A Thoughtful Article about The Big Three: the Gibson Les Paul Traditional, Standard, and Classic!

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Jumping in the deep water: What’s my opinion on the difference between the Gibson Les Paul Standard, The Gibson Les Paul Classic, and the Gibson Les Paul Traditional? Are there things that might help me choose one for myself?

My thoughts about The Big Three non-custom Top-Shelf Gibson Les Pauls!

Gibson Les Paul: The value and “best-ness” of the Classic vs. Traditional vs. Standard is based upon a very personal set of feelings and practicalities. The features, price, and benefits of Gibson’s non-custom pinnacle Les Pauls are dizzying and often are mystifying to someone who hasn’t studied the Les Paul line for very long. It is very important to note that Gibson changes the specs for these guitars almost yearly. So, please don’t email to say things like “year x model y doesn’t have…” The purpose of this article is really about a general comparison between the three. If I’ve made any mistakes, grin and bear it, please 🙂

Gibson Les Paul Classic body shot Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Classic body shot Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

It’s no wonder that most new-to-Top-Shelf Gibson Les Paul players (and soon-to-be Top-Shelf Gibson Les Paul players!) get a bit confused on what guitar is right for them, particularly when they first aim their sights at a Les Paul. One could easily say that “just go to the store and play all three varieties, and play older ones and new ones, then buy the one that is ‘right’ for you.” As easy as that is to say, it’s very difficult to do.

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Not everyone can afford a new Standard. Not everyone has access to a guitar store with lots of models available to try. Not everyone can sit down in a guitar store and even concentrate long enough to get a good, thoughtful view of a given guitar. A Gibson Les Paul is a big purchase for guitar players: if a player is going for models above Specials and Studios, it’s important to make a good decision up front… So, let’s look at some of the objective things we can share that help players make decisions. The good news? If you choose one of the three types, Classic, Traditional, or Standard, you’ll have a GREAT guitar! There is NO wrong choice!

Gibson LeGibson Les Paul Classic Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.coms Paul Traditional Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Classic Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Also to note, recent Gibson models (so far, 2016 and 2017 of all models like SG, Firebird LP, etc.) have a new “T” or “Traditional” designation – which is offered as an alternative to the new (2016-2017 so far) HP models. This is not the same thing as a Gibson Les Paul Traditional. Weirdly enough, you can have a Gibson Les Paul Traditional T/Traditional. That’s as opposed to a Gibson Les Paul Traditional HP/High Performance. I own a 2016 Gibson Les Paul Traditional Traditional. Fun, yes?

Before we dive into the details: Know that Gibson has produced a HUGE array of Les Pauls over the past 60+ years. The Classic, Traditional, and Standard are only a small part of the models available to a guitar player… This review is just a conversation about these three particular extraordinary guitar models.

Gibson Les Paul Classic Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Classic Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

A Quick Look at The Big Three

Production and Availability Short Timeline

Let’s start with the simpler, objective parts in summary so we can start with a clear understanding.

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

The Basics

Note that these are generalizations of these models over their lifetimes… there might be differences between model years or even sub-models. This handy list is a general guide as opposed to a verbatim perfect enumeration of absolutes.

  • All three models have a mahogany body and a mahogany neck
  • All three models have carved maple tops (also called maple caps) some minor variations have special tops or are all mahogany – these non-maple-topped LPs are very unusual.
  • All three models have bound bodies and bound necks – the binding is often different amongst the three, but binding is present. The binding on the body is on the front side only, covering the transition from maple to mahogany.
  • All three feature (typically) rosewood fingerboards with some sort of trapezoidal or four-sided 3rd-fret-and-up inlays
  • Each model includes (typically) a four-control layout (V-V-T-T) Some Classics came with a mini-switch boost instead of a second tone.
  • Each model includes some sort of three-way toggle switch in the upper bass-side bout, like Les Paul designed in the first LPs.
  • Each model has the tried-and-true 3×3 machine head headstock/peghead.
  • All three, in their every-day form, have a tune-o-matic style bridge and a metal stop bar and stud posts. Some varieties do get produced with tremolos or other tail treatments. The vast majority are stop-bar guitars.
  • Each model (typically, with some exceptions) has two pickups and is largely comprised of two humbuckers – note that many times over the years, at least two of these models have been offered in 2xP90 or P90+Humbucker versions. Many specialized and store-specific versions have been popped out in recent years… There have been rare one-pickup models.
  • All three models typically have the Gibson logo inlaid with mother of pearl or a similar colorful material
  • All three models have been built with fancy and plain tops – the style of the top differs from year to year and sometimes even to vendor-specific builds
  • All Gibson Les Paul Guitars are made in the USA.
Gibson Les Paul Traditional Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Some high-level differences

Remember, these are simplified generalizations to help cut this writing down from an entire book to a single multi-page web review…

