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An electric guitar is a fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitarist strums, plucks or fingerpicks the strings. It is sensed by a pickup, most commonly by a magnetic pickup that uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is plugged into a guitar amplifier before being sent to a loudspeaker, which makes a sound loud enough to hear. The output of an electric guitar is an electric signal, and the signal can easily be altered by electronic circuits to add "color" to the sound or change the sound. Often the signal is modified using effects such as reverb and distortion and "overdrive", with the growling sound of the latter being a key element of the sound of the electric guitar as it is used in blues and rock music.
Invented in 1931, the amplified electric guitar was adopted by jazz guitarists, who sought to be able to do single-note guitar solos in large big band ensembles. Early proponents of the electric guitar on record included Les Paul, Lonnie Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, T-Bone Walker, and Charlie Christian. During the 1950s and 1960s, the electric guitar became the most important instrument in pop music. It has evolved into an instrument that is capable of a multitude of sounds and styles in genres ranging from pop and rock to country music, blues and jazz. It served as a major component in the development of electric blues, rock and roll, rock music, heavy metal music and many other genres of music.
Electric guitar design and construction vary greatly in the shape of the body and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups. Guitars may have a fixed bridge or a spring-loaded hinged bridge that lets players "bend" the pitch of notes or chords up or down or perform vibrato effects. The sound of a guitar can be modified by new playing techniques such as string bending, tapping, hammering on, using audio feedback, or slide guitar playing. There are several types of electric guitar, including the solid-body guitar, various types of hollow-body guitars, the six-string guitar (the most common type, usually tuned E, A, D, G, B, E, from lowest to highest strings), the seven-string guitar, which typically adds a low B string below the low E, and the twelve-string electric guitar, which has six pairs of strings.
Popular music and rock groups often use the electric guitar in two roles: as a rhythm guitar, which plays the chord sequence or progression and riffs and sets the beat (as part of a rhythm section), and as a lead guitar, which is used to perform instrumental melody lines, melodic instrumental fill passages, and solos. In a small group, such as a power trio, one guitarist switches between both roles. In larger rock and metal bands, there is often a rhythm guitarist and a lead guitarist.
Many experiments at electrically amplifying the vibrations of a string instrument were made dating back to the early part of the 20th century. Patents from the 1910s show telephone transmitters were adapted and placed inside violins and banjos to amplify the sound. Hobbyists in the 1920s used carbon button microphones attached to the bridge; however, these detected vibration from the bridge on top of the instrument, resulting in a weak signal. With numerous people experimenting with electrical instruments in the 1920s and early 1930s, there are many claimants to have been the first to invent an electric guitar.The "Frying Pan", 1932
Electric guitars were originally designed by acoustic guitar makers and instrument manufacturers. Some of the earliest electric guitars adapted hollow-bodied acoustic instruments and used tungsten pickups. The first electrically amplified guitar was designed in 1931 by George Beauchamp, the general manager of the National Guitar Corporation, with Paul Barth, who was vice president. The maple body prototype for the one-piece cast aluminium "frying pan" was built by Harry Watson, factory superintendent of the National Guitar Corporation. Commercial production began in late summer of 1932 by the Ro-Pat-In Corporation (Electro-Patent-Instrument Company), in Los Angeles, a partnership of Beauchamp, Adolph Rickenbacker (originally Rickenbacher), and Paul Barth. In 1934, the company was renamed the Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company. In that year Beauchamp applied for a United States patent for an Electrical Stringed Musical Instrument and the patent was issued in 1937.
By early-mid 1935, Electro String Instrument Corporation had achieved mainstream success with the A-22 Frying Pan, and set out to capture a new audience through its release of the "Electro-Spanish Model B" and the "Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts" which was the first full 25" scale electric guitar produced. The Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts provided players a full 25" scale, with 17 frets free of the fretboard. It is estimated that fewer than 50 Electro-Spanish Ken Roberts were constructed between 1933 and 1937; fewer than 10 are known to survive today.
The need for the amplified guitar became apparent during the big band era as orchestras increased in size, particularly when acoustic guitars had to compete with large, loud brass sections. The first electric guitars used in jazz were hollow archtop acoustic guitar bodies with electromagnetic transducers. Early electric guitar manufacturers include Rickenbacker in 1932; Dobro in 1933; National, AudioVox and Volu-tone in 1934; Vega, Epiphone (Electrophone and Electar), and Gibson in 1935 and many others by 1936.Fender Stratocaster is one of the most often emulated electric guitar shapes
The solid-body electric guitar is made of solid wood, without functionally resonating air spaces. The first solid-body Spanish standard guitar was offered by Vivi-Tone no later than 1934. This model featured a guitar-shaped body of a single sheet of plywood affixed to a wood frame. Another early, substantially solid Spanish electric guitar, called the Electro Spanish, was marketed by the Rickenbacker guitar company in 1935 and made of Bakelite. By 1936, the Slingerland company introduced a wooden solid-body electric model, the Slingerland Songster 401 (and a lap steel counterpart, the Songster 400).
