The Les Paul Tone

Gibson’s humbucking pickups contribute immensely to the Les Paul’s unmistakably classic tone.  These pickups help produce not only a higher output signal, but also give the Les Paul’s tone a mellow quality with markedly decreased treble frequencies.

The heavy wood body of the Les Paul also contributes to its full and mellow tone.  These are some of the heaviest guitars and this helps them easily sustain a deeper bass.  Hardware on almost every Les Paul is standard.  They each consist of 2 volume pots, 2 humbucking pickups and tone controls.  Each of them has a switch that enables three separate combinations.

Gibson Les Paul Classic Humbucker Pickups

  • Position 1: Switch flipped downwards; the Bridge Pickup. This generates a crunchy sound, mostly used for lead guitars (Example: Guns N Roses´s “Paradise City” intro).
  • Position 2: Middle Position (both pickups active), this position provides a sound not too bright nor too mellow, perfect for balanced tone.
  • Position 3: Switch flipped upwards; the Neck Pickup. The sound you get from this position is deeper and more “grave” sounding, with rich sustain perfect for slower solos. Turn the tone control to 0, and you get the well known “woman tone” commonly used by Eric Clapton and Slash.

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.


Gibson Les Paul Traditional

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.


Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom 2

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.


Gibson 2014 LPM

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.


Gibson Les Paul Melody Maker

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 Les Paul Traditional Pro II

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 an

Les Paul Pedal board
Custom Pedal Board for Les Paul modified from these.

’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.

A Brief History of The Les Paul


The Les Paul was by no means the first solid body electric guitar to hit the market. 60 years before the Les Paul, company founder Orville Gibson had designed the arch top guitar. In 1936, Gibson issued the ES 150, the first standard electric guitar. When it came to designing the Les Paul, the company poured in decades of skills and craftsmanship and the result was a guitar that was a work of art in itself.

In 1952, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Standard’s forerunner, the Goldtop with its renouned P-90 pickups. The Les Paul had an intricately fashioned arch top placed on a solid mahogany body. It included a glued in neck with an adjustable truss rod and a pitched headstock. Also integrated in the deign were the accoutrements that helped distinguish the leader in electric guitars from the rest like a bound fret board and raised pick guard.


Although the Les Paul took off from the very time it appeared on the market, the design was still in its infancy. Two developments were to come which would change the shape of the Les Paul from a wood plank with strings to a classic. In 1957, Gibson was still attempting like other guitar manufacturers to produce a totally noise free performance from the Les Paul. Around this time, designer Seth Lover entered the picture with his patented humbucking pickup. By placing two coils side by side, Lover discovered he could reduce the noise from hum and other electrical disturbances that single coils were so prone to. The result was a deeper richer sound, free of noise while retaining the full, warm, and sustaining tone that has come to define the Les Paul.

Once the sound issues had been smoothened, Gibson proceeded to make another change to the Les Paul. This time the change was purely aesthetic. The carved maple tops were coated with a lush, semi-transparent cherry sunburst finish to enhance the beauty of the maple base. The results were spectacular and the “Burst ” as it came to be known as was not only the most stylish but also the most advanced electric guitar on the scene.

Ironically enough, sales of the Les Paul were declining even as it was undergoing periods of incredible transformation. In 1963, the Les Paul Standard was changed to the flat topped design that we know now as the SG model. The standard was hugely popular with a number of pop and jazz guitarists including the guitar’s namesake Les Paul himself but it was only in the lat 60s that the guitar would finally find its true place – in the hands of some of the greatest rock performers of all time. By the late 60s and early 70s, guitar legends like Jimmy Page, Peter Green and Mick Taylor were endorsing the Les Paul as their rock signature.

Although the Les Paul took a while to catch on, its popularity since has never really subsided. The Les Paul is in all its glory when accompanied by visionary artists and although that doesn’t happen all too frequently, the magic that occurs when these two get together is worth the wait.

