Finding the Gibson or Epiphone LP That’s Right for You and Your Budget
First, we’ll put the Les Paul in its historical context, then we’ll walk you through the many models available today. Use this guide to pinpoint the Les Paul that matches up with your music, your style, and your budget.
Table of Contents
The Les Paul Legacy—A Brief History
Epiphone Les Paul Series
Gibson USA Les Paul Series
Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Models
Glossary of Les Paul Terms
The Les Paul Legacy—A Brief History
The guitar that bears Les Paul’s name is among the most iconic instruments that have helped shape the sound of popular music. Since its introduction in 1952, the LP’s rich, thick, midrange-focused tone, coupled with a prodigious ability to sustain notes has had a huge impact on the sound of rock, blues, metal, and those genre’s modern offshoots.
Though there’s some controversy about exactly who contributed what elements, it’s clear that the LP was the result of a fateful collaboration between Gibson president Ted McCarty and Les Paul, the brilliant country and jazz guitarist and compulsive inventor and tinkerer. The trajectory of Gibson’s product line and Paul’s search for an electric guitar with more sustain and less feedback made that collaboration more or less inevitable.
First Came The Clunker
Les Paul had struggled for years with the feedback generated by electric hollowbody guitars when their volume was cranked up. In the early 1940s he bought an Epiphone Broadway hollowbody and retrofitted it with his own hand-wound pickups and a rectangular steel bar body brace. Though “The Clunker,” as Paul nicknamed it, partially overcame feedback, it wasn’t until he began experimenting with solidbody designs that feedback was fully tamed.
A tireless innovator, Les Paul was also a consummate guitar collector, constantly seeking new instruments to help realize his formidable jazz, country, and pop guitar chops. Photo courtesy of Gibson Guitar Corp.
Then Came The Log
His solidbody prototype called “The Log” had a body made from a solid chunk of pine that was just a bit wider than the neck and fretboard, and a little deeper than a standard hollowbody guitar. Paul attached two wooden wings on either side of the slab giving The Log roughly the appearance of a conventional archtop guitar. Unlovely to look at, it delivered on Paul’s aim to get feedback under control. Around 1946, he took his design to Gibson, but the company didn’t bite.
And Finally, the Les Paul was Born
It took several years and the introduction of a highly successful solidbody electric guitar by a certain California guitar company to bring Gibson around. The result was the Les Paul introduced in 1952. Unlike the upstart from the West Coast with it’s flashy, modernistic styling, slab body, bolt-on neck, and twangy tone, Gibson focused on building a solidbody instrument that retained the look of its carved-top hollowbody guitars, sharing their set-neck construction and trapeze tailpiece.
The Les Paul would eventually be offered in four models during the ‘50s and early ‘60—the Custom, Standard, Special, and Junior. The LP took the guitar world by storm. Its solid mahogany body with a thin maple cap solved the age-old problem of feedback while producing remarkable sustain, and it’s ornate Florentine cutaway facilitated high-note soloing. Initially equipped with dual P-90 single-coil pickups, the introduction of Gibson’s PAF (Patent Applied For) humbucking pickup eliminated the hum that plagued electric guitars with single-coil pickups while delivering the fat, thick tone that has become a sonic hallmark of the Les Paul.
Paul continued to hold down a regular Monday night gig at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club well into his ‘80s despite painful arthritis in his hands.Photo courtesy of Gibson Guitar Corp.
In 1957 the Les Paul Custom came to market with its dual PAFs. A three-pickup version followed. Beginning in the early 1970s, Gibson has released dozens of variations of the LP, and the guitar has only grown in stature. Oddly though, in the early 1960s the Les Paul fell out of favor due to issues of weight and cost as well as a perception that it was a bit old-fashioned. But starting in the mid-’60s, British artists such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Jimmy Page, who all loved its thick, rock- and blues-friendly tone, rekindled interest in the LP. This resulted in the 1968 resumption of LP production.
Everybody Loves the LP
The list of artists who have wielded Les Pauls is legion. As noted above, it was British blues rockers like Clapton who led the way to the LP’s resurgence. They had been listening to LP-brandishing guitarists such as Texas bluesman Freddie King and his rollicking instrumental “Hideaway,” and to Howlin’ Wolf axman Hubert Sumlin’s stinging riffs on “Smokestack Lightning.” And they wanted some of that sound too!
On this side of the Atlantic it was Michael Bloomfield who helped cement the LP’s position as the go-to electric among heavy rock and blues players. The phenomenally talented Chicago native first owned a 1954 Les Paul goldtop, later trading up for the ‘59 LP Standard with which he’s most closely associated. The fat yet clean sound of Bloomfield’s LP was an urgent driving force in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band—for a time Dylan’s electric backup band that caused a ruckus at the Newport Folk Festival. In 2009 Gibson’s Custom Shop, recognizing Bloomfield’s contribution to LP lore, produced a painstaking limited-edition reproduction of his axe, replete with battle scars and Bloomfield’s mods.
A list of the other signature and tribute Les Pauls that Gibson has built invoke some of the most stellar names in modern music. They include Jimmy Page, Slash, Joe Perry, Ace Frehley, Marc Bolan, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Billie Joe Armstrong, and dozens more. As we explore the many Les Paul models available today, we’ll touch on some of these special editions.
In this ‘50s-era shot, Les Paul wields a tremolo-equipped version of the guitar that likely will be his most durable legacy. Photo courtesy of Gibson Guitar Corp.
Epiphone Les Paul Series
The connection between inventor-musician Les Paul and Epiphone dates back to the late 1930s. In fact, Paul’s “The Log” was built during after-hours tinkering sessions in Epiphone’s New York plant, and the musician was a frequent consultant on designs, offering the insights of both a seasoned performer and audio innovator.
In 1957 Gibson acquired Epiphone, a long-standing rival in the market for hollowbody electric guitars. After the buyout, Epiphone instruments were built in Gibson’s factories and shared many of the same woods and components used in Gibson’s product line. Many Epiphone guitars were essentially identical to their Gibson counterparts.
Beginning in the 1970s, most Epiphone instruments were built in Japan and later in Korea. Continuing today, Epiphone guitars are built in Asian plants to Gibson’s exacting specifications. Having less hand work and less costly woods, hardware, and finishes than their U.S.-made counterparts, Epiphone versions of Gibson models offer excellent value for budget-conscious guitarists.
Let’s look at the lineup of Epiphone Les Paul series and models:
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Series
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard series extends the LP legacy with a number of models loaded with essential Paul features, but at a fraction of the cost of a Gibson. For instance, the Standard Plain Top features a mahogany body with a maple veneer top, a set mahogany neck, and a pair of Alnico Classic humbuckers, for plenty of rich, warm tones with tons of sustain.