The earliest documented performance with an electrically amplified guitar was in 1932, by Gage Brewer, a musician based in Wichita, Kansas. He had an Electric Hawaiian A-25 (frypan, lap steel) and a standard Electric Spanish from George Beauchamp of Los Angeles. Brewer publicized his new instruments in an article in the Wichita Beacon of 2 October 1932 and through performances that month. The first recordings using the electric guitar were by Hawaiian-style players, in 1933. Bob Dunn of Milton Brown's Musical Brownies introduced the electric Hawaiian guitar to Western swing with his January 1935 Decca recordings, departing almost entirely from the Hawaiian musical influence and heading towards jazz and blues. Alvino Rey was an artist who took this instrument to a wide audience in a large orchestral setting and later developed the pedal steel guitar for Gibson. An early proponent of the electric Spanish guitar was jazz guitarist George Barnes, who used the instrument in two songs recorded in Chicago on 1 March 1938, "Sweetheart Land" and "It's a Low-Down Dirty Shame". Some incorrectly attribute the first recording to Eddie Durham, but his recording with the Kansas City Five was made 15 days later. Durham introduced the instrument to a young Charlie Christian, who made the instrument famous in his brief life and would be a major influence on jazz guitarists for decades thereafter.
Gibson's first production electric guitar, marketed in 1936, was the ES-150 model ("ES" for "Electric Spanish", and "150" reflecting the $150 price of the instrument, along with matching amplifier). The ES-150 guitar featured a single-coil, hexagonally shaped "bar" pickup, which was designed by Walt Fuller. It became known as the "Charlie Christian" pickup (named for the great jazz guitarist who was among the first to perform with the ES-150 guitar). The ES-150 achieved some popularity but suffered from unequal loudness across the six strings.
Early proponents of the electric guitar on record include Alvino Rey (Phil Spitalney Orchestra), Les Paul (Fred Waring Orchestra), Danny Stewart (Andy Iona Orchestra), George Barnes (under many aliases), Lonnie Johnson, Floyd Smith, Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, George Van Eps, Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman Orchestra), Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, and Arthur Crudup.
A functionally solid-body electric guitar was designed and built in 1940 by Les Paul from an Epiphone acoustic archtop. His "log guitar" (so called because it consisted of a simple 4x4 wood post with a neck attached to it and homemade pickups and hardware, with two detachable Epiphone hollow-body halves attached to the sides for appearance only) shares nothing in design or hardware with the solid-body Gibson Les Paul introduced in 1952. However, the feedback associated with hollow-bodied electric guitars was understood long before Paul's "log" was created in 1940; Gage Brewer's Ro-Pat-In of 1932 had a top so heavily reinforced that it essentially functioned as a solid-body instrument. In 1945, Richard D. Bourgerie made an electric guitar pickup and amplifier for professional guitar player George Barnes. Bourgerie worked through World War II at Howard Radio Company, making electronic equipment for the American military. Barnes showed the result to Les Paul, who then arranged for Bourgerie to have one made for him.
This table shows the layout of pitches on a standard tuning six-string guitar, which is tuned E, A, D, G, B, E, going from the lowest-pitch, thickest string to the highest - pitch, thinnest string. The table depicts a guitar fretboard as it would appear to an observer looking at a guitar that is on its side and upside-down, thus giving the table the same appearance that a guitarist would see when holding the instrument in playing position. Zero is the nut; 5 is the fifth (tuning) fret. This table only shows up to the twelfth fret. Most electric guitars have additional frets beyond the twelfth fret which have the same layout as the 1st- 12th fret (although the notes are an octave higher in pitch).1. Headstock
1.1 machine heads
1.2 truss rod cover
1.3 string guide
2.2 inlay fret markers
2.4 neck joint
3.1 "neck" pickup
3.2 "bridge" pickup
3.5 fine tuners and tailpiece assembly
3.6 whammy bar (vibrato arm)
3.7 pickup selector switch
3.8 volume and tone control knobs
3.9 output connector (output jack)(TS)
3.10 strap buttons
4.1 bass strings
4.2 treble strings
Electric guitar design and construction vary greatly in the shape of the body and the configuration of the neck, bridge, and pickups. However, some features are present on most guitars. The photo below shows the different parts of an electric guitar. The headstock (1) contains the metal machine heads (1.1), which use a worm gear for tuning. The nut (1.4)—a thin fret-like strip of metal, plastic, graphite or bone—supports the strings at the headstock end of the instrument. The frets (2.3) are thin metal strips that stop the string at the correct pitch when the player pushes a string against the fingerboard. The truss rod (1.2) is a metal rod (usually adjustable) that counters the tension of the strings to keep the neck straight. Position markers (2.2) provide the player with a reference to the playing position on the fingerboard.
The neck and fretboard (2.1) extend from the body. At the neck joint (2.4), the neck is either glued or bolted to the body. The body (3) is typically made of wood with a hard, polymerized finish. Strings vibrating in the magnetic field of the pickups (3.1, 3.2) produce an electric current in the pickup winding that passes through the tone and volume controls (3.8) to the output jack. Some guitars have piezo pickups, in addition to or instead of magnetic pickups.
