Focus On: Epiphone Sheraton Electric Guitar
Epiphone Sheraton Electric Guitar
The Epiphone Sheraton semi-hollow electric guitar is based around the design of the Gibson 335 model and originally made its debut in 1959. Previous to this semi-solid guitars had encountered design problems due to their hollow bodies as the internal hollow chamber tended to create feedback above certain volume levels. Gibson remedied this in the 1950's by adding an internal central wooden block running through the body of the guitar which counter-acted the feedback whilst at the same time enhanced the tone and sustain of the instrument.
The Sheraton had the same double cut-away and rounded horns as the Gibson 335 and also similarly featured twin hum-bucking pick-ups, twin "f" sound holes and identically located control knobs. Some models were created with a stop bar tail piece and a Bigsby tremolo unit however the standard Epiphone Sheraton configuration featured a Frequensator bridge and tail piece. Another feature that made the Sheraton instantly recognisable was the fret board inlay designed with a block and triangle design that set it apart from many other Epiphone models.
So having established the basic concept and design of the Epiphone Sheraton, what did/does it sound like and why has it been the guitar of choice for certain celebrity guitar players?
How Does the Epiphone Sheraton Sound?
To give a comprehensive answer to this question we should perhaps look at the reason why the semi-hollow guitar suddenly became so popular. Guitars such as the Gibson 335 and the Epiphone Sheraton were developed in an age when Jazz and big band music was still very much a dominating force.
The sound required from a jazz guitar needed to be clean, clear and resonant - remember this was long before the days of Jimmi Hendrix, jazz guitar parts were either clean rhythmic patterns or alternatively clean short note arpeggios played as part of a solo or melody line and there was no particular requirement for distortion, sustain or note bending. Guitar players in big bands were increasingly being drowned out by the multitude of horns and needed their guitar parts to be amplified to compete with the volume of the brass section.
When electric guitars and amplifiers first appeared in the late 1950's and early 1960's the focus was on producing a clear, clean and natural amplified sound without distorting the signal. One of the early problems was as soon as guitars became amplified and the volume was turned up to compete with the rest of the band, the pick-ups began to feed back.
As previously stated this issue was resolved with a central wooden block inside the body of the guitar, however thanks to the connection to an amplified source the body of the electric guitar now no longer needed to be as deep as it had been previously as the instrument did not require loud acoustic resonance during a performance.
The original concept of having two pick-ups on a guitar was based on the idea that the neck pick-up would be used for rhythm parts and would sonically blend comfortably with the rest of the band, whilst the bridge pick-up had a higher frequency sound for solo parts and would therefore cut through the mix during solo performances.
So how did/does the Sheraton sound? Well as most guitar aficionados will know, semi-hollow guitars such as the Sheraton have an acoustic element to their tone due to the fact that large areas of the body of the instrument have hollow acoustic chambers. Compared to solid body guitar models, this gives a different type of resonance and frequency response and when combined with hum-buckers produces a slightly mellow sound when played clean - which made it ideal for the jazz and big bands of the late 1950's and early 1960's.
It was only in later years when bands such as the Beatles started to experiment with the sound and overdrive the valves in amplifiers that "crunch" and distortion tones began to appear on live and recorded performances. In later years the acoustic chambers within guitars such as the Sheraton would provide outstanding sustain for rock and blues guitarists when playing the instrument at high volume through overdriven amplifiers.
Semi-hollow guitars have also become a favourite of blues players and Eric Clapton developed a unique sound using a Gibson 335 that is commonly known as his "Woman" tone. Other bluesmen such as BB King chose semi-hollow models but perhaps the best known Sheraton endorsee was blues legend and guitarist John Lee Hooker who used it for much of his career
Epiphone Sheraton II
In more recent times Epiphone created the Sheraton II - the only difference being that the Sheraton II has a stop bar tail piece instead of the Frequensator bridge. For a period of time Noel Gallagher from the Brit pop band Oasis used a Sheraton II but also alternated between the Epiphone Casino and Sheraton II models as he claimed that both models provided a Beatle-esque tone that inspired melodic pop tunes. So there we have it, a brief potted history of the Epiphone Sheraton and Sheraton II models , a guitar that started out as the perfect choice for the jazz player but was ultimately adopted by rock and blues players for its unique tone, resonance and sustain and still commands a respectful appreciation in today's varied guitar market. Check out the Nevada Music website for details on the Epiphone Sheraton II and other Epiphone models.
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21 Mar '11