There’s also a Standard Plus Top Pro model with a breathtaking flamed maple carved top and dual ProBucker pickups that offers amazing bang for the buck.
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top delivers classic, thick humbucker tone at a bargain price.
Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro
This LP is all about superb tonal versatility. The Les Paul Traditional Pro uses Epiphone's 4-wire, nickel/silver base humbuckers with newly tooled, USA-style bobbins. The Alnico Classic Pro humbucker with zebra coils in the neck is uniquely paired with a ProBucker-3. Both volume controls feature push/pull potentiometers allowing you to coil-split each pickup for single-coil sounds. Using the 3-way toggle, you get six unique sounds.
The Epi LP Traditional Pro has a unique pup configuration with coil-splitting for boundless tonal flexibility.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Series
The original Gibson LP Custom introduced in 1954 was nicknamed “The Black Beauty” for its striking monochrome cosmetics. Its other moniker, “The Fretless Wonder,” referred to its low frets and slinky action. Dispensing with the maple cap of the original Paul, it had a carved mahogany top and was equipped with the newly introduced Tune-O-Matic bridge and sported more elaborate inlays and binding. Later versions would be produced with two or three PAF humbuckers—the latter configuration with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece was Jimmy Page’s go-to session guitar.
Epiphone continues to uphold the Custom’s legacy offering affordable models in various configurations as well as some very cool signature models. The Zakk Wylde LP Custom is a great case in point. A pair of EMG active pickups deliver high-gain sonics and Wylde’s bulls-eye cosmetics serve up the visual attitude to match.
EMG-81/85 active pups on the Zakk Wylde LP Custom dish out the high-gain dementia needed to drive Ozzy’s band.
Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus
The Tribute Plus commemorates the long-standing friendship between Les Paul and Epiphone’s owner, Epi Stathopoulos. Incorporating time-tested LP virtues with a pair of Gibson USA ‘57 Classic humbuckers, it has push pull tone pots for series/parallel switching. Premium hardware and electronics plus an included hard case make the Tribute a phenomenal value.
Memorializing Les Paul’s friendship with Epiphone’s founder, push-pull tone pots make the Tribute Plus a versatile tone machine.
Epiphone Les Paul Ultra III
Beneath its traditional profile and ProBucker pickups, the Ultra-III is armed with digital-age capabilities that its namesake would surely have relished. A NanoMag pickup embedded in the fretboard creates shimmering acoustic guitar tones that can be combined with the humbuckers. Output options include stereo and USB connections—the latter giving you access to free GuitarRig LE software for limitless creativity and fun. A full-function chromatic tuner built into the bridge pickup ring also keeps you posted on which pups are activated. This is definitely not your daddy’s Les Paul!
You can do astonishing things with the Ultra III’s NanoMag pickup and USB port.
Epiphone Prophecy Les Paul Custom Plus EX/GX
Both versions—the EX and GX—have a sweet-looking quilted maple veneer top and a super-sleek SpeedTaper neck for fleet fretting. They part company where electronics are concerned however. The EX is designed for high-gain players looking for the extreme output of EMG 81/185 active pickups. The GX features Gibson USA's powerful 490R/498T humbucker combination with push/pull coil-tapping for each pickup.
Choose the pickups that match your music with either an EX- or GX-configured LP Custom Plus from Epiphone.
Epiphone Les Paul Studio
When Gibson debuted the original LP Studio in 1983, cosmetics were downplayed in favor of sonic performance and shoulder-friendly weight reduction. The same is true with its Epiphone counterpart. Dual open-coil Alnico Classic pickups and a LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge deliver classic Paul sound and performance. Currently Epi offers Studio versions with a dot-inlaid fingerboard as well as an all-black Goth version with an XII inlay at the 12th fret and a killswitch.
Stripped down and ready for action, the Epi LP Studio has all the Paul essentials at a pared-down price.
Epiphone Les Paul 100
Eminently affordable, the LP 100 delivers the Paul experience at a super-accessible price. Its bolt-on neck will take a beating, and a pair of open-coil humbuckers serve up the trademark LP sound. The Tune-O-Matic bridge makes for easy setup and the chrome hardware is super durable. The 100 is a great way for newbie guitarists with more enthusiasm than cash to get started on an an LP.
The gently priced Epiphone Les Paul 100 makes a solid starter axe.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II Series
Recognizing that new guitarists often are cramped by tight budgets, Epiphone builds the Special II series to provide all the satisfying tone and playability of more costly LPs. Available as of this writing in three versions, the Special II lineup includes a Plus Top limited edition with flamed maple veneer top. The GT version sports a worn black finish and a V-Trem tailpiece for whammying fun. All versions have an easily adjusted bolt-on neck with a comfortable slim-taper profile and open-coil humbuckers for genuine Paul sound.
With its flamed maple veneer the Special II Plus Top’s looks far exceed its easy price.
Epiphone Les Paul Artist Series
These inspiring models are based on guitars played by some of the biggest names in modern rock. Each is equipped to mirror the artist’s electronics and cosmetics, so no two models are alike. Take the Matt Heafy LP Custom-7 for example. The Trivium guitarist’s 7-stringer has a blacked-out ebony gloss finish, a Slim-Taper “D” profile neck, and powerful EMG active pickups voiced specifically for his guitar. A Paul like no other, it’s built to rule the high-gain realms.
Custom-voiced EMGs give the Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom-7 huge high-gain punch.
Gibson USA Les Paul Series
Built in Gibson’s Nashville facility, USA Les Pauls continue to maintain their flagship status well into their seventh decade of production. The meticulous attention to detail, premium-quality woods, electronics, hardware, lavish finishes, and extensive handwork that made the LP an icon of American craftsmanship persist to this day.
Let’s take a look at the full lineup of series and models:
Gibson Les Paul Melody Maker
The Melody Maker had its first production run between 1959-1971.The simplified slab construction and single-cavity housing for electronics were aimed at creating a highly affordable variant of the flagship LP models. Subsequent models were introduced beginning in the late 1970s, all with an emphasis on simplicity and affordability.
That’s still the case: the current Melody Maker is among the most affordable Gibson USA Les Paul models. Sharing the LP’s essential silhouette, it has a slimmer profile with mahogany body and maple top. P-90S pickups that date back to the 1940s-era Gibson ES125 generate bright and versatile single-coil tone without their forerunner’s hum.