Some guitars have a fixed bridge (3.4). Others have a spring-loaded hinged bridge called a vibrato bar, tremolo bar, or whammy bar, which lets players bend notes or chords up or down in pitch or perform a vibrato embellishment. A plastic pickguard on some guitars protects the body from scratches or covers the control cavity, which holds most of the wiring. The degree to which the choice of woods and other materials in the solid-guitar body (3) affects the sonic character of the amplified signal is disputed. Many believe it is highly significant, while others think the difference between woods is subtle. In acoustic and archtop guitars, wood choices more clearly affect tone.
Woods typically used in solid-body electric guitars include alder (brighter, but well rounded), swamp ash (similar to alder, but with more pronounced highs and lows), mahogany (dark, bassy, warm), poplar (similar to alder), and basswood (very neutral). Maple, a very bright tonewood, is also a popular body wood, but is very heavy. For this reason it is often placed as a "cap" on a guitar made primarily of another wood. Cheaper guitars are often made of cheaper woods, such as plywood, pine or agathis—not true hardwoods—which can affect durability and tone. Though most guitars are made of wood, any material may be used. Materials such as plastic, metal, and even cardboard have been used in some instruments.
The guitar output jack typically provides a monaural signal. Many guitars with active electronics use a jack with an extra contact normally used for stereo. These guitars use the extra contact to break the ground connection to the on-board battery to preserve battery life when the guitar is unplugged. These guitars require a mono plug to close the internal switch and connect the battery to ground. Standard guitar cables use a high-impedance 1/4-inch (6.35-mm) mono plug. These have a tip and sleeve configuration referred to as a TS phone connector. The voltage is usually around 1 to 9 millivolts.
A few guitars feature stereo output, such as Rickenbacker guitars equipped with Rick-O-Sound. There are a variety of ways the "stereo" effect may be implemented. Commonly, but not exclusively, stereo guitars route the neck and bridge pickups to separate output buses on the guitar. A stereo cable then routes each pickup to its own signal chain or amplifier. For these applications, the most popular connector is a high-impedance 1/4-inch plug with a tip, ring and sleeve configuration, also known as a TRS phone connector. Some studio instruments, notably certain Gibson Les Paul models, incorporate a low-impedance three-pin XLR connector for balanced audio. Many exotic arrangements and connectors exist that support features such as midi and hexaphonic pickups.
The bridge and tailpiece, while serving separate purposes, work closely together to affect playing style and tone. There are four basic types of bridge and tailpiece systems on electric guitars. Within these four types are many variants.
A hard-tail guitar bridge anchors the strings at or directly behind the bridge and is fastened securely to the top of the instrument. These are common on carved-top guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul and the Paul Reed Smith models, and on slab-body guitars, such as the Music Man Albert Lee and Fender guitars that are not equipped with a vibrato arm.
A floating or trapeze tailpiece (similar to a violin's) fastens to the body at the base of the guitar. These appear on Rickenbackers, Gretsches, Epiphones, a wide variety of archtop guitars, particularly Jazz guitars, and the 1952 Gibson Les Paul.
Pictured is a tremolo arm or vibrato tailpiece style bridge and tailpiece system, often called a whammy bar or trem. It uses a lever ("vibrato arm") attached to the bridge that can temporarily slacken or tighten the strings to alter the pitch. A player can use this to create a vibrato or a portamento effect. Early vibrato systems were often unreliable and made the guitar go out of tune easily. They also had a limited pitch range. Later Fender designs were better, but Fender held the patent on these, so other companies used older designs for many years.Detail of a Squier-made Fender Stratocaster. Note the vibrato arm, the 3 single-coil pickups, the volume and tone knobs.
With expiration of the Fender patent on the Stratocaster-style vibrato, various improvements on this type of internal, multi-spring vibrato system are now available. Floyd Rose introduced one of the first improvements on the vibrato system in many years when, in the late 1970s, he experimented with "locking" nuts and bridges that prevent the guitar from losing tuning, even under heavy vibrato bar use.Tune-o-matic with "strings through the body" construction (without stopbar)
The fourth type of system employs string-through body anchoring. The strings pass over the bridge saddles, then through holes through the top of the guitar body to the back. The strings are typically anchored in place at the back of the guitar by metal ferrules. Many believe this design improves a guitar's sustain and timbre. A few examples of string-through body guitars are the Fender Telecaster Thinline, the Fender Telecaster Deluxe, the B.C. Rich IT Warlock and Mockingbird, and the Schecter Omen 6 and 7 series.Main article: Pickup (music technology)
Compared to an acoustic guitar, which has a hollow body, electric guitars make much less audible sound when their strings are plucked, so electric guitars are normally plugged into a guitar amplifier and speaker. When an electric guitar is played, string movement produces a signal by generating (i.e., inducing) a small electric current in the magnetic pickups, which are magnets wound with coils of very fine wire. The signal passes through the tone and volume circuits to the output jack, and through a cable to an amplifier. The current induced is proportional to such factors as string density and the amount of movement over the pickups.Pickups on a Fender Squier "Fat Strat" guitar—a "humbucker" pickup on the left and two single-coil pickups on the right.