The Man Behind The Les Paul


It was legendary jazz guitarist and innovator Les Paul who was responsible for the creation of the greatest acoustic guitar of al time. Paul was not just an accomplished musician, but he was also responsible for some path breaking musical innovations including such concepts as over dubbing, multi tracking, and sound on sound. Born on June 9 1915 as Lester William Polfuss in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Paul took to music at an early age. He began playing the harmonica while at the Barstow school after watching a ditch digger with a harmonica on the street.

Soon he had his own orchestra and was playing at beach parties and dances. After a brief encounter with the banjo, Paul moved on to the guitar.

Paul was unsatisfied by the electric guitars that were sold in the mid 1930s and began experimenting with a few designs of his own. Famously, he created “The Log,” which was nothing more than a length of common 4″ by 4″ fence post with bridge, guitar neck, and pickup attached. For the sake of appearance, he attached the body of an Epiphone hollow-body guitar, sawn lengthwise with The Log in the middle.

This solved his two main problems: feedback, as the acoustic body no longer resonated with the amplified sound, and sustain, as the energy of the strings was not dissipated in generating sound through the guitar body. After a series of experimentations, Les Paul presented his ideas for an electric guitar to the Gibson Company in 1940. His efforts weren’t received with great enthusiasm and it wasn’t until the 1950s that Gibson would take interest in Les Paul’s prototype. The Les Paul Gibson was introduced in 1952.

By the time the Les Paul came out, the guitarist was at the top of his career in spite of an automobile injury that set his arm at an awkward angle. In 1977, he recorded an album of instrumental duets in collaboration with Chet Atkins, but was soon forced to take things slow as a result of heart problems. In 1988 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Les Paul began a regular series of Monday night appearances at Fat Tuesday’s club in New York in 1984 and was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. By the late 1980s, Paul had returned to active weekly live performances in New York City. In 2006, at the age of 90, Les Paul won two Grammys at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards for his album Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played. He also performs weekly, accompanied on piano by John Colianni, at the Iridium Jazz Club, on Broadway in New York City, despite the arthritis that has stilled all but two of the fingers on his left hand.

Paul continues to perform on occasion, all the while indulging his curiosity in a basement workshop at his home in New Jersey. Aside from tower figure in the development of the Les Paul Guitar, Paul is also credited as the inventor of multitrack recording, and various reverberation and echo effects.

What Makes a Les Paul Unique

The Les Paul is well established in the classic rock genre. The classic British blues-rock has been shaped almost entirely by this instrument’s unique sound. Other rock that needs a thick, rich tone and playability as well as good sustainability is easily played on the Gibson Les Paul.

This guitar can be used for much more than rock. The solid-body Gibson Les Paul first appeared some fifty five years ago and has since showed that it can play near everything. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting out with a new guitar or a guitar aficionado who appreciates classic beauty, the Les Paul will appeal to you. Here are just a few reasons why the Les Paul is such a cult favorite amongst professionals and amateurs alike.

1. The Les Paul makes it easy to get to those high notes without too much effort, compared to standard guitar that have any kind of mobile bridges (such as the standard tremolo, floyd rose etc)


2. Not belying the presence of two humbucking pick ups you can receive a wonderfully clean note on your Les Paul


3. With the Tune-o-Matic bridge, you don’t have to worry about your Les Paul going out of tune during the middle of a gig.


4. The versatility of the Les Paul makes it suitable for virtually any genre of music, ranging from rock to heavy metal to rock and pop and everything in between.

How to Spot Fake Les Pauls

Gibson Poster

Gibson guitars are synonymous with quality, beauty and are desired by collectors and musicians the world over. The Les Paul, in particular, has aided in the creation of the modern music scene that we know today. However, this makes them expensive in their own right. They are constructed with the finest tone woods and are still very much hand crafted.

Spotting Fakes

As the Gibson Les Paul is a highly valued guitar, many people will try to make fakes that will sell for far more than they are worth. Here are a few ways to help see these fakes. These knockoffs will not get past the experienced players, but they will be able to trap those who are not familiar with guitars. These instruments normally cost from two thousand to three thousand. So if they are offered for a few hundred then they are likely to be fakes.