The most affordable U.S.A. LP, the 2014 Melody Maker, cranks out bright single-coil tone without the hum.
The Les Paul Junior was originally introduced to offer all the performance and playability of traditional Pauls minus the beautiful cosmetics that contributed to their price tags. The LPJ continues in that vein by skipping some adornments while delivering vintage tone via ‘61 zebra humbuckers. The weight-relieved mahogany body is shoulder-friendly, and 2014 upgrades include a GraphTech nut and Max Grip speed knobs.
‘61 zebra humbuckers pour out the 2014 Gibson LPJ’s thick, sustaining sound.
Gibson LPJ Pro
It has all the essential ingredients that have made the Les Paul Standard a go-to guitar for rockers and blues busters: A resonant mahogany body, rounded ‘50s-profile neck and 490R/T humbuckers with coil tapping for extended tonal choices. Sure, it’s plain-Jane, but check out the price tag for a genuine, U.S.-made Gibson!
The wallet-friendly Gibson LPJ Pro dispenses with fancy cosmetics but doesn’t stint on genuine Paul tone with the added versatility of coil splitting.
Gibson 2014 LPM
Equipped with the revolutionary Min-ETune automatic tuning system, the LPM also includes other 2014 refinements that celebrate Gibson’s 120th anniversary. These include a special inlay at the 12th fret, larger strap buttons, and Max Grip speed knobs. ‘61 Zebra humbuckers serve up huge helpings of LP tone.
The amazing Mini-ETune system twists the 2014 Gibson LPM’s machines into any one of 12 tunings instantly and perfectly.
Gibson Les Paul Futura
The Futura’s modern weight relief mahogany body has a plain maple top (AA on Pacific Blue and Brilliant Red finishes) that houses a P-90H Sidewinder humbucker and Burstbucker 3 with coil tapping and 15bB boost. Its enhanced with special 120th Anniversary features including a 12th-fret inlay and long-life fretwire. The innovative Min-ETune system mounted on the back of the headstock provides automatic tuning in 12 different scales including six that you can program. The Futura comes ready for action in an historic brown case with pink plush interior.
A P-90H Sidewinder and Burstbucker 3 with coil tapping and 15bB boost give the 120th Anniversary LP Futura an expansive range of sounds.
Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom 2
When the original LP Custom with its tuxedo-like black-and-white color scheme and PAF pickups debuted in 1957, it was promoted as a classier variation on the Goldtop, dressed for elegant occasions. That was the concept, but the reality proved to be something else: The Custom became one of the most popular axes among preeminent heavy rock and blues players who rarely hit the black-tie circuit.
The current incarnation—the Custom 2—has a traditional weight-relieved mahogany body with a bound, carved maple top and quarter-sawn neck with a very comfortable, slim profile. Its classic throaty midrange LP tone is produced by a pair of ‘57 Classic humbuckers built with Alnico II magnets and wound with enamel 42-AWG wire just like the original PAFs. Classic indeed!
‘57 Classic ‘buckers with coil taps give the Custom 2 both traditional fat humbucking and bright, hum-free single-coil sounds.
Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro II Series
With upgraded electronics and targeting demanding pro players, the series offers a choice of satin-finished neck profiles. A built-in 10dB boost eliminates the need for a pedal when you want extra soloing punch. A new Super ‘57 bridge pickup offers hotter output and a broader frequency response. Coil splitting puts the pups to work in more ways than one.
This version of the LP Traditional Pro II has a ‘60s neck profile together with built-in boost and a hot-rodded bridge pup.
Gibson Les Paul Traditional Series
For those who relish the all-out meaty tone and massive sustain produced by a hefty, non-chambered LP, the Traditional Series fills the bill. Using the traditional tonewood combo that creates a full-blooded throaty roar when pushed through a hard-driven amp, Gibson makes variations with both ‘50s and ‘60 neck profiles and Pro versions with hot-rodded electronics.
Gibson Les Paul Traditional
Beneath its AA figured maple top the LP Traditional has a non-chambered mahogany body to maximize its old-school sustain characteristics. The late-50s neck profile and TonePros vintage-style tuners maintain the traditional look and feel while ‘59 Tribute humbuckers with orange drop caps serve up the classic LP tonal recipe. It’s a Paul for the true traditionalist. The 2014 version has new, larger strap buttons, a Graph Tech nut, Max Grip speed knobs, and it comes in an historic 120th Anniversary brown hard case with pink plush interior.
With its non weight-relieved body, AA maple top, and ‘59 Tribute ‘buckers, the 2014 Les Paul Traditional is built for players who appreciate timeless Paul tone and aesthetics.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Series
As the name suggests, it is indeed the standard for Les Pauls, and carved-top solidbody electric guitars generally. Since its reintroduction in 1968, driven by the Standard’s popularity with hard rock and blues-playing guitarists, Gibson has continued to refine and expand the lineup with modern enhancements. These include innovative switching options such as coil tapping for low-noise single-coil tones, as well as out-of-phase and direct-through capabilities, in addition to the legendary humbucker rumble. The solid, one-piece quarter-sawn mahogany neck has an asymmetrical SlimTaper profile, and is topped with a compound-radius fretboard for effortless chording and lightning-fast leads.
The mahogany body now features carefully routed chambers to enhance sustain and resonance, while also providing weight relief. Tops are carved in standard-, AA-, or AAA-grade premium figured maple. Finishes include the familiar Heritage Cherry Sunburst and Goldtop options, as well as Light Burst, Honey Burst, Fireball, Ebony, Blue Mist, Translucent Amber or Black, and other special-edition finishes. If you’ve ever wondered how guitar heroes like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Slash, and Mike Bloomfield got their killer tones, a large part of the equation lies in the guitar itself—the Gibson Les Paul Standard.
The 2014 LP Standard includes a full slate of 120th Anniversary features including the innovative Min-ETune automatic tuning system. (Read more about all the new tweaks for 2014 below.) BurstBucker Pro 1+2 pickups with push/pull coil tapping, phase changing, and pure bypass make this one of the most sonically powerful and versatile Standards ever.
The Gibson 2014 LP Standard has a lavish AAA flamed maple top housing fat-toned BurstBuckers Pro 1+2 pickups and is equipped with the amazing Min-ETune auto tuning system.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus
Its lavish AAAA figured maple top over a modern weight-relief body is the aesthetic icing on the cake; the Standard Plus is built to provide extraordinary playability and sound. The ‘60s slim taper neck has a rosewood compound radius fingerboard for effortless fretting. Locking Keystone Grover machines and a TonePros Tune-O-Matic bridge offer the utmost in tuning stability. BurstBucker Pro 1+2 pickups with push/pull coil taps, phase changing, and pure bypass deliver exceptional sonic performance and flexibility. The Standard Plus caters to the most demanding Paul aficionado.
