you some questions about your Dot?

 

Did you find one in a store, or did you just take the plunge and order it online?

 

I've heard great things about the Dot (even though it's one of the most commonly modified guitars.) How good was it out of the box?

 

Oh, PS: I'll swap info. On the LP custom: There's a lot of low-end presence, but it's not quite balanced against the high end on audio mixes. (One issue I had....I would dial up with great rhythm sound on a Marshall emulator and as soon as I started playing lead the guitar didn't sound as loud in terms of decibels.(

 

Also be wary of some of the gold hardware on this guitar. (specifically the bridge). I found that the screws for the saddles rattled something awful and after I got tired of shoving derbis in the bridge to make it stop, I just gave up and got replacement saddles.

 

(I'd also recommend getting a real nut for it...)

 

Thanks for the input so far, guys. I may get an archtop someday, but heck....maybe someone who's about to buy one might look at this thread and wonder if they should get the archtop or the solid body.....

 

](*,)

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1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?

 

1. I play rock, blues, jazz, latin, and ballad type of stuff. I very rarely play totally clean. If I want a clean sound I generally add a chorus and or delay. The majority of the time I play with overdrive through a tube amp.

 

2. I think a solid body handles crunch a little better, but don't count it out by any means. I can get a really nice crunchy palm mutted rhythm sound out of my semis. You have to take into account that I don't have the stock pickups it my Dot or Sherry either.

 

3. I have wanted a 335 style guitar since the late 60s or early 70s. I remember watching Woodstock, the movie,when it originally came out. I was too young to actually go there. When I saw Alvin Lee rippin' it up, I wanted one. It was a cool lookin' guitar. In '81 I bought a Gibson Les Paul Custom, cherry sunburst. I came really close to getting a cherry 335 then, I could only afford one or the other. In the long run I'm glad I got the LP. I can't justify the money for one today.

 

As was mentioned above, it will feedback. I use overdrive on ever guitar I play, what can I say, I'm a rocker. If I know I'm playing a solo that uses notes that need to be sustained for any length of time, this would not be my first choice. If I don't have to worry about sustaining notes I love playing either my Dot or Sherry. I do have to say I prefer my Dot over the Sherry, simply because I installed a Bigsby on it and I tend to use it a lot.

 

4. I play live every weekend, Saturday night and Sunday morning in the church worship band. Not your normal old school worship band, we play some kickin' music and rock it out.

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First' date=' my impression of archtop guitars: They're big, beautiful pieces of craftsmanship that historically were designed at a time when a guitar was still considered primarily a rhythm instrument, and were electrified so said guitarist could be heard in a big band. In terms of tone.....most who have used them are either jazz guitarists or in the case of someone like BB King, blues guitarists who either play clean or with a slight crunch. The guitars IMHO give off a nice, warm round tone that might be slightly deeper in tone than most solid body electrics.

 

1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?[/quote']

Well, firstly you have to distinguish between archtops and thinlines. The kind of guitars that are played by the likes of B.B. King and Chuck Berry are thinlines. Note that the ES-335 was introduced in the late fifties, after the solid body Les Paul.

 

1. Anything. One thing I have come to realize is that a 335 is good for any style of music from Jazz to hard rock.

 

2. Just fine. Again, the 335, with its solid maple center block (Philippine mahogany on the Dot) has all the mass and sustain you can ask for as well as a nice bright resonance.

 

3. Well, in my case it was after. I bought a Dot for shits and giggles and found myself liking it a lot.. then I had the chance to pick up an Elitist 335 and the rest is history. While I still tend to favour solid bodies it's more a matter of habit as the 335 will do anything a Les Paul will and more.

