Released by Gibson in 1958, the ES-335 was the first thinline semi-hollow body electric guitar. The Gibson ES-335 is an archtop guitar equipped with two hollow chambers separated by a solid maple wood block running down its center, and twin humbuckers. The maple block provides the ES-335 with a hybrid solid/hollow body perfect for jazz and blues musicians.
According to Ted McCarty, president of Gibson at the time:
I came up with the idea of putting a solid block of maple in an acoustic model to get some of the same tone as a regular solid body, plus the instrument’s hollow wings would vibrate and we’d get a combination of an electric solid body and a hollow body guitar.
The result was a middle ground which reduced the feedback of a hollow-body at high volumes while maintaining warmer tones than a solid body. This hybrid design has sustained the ES-335’s popularity throughout the years.
The Gibson ES-335 was designed as a compromise between the warm, dark sound of a hollow body and the practicality of a solid body guitar such as the Gibson Les Paul, which wasn’t as prone to feedback as a hollow-body.
The Venetian cutaways and the neck joint at the 19th fret provide easy access to the higher frets.
Popularized by artists such as John Scofield, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Chuck Berry, and John Mayer, Gibson’s ES-335 has become a classic in the jazz, blues, and rock scene and has a plethora of variations.
The ES-335 is not a cheap guitar, scoring anywhere from $1,350 to $30,000 depending on the year, finish, and specs.
Gibson ES-335 – Specifications
Maple (plywood) with a solid maple block down the center
Scale length – 24 3/4″ (629 mm)
Pearl dot inlays
Two humbuckers – PAF humbuckers, ’57 Classic humbuckers, “Dirty Fingers” humbuckers, Burstbucker humbuckers
Stop tailpiece or Bigsby Vibrato
History of the Gibson ES-335
Gibson started producing the ES-335 in 1958 and is still in production today.
The full name of the model was Gibson ES-335 TD. TD stands for “Thinline, Double Pickups”, but this part of the name was usually left out because all ES-335 models came as a thinline with double pickups.
Here’s a list of acronyms used in relation to the ES-335:
- TD – Thinline with double pickups
- TDC – Thinline with double pickups in a cherry finish
- TDN – Thinline with double pickups in a natural finish (1958-1960)
- VOS – Vintage Original Specifications
Here’s a list of how many ES-335 models were shipped by Gibson the first 12 years of production:
- 1958 – 317 guitars
- 1959 – 592 guitars
- 1960 – 514 guitars
- 1961 – 886 guitars
- 1962 – 876 guitars
- 1963 – 1,156 guitars
- 1964 – 1,241 guitars
- 1965 – 1,750 guitars
- 1966 – 2,524 guitars
- 1967 – 5,718 guitars
- 1968 – 3,760 guitars
- 1969 – 2,197 guitars
Price Range: $20,000 – $26,000
The first Gibson ES-335 models came at a price of $267.50.
These models had either a Tune-o-Matic bridge with a stopbar or a Bigsby tremolo. The ones with a stopbar are more valued nowadays.
Some versions had bound, other unbound fingerboards.
The standard finish of a Gibson ES-335 was sunburst. In 1959, a cherry finish was introduced.
Price Range: $2,200 – $23,000
The neck of ES-335s produced between 1960 and 1962 was thinner, which makes these models less valued.
In 1961, a shorter pickguard was introduced on the ES-335 models.
In 1962, the dot fretboard inlays switched to block inlays.
Also in 1962, the pickups changed from PAFs to patent number humbuckers, which makes them less valued.
In 1964, a trapeze tailpiece was the standard, with an optional tremolo. Models with a stopbar were still produced and are valued higher.
In 1969, the neck size of the ES-335 increased slightly.
Also in 1969, a walnut version of the ES-335 became available.
Price Range: $1,800 – $10,000
The ES-335 models produced between 1972 and 1975 had a center block that only extended partway through the body.