A staggering AAAA maple top and premium electronics make the Standard Plus a prime choice for the most demanding LP fans.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Premium
If you love the LP Standard and lust for quilted maple, the 2014 LP Premium with its AAA quilted top will quench your desire and then some. In your choice of several gloss finishes that give the quilt figuring even greater visual punch, the electronics serve up sonic performance to match the exalted looks. It’s equipped with BurstBucker Pro 1+2 pickups that have push/pull coil taps, phase changing, and pure bypass for awesome sound and versatility. The rear pickup has reverse polarity for authentic single-coil sound combinations. As a finishing touch, a special backplate is signed by the Gibson luthier who book-matched the glorious top pieces.
Though the 2014 LP Standard Premium’s breathtaking AAA quilted maple top is the visual focal point, its premium electronics and the sounds they produce refuse to take a back seat.
Gibson Les Paul Studio Series
The concept behind the Studio’s 1983 debut was to offer a guitar with all the tone and playability of an LP Standard but omit the more costly wood, binding, and inlay work in order to keep the price down. The idea worked, and Studio models have been in production ever since. There have been many variants along the way, including Studios with a few more frills. But the essential ingredients have generally remained the same: a mahogany body for deep, rich tone, capped with a solid maple top for added snap and brightness and a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece to enhance sustain. Most are humbucker-equipped, and many now have coil-tapping on both pickups, offering bright, shimmering single-coil tones with low-noise operation as well as traditional fat-toned ‘bucker sonics.
2014 Gibson Les Paul Studio Pro
The modern weight-relief mahogany body joins a ‘60s slim-taper neck and rosewood compound-radius fingerboard with a special 120th Anniversary inlay at the 12th fret. The pairing of a ‘57 Classic and BurstBucker Pro with coil splitting and orange drop capacitors delivers a super-versatile range of LP tones. The Studio Pro offers great playability and sonic dexterity at a moderate price.
The 2014 Les Paul Studio Pro has a shoulder-friendly modern weight-relief body, AA maple top, and 120th Anniversary inlay at the 12th fret.
Gibson Les Paul Studio Deluxe II Series
Sharing the cosmetic minimalism of the Studio series, Studio Deluxe II models offer advanced wiring and pickup options. They come with a built-in 10dB booster for-on-the-fly soloing punch from the 490R neck and BurstBucker Pro bridge pickups. Push-pull coil-splitting brings on hum-free single-coil sting.
This Gibson LP Studio Deluxe II has a ‘50s neck profile, boost circuit, and coil tapping for flexible tone shaping.
Gibson 2014 Les Paul 120th Anniversary Models
During production of this guide, Gibson unveiled its lineup of instruments celebrating the 120 years since Orville Grover began building archtop guitars and mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Some of the models referred to above are from the 2014 collection, and each has features unique to the 120th anniversary and their position in the line.
Probably the most significant 2014 feature is the Min-ETune automatic tuning system that’s available on select models. Housed in a compact case attached to the back of the headstock, this robotic tuner gets all six strings into perfect pitch in a matter of seconds. The Min-ETune lets you select from 12 alternate tunings too—six of which you can program any way you like. If you usually switch between standard, open, and alternate tunings during a set, there’s no longer any need to bring multiple guitars to the gig. While you chat up the crowd, Min-ETune will get your Paul ready for the next song in a moment. It’ll even let you adjust your tuning to match up with other instruments. Battery-operated, the Min-Etune will provide 80-100 tunings on a single charge. Pretty sweet!
All 2014 USA Gibsons have an inlay at the 12th fret with the legend, “120th Anniversary.” Other upgrades include Max Grip speed knobs, cryogenic fret wire for extended life, and extra-large strap buttons for security. Guitars with bound fretboards also get an undercut fret treatment for an extended playing area. Select models will also include a cool brown case with pink plush interior.
Musician’s Friend has the entire 2014 Gibson lineup of electric guitars and basses in stock and ready to ship. Point your browserhere to shop (or just drool). You’ll find Musician's Friend-exclusive videos of each model with Gibson’s head luthier, Jim DeCola, elaborating on the complete Gibson 2014 120th Anniversary collection.
2014 Gibson Les Paul Peace
New for 2014, the Les Paul Peace evokes the late 1960s with its tie-dye control knobs, “PEACE” bridge inscription, peace-sign studs, and a groovy hardshell case covered in hemp fabric and emblazoned with yet another peace sign. Contrary to its “peaceful” graphics, this LP can create some serious sonic havoc with its new ‘61 Humbuckers and fleet ‘60s slim-taper neck.
The 2014 Les Paul Peace is equipped with Gibson’s new Min-ETune auto tuning system and sports special cosmetic touches celebrating the era of peace, love, and …music.
2014 Gibson Les Paul Signature
Emblazoned on the pickguard, Les Paul’s signature proudly invokes its heritage. The AA maple top (except on the Ebony finish) is richly figured and framed by deluxe 3-ply binding. As with all 2014 models that have neck binding, frets are undercut over the binding for an extended playing area. A pair of open-coil ‘57 Classic humbuckers both have push/pull coil splitting volume pots, and they’re enhanced with a 15dB boost circuit that adds extra punch on the fly. Mounted to the rear headstock, the revolutionary Min-ETune automatic tuning system offers your choice of 12 tunings at a button press. Here’s an LP that its namesake would have deeply appreciated!
A lush AA maple top houses ‘57 Classic humbuckers with coil taps and a 15dB boost, while a full slate of 120th Anniversary features makes the 2014 Les Paul Signature worthy of its namesake.
Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Models
The Les Pauls handcrafted in Gibson’s Nashville-based Custom Shop are extraordinary in every respect. Each Gibson Les Paul Custom is crafted by a master luthier with the utmost attention to detail, and embellished with high-end appointments such as multi-ply binding and gorgeous inlay work. Only the finest components and woods are hand-selected for each Custom Shop creation, making them worthy of the most demanding collectors and musicians.
You’ll find our current selection of Custom Shop LPs together with other investment-grade instruments from Gibson in our Private Reserve Guitars Collection. Our Guitar Advisors are available by telephone at (866) 926-1923 to assist you with in-hand descriptions of individual instruments and detailed photos. Our professional setup service ensures a perfectly intonated guitar, ready to play upon arrival.
Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Custom Models
The original LP Custom debuted in 1954, and was called the Black Beauty or Fretless Wonder in Gibson’s sales literature. The first nickname referred to its tuxedo like black-and-white cosmetics, the second to its super-smooth, low-fret action. Unlike the original Les Paul’s trapeze tailpiece, it came equipped with the newly introduced Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. P-90 and Alnico V single-coils provided the firepower—PAF humbuckers would replace them in 1957. The Bigsby “True Vibrato” bridge also became an option in ‘57 as did a three-PAF version—a configuration that Jimmy Page used in his mid ‘60s session work.
After a lapse in production when Gibson’s double-cut SG was introduced in 1961, the Custom staged a comeback in 1968 thanks to its popularity with major guitar stars like Mike Bloomfield, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton. Today's Custom is available in a variety of Custom Shop-produced configurations, including the 3-pickup Ace Frehley "Budokan" 1974 Custom, an updated Custom Axcess with Floyd Rose tremolo, and several Limited Edition guitars in a variety of distinctive finishes.
The understated shimmer of the Limited Edition Silverburst finish replicates its 1979 forerunner with a one-piece mahogany neck and Richlite fingerboard.
Custom Shop 1954 Les Paul Standard Reissues
The Custom Shop hand-builds these stunning guitars using historically accurate VOS (Vintage Original Spec) hardware and premium tonewoods. A finish aging process is applied giving the instrument the burnished patina of a genuine 1954 Goldtop. The Historic Reissue Goldtop VOS pictured below has the original soapbar-style P-90 pickups and wraparound tailpiece that helped create more raw blues rock-and-roll more than any other guitar on the planet. From Carl Perkins’ recordings of “Honey Don’t” and “Blue Suede Shoes” to Freddie King’s “Hideaway,” a Goldtop was there—rippin’ it up and making musical history in the process.
The Gibson Custom Shop’s 1954 Les Paul Goldtop VOS is the veritable second coming of this revered yet short-lived variant of the venerable Les Paul, presenting all the period-correct detailing aficionados know and love. Finished with a gently aged nitrocellulose “gold” top, which is actually a metallic bronze powder suspended in lacquer, this baby is the real deal, raw and ready to rock.
This exacting replica of a 1954 LP Standard Gold Top has received a proprietary VOS finish treatment creating a convincing recreation of the real deal—at a fraction of the cost.
Custom Shop 1956 Les Paul Standard Reissues
Gibson’s Custom Shop’s ongoing effort to completely document the Les Paul’s evolutionary path has resulted in some spectacular creations. Among them is the historically exact reproduction of a ‘56 Custom fitted with a Bigsby tailpiece. This early yet mechanically sophisticated incarnation of the whammy bar combined with the Paul’s distinctive tone was enthusiastically adopted by artists like Keith Richards, Neil Young, and Joe Perry.
A meticulous recreation, this 1956 LP Standard with Bigsby delivers retro wobble and stings with P-90 tone.
Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Standard Reissues
At the direction of Gibson president Ted McCarty, engineer Seth Lover began working on a hum-canceling pickup in 1954, applying for a patent—hence the name “Patent Applied For,” or “PAF”—on June 22, 1955. By early 1957 it began appearing on Gibson ES-175s and ES-350Ts, and eventually on LP Goldtops later that year. The Custom Shop’s new Custom Bucker accurately recreates the original PAFs of the late ’50s, using Alnico III magnets and unequal turns of 42 AWG wire in each coil for that characteristic PAF bite. These pickups clean up beautifully at the guitar’s volume controls, while Bumble Bee tone caps assist in producing that celebrated warm “woman tone” when you roll back the tone controls. The Custom Shop offers several variations of the ‘57 LP Standard, but probably none more iconic or historically accurate than the Goldtop equipped with Custom humbuckers.
This ‘57 LP Standard Goldtop is hand-crafted by the Custom Shop to mirror every aspect of the original, right down to minutia like the no-tube truss rod.
Custom Shop 1958 Les Paul Standard Reissues
To address the waning popularity of the LP Goldtop, a Cherry Sunburst finish was introduced in 1958. Since this finish revealed the grain of the maple top, Gibson began book-matching two-piece tops, thus initiating the guitar world’s love affair with figured maple. In retrospect though, the majority of the tops used in 1958 are considered “plain” when compared to those used later on.
The 1958 Les Paul Standard Reissue offers the most accurate recreation available of this first incarnation of the hallowed “Burst” in its showroom-fresh appearance. While most Les Pauls were finished in Cherry Sunburst in 1958, the degree to which they faded varied significantly from one guitar to the next. These variations have been immortalized in a series of Custom Shop models with finishes reflecting various types of fading. The Historic Reissue model shown below has received VOS treatment and has a special Faded Tobacco finish.
This Custom 1958 LP Standard with Faded Tobacco finish has the look, vibe, and feel of an original that would sell for a king’s ransom today.
Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissues
Any LP in decent shape built between 1958 and 1960 is prized by collectors and commands a huge price nowadays. Given that only 635 LPs were shipped in 1959, those models are exceedingly rare and especially treasured. As noted above, ‘58 Pauls had relatively plain tops, but as 1959 progressed, Gibson’s luthiers began using maple with much more pronounced figuring, making LPs of this vintage even more collectible. 1959 Les Pauls also acquired a slightly thinner, though still comfortably rounded, neck profile, along with a smaller neck heel which many players consider the sweetest-feeling neck shape of all time.
These are all represented with utmost accuracy in the 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue, while the guitar also benefits from Gibson Custom’s 20th Anniversary Specifications, newly adopted for 2013. These include a one-piece rosewood fingerboard, Kluson Deluxe machine heads, hot-hide glue neck fit, accurate body and fingerboard binding color, new Custom Buckers created in the image of the original PAFs, and period-correct aniline dye on the backs and sides of VOS and Gloss finishes.
By 1959 Gibson was using striking figured maple tops as reflected in this Custom 1959 LP Reissue VOS with a luscious Bourbonburst finish.
Custom Shop 1960 Les Paul Standard Reissues
Advancing the trend begun in 1959, Gibson continued using more highly figured flamed and tiger-striped maple tops in 1960. Midway through the year, a thinner and flatter neck profile was introduced that is appreciated by shredders for its speed and comfort. Cosmetic changes included new gold “top hat” knobs. Gibson also reformulated the pigments used in its Cherry Sunburst finish to be more fade-resistant. This change, together with the gorgeously figured tops, resulted in the production of some of the most glorious LPs yet.