  • Although the Classic, Standard, and Traditional bodies are all bound, the binding is often different/thinner/different colors.
  • In recent years, the weight of the body is very different from model to model.
    • Traditionals are the heaviest, with some years being no weight relief and some being very little weight relief.
    • Classics tend to be in the middle weight, varying quite a bit between the Traditional and the Standard – with each year’s model being possibly different. Go with your gut on these, if it feels heavier, it is…
    • The Standard, being the much older model, has had lots of iterations of body weight relief… it is often the lightest of the three models, but some old models are really heavy.
  • Traditionals and Standards tend to have covered pickups, Classics have not (in my experience) had covers on the pickups.
  • Classics and Standards of the past couple of decades have had metal sealed tuners such as Gibsons or Grovers.
  • Traditionals (except the Pro models) have been almost entirely the traditional Kluson-/Deluxe-style Green-key/keystone/tulip tuners
  • In my own 4 decades of experience, the most one-piece backs I have seen have been in the Traditionals, closely followed by the Standards. I have not yet seen a one-piece back on a Classic. Note that it is rare that Gibson actually says they will feature a one-piece back. I think the luthier who picks the wood from the stack will be the one to choose 1, 2, or (rarely) three pieces… it varies based on wood supply and supply quality. Each individual guitar is truly just that – an individual… I’ve seen great wood in the backs and I’ve seen not-so-good matches or wood in the backs – even on Standards.
  • Necks are REALLY a subject of MUCH argument, conversation, and preference, but I can say a few things in general
    • Traditionals tend to be thicker necks, often called “50s” necks.
    • The Standards defined what a “Les Paul” neck is, so it varies wildly with the decades… Old ones tend to be thicker, like the “50s necks” (ergo the name), or can be thinner/faster like the “60s” necks. The best thing is to trust your own opinion with guitar in hand… if it feels thick or thin, it is what you think it is. If you are new to Les Pauls, try two that are clearly different and find out what YOU like – you’re the one that matters
    • In my experience, Classics are almost always like the 60s neck profiles. They’re often the most like a “C” shape that’s fairly consistent from nut to heel.

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Gibson Les Paul Traditional Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Traditional Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

A New-to-Les-Pauls Buying Guide

Looking to buy a nice top-end Gibson Les Paul, but don’t have the funds for a Custom or a Custom Shop? Read these bullets and ask questions of yourself. Everyone else’s opinion is NOT more valuable than yours. If you like it, you like it – no matter what the salesman or the “old guitar guy” says (I can say that! I’m an OLD guitar guy!) As with almost anything involving humans, there tend to be Curmudgeons who want to tell you what you want because THEY know what’s the right answer! 🙂 Ignore them and trust yourself.

  • First and foremost, know that if you buy any one of the three, Standard, Traditional, or Classic, you’ll get a GREAT guitar! You can’t go far wrong with any of the three. RELAX and enjoy!
  • Ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly. Often two of the models will fit your needs, sometimes all three!
    • Does standing up with a fairly heavy guitar on a strap for a good while seem OK, or is it a problem?
      • If you always sit, weight isn’t so much an issue and all three models will do fine. If you always stand and don’t have trouble with a bass or a heavy guitar, all three models are fine. If you find the strap painful and don’t like heavy guitars, try an Ultra-Modern Weight Relief or Modern Weight Relief Gibson Les Paul Standard. The next lightest is the Classic.
    • Do you have small or large hands and/or fingers?
      • If your hands and or fingers are short/small, the thinner 60s necks will do well for you, so either a Classic or a 60s neck Standard (there have been LOTS of both in the Standard line) will be the one for you.
      • If your hands and or fingers are longer or larger, you might find the 50s neck to be more substantial and more comfy – that means the Traditional is right in your sweet spot, as well as a few specific 50s neck Standards. These are more like the old-time guitar neck shape.
    • Do you want high-output sound, traditional (vintage) output sound, or medium output sound?
      • If you want a more modern higher-output sound, the Classic is a great choice. This is not a 21 kOhm ceramic sound – it’s largely a 10 kOhm Alnico V sound particularly in the bridge.
      • If you want vintage or moderate sound in the 7-8 kOhm range you can trust the Traditional to get you there. Most have Gibson’s 57 pickups – although I’ve seen some with Alnico II BurstBucker unbalanced coil non-potted covered pups. These are both sweet, nicely EQ’d humbuckers. It’s hard to go wrong here.
      • If you want just a little more juice and a little more crunch without going modern (high 7 kOhm range to the low 9 kOhm range), the current-year Standard is the Standard (what’s in a name? 🙂 ). The standard has been offered different ways over the decades… much of the time with the original PAF humbucker, Bill Lawrence-era humbuckers, and MANY more… In the recent two decades Standards typically come with the Gibson 57, and more recently often with the BurstBucker Pro (Alnico V) pickups. Gibson is always updating the Standard, and it still is the pinnacle of the desirable NICE Gibson Les Paul when it comes to the pickup sound.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Standard Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

  • Does the LOOK of the guitar mean something important to you? Does it need to look like a 58-59 Les Paul, or does it need to look like something more recent?
    • The looks of a guitar are REALLY Subjective, I’ll offer my opinions in the What Jim Thinks and Likes section… read on

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What Jim Thinks and Likes

So, to set up this opinion part of this review/article, let me start by saying that my preferences are my preferences. It makes me HAPPY for YOU to have YOUR own opinions, and you should like what you like, so I won’t go there (telling you what is “Best” for you).