In 1977, all ES-335s came with a coil tap switch, which enables switching between the full output or a lower output of an element.
Between 1979 and 1981, Gibson produced a Gibson ES-335 Pro model with an Antique Sunburst or Cherry Red finish and chrome-plated hardware. These were equipped with two high-output Dirty Finger humbuckers and were designed for rock players. The Gibson ES-335 had a shorter scale length compared to the regular versions. Expect to pay between $1,600 and $2,000 for a Gibson ES-335 Pro on the vintage market.
The 1980s – Gibson ES-335 Dot
Price Range: $1,700 – $3,500
Starting in 1981, the ES-335 was renamed to ES-335 Dot, as a reference to the dot inlays of the early models produced between 1958 and 1962.
The ES-335 models of the ’80s were based on the specifications of the 1960 model.
ES-335 models of the early 80s had Tim Shaw pickups, who was hired by Gibson to recreate the PAF humbuckers of the 50s and early 60s. Models with Tim Shaw pickups are valued higher.
The 1990s – Gibson ES-335 Reissue
Price Range: $1,700 – $3,200
In 1991, the name ES-335 dot changed to ES-335 Reissue.
Between 1987 and 1994, Gibson produced a Gibson ES-335 Studio model. It looks like a regular ES-335, but without the f-holes.
Price Range: $1,400 – $3,900
In the mid-2000s, Gibson started using a thinner finish for its ES-335 models.
In 2002 and 2004, Gibson produced an ES-335 Larry Carlton signature model, which was based on Larry Carlton’s 1969 Gibson ES-335 (see further).
In 2009, Gibson released a limited edition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ’59 model, called the Gibson ES-335 Dot VOS (VOS = Vintage Original Specification). These models had a fatter neck, dot inlays, and ’57 classic humbuckers. VOS models are valued higher compared to the normal models of this period.
From 2013 onwards these reissues had Kluson Deluxe machine heads, a period-correct tubeless Historic truss rod, and the new Custom Bucker PAF reproductions.
In 2013, Gibson produced a stripped-down version of the Gibson ES-335 Studio, with only two controls.
Gibson ES-335 Signature Models
Gibson ES-335 LC (Larry Carlton)
Price Range: $2,800 – $3,500Production Years: 2002 / 2004
The ES-335LC or LC-335 is Larry Carlton’s signature guitar. It is based on Larry Carlton’s ’68 ES-335, the guitar that got him the moniker “Mr. 335”.
The tailpiece on these guitars is a bit further back compared to regular models and the bridge is in another position as well. This signature model has a “Mr 335” truss rod cover.
Gibson ES-335 Joe Bonamassa
Price Range: $3,300 – $5,000Production Years: 1964 – 1971
Gibson produced a limited ES-335 Joe Bonamassa signature model based on Bonamassa’s 1961 ES-335.
The guitar has a set of ’57 Classic pickups, a VOS treatment, and a neck that is .050″ thinner than the 1959 round profile.
Gibson Trini Lopez Standard and Trini Lopez Custom
Price Range: $3,300 – $20,800Production Years: 1964 – 1971
The Trini Lopez Standard and Custom guitars, named after the artist for which it was made (the man behind the hit song If I Had a Hammer), were produced from 1964 to 1971 with reissues released periodically since the instrument’s initial run.
The Trini Lopez Standard has the same body and profile as the original ES-335 but trades the violin-style f-holes for diamond-shaped soundholes, a slanted Fender-style headstock, split diamond inlays, a trapeze tailpiece, and a standard cherry red finish.
The Trini Lopez Custom has the same tailpiece, fingerboard, headstock, and electronics as the Trini Lopez Standard but has a thicker body with different shaped cutouts, a more decorative pickguard, and different positions for its selector switches. This version also comes with a standard cherry sunburst finish.
These guitars run between $3,300 and $5,800, but the 1960s Pelham Blue can fetch between $15,000 and $20,800.