If any seller is based out of China or another Asian country, then be careful. None of Gibson’s instruments are made in these places. All Gibson guitars are made in the United States of America. In general, be wary of second-hand online marketplaces like eBay where pirated goods could circulate. If you wish to purchase a Gibson Les Paul online, buy it from a respectable store such as Zzsounds.

Be aware of the common body shapes used by Gibson, and check those that you are looking to buy. Most of the fakes have a Gibson logo that is of a thicker font than the real Gibson logo and is aligned almost horizontally at the top of the headstock. The real Gibson logo is a thinner font and is angled with the G started near the post of the D string tuner. The real key is to look at the truss rod cover. Real Gibsons have a bell shaped truss rod cover with TWO screws, whereask fakes typically have THREE screws. Also, the copies of Les Paul Standards often say “Gibson” right on the truss rod cover, NO Les Pauls say Gibson on the truss rod cover, some Epiphone Les Pauls do but those aren’t made in the USA and say Epiphone at the top of the headstock not Gibson.

The fakes will normally be imprinted with genuine appearing serial numbers. However, they will normally not line up with the production years of the real Gibson guitars. On the custom shop Historic and VOS Les Paul guitars, the logo is silk-screened where the fakes use decals.

All well made real Les Paul guitars will come with original Gibson cases. These cases are as well made as the guitar itself many times. If there is not a case included in the sale, or if the seller offers to use a case other than the original Gibson case, then that could be a warning sign.

Maybe the easiest way to check is to ask the seller. Many will tell you that they are made in China. As stated already, not a single Gibson is made in China. All those that claim to be from there are fakes. A Gibson Les Paul is an expensive buy and as such should be treated carefully. As it is a large investment to get such a fine instrument, be sure to go to a seller with a good reputation, preferably an online retailer with a solid history of selling real Gibson guitars.

Famous Les Paul Players

The list of musicians who have played a Les Paul at some point in their careers is long and varied and includes such stellar names as Clapton, Page, Beck and Slash. The Les Paul’s appeal hasn’t been restricted to rock legends though. It’s popularity with Guitarists from almost every genre testify to its versatility. From blues legends like John Lee Hooker to country stars like Brooke and Dunn and Jazz maestros like Les Paul himself, the Les Paul magic has touched them all. Here’s a partial list of players who use or have used Les Paul Guitars during their careers:



is an English guitarist, composer and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds, from late 1966 to 1968, before founding the English rock band Led Zeppelin. Page has been described as one of the all-time most influential, important, and versatile guitarists and songwriters in rock history. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Page #9 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.



He is an English-American guitarist best known as the former lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses and as the current lead guitarist of Velvet Revolver. Slash won the “Best Guitarist” prize in the 2005 Esky Music Awards in Esquire magazine. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” placed #37 on Guitar World’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos.” It also came in at number three on Blender’s 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, and at number 196 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 6 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.



He’s an American guitarist best known as an original member and lead guitarist for the rock band Kiss founded by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. He took on the persona of “Space Ace” when the band adopted costumes and theatrics. Frehley played with the group from its inception in 1973 until his departure in 1982. After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a moderately successful solo career, which was put on hold when he rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a highly successful reunion tour.



He’s an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who first gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles. McCartney and John Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history. McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history, with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles.



He’s an award-winning English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and writer. Townshend made his name as the guitarist and principal songwriter for rock band The Who. His career with them spans more than 40 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the greatest and most influential rock bands of all time. Townshend is the primary songwriter for the group, writing over 100 songs on the band’s eleven studio albums, including the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, plus dozens of additional songs that appeared as non-album singles, bonus tracks on reissues, and tracks on rarities compilations such as Odds and Sods.



He was an American musican most well known for his work with his band “The Mothers”. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa established himself as a prolific and highly distinctive composer, electric guitar player and band leader. He worked in various different musical genres and wrote music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesizers and symphony orchestr. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.



