Best Semi Acoustic Guitars
You want to play the guitar, but you’re not sure what type of guitar you’d like to play, it seems everyone you know either has an acoustic or an electric guitar. You’ve seen these semi-acoustic guitars, they look kind of nice, but you know nothing about them. That’s where we come in, we’ll give you all the knowledge you need to make an informed choice on what type of guitar suits you best.
Let’s start by looking through the different types of guitars available and take it from there. There are basically 3 types of guitar. They are:
- Acoustic Guitars
Acoustic guitars are hollow bodied, guitars generally with 6 or 12 strings suspended across a hole to allow the sound to create when the string is plucked and the vibration travels along the bridge, through every part of the body resonating as it goes to eventually produce sound through the sound hole.
- Electric Guitars
Electric guitars pass that same vibration from the string, via a small electric current in the magnetic pickups. Pickups are small magnets wound with coils of fine wire, the signal passes through tone and volume controls and eventually out through an electrically powered sound amplifier.
- Semi-Acoustic Guitars
Semi-acoustic guitars sound like the best of both worlds, they can be played like an acoustic but have the power, therefore sound of an electric guitar right? Wrong! And this is where it can get a bit confusing. There are Semi-Acoustics, but there are also Electro-Acoustics.
Table of Contents
What Are Semi-Acoustic Guitars?
A semi-acoustic guitar also known as a hollow-bodied electric guitar, or a thinline, started being produced in the 1930s as a way to get the instrument heard above to sounds of the drums and other loud instruments. The semi-acoustic guitar has at least one pickup and a sound box.
What’s The Difference Between A Semi-Acoustic And An Acoustic-Electric Guitar?
This is where the confusion sets in, an Acoustic-Electric Guitar is basically an acoustic guitar that has pickups or some other means of amplification added either by the manufacturer or the guitar’s owner/player.
Gibson’s first successful attempt at a Semi-acoustic guitar the ES-150 series were based on the standard production archtop with the familiar”F” holes on the face of the soundbox. As the ES-150 resembled traditional jazz guitars currently popular with the jazz fraternity, and as the addition of the pickup made the ES-150 easy to hear and achieve a clear, crisp, sharp sound, it soon became a very popular choice of guitar for jazz guitarists. Incidentally, the ES-150 was the first step on the way to Gibson Producing electric guitars and is often referred to as the “first successful electric guitar”.
So before we go too far down the rabbit hole about the production of electric guitars, let’s get back to the subject in hand.
The question we now have is do you want a semi-acoustic guitar or an electro-acoustic guitar?
Are basically acoustic guitars that have added electric pickups to increase the volume of sound. If you buy an Electro-Acoustic guitar it will have had one of 3 systems of amplification.
- A Magnetic Pickup
- A Piezoelectric Pickup
This is the most common
- A Microphone
All electro-acoustics have a built-in preamplifier which allows them to be plugged into either mixing desks or amplifiers. When not plugged in these sound like acoustic guitars and when plugged in they sound like acoustic guitars only louder. So the sound is consistent, it’s just the volume that changes.
Semi-acoustic guitars have a hollow body, and are fitted with either 1 or 2 pickups. Played without power, semi-acoustic guitars sound like low volume acoustic guitars but plugged in they sound like electric guitars with a rich, warm sound. The problem with semi-acoustic guitars that are hollow bodied is feedback. For this reason many guitar manufacturers fit a central wooden block in between the back and the soundboard.
Semi-Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide
Like any other guitars, there are certain things to look out for. Before buying a Semi-Acoustic guitar you should look for:
The Size Of The Neck
The neck should be comfortable to handle, easy to play and not so thick that you can’t reach all of the strings. Check that the neck is straight, and the action is easy to play. No buzz and easy to barre.
Semi-acoustics should feel relatively light compared with an electric guitar. But it’s best to check that it is balanced, and easy to hold. You will be holding it for some length of time, so it needs to be comfortable.
Check The Neck And The Body
Semi-acoustic guitars are made pretty much all from wood. Remember the internal structure of the wooden frame is what supports the whole instrument. The interior bracing is delicate, and can easily be damaged, check before you buy as these can be expensive to repair/replace.
Likewise the neck, guitar necks tolerate a lot of tension due to the steel strings that are stretched to create the sound. Steel string guitars should have a truss rod inside the neck to support the neck. The truss rod can be adjusted to straighten any curvature in the neck.
Check the screws to be sure they can hold the string in tune. This is a very important part of any guitar and knowing that the tuning screws are functioning efficiently is one of the main considerations when buying a guitar.
Check the pickups actually work, flick between the pickups and check the volume and tone controls while you’re about it.
General Guitar Checks
Try playing the guitar seated and standing, fiddle with every control knob, play as many different tunes as possible to see how the instrument sounds and feels during different genres of music.
Semi-acoustic Guitar Price
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes you can play a semi-acoustic guitar without an amp, it will sound lower but it will play as a normal guitar.
Semi-acoustic guitars are good depending on your set up. If you like the sound of an acoustic guitar but want to be heard at louder venues but don’t want an electric guitar sound, then a semi-acoustic is definitely good.
A semi-acoustic guitar will be tougher on your fingers to start with, but will definitely be the best choice overall. You get the mellow sound of an acoustic with the added volume from the amplification.
An acoustic guitar can only be played without amplification whereas a semi-acoustic can be amplified to play at a louder volume. The tone is the same but the volume can be adjusted electronically. Basically, both semi-acoustic and acoustic guitars can be played without electricity, but if the semi-acoustic is connected to an amplifier it will become significantly louder.