Gibson ES-335 Eric Clapton Crossroads
Price Range: $8,300 – $10,300Production Years: 2005 – today
The Gibson ES-335 Eric Clapton signature model is modeled on the guitar Clapton played during his time with the Yardbirds and Cream (which was sold for $847,500 in 2004).
This model includes a “Hare Krishna” sticker on the back of the head and belt wear on the back.
Only 249 guitars were made of this model, hence the high price.
Gibson ES-335 Rich Robinson
Price Range: $2,400 – $3,400Production Years: 2014 – today
In 2014, Gibson started producing an ES-335 signature model for Rich Robinson, the guitarist of the Black Crowes.
The guitar is modeled after his 1963 ES-335 that he lost in a flood. It features dual humbuckers, a Bigsby, and a wider than usual nut. Only 500 of these guitars were made.
Gibson ES-335 Chris Cornell
Price Range: $2,600 – $5,500Production Years: 2013 – today
The Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) signature model has a 50s-style dot neck, two Jason Lollar pickups, and is available in black and olive green.
Gibson ES-335 Warren Haynes
Price Range: $2,900 – $3,700Production Years: 2013 – today
The Warren Haynes (guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band) signature model is detailed after Warren Haynes’ 1961 ES-335.
Gibson ES-335 Government Series
Price Range: $1,900 – $2,700Production Years: 2015
In 2011, the American government raided the Gibson Memphis facility and confiscated guitar bodies and necks because they were made of illegally obtained rosewood (allegedly).
After a lot of negotiations, Gibson received these bodies and necks back and used them to create a new series of guitars, the government series.
Gibson ES-335 Traditional Pro
Price Range: $1,900 – $2,700Production Years: 2012
The Gibson ES-335 Traditional Pro is a limited series that was only available through Guitar Center in 2012.
Gibson ES-335 Variations
Price Range: $2,100 – $3,300Production Years: 1965 – 1971
In 1965, Gibson launched the ES-335-12, a 12-string version of the ES-335. Production lasted until 1971, although they are sometimes reissued in limited batches.
The standard finish of the ES-335-12 was sunburst.
Notable player: Pat Martino
Price Range: $1,800 – $5,800Production Years: 1959 – 1971
The Gibson ES-330 looks like an ES-335 but is actually a thinline full hollow body guitar.
Instead of humbuckers, the ES-330 TD is equipped with two single-coil P-90 pickups.
Besides the double pickup version (ES-330 TD), there is also a single pickup version (ES-330 T). The single pickup is installed halfway between the neck and the bridge. The ES-330T has been discontinued in 1963.
Between 1998 and 2000, Gibson produced a reissue version of the ES-330.
Notable players: Grant Green, Emily Remler, BB King
Price Range: $1,100 – $1,500Production Years: 2003 – 2005
The Gibson ES-333 is similar to the ES-335, but has a few differences:
- The ES-333 is equipped with a thin satin finish instead of the 335’s thicker gloss finish.
- The headstock of the ES-333 has a silkscreen Gibson logo and has no further decorative inlay as opposed to the ES-335’s inlaid pearloid logo and crown headstock inlay.
- The pickups for the ES-333 are Gibson type 490R and 498T versus the ES-335’s Gibson 57 Classic pickups.
- The ES-333 moves away from the solid rear replacing it with an access cover for the electronics.
Price Range: $1,900 – $2,200Production Years: 1997 – 2000
For a short time, Gibson produced the ES-336, an ES-335 model with a smaller body and a different headstock.
This model is not to be confused with the Gibson CS-336 (see further).
Price Range: $900 – $2,500Production Years: 2007 – today
The ES-339 is a bit more aggressive than the ES-335. An amalgam of the ES-335 and ES-336, the ES-339 has a smaller body generating sounds similar to a Les Paul. This leads to the main difference between the two guitars: size and tone.
