The legendary Gibson Les Paul and SG are two of the most recognisable electric guitars in the world. Played since the ’50s and ‘60s respectively, these two iconic solid body guitars share a lot of common ground but are actually very different instruments. In this blog, we put them up against each other to see which is the ultimate Gibson electric guitar!
Gibson Les Paul
First released in 1952, the Gibson Les Paul was the result of a collaboration between Gibson and popular jazz musician Lester William Polsfuss, but you may know him better as Les Paul! Featuring a solid Mahogany body with a thick Maple cap, Mahogany neck, Rosewood fingerboard and two P-90 pickups, the Les Paul was Gibson’s attempt to rival Fender’s early solid body guitars. With over sixty years of history, its perhaps unsurprising that the Les Paul has had a few tweaks over the years.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Gibson Les Paul one of the most popular guitars in the world today, over six decades since its release.
The Les Paul’s elegant single-cut design is instantly recognisable as well as functional, allowing great access to the upper frets. The Mahogany body has been a feature of the Les Paul since its inception. Offering a rich, broad tone with sustain for days, Mahogany is resonant and has a pleasant harmonic content with a subtle yet attractive grain.
The majority of Les Paul guitars feature a carved Maple cap which sits atop the Mahogany body. Known for it’s bright, bell like quality, the Maple top perfectly complements the Mahogany body and looks great too, particularly when adorned in the legendary “Sunburst” finish!
A Mahogany neck topped with a silky smooth Rosewood fingerboard has been another staple of the Les Paul since the ‘50s. On some models, such as the top-of-the-line Les Paul Custom, an Ebony fingerboard was favoured for its snappy, articulate response and classy black appearance. For the most part though, people typically associate the Les Paul with a Rosewood fingerboard.
The original Les Paul sported a pair of P-90 pickups but from 1957, Gibson introduced the PAF (Patent Applied For) Humbucker which was designed to eliminate feedback and background noise. These early PAFs are widely regarded as the holy grail of pickups and many of Gibson’s subsequent humbuckers are based on the original design.
To this day, Gibson still uses humbucker pickups across most of the Les Paul range, with the exception of the stripped back Junior and Special models which still feature P-90s. The humbucker’s rich sound and enhanced sustain makes it an extremely versatile pickup across many genres of music. By “bucking” the hum and background noise, humbuckers are the ideal pickup for players using a lot of gain as they’re much less likely to feed back. It’s no surprise then, that the Gibson Les Paul has been used for everything from Blues to Heavy Metal.
In the sixty plus years since the Les Paul was released, we have seen many different models come and go, boasting unique features whilst staying true to the original design. Let’s look at a few of the most popular Les Paul models available today.
Les Paul Standard
The flagship model, the poster child, THE standard…Whatever you want to call it, the Les Paul Standard is the model that immediately comes to mind when people think of the Gibson Les Paul. Today, the Les Paul Standard is available in two models, the 50s and 60s, each with period accurate specs.
The Standard 50s has no weight relief, a chunky late ‘50s profile neck and BurstBucker 1 and 2 pickups for creamy, authentic PAF tones. The Standard 60s also has no weight relief, but features a slimmer, more comfortable neck, a three-dimensional AA Flame Maple top and BurstBucker 61T and R humbuckers for an enhanced upper mid-range.