Aside from the obviously cool aesthetics, what does an F hole actually do for when it comes down to playing the guitar? Let’s have a look at the history of the F hole, and some of the more common reasons regarding why it’s a still a popular feature on modern guitars, and their very real uses.
Where does the F hole come from?
The idea from the F hole initially came from old acoustics that has similar arctops, and the gaps in the F holes were used to add external amplification methods. Naturally, and as you might expect, this would cause a multitude of feedback issues (especially in old guitars already not prepped to cope with amplification).
The main issue came from the fact that these old acoustics were not solid body guitars, and therefore produced a large amount of feedback (as the guitar, down to the wood construct and build, simply wasn’t primed for amplification purposes).
But, this is where the original F hole came from in the form of an acoustic guitar modification, and has stuck to both acoustic and electric hybrids ever since.
Do F holes still cause feedback through amplification?
Nowadays, guitar makers are much wiser about everything that goes into their guitars. And, when it comes to F holes, they’re no longer either an amplification nuisance or just a visual stimuli that breaks the monotony of a boring old guitar shape… they actually have a use! Here are some of the more common ones:
Especially with electro-acoustic guitars or hollow-body electrics, F holes add a greater aspect of sustain that otherwise wouldn’t be accomplished with a full body.
However, this isn’t all a good thing. In the same realm of adding volume and feedback to an acoustic guitar via an amp, there’s still going to be an aspect of feedback because the guitar simply isn’t a full solid body, therefore some kind of feedback (or volume-lead sustain if you want to view if that way) is inevitable with anything but a sold body guitar.
Volume when unplugged
This is a simple one that, if you’ve already experimented with an electric guitar with F holes, you’ll already be aware of. The hollow body gives the guitar greater volume depth, which works exactly the same way when it’s unplugged.
This doesn’t make a difference if you’re playing through an amp, but makes quickly picking-up and practicing almost easier than with a solid body as you don’t have to plug the guitar into amplification to hear it properly. Basically, it’s louder and can project more sound in acoustic mode than a solid body when played without a source of amplification!
With modern guitars that have F holes (especially electric guitar modifications) you’re really not going to see much of a difference unless you play with excessive volume to experiment with feedback or sustain, and if you’re looking for an acoustically satisfying electric hollow body that can be a little louder when playing without a source of amplification.
Our personal thought is that, at the end of the day, they just look absolutely awesome!
Also, if this quick guide was helpful, check out our advice on why you should play with a pick.