Price Range: $2,300 – $3,300Production Years: 1969 – 1974 / 1978
The ES-340 gets a little wild with the wiring when compared to the ES-335. Unlike the original, the 340 has individual volumes, a master tone, a pickup blend, and a switch wired to incorporate an off position. The change in wiring made the ES-340 more versatile.
It also has a maple neck as opposed to the ES-335’s mahogany neck.
Price Range: $2,000 – $20,800Production Years: 1959 – 1982 / 2002 – 2008
The Gibson ES-345 was produced between 1959 and 1982 as a more upscale version of the ES-335.
It added to the electronic pickup circuit of the guitar through various combinations of inductors and capacitors using a six-way tone control, or Varitone switch, located above the lead tone and volume controls. This variation alters its resonant frequency and adds to the overall sound.
The ES-345 also upped the ante with an optional stereophonic output jack, gold plated hardware, large split parallelogram fingerboard inlays, and a thicker three-ply edge binding than that of the original Gibson ES-335.
Price Range: $2,000 – $3,000Production Years: 1978 – 1991
The ES-347 shares the same construction as the ES-335 but with a solid ebony fingerboard, all-gold hardware, a TP-6 tailpiece, a brass nut, and a multi-bound headstock. It also has a three-piece maple neck like the ES-340 instead of the mahogany neck of the ES-335.
Those who prefer the ES-347 claim it has a punchier sound when compared to the ES-335. Because of the brass nut, the ES-347 sounds a little brighter and has more sustain compared to an ES-335.
Gibson EB-2 and EB-2D
Price Range: $1,600 – $5,200Production Years: 1958 – 1972
Introduced in 1958, the EB-2 is the bass version of the ES-335.
The guitar has the same body as the ES-335 but with a 30.5″ neck and hardware borrowed from the Gibson EB-0.
A baritone switch was added in 1959 to filter the neck humbucker output and to give the instrument a more guitar-like sound.
After being discontinued in 1961, the EB-2’s popularity renewed its production in 1964, and a two-pickup version known as the EB-2D was added in 1966. The line was again discontinued in 1972.
Price Range: $1,800 – $2,500Production Years: 2002 – today
The Gibson CS-336 (CS stands for Custom Shop) is a smaller variation of the ES-335, sized similarly to a Les Paul. The CS-336 was introduced in 2001 as Gibson’s first tonally carved guitar.
The sound of the CS Series falls between the 335 and the Les Paul. The back and sides of the CS Series are built using a single piece of carved mahogany.
The CS-356 is constructed in the same manner but as a more upscale variation with gold-finished hardware.
The CS-339 is a laminated version of the CS-336.
Gibson ES-335 Clones
Seeing as the Gibson ES-335 has become a staple of jazz, blues, and rock guitarists, it was bound to have a variety of clones or lower-priced alternatives to the classic ES-335.
Price Range: $230 – $420Production Years: 1997 – today
Built with a laminated maple and mahogany neck, the Epiphone Dot is named after its dot fingerboard inlays that were also featured on Gibson ES-335s from the 1950s. Simply looking at both guitars, there are a lot of similarities in the design. The Epiphone Dot has comparable violin-style f-holes, almost identical horns, and similar switch locations.
However, the Epiphone is a little bulkier than the ES-335. With a thicker neck and body, the Epiphone Dot has a deeper sound. It comes equipped with twin humbuckers and 3-way pickup selector to deliver a nice range from growling snarls to sweet, singing sustain. It also has two volume and two-tone controls allowing you to find the sound right for you.
The Epiphone Dot is made of a laminated maple body and top, a set maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and chrome hardware. This instrument can be had for anywhere between $300 and $500 depending on your preferences.
The Epiphone Dot is a nice alternative to the more expensive ES-335. It’s a beautiful sounding guitar. However, some experts believe the ES-335 produces a cleaner sound.
Epiphone Dots made in the 1990s were manufactured in Korea and are more sought-after compared to the newer models.
