Classic Guitars, part 5: Gibson ES-335

Gibson’s ES-335, which was introduced in 1958, is one of the all-time bestselling models in the company’s history, and has been in production ever since, making it the Gibson model with the second longest uninterrupted production run (only the ES-175 has been in production longer, since 1949).

Ted McCarty, Gibson’s president from 1948 to 1966, has always stated that, looking back, he thought the ES-335 was his finest achievement.

The ES-335 has a thinline body made from steam-pressed maple plywood. Although the guitar does remind you of a classic Gibson hollow-body Jazz-box, this model is actually halfway solidbody in terms of its build.

This is because a semiacoustic electric guitar has a solid wood centre block running the length of the body from the neck joint all the way down to the back strap button. The centre block gives a semi a longer sustain, while keeping howling feedback at bay.

The block also allows the use of Gibson’s typical solidbody hardware – namely the Tune-o-matic-bridge and the stop bar – which add some clarity to the mix.

For their part, the ES-335’s hollow wings bring a bit of air to the mid-range, making the guitar sound more open and airy than a Les Paul for example.

Due to its relatively large body, a semi isn’t probably the best model for a small beginner (of less than 160 cm height), but as long as size isn’t an issue this lightweight and well-balanced ergonomic style of guitar is a fine choice.

Gibson’s subsidiary Epiphone has produced many of its own variants in the 335-style since the 1960s – from the glitzy Sheraton (the natural-coloured guitar in this post) to the minihumbucker-equipped Riviera, with its own, slightly brighter tone.

The relatively new Epiphone Dot Studio gives you superb bang-for-the-buck, with its pared down, no-nonsense looks. Here the body is made from mahogany plywood, with the controls streamlined to one master volume and one master tone.

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I’m an avid fan of the semi-style body.

Here’s a snapshot of my Epiphone Casino and a late-70s/early-80s ES-335-copy made in Japan by Kasuga:

Listen to both guitars here

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