Because in most cases it is desirable to isolate coil-wound pickups from the unintended sound of internal vibration of loose coil windings, a guitar's magnetic pickups are normally embedded or "potted" in wax, lacquer, or epoxy to prevent the pickup from producing a microphonic effect. Because of their natural inductive qualities, all magnetic pickups tend to pick up ambient, usually unwanted electromagnetic interference or EMI. The resulting hum is particularly strong with single-coil pickups, and it is aggravated by the fact that many vintage guitars are insufficiently shielded against electromagnetic interference. The most common source is 50- or 60-Hz hum from power transmission systems (house wiring, etc.). Since nearly all amplifiers and audio equipment associated with electric guitars must be plugged in, it is a continuing technical challenge to reduce or eliminate unwanted hum.
Double-coil or "humbucker" pickups were invented as a way to reduce or counter the unwanted ambient hum sounds (known as 60-cycle hum). Humbuckers have two coils of opposite magnetic and electric polarity to produce a differential signal. Electromagnetic noise that hits both coils equally tries to drive the pickup signal toward positive on one coil and toward negative on the other, which cancels out the noise. The two coils are wired in phase, so their signal adds together. This high combined inductance of the two coils leads to the richer, "fatter" tone associated with humbucking pickups.
Piezoelectric pickups use a "sandwich" of quartz crystal or other piezoelectric material, typically placed beneath the string saddles or nut. These devices respond to pressure changes from all vibration at these specific points.
Optical pickups are a type of pickup that sense string and body vibrations using infrared LED light. These pickups are not sensitive to EMI.
Some "hybrid" electric guitars are equipped with additional microphone, piezoelectric, optical, or other types of transducers to approximate an acoustic instrument tone and broaden the sonic palette of the instrument.
Electric guitar necks vary in composition and shape. The primary metric of guitar necks is the scale length, which is the vibrating length of the strings from nut to bridge. A typical Fender guitar uses a 25.5-inch scale length, while Gibson uses a 24.75-inch scale length in their Les Paul. While the scale length of the Les Paul is often described as 24.75 inches, it has varied through the years by as much as a half inch.
Frets are positioned proportionally to scale length—the shorter the scale length, the closer the fret spacing. Opinions vary regarding the effect of scale length on tone and feel. Popular opinion holds that longer scale length contributes to greater amplitude. Reports of playing feel are greatly complicated by the many factors involved in this perception. String gauge and design, neck construction and relief, guitar setup, playing style and other factors contribute to the subjective impression of playability or feel.A bolt-on neck
Necks are described as bolt-on, set-in, or neck-through, depending on how they attach to the body. Set-in necks are glued to the body in the factory. They are said to have a warmer tone and greater sustain. This is the traditional type of joint. Leo Fender pioneered bolt-on necks on electric guitars to facilitate easy adjustment and replacement. Neck-through instruments extend the neck the length of the instrument, so that it forms the center of the body, and are known for long sustain and for being particularly sturdy. While a set-in neck can be carefully unglued by a skilled luthier, and a bolt-on neck can simply be unscrewed, a neck-through design is difficult or even impossible to repair, depending on the damage. Historically, the bolt-on style has been more popular for ease of installation and adjustment. Since bolt-on necks can be easily removed, there is an after-market in replacement bolt-on necks from companies such as Warmoth and Mighty Mite. Some instruments—notably most Gibson models—continue to use set-in glued necks. Neck-through bodies are somewhat more common in bass guitars.
Materials for necks are selected for dimensional stability and rigidity, and some allege that they influence tone. Hardwoods are preferred, with maple, mahogany, and ash topping the list. The neck and fingerboard can be made from different materials; for example, a guitar may have a maple neck with a rosewood or ebony fingerboard. In the 1970s, designers began to use exotic man-made materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum, carbon fiber, and ebonol. Makers known for these unusual materials include John Veleno, Travis Bean, Geoff Gould, and Alembic.
Aside from possible engineering advantages, some feel that in relation to the rising cost of rare tonewoods, man-made materials may be economically preferable and more ecologically sensitive. However, wood remains popular in production instruments, though sometimes in conjunction with new materials. Vigier guitars, for example, use a wooden neck reinforced by embedding a light, carbon fiber rod in place of the usual heavier steel bar or adjustable steel truss rod. After-market necks made entirely from carbon fiber fit existing bolt-on instruments. Few, if any, extensive formal investigations have been widely published that confirm or refute claims over the effects of different woods or materials on electric guitar sound.A neck-through bass guitar
Several neck shapes appear on guitars, including shapes known as C necks, U necks, and V necks. These refer to the cross-sectional shape of the neck (especially near the nut). Several sizes of fret wire are available, with traditional players often preferring thin frets, and metal shredders liking thick frets. Thin frets are considered better for playing chords, while thick frets allow lead guitarists to bend notes with less effort.