He’s an American musician, who is best known for his roles as a guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and founder of Black Label Society. He was lead guitarist and vocalist in Pride & Glory, who released one self-titled album in 1994 before disbanding. As a solo artist he released Book of Shadows in 1996. Zakk Wylde has his signature Gibson Les Paul model, which prominently features black concentric circles on a white background.



He’s a Canadian musician, known as the guitarist for the rock group Rush. Lifeson founded Rush in the summer of 1968, and has been an integral member of the three-piece band ever since. During live performances, Lifeson, like the other members of Rush, performs real-time triggering of sampled instruments, concurrently with his guitar playing. The bulk of Lifeson’s work in music has been with Rush, although Lifeson has contributed to a body of work outside of the band as well.

Want to jam with a les paul just like your favorite rockstar? Check out our informative Les Paul buyer’s guide.

Other famous Les Paul players include: Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses), Lindsey Buckingham, Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), Chris Chasse (Rise Again), Graham Coxon (Blur), Eric Clapton, Steve Clark (Def Leppard), Sheryl Crow, Al Di Meola, Andy Dunlop (Travis), Elliot Easton (Cars), David “The Edge” Evans (U2), Don Felder (Eagles), John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Steve Hackett (Genesis), Kirk Hammett (Metallica), George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield (Metallica), Noel Hogan (The Cranberries), James Honeyman-Scott (The Pretenders), Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones), Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Terry Kath (Chicago), Frank Lero (My Chemical Romance), Kerry Livgren (Kansas), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Bob Marley, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Tom Scholz (Boston), Neal Schon (Santana, Journey), Earl Slick (David Bowie),Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Nancy Wilson (Heart), Neil Young

Gibson Les Paul Buyers Guide

Whether you’re a beginner learning to strum, or a professional looking to better his tone, choosing a Les Paul can be a challenge. There are close to 127 models that have been released under the Les Paul name since 1952. To make your decision easier it helps to remember that they are all derived from 3 basic models. There are currently about 13 or so variations on the basic Les Paul design around today.

All models feature a ‘Tune-o-matic’ bridge and a stop bar tailpiece, and can be with or without a scratch guard. Apart from reissues, all Les Pauls now feature humbuckers. They are mostly mahogany, but there is now a series called ‘SmartWood Exotics’ which feature a number of exotic woods. There are a number of variations and reisues based on the above but slightly different, and they all feature Les Paul’s signature on the headpiece.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a Gibson Les Paul, you may consider getting one online. Buying a les paul online will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. However, we strongly recommend that you pick an online retailer with an established reputation and credibility such as



This is the contemporary version of the model that was introduced in ’58-’59. It was reintroduced in 1976. This model has a smaller peg head, green push keys, and in bushing. The body and neck are solid mahogany while the fret board is made of maple and rosewood. All hardware is nickel.

Thanks to the Burst bucker Pro pickups, the tone is tight and balanced with increased midrange. Up until 1957 they featured single coil soap bar pickups, after which they switched to Humbuckers. The hardware is chrome. In the 1960s Gibson introduced the ‘slim-taper’ neck, which changes in thickness only about a tenth of an inch from the first fret to the twelfth and maintains a precisely controlled width to thickness ratio, designed to promote speed while reducing player fatigue. The Standard is now available with or without the slim-taper neck.



Introduced in 1983. A more refined version of the guitar, with a thinner body and more advanced electronics designed by Les Paul himself. Low impedance electronics were used for an improved signal to noise ratio and a very clean tone. The thinner body changed the tonal qualities of the instrument somewhat, but the improved electrics allowed higher quality in recording situations.

The same woods are used but there is no binding. This model is a watered down version of the Standard. It comes in a wide choice of finishes and has a sleek minimal look and features an optional plus top. The Les Paul Studio is intended to be played in a recording studio and is the favorite of guitarists who want a guitar that combines the Les Paul’s classic performance with a modern edge.



