One thing that’s so great about electric guitars is their versatility. It seems that pretty much every genre these days has an electric guitar in there somewhere one way or the other.
And in combination with all the different pedals and amps, you’ll be able to create whole new worlds of sonic diversity, even taking roles previously intended for other instruments. However, there’s a catch. As you may know, electric guitars of all types need an amplifier in order to be heard by orchestra or band members, as well as the audience.
But there’s another thing that might come to mind when it comes to this particular issue. We have hollow-body guitars, which are pretty widespread in jazz, blues, and even some subgenres of rock music (maybe even some experimental implementations in heavy metal).
These guitars are pretty interesting due to the fact that their tone is impacted more by their overall construction and use of different tonewoods as compared to regular solid-body guitars. But what we’re interested in here is whether you can play a hollow body guitar without an amp. Well, let’s see what all the fuss is about.
Can You Play Hollow Body Guitar Without An Amp? Quick answer:
Yes, you can play it and the sound will be much louder than with solid-body electric guitar. It’s loud enough for practicing. But it’s usually not loud enough for playing with others or performing
If you are interested in buying a hollow-body guitar, check this article out: 5 Best Hollow Body Guitars Under $1000 – Buyer’s Guide
Who crafted this post:
David has been playing guitar since 1998, his main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor.
Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala
Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although jamming with acoustics too. Has played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years. That’s why he started this blog in January 2020 and started sharing his experience. Has produced content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.
Can You Play Hollow Body Guitar Without An Amp?
Yes, you can. But before we begin diving into this more, there are no limits in the world of music and you can do as you please. However, it’s whether we can find a practical implementation of any of these ideas. The same goes for playing the guitar unplugged. Any type of guitar, that is.
But when it comes to hollow-body guitars, like the classic jazz-oriented archtop guitars, we have a pretty big resonant chamber and in most cases F-shaped soundholes, just like the ones you can find on violins.
Can you play them unplugged and get a good tone? Well, the guitar itself will definitely resonate much more compared to solid-body or semi-hollow body guitars. And the tone is definitely not too bad. You’ll definitely get a significantly louder sound going from, let’s say, Gibson’s ES-175 compared to a regular Gibson SG that features a pretty thin solid body. As we said, the only question is whether you’ll find a practical implementation for it.
Can You Play Hollow Body Guitar Acoustically With Other Musicians?
If you’re looking for a way to play it acoustically with other musicians and implement it in a practical setting – well, that’s another story. Look, nobody can stop you from playing any guitar the way you want to. The problem is whether you’re going to be heard or not.
If you’re just practicing or jamming with another guitar player at home, a hollow body guitar could be loud enough. Maybe not as loud enough for acoustic guitars, but it will still cut through to some extent and be heard.
But if we’re talking about band or orchestra settings, where you need to practice at full volume, then there’s really no practical value of playing a hollow body guitar unplugged. Even if it’s a fully acoustic band, there’s no way to make anything out of it, even if you use heavier gauge strings.
In fact, even regular acoustic guitars are sometimes not loud enough compared to violins and other bowed instruments, and especially not compared to wind instruments. And you can only imagine how that would work with hollow-body electric guitars. In fact, there would be no difference if you played a hollow body, semi-hollow body, or a solid-body guitar in these settings.
If you don’t have an amp, or just don’t feel like getting one…
You can play hollow-body guitar through an audio interface that’s connected to a computer and any kind of speaker. With today’s very realistic-sounding amp plugins, you’ll be able to get a great tone out of it and even record something.
Other solutions also include going directly into a PA system, a computer’s sound card, or a home stereo. However, none of these solutions would sound as nearly as good as guitar amps, so we recommend that you at least get a small multi-effects processor. It’s a common solution even for some gigging musicians.
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Can You Play Semi-Hollow Guitar Without An Amp?
The same rules that we said about hollow-body guitars pretty much apply to semi-hollow body guitars. The only difference is that semi-hollow body guitars are even quieter.
If you’re practicing alone, it’s definitely a more audible option compared to solid-body guitars. And at the same time, they give more character to the tone compared to solid-body instruments, but not as much as compared to fully hollow body guitars.
It’s in some way comparable to chambered solid-body guitars, or those guitars where some weight relief has been applied.
Can Semi-Hollow Guitars Be Played Acoustically With Other Musicians?
Nope, you can’t. Semi-hollow body guitars are not loud enough.
The same rules that we mentioned for hollow-body guitars apply here. If you need to get a loud sound going, we’d recommend any of the solutions explained above. The simplest one is a small multi-effects processor with some amp modeling options on it. Luckily, you can find a good one for a decent price these days.
Hollow-Body vs Semi-Hollow vs Acoustic Guitar
Here’s a video that compares these 3 instruments and helps you to see and hear how loud hollow-body and semi-hollow body guitars are when compared to the acoustic guitar:
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Conclusion on Playing Hollow Body Guitar Without an Amp
As we said, electric guitars of all kinds come with their downside – you need to amplify the tone with an appropriate amp or any electric guitar-oriented device in combination with a PA system. The only practical implementation of playing a hollow body guitar acoustically is when you’re practicing or jamming at home.
In case you don’t feel like bothering with electric guitars, amplifiers, and other devices, you can go with an electro-acoustic guitar. These are equipped with piezo pickups and, in most cases, integrated active preamps that run on 9-volt batteries. You can play it either as an acoustic guitar, or go straight into a PA system, and it will sound like a real acoustic guitar.
If you are interested in the history behind semi-hollow body electric guitars, check out the article on Wikipedia about them.
I hope that this post gave you answers. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below, and feel free to share this post too. I wish you all the best and keep rocking!
Here’s Our Favorite Gear Right Now!
Our Favorite Guitars:
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Our favorite Electric guitar of 2021 was the PRS SE Custom 24-08. It gives so much versatility, comfort, and good tones that it’s impossible to ignore.
For beginners, Yamaha FG800 is our go-to guitar. It offers more than any other guitar in the same price range.
For intermediate and beginners with bigger wallets, Gretsch G5024E Rancher offers so clear and detailed tones, plus easy playability that I had to include it here.
Seagull S6 Original is the best acoustic around the $500 mark. It has the construction, sound, and feel that many more expensive guitars don’t achieve.
Our Favorite Amps:
For beginners, Fender Mustang LT25 offers the most. It’s versatile, sounds good, and is simple to use.
For most home players, Boss Katana 50MKii is the amp that serves you in any situation. From country to metal.
If you are searching for a tube amp for home use, Blackstar HT-5R MKii is my go-to option because it sounds so good, and you can adjust the wattage(power).
When it comes to acoustic guitar amps, Fender Acoustasonic 40 will serve most people really well. But our favorite is Fishman Loudbox Mini BT. It offers a professional level tone and volume with a price most people can afford.