I have big hands and long fingers. I’m very tall, and I am strong as an draught horse. As a tendency, I like bigger frets (not part of this LP discussion) and thicker necks because they feel right in my hands. I do, however still enjoy flat or thin necks too! I think playing a library of very different guitars is great for my sound! For me, it’s an adventure. That said, when the chips are down, I like a substantial neck and a solid and heavy body to give me that tone and sustain I CRAVE CRAVE CRAVE.

YES, I DO remember 50s Les Pauls (used, of course) on guitar store walls. YES, I have dreamed of the “golden years” Gibson Les Pauls. YES I have played them. NO, I cannot afford to own any of the originals. I’ve been watching them ever since. So for me, a “Les Paul” has always been a comparison to those great used Les Pauls of my childhood: snot-green Deluxe tuning keys, gorgeous yet simple maple caps and really GREAT well-feathered bursts, NIBBED binding on the neck, binding on the front of the body, two covered humbuckers, a yellowing or amber-ing switch tip, and those dark-aged-amber-gold-brown hat knobs. That will always be a “Les Paul” to me. But remember, that’s ME. You don’t have to see it that way :-). That’s what lights up my heart. But I’m a PolyGuitarist, so read on!

Gibson Les Paul Standard Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Standard Body shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Even though my childhood favorites had hat-shaped knobs, I find them VERY difficult to use for the subtleness of volume and tone changes. They feel slippery and are harder for my big fingers to grab. They’re even harder to use when doing a pinky-wrapped volume knob swell on the bridge pickup in Lead mode. I really always end up changing hat knobs of any kind out to speed knobs on my personal instruments. They just feel better. As much as I liked the absolute grab-ability of the super speed knobs of the 2013-2015 time range, I don’t like the sharpness of the knurls on the ends of them. So, just plain speed knobs for me, thank you. All the Classics I have ever played came standard with speed knobs. The Standards and Traditionals are truly a mixed bag. Since these are easy to change to one’s preferences, I wouldn’t recommend one model over the other based what kind of control knobs the guitar has.

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I do think the Classic and Standard with the weight relief are much easier on the strap shoulder and actually kind of balance a little better with the neck. But these days, I almost exclusively play in the studio, so I’m mostly sitting down and the weight factor only comes into play with my perception of tone and sustain. I LOVE my two Traditionals very much. My Standard is awesome if I want that particular harmonic feel and sound. I do have a Les Paul Classic 7 string with Seymour Duncan pups (factory) and an ebony finish. It’s not as satisfying for me as my new Standard LP 7, so I will be selling the Classic soon. I haven’t had a Les Paul Classic 6 string in a few years because I really didn’t like the nib-less neck binding and some of the colors… However, I am going to change that later this year when my savings make it practical to get one of the 2017 Classic Les Pauls. They REALLY play nicely and do blues and rock REALLY well. The 2017 Classics come in some really interesting colors, too! I’m hoping to find an awesome deal on a 2017 Green Ocean Burst (Listening, Gibson ;-)? )

My latest Gibson Les Paul Standard is actually new to me and is a (yes, I LOVE it!) 7 string with a GORGEOUS AAA tobacco-burst top and dark back that is made with lots of love and is definitely one of my few life-long heirloom keepers. I’ve had others in the past that were wonderful, but I keep sticking with the Traditionals. I would have preferred a brown transparent back so I can see the back wood, but I’m OK for now, as the top is almost 3D! Interestingly, I found some Hipshot green-key buttons that fit nicely on the 7 Grovers on the Standard, so the guitar looks a bit like it’s a fancy old model with an extra string. I’ll review this guitar soon! I have really loved my other Les Paul Standard guitars – I’ve just been tending to stick with Traditionals these days.

Finally, in the opines section of this writing, I’d like to say that my selected Les Paul Traditionals (2010 and 2016) are both SUPERB and practically play themselves. I sought and found both with one-piece backs, nibbed binding, 57 humbuckers, and Gibson Deluxe green-key tuners. They’re heavenly. The 2010 is an Ice Tea burst with a cherry back that was made on the painter’s best day of the year! The 2016 saw one of the nicest AA (borderline AAA) flamed maple tops I’ve ever seen with honey burst and a brown-stained back. Both have neck carves with which someone at Gibson TOOK THEIR TIME. I wish I had not sold my 2014 Gibson Les Paul Traditional: it had the super-hard-to-find Gibson 1959 Tribute Humbuckers in it, a one-piece back, had nibbed binding, and had one of the best inlay jobs I’ve ever seen on any Gibson.

zZounds has a massive array of new and like-new Gibsons of lots of different models!

