15 Types of Electric Guitar: Unraveling Electric Guitar Body Shapes and Styles
Ever been caught in a conversation where someone mentioned an electric guitar type, and you just nodded along pretending to know what they were talking about? So, let’s deep dive into this world of six strings (well, mostly six, but there are exceptions!) and get to know the fabulous variety of electric guitar shapes and styles that exist. This way, the next time someone says “Stratocaster” or “Flying V”, you’ll be nodding for real!
Electric Guitar Guide
1. Stratocaster (Strat)
The Classic Rockstar:
The Stratocaster, often just called a “Strat”, is one of the most iconic electric guitar shapes out there. Introduced by Fender in 1954, it boasts a double-cutaway body, which allows for easier access to the higher frets. The Strat’s design was revolutionary for its time, emphasizing comfort, playability, and versatile sound. It’s the choice of legends like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and David Gilmour. So if you see a guitar with that curvy shape and three single-coil pickups, it’s probably a Strat or one of its many imitations.
2. Telecaster (Tele)
The Country Legend:
The Telecaster, or “Tele”, is Fender’s other big star. Introduced in the early ’50s, it has a single-cutaway body, giving it a unique and easily recognizable shape. With its bright, twangy sound, it became a favorite for country musicians but has since been embraced by rockers, blues players, and even jazz cats. Ever heard of Keith Richards? His weapon of choice is often a Tele.
3. Les Paul
The Heavyweight Champion:
The Les Paul is Gibson’s answer to Fender’s creations. Launched in 1952 in collaboration with the guitarist Les Paul himself, this guitar has a solid, single-cutaway body with a set neck (meaning it’s glued, not bolted). The Les Paul provides a rich, warm, and sustaining tone, making it a favorite for rock, metal, and jazz musicians alike. Jimmy Page, Slash, and Zakk Wylde are some of the big names who love their Les Pauls.
The Devil’s Horns:
Another Gibson classic, the SG (which stands for “Solid Guitar”), came onto the scene in the early 1960s. With its twin horned, double-cutaway design, it looks like it’s ready for some rock and roll mischief. AC/DC’s Angus Young and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi are two notable SG enthusiasts. Fun fact: The SG was initially intended to be a new design for the Les Paul!
5. Flying V
The Space Rocker:
Gibson introduced the Flying V in 1958, and boy, was it futuristic! With its radical V-shaped body, it didn’t become a major hit initially but later found its place with metal and hard rock players, because, let’s be honest, it looks super cool! Think of it as the guitar equivalent of a spaceship.
The Edgy Rocker:
Yet another creation from Gibson in the late ’50s, the Explorer features an angular, almost zig-zag body shape. It’s unconventional, to say the least. Initially not very popular, the Explorer gained traction in the heavy metal community, with players like James Hetfield of Metallica wielding it.
The Sophisticated Player:
The ES-335, introduced by Gibson in 1958, is a semi-hollow body guitar, which means it’s a blend of a solid-body and hollow-body guitar. With its elegant double-cutaway design and “f” holes, it provides a versatile tone, suitable for jazz, blues, rock, and almost everything in between. BB King’s “Lucille” is a variation of this model.
8. PRS Custom
The Modern Marvel:
Paul Reed Smith (PRS) Guitars entered the scene in the 1980s and quickly made an impact with their blend of vintage and modern designs. The PRS Custom, with its unique bird inlays and double-cutaway shape, offers a versatile sound, making it a favorite for many contemporary players, including Carlos Santana and Mark Tremonti.
The Surf’s Up Specialist:
Fender’s Jaguar, launched in the 1960s, came with a shorter scale length and a more complex switching system than the Strat or Tele. With its bright, jangly sound, it became the go-to guitar for surf rock. Later on, it was embraced by indie rockers and grunge bands. Think Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
The Compact Rocker:
Another Fender creation, the Mustang was initially aimed at students due to its shorter scale and simpler design. However, its punchy tone and unique look made it a favorite among alternative rock and punk musicians.
11. Ibanez RG Series
The Shredder’s Delight:
Ibanez, a Japanese company, has been at the forefront of the rock and metal scene for decades. The RG series, with its sharp, aggressive body contours and ultra-thin necks, is perfect for lightning-fast solos and heavy riffing. Players like Steve Vai have popularized these guitars with their intricate playing styles.
12. Rickenbacker 360
The Jingle-Jangle Maestro:
Rickenbacker is known for its distinct designs and bright, chiming sounds. The 360, with its semi-hollow body and unique shape, has been popularized by bands like The Beatles and The Byrds. It’s perfect for that 12-string jangle.
The Retro Rebel:
Gibson’s Firebird, launched in the early 1960s, has a unique offset body shape, resembling a more stylized Explorer. It’s known for its mini-humbucker pickups and the distinctive headstock, which is “reversed” compared to most guitars. Johnny Winter and Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd were known to jam on a Firebird.
14. Steinberger Headless Guitars
The Futurist’s Choice:
These are the oddballs of the electric guitar world. Steinberger guitars ditch the traditional headstock, making them super compact. The tuning system is moved to the body. They look futuristic, are convenient for traveling, and have been used by artists like Eddie Van Halen.
15. Hollow and Semi-Hollow Bodies
The Jazz and Blues Machines:
Beyond the ES-335, there’s a whole world of hollow and semi-hollow guitars. These include the larger Gibson L-5, the Epiphone Casino, and many others. They are characterized by their “f” holes and resonant bodies, which produce a warm, rich sound perfect for jazz, blues, and classic rock.
Wrapping It Up:
From the curvy Strat to the angular Explorer, from the jangly Rickenbacker to the shreddy Ibanez RG, the world of electric guitars is vast and varied. Each of these guitars has its own story, its own sound, and its own set of legendary players.
So, the next time you’re at a concert, a music store, or even a friend’s garage jam, you can impress them all with your newfound guitar knowledge. Rock on, and always remember: it’s not just about the look, but also about the sound and how it makes you feel!