An electric guitar with a folding neck called the "Foldaxe" was designed and built for Chet Atkins by Roger C. Field.Steinberger guitars developed a line of exotic, carbon fiber instruments without headstocks, with tuning done on the bridge instead.
Fingerboards vary as much as necks. The fingerboard surface usually has a cross-sectional radius that is optimized to accommodate finger movement for different playing techniques. Fingerboard radius typically ranges from nearly flat (a very large radius) to radically arched (a small radius). The vintage Fender Telecaster, for example, has a typical small radius of approximately 7.25 inches. Some manufacturers have experimented with fret profile and material, fret layout, number of frets, and modifications of the fingerboard surface for various reasons. Some innovations were intended to improve playability by ergonomic means, such as Warmoth Guitars' compound radius fingerboard. Scalloped fingerboards added enhanced microtonality during fast legato runs. Fanned frets intend to provide each string with an optimal playing tension and enhanced musicality. Some guitars have no frets—and others, like the Gittler guitar, have no neck in the traditional sense.
While an acoustic guitar's sound depends largely on the vibration of the guitar's body and the air inside it, the sound of an electric guitar depends largely on the signal from the pickups. The signal can be "shaped" on its path to the amplifier via a range of effect devices or circuits that modify the tone and characteristics of the signal. Amplifiers and speakers also add coloration to the final sound.
Electric guitars usually have one to four magnetic pickups. Identical pickups produce different tones depending on how near they are to the neck or bridge. Bridge pickups produce a bright or trebly timbre, and neck pickups are warmer or more bassy. The type of pickup also affects tone. Dual-coil pickups sound warm, thick, perhaps even muddy; single-coil pickups sound clear, bright, perhaps even biting. Guitars don't require a uniform pickup type: a common mixture is the "fat Strat" arrangement of one dual-coil at the bridge position and single coils in the middle and neck positions, known as HSS (humbucker/single/single). Some guitars have piezoelectric pickup in addition to electromagnetic pickups. Piezo pickups produce a more acoustic sound. The piezo runs through a built-in equalizer (EQ) to improve similitude and control tone. A blend knob controls the mix between electromagnetic and piezoelectric sounds.
Where there is more than one pickup, a pickup selector switch is usually present. These typically select or combine the outputs of two or more pickups, so that two-pickup guitars have three-way switches, and three-pickup guitars have five-way switches (a Gibson Les Paul three-pickup Black Beauty has a three-position toggle switch which configures bridge, bridge and middle [switch in middle position] and neck pickups). Further circuitry sometimes combines pickups in different ways. For instance, phase switching places one pickup out of phase with the other(s), leading to a "honky", "nasal", or "funky" sound. Individual pickups can also have their timbre altered by switches, typically coil tap switches that effectively short-circuit some of a dual-coil pickup's windings to produce a tone similar to a single-coil pickup (usually done with push-pull volume knobs).
The final stages of on-board sound-shaping circuitry are the volume control (potentiometer) and tone control (which "rolls off" the treble frequencies). Where there are individual volume controls for different pickups, and where pickup signals can be combined, they would affect the timbre of the final sound by adjusting the balance between pickups from a straight 50:50.
The strings fitted to the guitar also have an influence on tone. Rock musicians often prefer the lightest gauge of roundwound string, which is easier to bend, while jazz musicians go for heavier, flatwound strings, which have a rich, dark sound. Steel, nickel, and cobalt are common string materials, and each gives a slightly different tone color. Recent guitar designs may incorporate much more complex circuitry than described above; see Digital and synthesizer guitars, below.A Fender Bassman amp head with a 15" speaker cabinet. Main article: Guitar amplifier
The solid-body electric guitar does not produce enough sound to be audible to the audience in a performance setting without it being plugged into an electronic amplifier (exceptions would be when a guitarist is doing a sound recording and plugs into the mixing console or when a bassist plugs directly into the PA system in a live show).
Guitar amplifiers are designed with a different approach than that used to design sound reinforcement system power amplifiers and home "hi-fi" stereo systems. Audio amplifiers generally are intended to accurately reproduce the source signal without adding unwanted tonal coloration (i.e., they have a flat frequency response) or unwanted distortion. In contrast, most guitar amplifiers are intended to provide tonal coloration and/or overdrive (distortion of various types) that can add to a guitar signal. A common tonal coloration sought by guitarists is rolling off some of the high frequencies. Along with a guitarist's playing style and choice of electric guitar and pickups, the choice of guitar amp model is a key part of a guitarist's unique tone. Many top guitarists are associated with a specific brand of guitar amp. As well, electric guitarists in blues, rock and many related sub-genres often intentionally choose amplifiers or effects units with controls that distort or alter the sound (to a greater or lesser degree).