 

4. If anything, when playing live, the 335 gives you a ton of added 'wow' factor. Other than that it's all the same.

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I started out (electric) on a solid body (Strat), and own and have played lots of

LP and SG, other Strat's and Tele's. My first "hollow body," was a Gretsch Country

Gentleman! Talk about big full sound, and plenty of twang! WOW! That was in

"The Beatles" early days, too...so I was playing clean! When the "Blues"/ "Blues Rock,"

thing hit, I went back to my Strat's and Les Pauls. Then, I was called up to play, at

at gig I went to, that a friend was playing in. I didn't have a guitar with me, so he

lent me his (extra..LOL) 335! That was an amazing experience. All the sustain I

could ever want, and that round, warm sound, as well. So, when I got the "bread"

together, I bought an ES-355 stereo. Fantastic guitar, especially through a Fender Twin Reverb,

or Marshall stack! But then, what doesn't sound good, through those! LOL! Anyway,

I have always had "thin line" archtops, in my "stable" ever since. Just can't beat 'em!

Another great combo, is a Casino, through a Deluxe Reverb! But, I think any good tube

amp, enhances ANY guitar! ;>)

CB

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<...>

BUT...at the same time' date=' sonically, and when electrified, I don't really see the advantages to these guitars vs. a solid body electric. Yes they look great, but is there anything these guitars can do that a solid body can't and then some?[/quote']

(1) Light weight, (2) if acoustic like the ES-330 or Casino you can practice without an amp. BTW, I don't think there is anything much a solid can do that an archtop cannot do.

 

1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

Rock' date=' blues, disco, country, and light jazz (I'm not good enough yet to play bop).

 

I play mostly clean, but on some rock songs I use fuzz and on some disco songs I use wah.

 

The archtop is the only guitar I bring to the gig.

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

Can't answer that. My archtop has P90s and my solid body has humbuckers. I can get a dirty - almost a humbucker sound on my archtop with the right FX/Amp-Simulator pedal, but I cannot get the clean, bright P90 sound out of my humbucker guitar.

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

In no particular order: (1) I like the looks' date=' (2) I like the way they sound, (3) I like the light weight, (4) and in the case of the ES-330 and Casino, I like the neck.

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?

Compared to my old Kramer/Focus/Faux-Strat guitar, I prefer the Casino/ES-330 for a number of reasons: (1) if I am playing a dinner set or other low-volume gig, I can hear the guitar from the guitar itself (2) it is light weight and doesn't make my shoulder uncomfortable (3) I like to feel the vibrations of the guitar against my body.

 

I bought an old ES-330 a long time ago, thinking it was a 335 (I was a sax player doubling on guitar and didn't know the difference yet). The neck felt good, it sounded good when the salesman played it, and I liked the looks.

 

I decided to get serious on the guitar and I didn't want to bring it on stage so I got a Kramer/Focus/Faux-Strat to see if I could learn lead. I found I took to lead fairly easily, but didn't like the Kramer as well as my 330. I couldn't hear the guitar from the guitar, I didn't like the more rounded neck, I found it more difficult to mute the strings, it was heavy, and although it sounded a lot like a Fender, I really preferred the P90 sound, so I traded it in for the Casino. Now I'm happy.

 

I also have an ESP/LTD EC50 Les Paul-ish guitar. Nice neck, humbuckers, but I'd rather play the Casino.

 

My partner has a Parker PM10 Hornet, and although I really like her guitar, I like the Casino better.

 

Since my FX/Amp-Simulator pedal can add distortion, sustain, wah, and a variety of amp models, I can't see an advantage for having a solid body guitar (note: I generally don't play louder than 100dba - which is loud enough to need ear protection - and feedback isn't an issue for me).

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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The main reason I play a Casino is because of who played similar guitars. I didn't really care what the "correct" type of music to play is, I just knew John Lennon, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, and dozens of others were playing that style guitar, and I liked how they sounded.

 

My Casino plays rhythm most of the time, clean. But it also plays lead, with some effects.

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1. What sorts of styles do you play with these guitars? Do you typically play with them clean? Where does the archtop fit in your arsenal of instruments?

 

Any style of music. If I want a really bright, crisp tone for tight rhythm playing or a singing sustain for melody/lead lines I might choose a solidbody, otherwise I prefer hollow or semi-hollow. I usually prefer at least a little bit of dirt in my sound for blues or rock or for solos, clean for straightahead jazz or R&B/reggae rhythm playing.