Ibanez JSM100 (John Scofield)
Price Range: $1,400 – $3,300Production Years: 2001 – today
There are three Ibanez John Schofield signature models, the JSM10, JSM20, and the JSM100.
The JSM10 has a set-in neck made of three-piece nyatoh and maple. The front, back, and sides are made of flamed maple. The fretboard is made of bound ebony with an acrylic and abalone block inlay. The JSM10 has twin humbucker Super 58 pickups and gold hardware.
The JSM20 is basically identical to the JSM10 save for the top, back, and sides being made of linden instead of flamed maple.
The JSM100 is a little thinner than the JSM10 and 20. Its front, back, and sides are made of figured anigre. It comes with a Gotoh 510BN bridge and a Gotoh GE101A tailpiece. Everything else is virtually the same as the other variations. This all translates to a clean sound suitable for just about any need.
Price Range: $550 – $1,500Production Years: 2010 – today
The Eastman T386 is a beautiful guitar equipped with a maple neck, ebony fingerboard, maple laminate on the front, back, and sides as well as pearl headstock and pearl dot inlays. The guitar has Kent Armstrong pickups and a three-way switch. The Eastman T386 is a little smaller than the ES-335.
The Eastman T386 is a lower-priced option which many guitar players believe is a suitable alternative to the ES-335. However, some claim the pickups lead to a chunkier sound when played with the same settings as the Gibson 335. As always, the choice between one or the other is a matter of preference.
The Eastman T486 differs from the T386 is a few ways, but the main difference is the pickups. The T486 trades out the Kent Armstrong pickups for Seymour Duncan pickups. The guitar is a little more expensive than the T386.
Price Range: $1,500 – $3,300Production Years: 1987 – today
While the Heritage H-575 is an excellent copy of the Gibson ES-175, the Heritage H-535 is a great clone of the Gibson ES-335.
Heritage Guitars was founded in 1985 by former Gibson employees in the original Gibson plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since then they have been producing quality guitars in the higher price range.
The H-535 has a set mahogany neck and Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbuckers.
Price Range: $400 – $1,300Production Years: 1965 – 1979 / 2004- today
The Hagström Viking was produced between 1965 and 1979. It was discontinued four years before Hagström closed down their manufacturing plant in Sweden. The new owners of Hagström started manufacturing the guitar again in 2004 (in China).
The Hagström Viking has a ply maple body, a set neck made of Canadian hard maple, and Hagstrom HJ-50 pickups with a three-way toggle switch. The body of the Viking is shaped with a more attacking feel, flaring lower down with its horns slightly pinched. Its overall design is a bit flashier with a luxurious tailpiece and bridge.
The Hagström, while a beautiful and well-designed guitar, doesn’t provide the same warmth and sweetness as an ES-335.
Notable players: Elvis Presley, Dweezil Zappa
Price Range: $1,200 – $2,600Production Years: 1992 – today
The Yamaha SA2200 comes with a set, one-piece mahogany neck, a laminated maple top, back and sides, solid maple center block, an ebony fretboard, and twin alnico humbuckers with gold plated covers. The detailing is like the ES-347.
The headstock angle is flatter than a Gibson, and the fingerboard uses medium gauge frets, which extend over the single edge binding.
Other Gibson ES-335 Clones
There are enough clones on the market to write a book, so we won’t cover them all here.
However, a few other ES-335 clones include:
- Epiphone Sheraton II $350 – $700
- Epiphone Riviera $360 – $5,300
- Epiphone ES-339 $360 – $600
- Ibanez Artcore AS93 $420 – $700
- Ibanez Artstar AS153 $700 – $1,000
- Ibanez Artist AS100 $900 – $1,300
- Aria Pro II TA-60 $450 – $700
- Greco SA-550 $750 – $1,400
- Orville ES-335 $1,000 – $1,700
Do you play a Gibson ES-335 or one of its clones? Let us know in the comments below…