In the 1950s and 1960s, some guitarists began exploring a wider range of tonal effects by distorting the sound of the instrument. To do this, they used overdrive — increasing the gain of the preamplifier beyond the level where the signal could be reproduced with little distortion, resulting in a "fuzzy" sound. This effect is called "clipping" by sound engineers, because when viewed with an oscilloscope, the wave forms of a distorted signal appear to have had their peaks "clipped off", in the process introducing additional tones (often approximating the harmonics characteristic of a square wave of that basic frequency). This was not actually a new development in the musical instrument or its supporting gear, but rather a shift of aesthetics, such sounds not having been thought desirable previously. Some distortion modes with an electric guitar increase the sustain of single notes and chords, which changes the sound of the instrument. In particular, distortion made it more feasible to perform guitar solos that used long, sustained notes.
After distortion became popular amongst rock music groups, guitar amplifier manufacturers included various provisions for it as part of amplifier design, making amps easier to overdrive, and providing separate "dirty" and "clean" channels so that distortion could easily be switched on and off. The distortion characteristics of vacuum tube amplifiers are particularly sought-after in blues and many rock music genres, and various attempts have been made to emulate them without the disadvantages (e.g., fragility, low power, expense) of actual tubes. Distortion, especially in tube based amplifiers, can come from several sources: power supply sag as more power is demanded than the supply can provide at a steady voltage, deliberate gain over drive of active elements, or alterations in the feedback provisions for various circuit stages.
Guitar amplifiers have long included at least a few effect units, often tone controls for bass and treble, an integrated tremolo system (sometimes incorrectly labeled (and marketed) as vibrato), and/or a mechanical spring reverb unit. In the 2010s, guitar amps often have onboard distortion effects. Some 2010-era amps provide multiple effects, such as chorus, flanger, phaser and octave down effects. The use of offboard effects such as stompbox pedals is made possible by either plugging the guitar into the external effect pedal and then plugging the effect pedal into the amp, or by using one or more effects loops, an arrangement that allows effects to be electrically or mechanically switched in or out of the signal path as desired. In the signal chain, the effects loop is typically located between the preamplifier stage and the power amplifier stages (though reverb units generally precede the effects loop if both are featured on an amplifier). This allows the guitarist to apply modulation effects to the signal after it has been processed through the preamplifier, something generally desirable, particularly with time-based effects such as delay. By the 2010s, guitar amplifiers usually included a distortion effect. Effects circuitry (whether internal to an amplifier or not) can be taken as far as amp modeling, by which is meant alteration of the electrical and audible behavior in such a way as to make an amp sound as though it were another (or one of several) amplifiers. When done well, a solid state amplifier can sound like a tube amplifier (even one with power supply sag), reducing the need to manage more than one amp. Some modeling systems even attempt to emulate the sound of different speakers/cabinets. Nearly all amp and speaker cabinet modeling is done digitally, using computer techniques (e.g., Digital Signal Processing or DSP circuitry and software). There is disagreement about whether this approach is musically satisfactory, and also whether this or that unit is more or less successful than another.Main article: Effects unit A Boss distortion pedal in use
In the 1960s, the tonal palette of the electric guitar was further modified by introducing effect units in its signal path, before the guitar amp, of which one of the earliest units was the fuzz pedal. Effects units come in several formats, the most common of which are the stompbox "pedal" and the rackmount unit. A stomp box (or pedal) is a small metal or plastic box containing the circuitry, which is placed on the floor in front of the musician and connected in line with the patch cord connected to the instrument. The box is typically controlled by one or more foot-pedal on-off switches and it typically contains only one or two effects. Pedals are smaller than rackmount effects and usually less expensive. "Guitar pedalboards" are used by musicians who use multiple stomp-boxes; these may be a DIY project made with plywood or a commercial stock or custom-made pedalboard.
A rackmount effects unit may contain an electronic circuit nearly identical to a stompbox-based effect, but it is mounted in a standard 19" equipment rack, which is usually mounted in a road case that is designed to protect the equipment during transport. More recently, as signal-processing technology continuously becomes more feature-dense, rack-mount effects units frequently contain several types of effects. They are typically controlled by knobs or switches on the front panel, and often by a MIDI digital control interface.
Typical effects include:
In the 1970s, as effects pedals proliferated, their sounds were combined with tube amp distortion at lower, more controlled volumes by using power attenuators, such as Tom Scholz's Power Soak, as well as re-amplified dummy loads, such as Eddie Van Halen's use of dummy-load power resistor, post-power-tube effects, and a final solid-state amp driving the guitar speakers.
Recent amplifiers may include digital technology similar to modern effects pedals, including the ability to model or emulate a variety of classic amps.The Zoom 505 multi-effect pedal
A multi-effects device (also called a "multi-FX" device) is a single electronics effects pedal or rack-mount device that contains many electronic effects. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, multi-FX manufacturers such as Zoom and Korg produced devices that were increasingly feature-laden. Multi-FX devices combine several effects together, and most devices allow users to use preset combinations of effects, including distortion, chorus, reverb, compression, and so on. This allows musicians to have quick on-stage access to different effects combinations. Some multi-FX pedals contain modelled versions of well-known effects pedals or amplifiers.The Boss GT-8, a higher-end multi-effect processing pedal; note the preset switches and patch bank foot switches and built-in expression pedal.