Gibson Les Paul Classic Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Gibson Les Paul Classic Neck shot. Image (C) Rights holders of Gibson.com

Just Like my guitar reviews: Wishes and Wants

  • Dear Gibson, keep innovating. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers who keep saying, “The only way to make a Les Paul is a copy of a 59 Les Paul Standard.” It’s always great to be able to buy a newly-built version of the 57-59 Les Pauls of great fame. But we don’t need ALL Les Pauls to be the same. Keep trying nuts, necks, bodies, electronics, and materials. Some things stick around (like BurstBuckers!) and some things don’t. It’s OK. I LIKE adjustable nuts and I LIKE the new easy-access heels. I don’t like the fret-end-over-binding necks (nib-less), but that’s ME as an individual… Try stuff, keep innovating!
  • Dear Gibson, The 59 Tribute pups you put in the 2014 Traditional were awesome! Bring them back in other models! Not the BurstBucker 59s, the 1959 tributes!
  • Dear Gibson, a 12th fret inlay kerfuffle from 2014 is not the end of the world, even though some traditionalists didn’t like the 120th inlay. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn… The 125th anniversary is soon!
  • Dear Gibson, I love my Les Pauls. I love the variety, I LOVE the fact that two different individuals of a given model and year are slightly different. That way, lots of us can find something we love.
  • Dear Gibson, I wish we could have optional Richlite on one of the Classic, Traditional, or Standard models. Even though some don’t like Richlite, I do! It’s like having ebony, but without having to cut down a millennium-year-old tree to get it. I am a person who likes sustainability.
  • Dear Gibson, Please do the Les Paul Peace again, but this time with nibbed binding! I LOVE those!
  • It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if we Gibson players and buyers could get factory cut and installed real bone nuts!

You can get one of my favorite Gibsons of all time: the Gibson Les Paul Traditional

The Gibson M2 S-Series: USA-made Les Paul-Shaped Sonic Demon! Beginner’s Paradise

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The Gibson M2 S-Series: USA-made Les Paul-Shaped Sonic Demon!!
Perfect for Beginners and Pros, Modders, and Gigging Bands On A Budget

Update: I’ve written a second review with lots of pictures of the inside and outside of my M2.

Update: Gibson now has a product page for the M2 here!

I was fortunate this past Christmas holiday: my wonderful spouse bought me a Gibson! I had been eyeballing the Amazon-exclusive M2 Electric Guitar since they were available on the Amazon site. I was particularly enamored with the Citron Green. Having played my Gibson Firebird Zero for a while now (with my awesome Gibson 57A3 pickups plugged in to the quick-connect system after I took pictures, modded the Zero, and started recording!), I’m very happy with the S-Series. This green monster is wonderful at about 2/3 the price (on sale) of the Firebird Zero, with very few compromises.

I’ve actually kept my eye out for another Amazon sale. I’m hoping to grab a blue, gray, or red one!

zZounds does not have the Gibson M2, since it is an Amazon exclusive. But you can still get the Firebird Zero S2-Series Guitar here!

Quick Opinion:
The Gibson M2 S Series LP-shaped guitar is a wonder of simple engineering, USA handmade goodness, and a perfect student’s instrument! I can’t express enough the fact that this guitar sounds, plays, feels, and IS better than pretty much every Asian-made beginner’s guitar on the market – at any base-model price.

It comes in lots of colors, including an almost PeptoPink, it’s easily available, and Amazon backs up their exclusive Gibsons with their usual easy-return customer service. You can try one out with the knowledge that it is backed by a pro-customer-service company. You can see the specs and buy the M2 here at Amazon.com (opens new window).

The new Gibson M2 electric guitar is huge on features for such a low-end guitar, is made in America, and is the absolute pinnacle of well-made very basic entry-level guitars. You would be hard-pressed to find a nicer and better-playing guitar in this price range with a gig bag, much less one made in the USA. I do see that many Poly-Painted Epiphones are nicer in features and glossy finishes: but the Epiphones still don’t have that American touch to them.