This is something of a piece de resistance in the Les Paul stable, and is the most expensive model. Introduced in 1954, the Custom is perhaps the most beautiful Les Paul with its elegant colourings and gold hardware. It features multi-ply binding on a maple neck and mahogany back and top.

Essentially it is the same as a Standard, but with slicker aesthetics. It’s designed with a single piece mahogany neck and a carved maple top. Aesthetics include a warm mahogany finish and gold hardware. The 2 hum buckers ensure a warm quality to the tone, making this the perfect lead guitar. Other features include a tune-o-matic bridge and a stop bar tail piece.



Epiphone got its name from its founder, Epaminodas Stathopoulo, known as “Epi.” and was one of Gibson closest competitors back in the archtop guitar market during the 40s and 50s. Gibson acquired Epiphone in 1957 and today Epiphone is a subsidary of Gibson, producing licensed “economy” versions of, among other models, the Les Paul.

Epiphone Les Pauls are competitively priced and offer extremely good value for a reasonably high quality guitar. However, here a few things to note while buying an Epiphone Gibson:

– Gibsons are made in the US while Epiphones are made outside the country (usually Korea and China).
– Gibson guitars come with an ultra light thin nitra cellulose coating that takes weeks to perfect. Epiphones comes with a less labor intensive polyurethane finish which doesn’t take long to apply and is also more durable.
– Gibson uses high quality woods like South American mahogany in its designs. Epiphone guitars use less expensive materials like a combination of alder and mahogany, making them more affordable than the upscale Gibson models.
– Gibsons have a lighter tone overall in contrast to the Epiphones’ darker tones.
– The Pickups, electronics and internal wiring of Gibson Les Pauls is of substantially higher quality than their Epiphone counterparts.


If you’re watching your wallet, the Epiphone Les Paul Junior or LP Special might be a safe bet. A little more expensive are the Epiphone Les Paul Custom and the Les Paul Classic. If you’re in the mood to splurge then you can’t go wrong with a Gibson les Paul Standard or Gibson Les Paul Custom.

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Gibson Les Paul Variations


Many guitarists go looking for the ultimate Les Paul guitar will be confronted with the huge varieties that exist. Why so many different types? Because as the best set-neck, solid-body guitar many people want to use it, but not all will be able to in its standard format. So with a small change here and there, it can be used by many different players for many different styles of music.

This wide variety is in no way a new development. Many of the golden year Les Paul guitars have such variations on the standard model. The most notable difference lies in the neck and fret dimensions, giving the guitar a very different feel. Some very small but important differences exist between the models of the Les Paul as far back as the ‘50s.

Normally the 1958-’60 Custom Shop Les Paul VOS variants share many similarities. They are more similar than different in fact. By a close look you can see the differences in specs that will try to simulate different model years of the original Les Paul to suit different players. The 1958 Standard VOS has a larger neck to reflect the rounded profile of the guitars of the year that gives it its name. In the past the necks were profiled by hand, so each year came with a generally different shape of neck. Models just a year or two apart could have fairly different shape because of this. The 1960 Les Paul has a much thinner, tapered neck that is far different from those before it. These later models also came with wider frets more like the original. In this three year span, the guitar has changed a good deal in shape.

A lot of players prefer the fatter tone of the early ‘50s necks, and the 1958 profile gives them the guitar that they want. The thin vintage-gauge frets give a more accurate chord and single note that many players find attractive. Rock and blues player like the thinner necks and wider frets because they can speed up their music and use more wide bends respectively. Eric Clapton used a Les Paul, most likely a ’58 or ’60, with a thinner neck to create his blues-rock noises. Not even he knows which year it was as it was stolen from him in ’66. Jimmy Page’s best Les Paul was a ’58 with a custom, elliptical neck remade my Gibson as the Jimmy Page Signature Model Les Paul.

The perfect Les Paul is not an objective thing. Because of the many different variants based off of the different years of the Les Paul, you will have to find one to fit you and your playing style. The ultimate guitar is out there, but you will have to put a good deal of time into your research to find the one that plays your style music and fits your grip the best.