Multi-effects devices have garnered a large share of the effects device market, because they offer the user such a large variety of effects in a single package. A low-priced multi-effects pedal may provide 20 or more effects for the price of a regular single-effect pedal. More expensive multi-effect pedals may include 40 or more effects, amplifier modelling, and the ability to combine effects and/or modelled amp sounds in different combinations, as if the user was using multiple guitar amps. More expensive multi-effects pedals may also include more input and output jacks (e.g., an auxiliary input or a "dry" output), MIDI inputs and outputs, and an expression pedal, which can control volume or modify effect parameters (e.g., the rate of the simulated rotary speaker effect).
By the 1980s and 1990s, software effects became capable of replicating the analog effects used in the past. These new digital effects attempt to model the sound produced by analog effects and tube amps, with varying degrees of quality. There are many free guitar effects computer programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Now, computers with sound cards can be used as digital guitar effects processors. Although digital and software effects offer many advantages, many guitarists still use analog effects.
In 2002, Gibson announced the first digital guitar, which performs analog-to-digital conversion internally. The resulting digital signal is delivered over a standard Ethernet cable, eliminating cable-induced line noise. The guitar also provides independent signal processing for each individual string. In 2003, modelling amplifier maker Line 6 introduced the Variax guitar. It differs in some fundamental ways from conventional solid-body electrics. It has on-board electronics capable of modelling the sound of a variety of unique guitars and some other stringed instruments. At one time, some models featured piezoelectric pickups instead of the conventional electromagnetic pickups.A prepared guitar
The sound of a guitar can not only be adapted by electronic sound effects but is also heavily affected by various new techniques developed or becoming possible in combination with electric amplification. This is called extended technique.
Extended techniques include:The hammer-on technique Palm muting of the strings using the picking hand Slide guitar
Other techniques, such as axial finger vibrato, pull-offs, hammer-ons, palm muting, harmonics and altered tunings, are also used on the classical and acoustic guitar. Shred guitar is a genre involving a number of extended techniques.Paul Reed Smith Standard 22 Gittler electric guitar, a bodyless guitar without fingerboard or neck Fender Esquire
Unlike acoustic guitars, solid-body electric guitars have no vibrating soundboard to amplify string vibration. Instead, solid-body instruments depend on electric pickups and an amplifier (or amp) and speaker. The solid body ensures that the amplified sound reproduces the string vibration alone, thus avoiding the wolf tones and unwanted feedback associated with amplified acoustic guitars of the period. These guitars are generally made of hardwood covered with a hard polymer finish, often polyester or lacquer. In large production facilities, the wood is stored for three to six months in a wood-drying kiln before being cut to shape. Premium custom-built guitars are frequently made with much older, hand-selected wood.
One of the first solid-body guitars was invented by Les Paul. Gibson did not present their Gibson Les Paul guitar prototypes to the public, as they did not believe the solid-body style would catch on. Another early solid-body Spanish style guitar, resembling what would become Gibson's Les Paul guitar a decade later, was developed in 1941 by O.W. Appleton, of Nogales, Arizona. Appleton made contact with both Gibson and Fender but was unable to sell the idea behind his "App" guitar to either company. In 1946, Merle Travis commissioned steel guitar builder Paul Bigsby to build him a solid-body Spanish-style electric. Bigsby delivered the guitar in 1948. The first mass-produced solid-body guitar was Fender Esquire and Fender Broadcaster (later to become the Fender Telecaster), first made in 1948, five years after Les Paul made his prototype. The Gibson Les Paul appeared soon after to compete with the Broadcaster. Another notable solid-body design is the Fender Stratocaster, which was introduced in 1954 and became extremely popular among musicians in the 1960s and 1970s for its wide tonal capabilities and more comfortable ergonomics than other models.
Some solid-bodied guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul Supreme, the PRS Singlecut, and the Fender Telecaster Thinline, among others, are built with hollows in the body. These hollows are designed specifically not to interfere with the critical bridge and string anchor point on the solid body. In the case of Gibson and PRS, these are called chambered bodies. The motivation for this may be to reduce weight, to achieve a semi-acoustic tone (see below) or both.Main article: Semi-acoustic guitar Epiphone semi-acoustic hollow-body guitar
Semi-acoustic guitars have a hollow body (similar in depth to a solid-body guitar) and electronic pickups mounted on the body. They work in a similar way to solid-body electric guitars except that, because the hollow body also vibrates, the pickups convert a combination of string and body vibration into an electrical signal. Whereas chambered guitars are made, like solid-body guitars, from a single block of wood, semi-acoustic and full-hollowbody guitars bodies are made from thin sheets of wood. They do not provide enough acoustic volume for live performance, but they can be used unplugged for quiet practice. Semi-acoustics are noted for being able to provide a sweet, plaintive, or funky tone. They are used in many genres, including blues, funk, sixties pop, and indie rock. They generally have cello-style F-shaped sound holes. These can be blocked off to prevent feedback, as in B. B. King's famous Lucille. Feedback can also be reduced by making them with a solid block in the middle of the soundbox.Main article: Archtop guitar
Full hollow-body guitars have large, deep bodies made of glued-together sheets, or "plates", of wood. They can often be played at the same volume as an acoustic guitar and therefore can be used unplugged at intimate gigs. They qualify as electric guitars inasmuch as they have fitted pickups. Historically, archtop guitars with retrofitted pickups were among the very earliest electric guitars. The instrument originated during the Jazz Age, in the 1920s and 1930s, and are still considered the classic jazz guitar (nicknamed "jazzbox"). Like semi-acoustic guitars, they often have f-shaped sound holes.
