Strat, Tele or Hollow bodied? Not sure what these mean? Read on and find out before you make a purchase!
Much like their acoustic counterparts, Electrics come with a vast array of body styles. Have a look and see what suits you...
Probably the most popular and most recognisable shape, the Stratocaster was launched by Fender in 1954 and has been in production ever since, with numerous copies. Originally envisioned as a Country instrument, the guitar has had equal success across a range of genres including Blues, Jazz, Pop, Rock and Heavy Metal.
The standard configuration, seen on the left, is 3 single coil pickups and a wammy bar, but there have been various models throughout the years.
Famous Players - Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Dave Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Yngwie Malmsteen
Beginner - Rocket S300
Intermediate - Yamaha Pacifica 112
Advanced - Fender Squier 60s Classic Vibe
The Telecaster is the often overlooked older brother of the Strat above. It was the first mass-produced solid bodied electric guitar and appeared around 1950. It has been in continuous production ever since. An early, single pickup model, called the 'Esquire' shared the body of the Telecaster, but fewer than 50 were produced and suffered quality issues. The Tele, originally marketed as 'Broadcaster' was introduced shortly afterwards, with the standard set up of 2 pickups (but no wammy bar) seen on the left.
More at home in Country and Rock, the Tele has also garnered a following in Jazz and is increasingly popular with Indie musicians.
Famous Players - Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi (Status Quo)
Beginner - Rocket T320
Advanced - Fender Squier Custom Classic Vibes Telecaster
The Les Paul is one of the other most recognisable shapes. Introduced in 1952 by Gibson and endorsed by guitarist Lester William Polsfuss (better known as Les Paul), it was released as Gibson's competition to the Telecaster, above. It didn't sell well and was considered outdated by the end of the 1950s (particularly after Fender's release of the Strat) and was finally discontinued in 1961 in favour of the newer SG series. A resurgence of interest in 1966 is credited to Eric Clapton's use of one on his album with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, often nicknamed the 'Beano' album - Clapton didn't want his photo taken, so held up the comic while the rest of the band posed together. He was followed by Peter Green (founder member of Fleetwood Mac) and others, which led Gibson to relaunch the design, with a few variations, in 1968. This has remained in production to the present day.
The original featured P-90 single coil pickups, but this was later standardised to the twin humbuckers as seen on the left. Very popular with heavier blues rockers, the Les Pauls are known for thick sound and lots of sustain.
Introduced in 1961, the SG was released as a lightweight alternative to the Les Paul, above, but with a twin cutaway too. It also featured double humbucker pickups with independant volume/tone controls. Featuring a full and bold sound, the SG is a good all rounder. Gibson themselves claim the SG is their bestseller, surpassing the Les Paul. Despite these improvements, Les Paul was not happy with the design and had his name removed from the project. Advertised as having, 'the fastest neck in the world', the SG quickly gained a reputation amongst the Blues Rock and Heavy Rock artists. Modern Indie artists have also sparked a revival. The most famous is perhaps Eric Clapton's SG he played while with Cream, pictured left. Along with the rest of the bands instruments, it was painted into psychedelic colours by Dutch Artist "The Fool".
Famous Players - Duane Allman, Dave Grohl, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Derek Trucks, Pete Townsend.
Hollow Body/Semi Acoustics
Often characterised by the F holes over each 'wing', the hollow bodies and semi acoustics offer a slightly different approach. Gibson's ES-335, left, is probably one of the more famous models. The resonating chambers give them a warmer, more responsive sound than their solid bodied counterparts. They still need an amplifier though, as the sound isn't loud enough to carry acoustically.
The actual design comes from the 1930s, bought on by a need to increase the volume of guitars which were struggling to be heard over orchestras and such. Gibson's first model, the ES-150, was just an experiment - but it gave way to several subsequent models. Gretsch and Rickenbacker are also well known for their hollow bodied designs. Favoured by Blues, Jazz and Fusion musicians. The signature 'jangly' sound of the Byrds came from a hollow bodied Rickenbacker 12-String example.
Famous Players - B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, John Lennon, Roger McGuinn
Beginner - Rocket A350
The Flying V was introduced by Gibson in 1958. When you bear the year of release in mind, it's easy to see the futuristic, space age design that was surely influenced by the era - Yuri Gargarin would orbit the earth just 3 years later. It was also, however, an attempt by Gibson to shake off a dated image with a new radical design. Initially the design sold very poorly and was discontinued by 1959. Much like the Les Paul, however, use by guitarists like Albert King, Lonnie Mack and Dave Davies (The Kinks) as well as Jimi Hendrix, at times, helped create additional demand for the guitar. It was re-released in 1967 with a mahogany back and the stopbar tailpiece refitted - the setup seen on the left.
The original 1958-59 guitars are extremely rare now and as such command a high price - usually between $200,000-250,000!
Beginner - Rocket F300
Fender released the 'Jazzmaster' shape in 1958, as an attempt to woo the Jazz and Blues musicians away from the hollow bodied shapes, like the ES-335 above, with it's solid body. With a tendency to feedback, it didn't catch on - but it did find more of a following in the Surf Rock bands of the 50s and early 60s, such as The Ventures.
By the early 70s, however, the guitar was considered dated and sales dropped considerably as guitarists moved towards the Les Paul for it's humbucker tone and sustain. The piano like tone of the Jazzmaster and short sustain made it unsuitable, and production stopped in 1976 (although officially it was 1980). Japanese re-issues and budget Squier or Mexican models have filtered through in the late 80s and early 90s, but there was no American replacement until 2013. The shape is actually patented by Fender, so unlike many of the other shapes there are no unlicensed copies. The Jazzmaster enjoyed a resurgence with indie rock bands in the early 90s, many of whom still use the shape. Following the rise of original Telecasters and Stratocasters in the vintage market and the resulting high prices, the Jazzmaster was, for a time, a cheaper alternative, though it quickly followed suit as collectors snapped up the originals.
Famous Players - Luther Perkins, Frank Zappa, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Elvis Costello
Intermediate - Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster
With very similar looks to the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar was introduced as a follow up model in 1962 as Fender's top of the line, designed, like the Jazzmaster, to lure players away from Gibson. Similarly to the Jazzmaster, however, it was plagued by poor sales and was taken out of production in 1975.
Much like the Jazzmaster it was very popular in the Surf Rock and Instrumental music of the time, and enjoyed a resurgence in the late 80s and early 90s as an 'alternative' instrument but also owing to how cheaply they could be picked up compared to Stratocasters or Telecasters. Fender re-issued the American Jaguar in 1999 and there are several variations. Fender's Squier Brand has been producing them from Japan since the late 80s.
Changes from the Jazzmaster included a shorter 22 fret neck and smaller single coil pickups as well as an innovative floating tremolo system, which was the inspiration for the design on the Fender Mustang.
Famous Players - Carl Wilson (Beach Boys), Kurt Cobain, John Squire (Stone Roses), John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Intermediate - Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar