Gibson Les Paul: all about Les Paul Standard and Epiphone Les Paul guitars
The Gibson Les Paul is the third most popular solidbody guitar in the world. This wide acceptance is due to its characteristic sound, as well as the high quality of its construction and variety of models. Although it isn't the most versatile of all, there are recent versions that have a very broad adaptability and can be used to interpret different musical genres. From rock to blues to jazz, R&B, funk and soul, the Les Paul is one of the most widely used guitars in the world.
Want to know more about Gibson's Les Paul guitars? In this article we tell you their history, characteristics, differences between the Gibson Les Paul Standard, Custom, Studio and Epiphone Les Paul. If you are interested in learning more about them, at culturasonora you can find reviews about the best Gibson guitars on the market.
Origin of the Gibson Les Paul
This model was launched in 1952 as a proposal for a solid body electric guitar created to compete with Fender guitars. Its creators were Ted McCarty and Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul, one of the most versatile and innovative guitarists in the music world.
The data about the prototype of this guitar is curious because it was called the “Log”. It was a guitar composed of a single piece of wood, created with the intention of reducing the problems that archtop guitars generated as a result of their hollow soundboard.
This model was rejected by Gibson executives and was pejoratively referred to as “the broom”. But after the success of the solid body Fender guitar, they had to reconsider the Les Paul prototype.
Characteristics of the first Gibson Les Paul
The first Les Paul had many features that remain today:
This guitar has always been known for having a small body and a basic shape. It gives the impression that they used the union of two circles as a pattern, a large one for the base and a smaller one for the top. It also has a single cutaway, with a slightly curved top and features a pickguard.
The total length of the guitar from the base to the tip of the headstock was 99.85 cm. The body was 43.80 cm and the mast 55.5 cm, while the width of the body was 33.05 cm at the base and 24.87 cm at the top. The thickness of the body varied because the solid part was 4.5 cm and with the thickness of the added top it reached 5 cm, but the high part of the curvature of this top was up to 6.1 cm thick.
Today, the mahogany body wood used on the first Les Paul is still used. The top was made of drawn or flamed maple and mahogany for the neck, with rosewood for the fingerboard.
At present, only maple and red ash woods have been added for the body. The neck is made of mahogany and maple, but the fingerboard is made of rosewood, ebony, maple and richlite, a composite polymeric material that has great resistance but little acoustic capacity.
This is another element that has not changed in appearance, because the first Gibson Les Paul had two single mics, one on the bridge side and one at neck height. They were controlled by four potentiometers, two independent volume potentiometers and two independent tone potentiometers for each mic.
Switching between mics was done with a three-way selector that, in the first position, activated only the first mic. The second position created a double humbucker with the bridge and neck mic and the third position activated only the fingerboard pickup. Another modern variation is that of three humbucker microphones that can work in series, although it's not very popular among Les Pauls.
At present, this form remains almost unchanged and only one variation can be distinguished when looking at the internal system. The most significant changes are the evolution from passive to active, powered by a 9 V battery and some with dual 18 V batteries. Push pull and dual stick potentiometers have also been added, along with volume switches, one of them called Kill Switch.
The active system has been incorporated into the pots by adding a small electronic board for individual pots or a large electronic system board for all potentiometers.
Evolution of the Gibson Les Paul guitar
The development of these guitars has been a path of success, but they have also experienced difficult moments:
- 1952: The first Les Paul appears on the market, with the basic features described above and the P90 microphones. Due to their low quality, they almost went out of the market, but the company decided to continue production.
- 1954: The Gibson Les Paul Custom appeared this year thanks to Les Paul's insistence on improving all the drawbacks of the previous model. It incorporated a thinner neck, lower profile frets, alnico pickups in the bridge and the modern Tune-O-Matic. The same year the Gibson Les Paul Junior was born as an inexpensive option for students. The top was flat and had a microphone.
- 1958: the Gibson Les Paul Standard was released. It's the first to incorporate humbucker type microphones , in addition to wearing the colors cherry sunburst and cherry.
- 1960 to 1968: During these years, production stopped due to difficulties with Les Paul. Instead, a model called Solid Guitar began to be manufactured, which had a somewhat rudimentary tremolo lever. SGs continue to be made without the tremolo and have become one of the most iconic guitars of all time.
- 1968: From this year onwards, the production of Les Pauls was resumed thanks to a new agreement with the guitarist who gave his name to the series. To this day, the Gibson Les Paul Standard, Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Studio, Les Paul Special and Epiphone Les Paul series are still in production.
Gibson and Epiphone
One of Gibson's rival brands was the Epiphone guitar, which is why it was acquired by Gibson. At first, their guitars bore no resemblance to Gibson guitars, but after the change of ownership they began to build the same Gibson models, albeit in cheaper versions. This is how the Epiphone Les Paul, Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Epiphone Les Paul Standard and others were released.
In 1990, they started manufacturing in Japan, but soon left the country due to high costs. From there they moved on to South Korea and then to Indonesia and China.
Among the most popular are the Epiphone Sheraton, Epiphone Crestwood, Epiphone Olympic and The Professional. The most sought after are the Epiphone Casino and the Limited Edition 50th Anniversary, inspired by John Lennon's Casino.
Difference between the Gibson Les Paul and the Epiphone
These guitars are almost identical in appearance, but when we pay attention to the woods and electronics we can realize the great difference between them.
- Design and measurements: The measurements and design of Gibson Les Paul and Epiphone Les Paul guitars are identical. However, there is some difference in the shape of the mast. It can be “C” or “U” and other designs that are present on Gibson but not on Epiphone Les Paul.
- Woods: Both brands use the same woods, such as mahogany, maple, rosewood, ebony and others. However, Epiphone's are AA class, while Gibson's are AAA and AAA+, i.e. much better. Also, the maple top on Epiphone guitars is a plywood, not solid. But Gibson's are solid wood in all models.
- Electronics: Here too, everything changes, from the wire, ceramic and alnico type, as well as the active and passive system. Everything is much more specialized on the Gibson, although there are a few exceptions on the more expensive Epiphone Les Pauls.
- Sound: To summarize, many Epiphone Les Pauls have a plastic, poorly processed sound, while Gibson's sound is clearer, with more punch and huge sustain. However, we can find several Epiphone Les Paul Standard and Epiphone Les Paul Custom models that are of very high quality and even comparable to mid-range Gibson.
Epiphone Les Paul Guitarists
There are several names that can be mentioned and each one of them has left an indelible mark in the history of music. Among Epiphone's great ambassadors we find:
- Bob Marley: The unforgettable Bob Marley, king of reggae. He used an Epiphone Les Paul in almost all of his performances and record productions, and a signature model was made in his honor.
- Noel Gallagher: Guitarist of the band Oasis, has his own Epiphone line.
- Tony Lommi: He also has his own Epiphone Les Paul model.
As we have seen so far, the differences between them are not identifiable to the naked eye, but with a trained ear you can recognize the differences in sound at a distance. Nevertheless, we recommend some excellent Epiphone Les Paul models.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Ebony
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is the most common model and has a good sound quality. The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Pro is the best choice because it has AAA woods and the dual “passive and active” system that the Gibson Les Paul Studio has.
Gibson Les Paul Studio 2019 EB
The Les Paul Studio is the best of them all, both in terms of wood quality and in terms of design and electronics. Its body is made of ultra-light AAA class mahogany and the top is AAA+ maple. It has improved neck ergonomics and the active preamp capability is impressive with its dual action “passive active” potentiometers. You can find it in a Wine Red color.