The VOS Washed Cherry finish on the reissue model shown below mimics the look of an original 1960 instrument that has gently aged. As with the other LPs of the era, Gibson’s Custom Shop builds it with a one-piece rosewood fingerboard, Kluson Deluxe machines, hot-hide glue neck fit, an Historic Truss Rod assembly with no tubing, accurate body and fingerboard binding color, new Custom Buckers created in the image of the original PAFs, and period-correct aniline dye on the back and sides.
The VOS Washed Cherry finish on this 1960 LP Standard Historic Reissue mimics the effects of age on the reformulated Cherry Burst finish—a look aficionados sometimes call “Tangerine” Burst.
Gibson Custom Les Paul Axcess Series
The Axcess Series embodies most of the tried-and-true LP ingredients while adding elements that offer greater sonic versatility and heightened playability. Axcess bodies are subtly contoured allowing them to comfortably nestle against the player’s ribcage during long sets.
The Alex Lifeson Limited Run Axcess pictured below typifies the approach taken with this series. 496R ceramic-magnet and 598-T Alnico V humbuckers respectively occupy the neck and bridge slots while a Graphtech Ghost piezo system adds acoustic tones for tonal flexibility galore. Push-pull pots expand your sonic options even further. A Floyd Rose double-locking trem delivers super-stable whammy action and dual output jacks let you channel all your creativity via distinct signal paths.
The Gibson Custom Axcess Alex Lifeson LP is tricked out with two hot humbuckers with coil splitting, plus a piezo system, Floyd Rose trem, and unique dual-output jacks.
Gibson Custom Les Paul Signature Series
Gibson’s Custom Shop builds these instruments for some of the world’s most renowned guitarists. By definition, each model is utterly unique in this series—the only constant being the underlying Les Paul vibe and feel, and the attention to detail Gibson’s luthiers instill in each guitar.
One of the most popular models in the series is the Zakk Wylde with its flamboyant bull’s eye graphics on an antique white finish. Armed with a pair of EMGs (81 and 85) and an oiled, raw maple neck, this beast is built for shredding and screaming. Cosmetics include full multi-ply binding, pearl block inlays on the ebony fretboard, and a gold truss rod cover engraved with Zakk’s logo.
The Gibson Custom Zakk Wylde Signature LP is beautifully built to the artist’s specs, delivering eye-popping visuals with scorching output to match.
We want you to be pleased with your Les Paul purchase, and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and generous return policy so you can order your new guitar with total confidence.
After reading this guide, if you’re still not sure which Gibson or Epiphone LP is right for you, we invite you to call one of our friendly and knowledgeable Gear Heads at (800) 449-9128.
Many Les Paul models are offered through the Private Reserve Guitars collection, staffed by our team of highly experienced guitar specialists. Call (866) 926-1623 for a personal consultation, in-hand description of specific models, detailed photos, or to set up a Skype audition session of any instruments you’d like to explore further.
Glossary of Les Paul Terms
’60s neck: the flatter, slimmer neck profile introduced found on ‘60s- era Les Pauls and most SG models. Also called the slim-taper neck.
490R: neck (or R for rhythm) pickup from Gibson’s lineup of Modern pickups that use Alnico 2 magnets providing traditional humbucker tone with enhanced highs. Usually paired with a 490T bridge pickup.
490T: bridge position (or T for treble) pickup from Gibson’s lineup of Modern pickups that use Alnico 2 magnets providing traditional humbucker tone with enhanced highs. Usually paired with a 490R pickup.
496R: from Gibson’s lineup of Modern pickups, it features a ceramic magnet for hotter output. The 496R is used in the neck position. The R stands for “Rhythm”—which is how the neck position is usually labeled on the pickup selector switch on an LP. The 496R is usually paired with the 500T pickup used in the bridge position (“T” for “Treble” pickup switch setting).
498T: bridge position pickup from Gibson’s Modern line of pickups that uses ceramic ringed magnets for higher output, enhanced mids, and more highs (and less bottom than the alnico magnet BurstBucker).
500T: Gibson bridge position pickup from its Modern line uses ceramic ringed magnets for higher output and more highs, increased sustain and definition (and less bottom than the alnico magnet BurstBucker). Usually paired with 496R neck position pickup.
’57 Classic: from Gibson’s line of Historic Humbuckers. Uses Alnico 2 magnet material and balanced coil windings to produce vintage sound with rich, warmer tones.
’57 Classic Plus: from Gibson’s line of Historic Humbuckers. Uses Alnico 2 magnet material and slightly overwound coils for increased output.
A maple: single A rating for maple means the wood is perfectly clear with no mineral streaks or other defects. Has little or no figuring or “flame.”
AA maple: predominantly figured, or what many call “flamed”—contains a fair amount of figuring (more than half).
AAA maple: significantly figured or flamed
AAAA maple: very heavily figured or flamed
ABR-1 bridge: same as Tune-O-Matic bridge. This was the part designation of Gibson’s first fully adjustable bridge. Used in conjunction with a separate stop tailpiece. See Tune-O-Matic.
Abalone: an ear-shaped shell lined with mother-of-pearl found in a sea mollusk—used for guitar inlays.
Aged plastic parts: treated to make them look as if they have seen extensive use. For example, numbers on knobs may be discolored and faded.
Alnico magnet: made with an alloy of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt, from which its name is derived. Used for magnets in pickups. Alnico 2 produces a sweet, traditional humbucker tone, while Alnico 5 (also designated Alnico V) is a little stronger, and produces a brighter, hotter tone.
Appointments: the visual aspects of a guitar’s body, neck, and headstock that enhance the guitar’s look and value. Appointments include binding, inlays, and hardware.
Auto trim tuners: Tuning machines with built-in cutters that trim excess string left hanging out of the tuning post.
Beveled: square edges on a guitar body, pickup or other surface that have been reduced to sloping edges. Bevels help the guitar to nestle more comfortably against the guitarist’s rib cage.
Bigsby vibrato: a tailpiece with a bar that lets guitarists raise or lower the tension—and the pitch—of the strings. Also called “tremolo bar” or “whammy bar.”
Binding: decorative appointment that covers the join of the body and the top or the join of the fretboard and the neck. Also used to cover the join of the fretboard to the neck. Ply refers to the number of layers in the binding, e.g. 3-ply or 7-ply.
Bolt-on neck: a neck that is attached into a fitted slot in the body by means of three or four wood screws running through the back of the body and into the back of the neck. This method of attaching necks was critical in the development of the electric guitar because it reduced production costs, making electric guitars more affordable. A bolt-on neck can be replaced, adjusted, or repaired with far less skilled labor than is required for other neck types. Bolt-on necks are used on some low-cost Epiphone Les Paul models.