 

2. How well does the archtop handle crunch vs. a solid body?

 

Just fine. A fully hollow deep-bodied jazzbox may tend to feedback more easily, but this can even be a plus if you learn to control it.

 

3. What made you consider the archtop before a solid body electric?

 

Tone, tone, tone! (ok, looks, too.) When I was starting to learn electric guitar, many of the guitarists whose sound I loved best played hollowbodies. Those players also tended to have jazz chops too, which made them more proficient and interesting players to me than the more widely known solidbody "straight rock" players. Some of my early heroes that influenced my choices:

 

Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley): ES-295, L-5, Super 400

George Harrison: Gretsch Country Gentleman, Tennessean

Gene Cornish (Rascals): Barney Kessel

Jerry Miller (Moby Grape): L-5

Gary Duncan (Quicksilver Messenger Service): L-5, Barney Kessel

Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane): ES-345

B.B. King: ES-355

Terry Haggerty (Sons of Champlin): L-5

Bill Champlin (Sons of Champlin): ES-175

Larry Coryell: Super 400

Hal Wagenet (It's a Beautiful Day): ES-175

All the jazz guys (Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, Freddie Green, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, et al)

 

4. What's your experiences in terms of playing out live and recording with these instruments?

 

Great! I love the feeling of the guitar vibrating against my ribcage while playing, and that big, fat, round tone is always satisfying to my ears and spirit.

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As a leftie' date=' I don't have a lot of experience with archtops/hollow body/semi-hollow body guitars. I've heard 'em on records, and I've seen 'em on stages....

 

...but I've never played one.

[/quote']

 

If you haven't played one, maybe you should check it out. It's almost a different instrument from the solid body guitar. Lefty archtops are probably pretty rare, however, as far as hanging in the music-store ready to test out, depending on where you live. But if you can play a bit of rightie guitar, you can check out what's available in your area to see how you like the feel and sound. Be sure to distinguish between the 'true' hollow-body and a guitar with a center-block inside (335/Dot/Sheraton).

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For the past few years, for marketing reasons I guess, archtops have been advertised as jazz boxes. As far as I'm concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

Sure you can play jazz with them, but Keith Richards, 3 of the Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and hundred of other rockers and country pickers obviously don't agree.

 

Plus remember, Les Paul played jazz a Les Paul solid body for decades. So the guitar that many consider the "ultimate rock guitar" in the hands of Mr. Paul becomes the ultimate jazz guitar.

 

Each guitar has it's own personality. A Les Paul isn't like a Telecaster which isn't like a 335 which isn't like an SG which isn't like a Tele which isn't like a Casino which isn't like a Dan-o which isn't like a Flying V which isn't like a Jaguar which isn't like a Firebird, and so on.

 

To add more variety, a Les Paul with humbuckers isn't like a LP with P90s --- and so on.

 

I like archtops. I like the way they look, I like the way they feel, and most importantly of all, I like the way they sound. YMMV. The only way to find out is to own one for a while. After all, I didn't know that I preferred the Gibson design to the Strat design until I bought the Kramer/Focus/Faux-Strat.

 

Someday I may trade in the ESP/LTD for an SG or G400. I like the small pickguard and I definitely need neck binding (some of the places I play are pretty dark, and the binding helps me find the fret dots).

 

Notes

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I got into semis because my teenage guitar heroes played them at various stages of their careers: George, John & Paul, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Be-Bop Deluxe guitar god and all-round great guy Bill Nelson. That tobacco sunburst Gibson ES-345 was the acme of the electric guitar for me. Bill is a blindingly good player with amazing tone, and one of these days I'll save for a 345 myself - unless Epiphone introduces a well-priced 345-alike (Elitist, with Bigsby, please, if anyone @ Epi is reading this).

 

Of all my electrics, it's the Casino I got earlier this year which I play all the time now. It can rock, it can do clean, it can do jazz, funk and blues - it's that versatile. Because it's a true hollowbody the feedback can be a bit of an issue but there are workarounds. My Dot is a bit of a bruiser in comparison - heavier, and a wider neck. But it sustains for ever and feels so solid.

