The Legendary Les Paul
If you were to ask a group of guitar players to name a single most iconic guitar model in history, chances are that Gibson Les Paul would be the first axe to pop up for most. After all, we are talking about the instrument that shaped a large portion of rock music, impacting the global culture of the 20th century along the way.
The iconic Gibson Les Paul, took the music world by storm when it debuted in 1952. More than five decades later, this all-time favorite solid body electric guitar continues to influence guitarists, musicians and music lovers all over the world.
The distinctive shape and design, the sound, the shape, the mass and the vibe are just some of the crucial factors that made Gibson Les Paul what it is today – a musical icon. The fact that such rock titans as Jimmy Page or Slash wielded it made it easier for the instrument to reach even wider audience and more importantly, contribute to a cultural revolution with its sound and vibe.
But what we're here to discuss is Gibson Les Paul from your perspective. There are many Les Paul models to choose from out there and each one carries a different sound, color and tone. That LP feel is always present of course, but the differences vary from slight nuances to significant sound shifts. So scroll down and join us for a brief rundown of some of the most prominent Gibson Les Paul models below.
This is the one that most think of at first. The Gibson Les Paul Traditional is very well known for that old-school type of sustain delivered through a non-chambered body made out of mahogany wood. Above the body you'll find an AA figured maple top, another distinctive point of this iconic instrument.
Legendary '59 Tribute humbucker pickups featuring orange drop caps are in charge of delivering the iconic audio output, while some of the other classic features include those slick vintage tuners and tone knobs. In general, it very much goes to show without saying that this is an instrument made for players appreciating all the listed features that made Gibson Les Paul a musical great.
Introduced with a slick looking black finish, Gibson Les Paul Custom wasn't initially promoted as the company's top-notch product. But interestingly enough, that's exactly what it became, instantly scoring nothing but high remarks and praises to such extant that a classic status was inevitable.
This specific model features a mahogany body with a carved maple top, as well as a quarter-sawn neck designed to be additionally slimmer for easier playing. Two '57 Classic humbucker pickups deliver the gritty midrange tone through Alnico II magnets designed and built just like the original legendary PAFs. A classic vibe without a hint of humming is therefore guaranteed.
Representing modern technology implemented with classic tone, Gibson 2014 LPM features a wide range of adjustments and improvements introduced in 2014 to mark the company's anniversary and over a century-long presence at the guitar market. Some of the features include '61 Zebra humbucker pickups delivering the massive tone, bigger strap buttons, Max Grip speed knobs to increase performance and some fancy details such as fine body finish and the special inlay for the 12th fret.
But the biggest new piece of technology implemented within this instrument is the legendary Min-ETune system for automatic tuning. As the name clearly indicates, it's a system allowing the user to change different guitar tunings with a mere flick of a switch. So there's no need for lengthy tuner adjustments and tweaks anymore, simply select the desired guitar tuning and let the Min-ETune do the job. This is quite a handy feature, if we may add.
Getting back to the classic era, the Gibson Les Paul Melody Maker was initially introduced way back in 1959 and had its first production run until 1971. The instrument was made to accommodate lower-budget customers and features a series of economical improvements. A simple construction, basic, yet slick design, as well as single-cavity housing for the electronics department stand out among such notable features.
The series was launched once again during late '70s, once again emphasizing the aspect of simplicity and affordability. That means that even modern Les Paul Melody Makers follow the same pattern, featuring P-90S pickups dating back to classic '40s Gibson and producing lighter single-coil output audio. However, the sound is still crystal clear with a low amount of hum. Most genres and styles are easily covered on this one, so no matter if you prefer clean or overdriven tone, the Les Paul Melody maker definitely has your back covered.
Gibson produced its Les Paul Traditional Pro II with professional players in mind, so it goes to show straight away that we're up for a top-level piece of musical equipment here. Below that beautiful finish, the electronics department was significantly upgraded, adding a 10 dB boost to eliminate any need for a pedal to deliver extra crunch during solo or lead parts.
'57 Super humbucker pickups are in charge of the tone quality and offer stronger output, as well as a broader frequency response. Coil splitting was also implemented, allowing players to put the pickups to different use depending on the needs they might have. In general, this is a serious instrument worthy of just as much props and kudos as every Gibson Les Paul model out there, if not even more.
Any player who knows their guitar history is already aware that the Les Paul was pioneered, developed with the assistance of, and endorsed by the famous jazz-pop artist of the same name. Paul wanted a guitar that better served the needs of jazz guitarists, one that would offer more sustain and feedback resistance than the hollowbody archtops that were the norm at the time, and would also be more versatile sonically.
Of course these qualities also suited electric players in just about every other genre, and Les Paul Goldtops in their earlier incarnations with P-90 pickups quickly wound up in the hands of a diverse range of artists, from formative blues men John Lee Hooker and Freddie King to rock'n'roller Carl Perkins. Following Paul's lead, plenty of jazz players took them up too. Adept at producing thick, warm tones from its neck pickup in particular despite being a solidbodied design, the Les Paul proved a natural choice for plenty of great jazzers. More surprising, perhaps, is the ease with which it adapted to country styles.
Back in the fifties and in the early days of the solid body electric guitar, guitar models were simple in design, barely more than a flat price of wood with minimal accouterments. With the Les Paul Standard, Gibson moved up the aesthetic value of the guitar by designing a stylish and sleek work of art. The move might have seemed strange to followers of Gibson, generally regarded as traditionalists in the field, but on hindsight it was actually an extension of Orville Gibson's radical mandolin designs back in the 19th century. The new member of the Gibson stable was set to have the same caved top form that had so distinguished Orville's earlier designs form the rest of the pack.
The Gibson Les Paul Standard has a solid mahogany body embellished by a carved maple wood top. All Gibson Les Paul guitars have humbucker pick ups that vary depending on the model. The Gibson Les Paul has changed little since its introduction. There have been a few humbucking pickups and updated bridge, but besides these minor changes, this is still the guitar that defined an entire generation of music, from the blues rock of the 60s to the southern rock of the next decade.
Hopefully this brief guide has proved to be useful to you and will ultimately help you in choosing your very own Gibson Les Paul model. There are still plenty of models out there, so feel free to browse and explore even further. Fact is, you simply can't go wrong with most of them, but seeing that these are also relatively pricey devices, it's best to conduct a thorough research and personally test as many models as possible to find the perfect fit. So take it easy, try all the possibilities you can and roll easy.