Burst: abbreviation of the word sunburst. See Sunburst finish.
BurstBucker: the name for Gibson pickups from its Historic Humbucker lineup.
BurstBucker Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 feature Alnico 2 magnets and are replicas of “Patent Applied For” humbucker pickups found on early Les Pauls. All three types feature an airy tone. Type 1 pickups have unbalanced coils that are slightly underwound. Type 2 has coils that are wound to specification. Type 3 has unbalanced coils that are slightly overwound.
BurstBucker Pro: pickups feature Alnico 5 magnets and wax potting and have an enhanced “Patent Applied For” tone with more bite and brilliance.
Carved maple top: a 3/8" piece of maple carved into a curved shape and laminated to the back section of the guitar body (the back is usually made of mahogany).
Carved non-figured maple top: maple top that does not have wood with figuring or “flame.”
Ceramic magnet: used in pickups such as Gibson’s 500T to produce a “hotter” output. See Output and Alnico magnet.
Chambered: a guitar body with carefully selected cavities, or dynamic sound chambers routed into the body. Not to be confused with “weight relief” holes that are drilled. Seen in Les Paul models.
Double-cut: a guitar that has two cutaways.
Double-potted: a pickup that has been dipped into wax twice for a tighter seal to ward off unwanted vibrations that can cause microphonic feedback.
Ebony: very hard, dense wood used in fretboards of higher-quality Les Pauls.
Fingerboard: See fretboard.
Finish: protective and decorative coating applied to the wood body, neck, and headstock of the guitar
Fretboard: also called fingerboard; made of rosewood or ebony on Les Pauls and laminated on top of another piece of wood, usually mahogany. Metal frets are carefully hammered into the fretboard.
Fretboard Radius: The measure of the curvature of the top of the fretboard from edge to edge is often incorrectly referred to as the “neck radius”. Actually, the correct terminology would be either "fretboard" or "fingerboard radius" and the actual neck shape and size should be called the “neck profile.”
The fretboard radius can be found by first drawing a circle with a corresponding radius (the "radius" is the distance from the center of a circle to its outer edge), and then cutting out a portion of that circle corresponding to the width of the fretboard. For example, if you have a 7-1/4"-radius fretboard, you could tie a piece of string to a pencil, measure out a length of string to 7-1/4", and put a thumbtack on the other end of the string. Secure the tack, stretch the string, and draw a circle. By cutting out a piece of that circle the width of your fretboard, you will have an example of an arc with the same curvature as that of your fretboard radius.
Fret size: determined by the height and width of the fret wire. Low frets, while easy on the fingers, can make it hard to bend string. High frets result in a higher action. Narrow frets tend to wear faster; wider frets tend to be more durable. Frets that are high and narrow are very popular. See jumbo frets.
Gold hardware: an appointment found on higher-value LPs. Gold resists rust and corrosion.
Green tuning keys: also called “green vintage tuning keys,” this is a patina applied to tuning keys to make them look aged.
Grover tuners: a higher quality brand of tuner than the standard-issue tuners. They have enclosed, permanently lubricated machine heads so they tune more smoothly and hold the strings in tune longer. Grover has been making machine heads for stringed instruments since the late 1800s.
Headstock: the uppermost portion of a guitar neck, where the tuners are mounted.
Humbucker: pickup used in most LP guitars. The humbucker pickup has two wound coils next to each other that are wired out of phase. This eliminates or reduces most electrical hum to which single-coil-pickups are prone. See Seth Lover and P-90.
Intonation: the ability of a guitar to produce notes that are in tune from fret to fret all the way down the neck. Intonation can usually be adjusted from the saddles on the bridge.
Jumbo Frets: also called wide frets or super-size, refers to width and height of the fret wire. Preferred by some lead players who do lots of string bending. Higher fret wires give the player a greater range of string bending. See fret size.
Inlays: decorative appointments found in the fingerboard and headstock that are usually made of mother-of-pearl, abalone or acrylic material. LP inlays include block and trapezoid shapes.
Kill switch: a switch that completely cuts off signal from all pickups.
Kluson tuners: a higher-quality brand of tuner than standard-issue tuners. Has better materials and construction so that they tune more smoothly and hold the strings in tune longer.
Lacquer (also called nitrocellulose): clear or colored coating that is sprayed onto the guitar body in several coats that produces a hard, durable finish.
Les Paul: legendary guitarist and inventor of multitrack recording. One of the pioneers of the solidbody electric guitar.
Limited edition: a guitar with a unique set of features produced in limited quantities. Many times the serial number is hand stamped on the back of the neck to indicate where in the limited series that particular guitar was produced—a feature sought by collectors to enhance the guitar’s value.
Long-neck tenon: also called long tenon or deep tenon—the part of the neck that extends into the body for a more solid join when neck and body are glued together.
Lyre Vibrola: trapeze-style tremolo tailpiece that allows altering string tension to produce pitch-shifting effects. This type of string termination swings freely from the tail of the guitar, freeing the top from the leverage of string tension.
Maple: a very dense, hard wood used primarily for the top of most Les Paul models and some SG models. The maple is carved into a 3/8"-thick top that is laminated to the back (which is usually made of mahogany).
Mahogany: a very dense, strong, but not extremely hard, hardwood used primarily for the body and the neck of LPs. Emphasizes midrange and bass tones for mellower or darker tone.
Midrange: the middle of three ranges of tonal frequencies: low, midrange, and high. The overall sonic character of a guitar is determined by how strongly it produces sound in each of these three ranges. Generally, a good guitar will be able to provide a mix of all three. The exact mix—how much midrange versus highs, for example—is mostly a matter of individual taste or preference. Some of the features that affect tonal character include the types of wood used, how the guitar is constructed, the type of pickups, materials used in the bridge and nut, and the gauge and composition of the strings.
Mini-humbuckers: smaller version of standard humbuckers, first used in the 1968 Les Paul Deluxe. The sound is described as a sweeter, more “centered” sound with greater emphasis on midrange.
Neck-through (Neck-thru): design in which the guitar is built around a single column of wood that extends from the tip of the headstock through to the strap button at the tail. This column can either be a single piece or several pieces laminated together side-by-side. The "wings" of body wood are glued onto the sides of this central column of wood. Neck-through bodies produce maximum sustain and have the advantage of eliminating the large heel where the neck meets the body, thus providing the freest access to the higher register frets. Neck-through guitars are more expensive to manufacture than bolt-on necks.