– Series: S Series
– Body Style: Les Paul in general shape, like an LP Melody maker or a thin LP Special. VERY Light! Very well balanced
– Back: Solid poplar
– Neck: One piece solid maple with satin nitro finish
– Neck profile: Slim taper (this is similar to the 60s neck shape on many SGs and Firebirds – but it feels narrower in some way. Each one I’ve played is typical Gibson: hand-hewn and a little different from guitar to guitar.
– Fingerboard: One piece solid rosewood – this is a nice feature for this price point
– Scale length: 24.75 – just as most Gibsons are…
– Number of frets: 22
– Nut: Tektoid – mine are nicely cut and required no work. Nice job on this one Gibson!
– Inlay: Acrylic dots
– Bridge: Adjustable wraparound – this guitar’s cost has a savings by not including the stop tail and its studs.
– Knobs: Black top hats – these are the traditional “student” Gibson knobs. They’re slippery to me, so I usually replace them with knurls or speed knobs.
– Tuners: Mini-buttons – these are a surprise hit! These are a cost savings over Grovers – and the ratio is actually really nice!
– Plating: Chrome
– Neck pickup: Gibson Pro Bucker Rhythm
– Bridge pickup: Gibson Pro Bucker Lead
– Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone, 1 toggle switch (the toggle is the traditional 3-way: neck-neck and bridge-bridge)
– Case: S Series padded gig bag
I know that the M2 isn’t available outside Amazon, but there are other affordable Gibson S Series electric guitars out there at my favorite online retailer: zZounds.com.

Several nice features to point out:
* The paint finish is lacquer, and has a nice smooth feel to it. It’s a bit more satin than the Firebird Zero lacquer, and you can see and feel lots of Poplar grain with your eyes and fingers. It’s interesting: you can see the beautiful waves of Poplar grain on the top and the back of my M2. It’s attractive, actually. The guitar feels right at home when I play it.
* The neck is a nice semi-satin. It doesn’t grab at the player’s skin when palms get sweaty: and it still feels much smoother than most maple necks on inexpensive guitars.
* The electronics are loosely based on the Gibson Quick Connect system. The pickups can be easily switched with others that have the five-pin Quick Connect fitting. A VERY easy upgrade if you ever want BurstBuckers, maybe some 57s, or something screamin’ like some Gibson Dirty Fingers humbuckers or a Gibson 500T Super Ceramic!
* All the non-pickup electronics are attached to the pickguard: to work on them, you don’t even have to pull the strings. The pickguard is completely unfettered when the guitar is strung.
* The controls are simple: one volume, one tone, and a three-way. The jack is front-panel, easy-to-use and will accept an L-connector guitar cable.
* The tuners! WOW. I’m still blown away. Just as nice as the Firebird Zero, just 3+3 instead of inline. My first thought when I saw the pictures was “I’ll find some Klusons or Grovers and replace those: they look maybe too cheap.” I WAS WRONG. They’re high-ratio (maybe 18:1 or 19:1?), very smooth, and work really very well!
* The M2 has a new take on a Melody-Maker-like headstock: it’s thin, without the added wood to give the wide sweeping book-top headstock, but it still looks like Gibson.
* I’ll say it again: it comes with a simply nice gig bag. You rarely get a gig bag with entry-level instruments below $500.

If you’re thinking about hard shell cases, it fits great in a traditional Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul hard case. it fits in my Gibson LP cases, my Epiphone LP case, my SKB LP case, and even some old-fashioned cheap rectangular cases.

This Epiphone case fits the M2 just fine. The M2 is thin, so it isn’t quite as “clamped down” as it would be with a thicker LP shape…

This guitar is nicely balanced. it is thin and light – so much so that when you put it on a strap, it is almost non-fatiguing when you stand and play for hours. If you are a young player with small hands and a petite body, this guitar feels right at home and won’t make you topple over like a traditional weight LP Standard or Traditional. It’s perfect for comfy jamming.

Similar to the Gibson Firebird Zero, I like the finish. It feels good when you’re playing the guitar. The M2 is more satin than the Zero, but it is FAR better than the flat-black guitars that proliferate in the entry-level guitar market. With most non-gloss guitars, fingerprints and funky patches crop up on the first day you play them. With the M2, it looks like the finish has just enough natural gloss to wear in nicely and make a breathable instrument in its old age.

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To reiterate what I said in my Gibson Firebird Zero review (opens a new window), I’ve played (literally) thousands of 2-humbucker electric guitars in my 5+ decade life. Some were $100 new, some were $7000 new. Lots in between. The sound of an electric guitar is partly subjective and partly objective. “How you play it and through what device(s) you play it really change things.”

I think this next part of the Firebird Zero review works just fine for the M2, too, so here’s a short excerpt paste:

For me, the best two measures are: Absolutely clean straight circuit with no effects and no pushing the pre-amp; and a good tube pre-amp running just hard enough to make the sound just a touch growly or fat-jazzy to really feel the body of the sound. Of course, other types of play are important, such as rock, jazz, metal, new age, pedals and such, but the first two of these are the most telling of all.

