The Gibson ES-335

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.

Gibson ES-335

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.

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Gibson ES-335 – Specifications

Woods

Body

Semi-hollow body

Maple (plywood) with a solid maple block down the center

Double cutaway

Neck

Set neck

Scale length – 24 3/4″ (629 mm)

Fretboard

Rosewood

22 frets

Pearl dot inlays

Hardware

Bridge

Tune-o-Matic bridge

Pickups

Two humbuckers – PAF humbuckers, ’57 Classic humbuckers, “Dirty Fingers” humbuckers, Burstbucker humbuckers

Tailpiece

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-175:

  • 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-175 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

 

The 1950s

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.

 

Gibson ES-335

 

The 1960s

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.

 

Gibson ES-335 Walnut

 

The 1970s

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.

 

Gibson ES-335 Pro

 

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.

 

Gibson ES-335 Dot

 

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.

 

Gibson ES-335 Studio

 

The 2000s

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 VOS

 

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 Larry Carlton signature model

 

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 ES-335 Joe Bonamassa

 

 

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 Trini Lopez

 

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 Eric Clapton Crossroads

 

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 Rich Robinson

 

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 Chris Cornell

 

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 Warren Haynes

 

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 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 Traditional Pro

 

Gibson ES-335 Variations

Gibson ES-335-12

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

 

Gibson ES-335 12-string

 

Gibson ES-330

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

 

Gibson ES-330

 

Gibson ES-333

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.

 

Gibson ES-333

 

Gibson ES-336

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).

 

Gibson ES-336

 

Gibson ES-339

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.

 

Gibson ES-339

 

Gibson ES-340

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.

 

Gibson ES-340

 

Gibson ES-345

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.

 

Gibson ES-345

 

ES-347

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 ES-347

 

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.

 

Gibson EB-2

 

Gibson CS-336

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 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.

 

Epiphone Dot

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.

 

Epiphone ES-335 Dot

 

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.

 

Ibanez JSM100

 

 

Eastman T386

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.

 

Eastman T386

 

Heritage H-535

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.

 

 

Heritage H-535

 

Hagström Viking

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

 

Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe

 

Yamaha SA2200

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.

 

Yamaha SA2200

 

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…

  • Thomas says:

    Your gear rundown is always welcome, but where are your lessons these days? I would gladly pay a monthly premium for them.

  • Torben says:

    Dave Grohl’s Signature DG-335 which is close to the Trini Lopez is missing here…

  • Homer L Garrett says:

    Where was the 1995 model made?

  • Tom Long says:

    I have a 1970 ES335TDW to which I have added coil tap. TBH I don’t like the sound of the coil tap much and rarely use it but I love my 335. I wanted one for years and finally bought this in 1976. In 1965 I had an ES330TDN which looked great and was nice, but I had a lot of trouble with feedback from it. More recently I have also acquired a 1966 Epiphone Riviera 12 which is the best 12 string I ever played.

  • Michael D says:

    I have an Oscar Schmidt OE30 Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar – Tobacco Sunburst which I’m diggin’ for the low price ($260 +/-), feels good, nice quality; I’m sure the pick-ups could use an upgrade. This was my first guitar and its held up well. People with more experience than I have played mine and were complimentary. Just a thought for those on a budget… : )

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