Gibson Les Paul Guitar Serial Information

headstockbackThe easiest way to find the year of manufacture of a particular Gibson guitar is to reference the instrument’s serial number of factory order number.

In the 1970s, Gibson standardized the serial number system that is still in use today. The typically eight-digit serial numbers on Gibson guitars are stamped on the backside of the headstock. The first and the fifth number combined show the year that the instrument was made. The second, third, and fourth numbers show on which day of that year the instrument was made. The sixth number represents the location where the instrument was made, and the last two digits show the “production run” number.

From 1975-1977 the number is typically found on a decal on the back of the headstock, this should be an 8 digit number that can be dated by the 1st and 2nd digits as follows:

  • 99 = 1975
  • 00= 1976
  • 06 = 1977

In 1977, Gibson introduced the serialization method that we primarily use to this day at Gibson USA, Gibson Acoustic, and the Gibson Custom facility in Memphis, TN.

The serial number will be an 8 digit number impressed into the back of the headstock with “MADE IN USA” below.

The pattern is as follows:
YY is the production year
DDD is the day of the year
RRR is the factory ranking/plant designation number.
Prior to 1984 when the Kalamazoo, MI factory was closed, the numbers 001-499 indicated Kalamazoo production. Ranking numbers 500-999 continued to indicate Nashville production through 1989.

Since 1989, all Gibson acoustics are built in Bozeman, MT and all Gibson electrics are built in Nashville or Memphis. Ranking numbers for Bozeman start each day at 001 and the electrics may start as low as the 300s.

Examples: 70108276 means the instrument was produced on Jan. 10, 1978, in Kalamazoo and was the 276th instrument stamped that day.

82765501 means the instrument was produced on Oct. 3, 1985, in Nashville and was the 1st instrument stamped that day.

NOTE – Gibson USA goes to a 9 digit serial number in early July 2005..
The sixth number is now a batch number- batch 0 starts at the beginning of the day, and once we stamp 699, the batch number will change to 1. The first 5 numbers remain the same, the last 3 numbers will remain the same. The only difference is the addition of this batch indicator.

There are always exceptions to these rules, the two listed below are worth noting:

Les Paul Classic: This model features an ink stamped serial number with no “MADE IN USA” (just as we used on the original 1952-1960 Les Pauls). Most will be 5 to 6 digits in length, but the earliest examples feature 4 digit serial numbers. There should be a space after the 1st digit with the 4 and 5 digit serial numbers, and no space with the 6 digit numbers.

The 1st digit indicates the year of manufacture for the 4 & 5 digit serial numbers, these were used from 1989-1999. The 1st and 2nd indicate the year of manufacture for the 6 digit serial numbers which we’ve been using since 2000.

Examples –
9 xxx = 1989 (4 digit number beginning with “9” used only in 1989)
0 xxxx = 1990
9 xxxx = 1999
00xxxx = 2000
05xxxx = 2005

Those beginning with “94”:
In 1994, Gibson’s Centennial year, many instruments have a serial number that begins with “94” for the year, with the remaining 6 digits indicating the ranking number.



Most regular production models since ca. 1993. Many ’80s and early ’90s serial numbers may follow a similar scheme, but may not include a factory ID code.
F= Factory code (this can be 2 letters as well)
YY= year of manufacture (this can also be just 1 digit for ’90s models)
MM= month of manufacture
R= ranking number (may be more or less digits, not necessarily indicative of total units produced)
Example – S02021234 was issued in Feb. 2002.

Another code used on some current Epiphone models
F= Factory code
YY=Year of manufacture
M= This will be a letter code corresponding to the month (A=January, B=February, etc…)
RRRR= ranking number
Example – R03D0263 was issued in April 2003.

Epiphone Elite/Elitist models
F= Factory Code (this code will be an “F” or “T”)
Y= Year of manufacture (2 = 2002, 3 = 2003, etc.)
SSSS= Sequential Serial Number
Example – T41234 is a 2004 Elitist model