A good pickup is what you need it to be. Need that SRV sound? Scooped pickup EQ and overdrive is the best way to see if you like the pickups. Need that Tony Iommi sound? Good balance with very clean highs and crushing miss with balanced lows… Need that Dwayne Allman or Derek Trucks sound? Good balance on the three main EQs with emphasis on tight highs and very tight lows…

Me? I like a balanced pickup with all three main EQs about equal. I want the pickup to clean up for jazzy or mellow passages, and I want it to have crystal clarity when I overdrive it or run it through several effects pedals. I also want the bass sounds to be very present and clean: no mud. Miss? I like them to be present in the harmonics and not scooped out or enhanced.

These pickups are different than the Firebird Zero pickups in their makeup, their thickness (sound), and their EQ. They’re a bit drier, have a bit more honk in the bridge, and reflect the thin small body and the maple neck pretty accurately. They are just that, accurate. They’re not overwhelming, they’re not bad, just accurate. These aren’t high-output metal pickups that will pop to top off your Mesa, but they drive a nice tube amp in a very respectable way.

However: Compared to pretty much every bargain pickup on the market in sub-$500 guitars, these are awesome. They sound much cleaner and more refined than the average super-cheap double-black humbucker out there in the entry-level guitar market.They do clean up pretty well and can do good old heavy metal just fine. If you want to chug-a-lug some grinding country or throw down on some hard rock, they do a decent job. They’re head and shoulders above almost everything in their price/type class. I like them much better than the low-quality humbucker pups in pretty much every intro-level HH guitar I’ve owned or played. That said, remember: these are entry-level pickups.

Besides, they are fun and easy to replace if want to get a black one and Get Your Tony Iommi going with some Gibson signature pickups or some Seymour Distortions (OK, or your DiMarzio Super 2s, EMGs, etc). Actually, plugging in a Gibson 500T Super Ceramic in the bridge gives a face-blowing metal sound. NICE!

Fit and Finish
Just like my Gibson Firebird Zero, my wild and crazy-looking Citron Green M2 came well-painted and nicely strung. In the case of my M2, however, the Green Bean Machine Christmas M2 was much better in its setup and playability right out of the box. Interestingly, it comes in the same really nice shipping box as a top-level high-end Les Paul like a Standard, Custom, or Traditional. I liked the new plastic fret protector that’s inserted between the frets and the strings for shipment – it’s a great and inexpensive way to prevent shipping crushes causing string indents. It’s nice enough to keep and put back every time you put your guitar in the gig bag or case.

My lovely from-my-super-awesome-wife gift M2 came MUCH better intonated than my Firebird Zero. it was either a good match from the parts bin, or the set up tech really spent time adjusting things. I only had to move the three plain-string saddles (kind of typical to find intonation issues on a low-end guitar. It did well for a wrap-around bridge guitar when it was properly intonated using one of my Peterson strobe tuners).

Last request on this review. I pay for my site myself, write all the materials, and take most of the pictures myself. It really helps if you visit zZounds with this link and buy your gear. I don’t get credit for anything when other pages see my cookie and offer a cookie of their own. Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

Wishes and Wants
I do wish that other vendors offered versions of the M2, or maybe even just colors. I like Amazon, truly: and I do like the idea of competition and multiple sourcing.

A Quick Review about the new Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String Electric Guitar

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Hi folks! REALLY busy right now… Several reviews in progress but not a lot of time to write and post. Sorry for the delays…

Here’s a quick overview of the new Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String Electric guitar. This isn’t my normal thorough review: it’s something I wrote and posted on the Gibson page for the Les Paul 7… I thought I’d share it with you folks. It’s just a quick opinion… I’ll be more thorough in a later post with pics and opinions…


I’m sitting here recording with my Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String for the first time. I have had the guitar for weeks now, tinkering with it, embracing its identity, assimilating it into my musical brain. I went to the official Gibson product page to read the specs again as I actually use this lovely instrument in a professional environment (yet really just having a blast channeling music through this black and cream Beauty as if it were a part of my hands.) Opens a new window…

I have bought and sold a few of the Gibson V and Explorer 7-String guitars (when you can even find one, particularly the Explorer). They are great guitars: I just found the EMGs to be too sanitary (sterile and too perfect) and the necks to be just too wide. I have huge paws, so I don’t have a problem with them – I just found the necks to feel bigger than a Jazz bass neck… I REALLY wanted to love and keep the Explorer in particular but I just couldn’t do it. It felt like it was not a part of me when I played it. I sold both of them within a month of acquiring each one.

I kept hoping for a great Les Paul 7. My wish was granted this year.

This is REAL opinion from someone who’s actively using this guitar, with 4 decades of experience underneath my brains and hands.

You can find out lots of information and pricing for other Gibson Les Paul Classics at my favorite G.A.S. providers, zZounds with a guarantee that you’ll love it! Please visit this page and buy stuff from these great folks. It helps me fund my music projects and this site.

