Gibson’s Big Red 33s


Both from 1968, both cherry red, the Gibson on the left is a 335, the one on the right a long-neck 330.

These big 33s share identical body and neck shapes. The 330 is a hollow-body guitar with chrome-covered single-coil P-90 pickups. The 335 has humbucker pickups, Kluson deluxe tuners and a solid block through the body. Both fingerboards are inlayed with blocks, but the 335 has a headstock inlay.

Playing them, the 330 has that slightly raw / woody / rich P-90 sound that just oozes vintage tone (think Beatles – after all this is the same guitar as the Epiphone Casino used by John Lennon / Noel Gallagher). It’s a light and comfortable guitar to wear for hours on end as the crowd demands more and more…. By this date in manufacture, Gibson had altered the body/neck set-up of the 330 to match that of the 335, giving players access to the higher frets. Not that that was such an inspired move, as the 330 has always been more suited to rythym playing and rythym players aren’t usually drawn to frets higher than the 16th.

So we pick up the 335, and although it looks similar, its clearly a different beast. It’s noticeably heavier – that solid block is very solid – there’s more air inside the body than in a Les Paul, but a padded strap is a must-have for playing a stand-up gig. So, if the neck’s the same, what’s the big difference? Humbuckers. These pickups have got serious output. Way louder than the P-90s and the bridge pick-up can do some very serious rock. The block was originally there to reduce feedback, but it does produce a lot more sustain as well. What do you get with lots of high output, clear access to frets 16-21 and sustain? Lead rock guitar guitar of course, which is why the 335 has become such an important and iconic guitar.

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