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.
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