  • Nibs on the binding (yay! I’m missing those nibs on some 2014 and 2015 models. YES, I know why they’re not on recent models: I just happen to love the nibs. It’s a Gibson, after all!)
  • The nut material doesn’t ping as much as Corian. Nice. It’s smoother and feels a little stronger.
  • Seymour JB and Jazz pickups (YES! Passive that can bite or scream rock and smooth jazz and new age! Wheeeee! We’re NOT all metal players! Note: I LIKE metal, I just don’t play it.)
  • Nice carved top that feels like a Standard, Traditional or Classic. Nice! Close your eyes and you think you’ve got a Traditional in your hands.
  • A neck that feels as familiar as most any of my Gibby and Epi Les Pauls, nicer than my Les Baritone (still love my Bari, though)
  • A neck that someone carved with ME in mind: a little flat and slender at the nut and rounder at the heel. Feels great, unobtrusive, melts into my hands every time I play it… It’s a very different neck like a less-rounded Firebird or something: but know that it feels great in hand!
  • 15DB *CLEAN* Boost (does louder clean on clean circuit and goes to downright snotty when overdriven!), plus individual splits based in a Gibby PCB Quick Connect board… NICE. I can solder on a Gibson Quick-connect and hook in some DiMarzios or other Seymours for smoother or harsher sounds if I want to: all without changing or damaging the guitar
  • That wonderful quirky and awesome mis-matched “cream” color between binding, pick guard, and rings (Trust me, all of my Les Pauls have this endearing trait… I happen to find it to be like “home.”)
  • A FANTASTIC piece of rosewood on the ‘board and excellently-balanced and leveled frets. No buzz anywhere, not even when I down-tuned to ADADGAD.
  • When I set the intonation, I only had to tweak three strings, and they were < 4 cents off. NICE! I don’t mind setting intonation. I just felt pretty good when it only took a tweak or three.
  • I love the Grover keystone tuners (would liked to have the locking ones, but I can’t always have everything!)
  • A SUPERB finish job on the lacquer finish. Excellent work Gibson team!

It isn’t any heavier than my Peace or my Epi Custom. It’s lighter than my Trads.


Jim and his Les Paul 7 String...

Jim and his Les Paul 7 String…

I have NO gripes about this guitar. It is a recording and jamming machine and I love it! It makes it EASY to jump from a “regular” Les or a Bari Les to this guitar. The necks are very similar. You don’t feel like you’re playing a cricket-bat-neck guitar. NICE.

Folks, we can nit-pick the details. Me? I wouldn’t change anything. The silver labels on the headstock that are better than the decal type but not quite as pretty as the inlay: fine. Silver is cool. I would love nickel covers (yes, I’m one of those guys): but no-one makes nickel-covered 7 passives that I’ve seen – not something Gibson could have chosen: and besides, Seymours!

Dear Seymour Duncan, MJ and all the wonderful folks at SD: Please make me some nickel-covered wax-potted 7-string pickups that are a 59 in the neck and an overwound Pearly Gates in the bridge!

The recordings are superb. I must say, dropping below the 6th string to walk around the melody and harmony with some notes that dip into the bass world is just stupendous. When you get used to it, you’ll love it.

The sound and playability are crisp, clean, and well-defined. You can finger pick, claw hammer, hybrid pick, and single-pick your way to heaven because this guitar puts out through tubes AND solid states like nobody’s business.

Gibson, thank you for this. I’m truly happy. It’s now my number 8 guitar (a big deal, really).

Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany Review – Now a “Faded Les Paul Studio”

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I first wrote this on November 26, 2006. These guitars are STILL an awesome deal. They’re still about the same price. And now they come in blue! They’re not called “Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany” any more… they’re “Faded Les Paul Studios.” Still looking forward to owning one. I’ve played tens of them over the years. Still feel the same positive way about them…

Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded Blue

The 2011 Les Paul Studio Faded in Blue

Gibson USA Vintage Mahogany Les Paul Review

One of the guitars on my “to get” list is the Gibson USA Vintage Mahogany Les Paul (faded cherry). I’ve played several examples a great number of times over the past year or so… and although I could not purchase this one for myself (budget, budget, budget), I felt the need to express my view on this instrument. This instrument is a fundamental instrument that incorporates critical elements of a fabulous-sounding instrument. In its basic-ness, this particular Les Paul is all about sound delivery in a price-friendly Gibson package.

Tone folks will find the Les Paul Vintage Mahogany to be a monster… Folks whose budgets cannot achieve the heights of the Les Paul Standard, or even the Classic or Studio, will find this instrument to be a real bargain. Perhaps enough of a bargain to truly bring great Gibson-ness to many musicians’ sound libraries.

This is a fabulous instrument – stay tuned and I’ll attempt to explain why it strikes me so well.

Quick Opinion: Grab one right now before they’re gone. Period. If I had the means, I would.