 

 

I like the size of 335-style guitars - as Notes says, you really feel it next to you when you're playing. The Casino has the added advantage of being light as a feather, and again, per Notes, the necks are lean and fast.

 

Epiphone's archtops are the business. They look great, the price is nice, and they'll do pretty much all you want.

 

Have fun checking some out!

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I'll add to mine... I have five guitars. But when I'm sitting down to write a song, it's the Casino I pick up. For me, it has the best neck I've ever felt. The only problem I have is barre chords, which are easier on my Strats with a smaller fretboard radius.

 

Some of it is the looks. Some of it is the weight. Part of it is being "different," even. I have a lot of musician friends, and the only one I know who plays/played a similar guitar is a guidance counselor/local jazz guitar hero. When you're often sharing a stage with punk and metal bands, or acoustic and piano players, you're often the only one who's playing a thinline.

 

To people who don't play guitar, this one looks serious. One of my former teachers saw me with Strats and acoustics 99% of the time, but the first time he saw me with the Casino he said, "That's a serious guitar. What are you doing with it?"

 

For me, the Casino is the easiest to play. I barely touch the strings, where others I have to press down until I feel like the strings are touching the bones in my fingers.

 

This was probably a bit incoherent and scattered around, but it was based on emotion, not thought. I was in love with the Casino from the first time I played one, and I have John Lennon, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and every other rock star I've ever seen playing a Gibson thinline to thank for it.

 

[by the way, Clapton and Berry are the reason mine's Cherry...]

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sentry---- i didnt read everyones posts on here but i use my Sherry and my other 335 styles for EVERYTHING... punk- blues, ska, reggae, classic rock..... even some metal rock type stuff in alternate tunings.

 

i REALLY have my eyes on a joe pass at guitar center for 400.... VERY tempted to trade in some stuff for it.

 

i really really love hollow bodies. you can get about any tone you want out of one. turn down the bass on the amp and you can even get a strat tone out of them.

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Cool! Yet ANOTHER leftie! (I think that makes 5 of us I've seen on this forum since joining! Awesome!)

 

Do you mind if I ask you some questions about your Dot?

 

Did you find one in a store' date=' or did you just take the plunge and order it online?

 

I've heard great things about the Dot (even though it's one of the most commonly modified guitars.) How good was it out of the box?

 

Oh, PS: I'll swap info. On the LP custom: There's a lot of low-end presence, but it's not quite balanced against the high end on audio mixes. (One issue I had....I would dial up with great rhythm sound on a Marshall emulator and as soon as I started playing lead the guitar didn't sound as loud in terms of decibels.(

 

Also be wary of some of the gold hardware on this guitar. (specifically the bridge). I found that the screws for the saddles rattled something awful and after I got tired of shoving derbis in the bridge to make it stop, I just gave up and got replacement saddles.

 

(I'd also recommend getting a real nut for it...)

 

Thanks for the input so far, guys. I may get an archtop someday, but heck....maybe someone who's about to buy one might look at this thread and wonder if they should get the archtop or the solid body.....

 

8-[ [/quote']

 

Well ....

i did my research of what i thought i wanted... and plus i'd been getting really "stoned" and watching the creams last show '68 quite bit. So I settled on the Dot cause it looked like clapton's 335. Also, i'm a big ten years after fan!! so.... put it together yourself.:D/

i did not order it over the net... i'm not comfortable with that. I live in a small town and i'd rather see them order it in and get some doe- ray- me!!

yes.. i i took a leap of faith. but if you don't like it. that's what ebay is for.

 

the only adjustment needed for me, was the action. i love it low!!!!!!!!

 

other then the shite pup's it's a great guitar!!!!!!

 

the only thing i will say is the neck is a little wider then a les paul..

And it took me about 6 months to get used to it.

But.. only because i also have a epi les paul standard and i was going back and forth...

great axe!!!!!!

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I'm a lefty too. I never used to like the way archtops look but all of the sudden I started to like them! The Epiphone Sheraton II looks pretty neat, but I'm only going by looks. The nearest music store with a left handed guitar is about forty minutes away. ](*,) I'll have to test them out by playing right handed.

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