Magazine article Guitar Player

What's the Big Deal about Chambered Guitars?

Magazine article Guitar Player

What's the Big Deal about Chambered Guitars?

Article excerpt

HOLLOW AND SEMI-HOLLOW ELECTRIC guitars have been with us since the dawn of rock and roll, but more and more makers are producing "chambered" guitars these days. Chambered guitars appear solid, but have air pockets hidden inside, and, in some circles, the trend has generated negative feedback.

So, from a perspective of tone, is there something inherently "wrong" with adding air space to a guitar that would otherwise pass as a traditional solidbody?

First off, it's important to realize that chambering is really nothing new. Gretsch's original Chet Atkins Solidbody and Duo Jet models of the mid '50s had narrow chambers of air between their mahogany bodies and arched maple tops. These might have been a quirk of the design, but that doesn't make a '50s Gretsch "so-called solidbody" any less of a classic.

Fender started routing wood from its Telecaster body in ]968, when stocks of ash were getting heavier, and created the semisolid ThinLine model, adding an f-hole to make a virtue of the air space within. The Telecaster ThinLine might be the first example of a major maker intentionally removing body wood purely to reduce an instrument's weight. Such motives might have helped start the negative spin cycle on chambering.

Manufacturers who chamber guitars purely to lighten the load--what's known as "weight relieving"--occasionally do so without specific consideration to tone. The practice does alter the tone, but in a way that is random, rather than calculated. The upside, though, is that in a world where players have largely turned against butt-heavy guitars, weight relief can turn an 11lb boat anchor into a comfortable 8.5lb instrument.

Still, many traditionalists frowned upon Gibson's use of weight relief on several Les Paul models--the heft of which was reduced by the "Swiss cheese" method of drilling several large holes spread around the mahogany back. …

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