Nitrocellulose lacquer finish: a fast-drying synthetic finish used commonly in the 1950s and 1960s, it is now mostly used for reissue guitars from those decades. See thin nitrocellulose finish.
Nut: located where the headstock joins the neck, determines the spacing of the string and their height above the neck. A string nut can be made of bone, graphite, brass, nickel, Corian, or plastic.
Nut width: the distance across the top of the fretboard which determines the space between individual strings. Players with bigger hands usually prefer a wider fretboard.
Output: the amount of electrical signal produced by a guitar pickup. Higher output (or “gain”) means the pickup can more easily overdrive the amplifier and produce hard-edged or distorted guitar tones favored by many rock guitarists. An example of a high output-pickup is the 500T used in the Les Paul Classic.
P-90: a single-coil pickup that comes in two shapes: dog-ear and soapbar. They were used exclusively in earlier Les Paul models before the humbucker was invented.P-90s produce a warm, soulful, and historic ’50s tone.
“Patent Applied For”: this legend was stamped on early versions of the Gibson humbucker. It was the sound of these pickups on the “Sunburst” Les Pauls from 1958 through 1960— especially when played through a Marshall amp—that produced the creamy sustain and warm distortion featured on many classic blues and rock recordings in the late ’60s. In its reissues of vintage guitars, Gibson strives to achieve the historically-accurate “Patent Applied For” tone in its BurstBucker Type 1, 2, and 3 pickups and what Gibson describes as “enhanced Patent Applied For tone with more bite and brilliance” from its BurstBucker Pro pickups.
Pickguard: usually made of plastic (celluloid, vinyl, PVC, acrylic) or laminated material such as parchment. They can also be made of plexiglas, glass, wood, fabrics, metals, or plywood. Pickguards may be made of a single layer (ply) or multiple layers, for example 3-ply or 5-ply. Pickguards are usually located below and/or around the strings to prevent damage to the finish caused by the guitarist’s strumming or picking.
Ply binding: binding that has multiple layers, such as 3-ply or 5-ply binding. Multi-ply binding is more attractive than simple binding and is found on higher-end guitars.
Pot: potentiometer—an electrical component used to control volume and tone that usually incorporates an adjustable knob or lever.
Quilt top: the pattern of figuring or flame on a maple top that resembles a quilt.
Radius: See neck radius.
Rosewood: wood used on fingerboards on some LP guitars. Higher-cost models typically have ebony fingerboards.
Rounded neck: describes the neck profile on vintage ’50s Gibson LPs as opposed to the slimmer, flatter shape on ’60s SGs.
Scale length: the measured distance of the vibrating string length between the nut and the saddle. The 24-3/4" scale length of the SG is shorter than the 25-1/2" scale length on the Fender Stratocaster (and Telecaster) which was taken originally from the standard scale length for steel-string acoustic guitars. The shorter scale length of the SG (and Les Paul) provides less tension making it easier to bend strings.
Seth Lover: Designer who developed and patented the humbucker pickup first introduced in the 1957 Les Paul.
Set-in neck: neck that is glued to the body, as opposed to a bolt-on neck. See through neck.
Signature guitar: Gibson Custom Shop models built to famous guitarists’ personal specifications.
Single-coil: a guitar pickup that has only one coil of wrapped around a single magnet. The sound produced by a single pickup is brighter with less midrange and bottom than a humbucker and is more prone to hum. See P-90.
Slim ’60s neck: a slimmer, flatter taper or neck profile, than the rounded ’50s neck.
Slim-taper neck: flatter and thinner neck preferred by some players over the rounded neck.
Stopbar tailpiece: combination bridge/tailpiece introduced on the Les Paul in 1954, replacing the trapeze tailpiece. It is also used on many SG models.
Strap Lock: prevents guitar strap from slipping off the guitar’s strap button.
Sunburst finish: A finish technique in which the color of the guitar is lightest at the center darkening gradually as it approaches a dark rim. The wood grain is often visible in the lighter areas of a sunburst guitar top.
Thin nitrocellulose lacquer finish (also called a “nitro” finish): ultrathin, ultralight finish treatment that creates the patina of a gently aged vintage guitar. The process is expensive because it takes weeks to apply. A thin nitrocellulose finish allows the wood to breathe and gets thinner over time. The best finish for tone, many feel.
Three-way switch: found on most guitars that have two pickups, it controls which pickups are active—switching positions are usually 1) bridge pickup, 2) bridge and neck pickups 3) neck pickup.
Through neck (also known as neck-through or neck-through-body): the wood used for the neck runs the entire length of the body. The rest of the body is composed of “wings” glued or laminated to the neck. A through neck results in improved tone and sustain. Because a through neck is more complex to construct it is more costly and so is mostly found on high-end guitars. See also Neck-through.
Top hat knobs: Type of volume and tone knobs that resemble a top hat. Found on vintage LPs and their reproductions. They come in either black or gold. Vintage top hat knobs age to an amber color.
Transparent colors: a thin lacquer finish that lets the natural wood grain of the guitar’s top show through.
Tune-O-Matic (also abbreviated TOM): Gibson’s name for its adjustable bridge that was introduced in the 1954 Les Paul Custom. The length and height of individual strings can be adjusted for better intonation. It is used on many Les Paul models.
Tuners: tuning pegs (also called tuning keys or machine heads) used to raise or lower the tension and therefore pitch of individual guitar strings. See Grover and Kluson.
VOS — Vintage Original Spec: Series of reissue guitars produced by the Gibson Custom Shop to the exact specifications of original vintage guitars. VOS treatment may include aging of the guitar’s finish, hardware, and plastic parts.
Waxed pickups: during construction the pickup is dipped (or “potted”) in wax to eliminate microphonic feedback which is caused by unwanted vibrations passing from the guitar body to the pickup. Used on all Gibson pickups except BurstBucker Type 1 and Type 2, which are historically-accurate replicas of “Patent Applied For” pickups found in vintage Les Paul and SG models. “Patent Applied For” pickups were not wax potted.
Wide frets: Until 1959, most Gibson electric guitars had shorter, narrow frets. Some players prefer wide frets that they feel are more comfortable as their fingers move along the strings. Some guitarists prefer short wide frets, finding it makes the guitar easier to play.
Zebra pickups: resulting from mismatched colors of pickup bobbins. Originally found in late 1950s Sunburst Les Pauls, the bobbins became visible when players removed pickup covers to supposedly enhance the sound. Zebra pickups are prized by collectors because they are a further indication of a vintage guitar’s authenticity. Some modern Gibson SG models are equipped with them.