The “Les Paul Vintage Mahogany” isn’t in production any more, but you can get the Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded series (even in blue!) here at zZounds.com (free shipping and a love your guitar guarantee!).

Playability: The Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany is all Les Paul. It has the chunky 50’s-style neck one expects from many Les Paul models. The neck is tapered in a subtle way, and the radius is extremely comfortable.

Another interesting aspect of the neck’s playability is its consistency. It is even, smooth (if a little woody – like lots of natural-finish acoustic guitars, but not as wide), and very comfortable. As a person who truly likes the 60’s neck profiles (and the slimmer Epiphone neck profiles), the Les Paul Vintage Mahogany was different at first. However, after playing several examples over several months at my local, favorite Guitar Center, I adjusted to it. I am now more comfortable going between my Epi Les Paul and the Gibson.

The body’s weight seems to be really well-balanced. It doesn’t feel as weighty on the shoulder as a traditional Les Paul – but it still retains that singing, miles-of-sustain feel that makes Les Pauls so breathtakingly essential to many kinds of music. It plays like an old friend. It feels like an old friend, and is one of the most comfortable Gibson Les Pauls I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

Features: The features of the Gibson Les Paul Vintage Mahogany are varied and interesting. This particular Les Paul is a marriage of basic simplicity and killer electronics. The fretboard is very nice, the tuners are the (to me, essential) traditional green-tulip tuners. The body has no binding, and the top wood has the same feel and color of the back and neck.

This particular Les Paul may be a lower-priced Gibson, but it comes with a real, deluxe Gibson hardshell case (update: This was true when the “Vintage Mahogany” was still being produced. The current “Faded Studio” only comes with a gig bag. Given that the guitar itself is about the same price, I’d say that it’s still a bargain: buy yourself a hard shell case though… it’s worth protecting.). This is unusual, considering the fact that some of the other “worn-finished”, less-expensive models only come with a gig bag (such as the Vee and the SG).

By far, one of the greatest values in the Vintage Les Paul Mahogany is its pickups. It comes with Burstbucker Pro humbucking pickups. I don’t know how different the wiring is (as opposed to the Standard, Classic, or Studio), but the sound is absolutely awesome. The Burstbucker Pros, combined with the case, make this guitar feature rich – even though it isn’t a fancy Les Paul.

Sound: Sound, sound, sound, sound, and sound. WOW. Pick up an old or vintage Les Paul, close your eyes – pop it through some Marshalls or even a deluxe Twin Reverb, dial up the amp, and let loose. Now do the same with one of the Vintage Mahogany Les Pauls. Listen… No matter if you can scream like Vai, cry and wail like Lang, or rip the souls of the audience into happy little pieces like Gilmour, or just play like a regular Jane or Joe, this instrument does not disappoint. It takes that vintage-ness of the old PAFs, adds more output, and makes the dynamic range of the sound more (a good thing) complex and rich.

I’ve played several of these through a very wide variety of amplifiers, including nice Class-A Mesas, wide-rich VOXs, chunky Marshall stacks, cheap starter combos, Fenders, and some Kranks and Line 6s… this horse can not only trot, canter, or gallop – it is a true thoroughbred: it brings crunchy, singing, sustaining sound to any style, amp, pedal, or volume.
Sound, sound, sound, sound.

Value: Based on its sound, its case (again, back when they were produced as “Vintage Mahogany”), its Burstbucker Pros, and its made-in-USA pedigree, this is absolutely worth much more than its street price. I’d put it at around $1k any day. The fact that you can buy it for much less makes it a 12-out-of-10 value any day of the week. If you’ve been thinking of going Gibson, or if you’re looking for that sweet, in-your-face rock. This guitar is a “jump on it now” opportunity. If you like warm, jazzy, neck-pickup sound that reminds you a little of B.B. King’s ES-combined with some of that Jimmy Page roots-blues-rock, this is the one for you. You won’t be sorry for getting one of these. Go to your favorite get-in-trouble guitar store and play an example or two. If you don’t have a git-box store nearby, check out your favorite online haunt and pick one up NOW.

With the current-generation Faded Les Pauls and their reinstated Burstbuckers (the faded studios had the 490-style pickups for a while), this guitar is still a bargain and a wonderful way to go. I would highly recommend these as a go-to-gigging or recording USA Les Paul. Note to those buying used “faded” Gibson Les Pauls: You cannot be sure from a picture which pickups you are getting. The only sure way is to either look at the back of the pickups for the stickers (Burstbuckers have stickers, 490s don’t), or look at the serial number, get the year of manufacture from the Guitar Dater project (or similar) do your research, or just ask Gibson through their customer support email.

Wishes: An optional 60’s neck would be fabulous (well, for me, anyway – sorry 50’s fans). (Update: I LOVE the blue! w00t! I do wish they still had the white-fur Gibson snakeskin case as a low-cost option.)