Having humbucker pickups (sometimes just a neck pickup) and usually strung heavlly, jazzboxes are noted for their warm, rich tone. A variation with single-coil pickups, and sometimes with a Bigsby tremolo, has long been popular in country and rockabilly; it has a distinctly more twangy, biting tone than the classic jazzbox. The term archtop refers to a method of construction subtly different from the typical acoustic (or "folk" or "western" or "steel-string" guitar): the top is formed from a moderately thick (1 inch or 2–3 cm) piece of wood, which is then carved into a thin (0.1 in, or 2–3 mm) domed shape, whereas conventional acoustic guitars have a thin, flat top.Main article: Acoustic-electric guitar
Some steel-string acoustic guitars are fitted with pickups purely as an alternative to using a separate microphone. They may also be fitted with a piezoelectric pickup under the bridge, attached to the bridge mounting plate, or with a low-mass microphone (usually a condenser mic) inside the body of the guitar that converts the vibrations in the body into electronic signals. Combinations of these types of pickups may be used, with an integral mixer/preamp/graphic equalizer. Such instruments are called electric acoustic guitars. They are regarded as acoustic guitars rather than electric guitars, because the pickups do not produce a signal directly from the vibration of the strings, but rather from the vibration of the guitar top or body.
Electric acoustic guitars should not be confused with semi-acoustic guitars, which have pickups of the type found on solid-body electric guitars, or solid-body hybrid guitars with piezoelectric pickups.
The one-string guitar is also known as the Unitar. Although rare, the one-string guitar is sometimes heard, particularly in Delta blues, where improvised folk instruments were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Eddie "One String" Jones had some regional success. Mississippi blues musician Lonnie Pitchford played a similar, homemade instrument. In a more contemporary style, Little Willie Joe, the inventor of the Unitar, had a rhythm and blues instrumental hit in the 1950s with "Twitchy", recorded with the Rene Hall Orchestra.
The four-string guitar is better known as the tenor guitar. One of its best-known players was Tiny Grimes, who played on 52nd Street with the beboppers and played a major role in the Prestige Blues Swingers. Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis (musician) of Dirty Three and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is a contemporary player who includes a tenor guitar in his repertoire.
The four-string guitar is normally tuned CGDA, but some players, such as Tiny Grimes, tune to DGBE in order to preserve familiar 6-string guitar chord fingerings. The tenor guitar can also be tuned like a soprano, concert, or tenor ukulele, using versions of GCEA tuning.Main article: Seven-string guitar Stephen Carpenter playing a 7-string electric guitar in 2009
Most seven-string guitars add a low B string below the low E. Both electric and classical guitars exist designed for this tuning. A high A string above the high E instead of the low B string is sometimes used. Another less common seven-string arrangement is a second G string situated beside the standard G string and tuned an octave higher, in the same manner as a twelve-stringed guitar (see below). Jazz guitarists using a seven-string include George Van Eps, Lenny Breau, Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John Pizzarelli.
Seven-string electric guitars were popularized among rock players in the 1980s by Steve Vai. Along with the Japanese guitar company Ibanez, Vai created the Universe series seven-string guitars in the 1980s, with a double locking tremolo system for a seven-string guitar. These models were based on Vai's six-string signature series, the Ibanez Jem. Seven-string guitars experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s, championed by Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Slayer, KoRn, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore, Muse and other hard rock and metal bands. Metal musicians often prefer the seven-string guitar for its extended lower range. The seven-string guitar has also played an essential role in progressive metal rock and is commonly used in bands such as Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation and by experimental guitarists such as Ben Levin.Main article: Eight-string guitar
Eight-string electric guitars are rare but not unused. One is played by Charlie Hunter, which was manufactured by Novax Guitars. The largest manufacturer of eight- to 14-string instruments is Warr Guitars. Their models are used by Trey Gunn (ex King Crimson), who has his own signature line from the company. Similarly, Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah used 8-string guitars made by Nevborn Guitars and now guitars by Ibanez. Munky of the nu metal band KoRn is also known to use seven-string Ibanez guitars, and it is rumored that he is planning to release a K8 eight-string guitar similar to his K7 seven-string guitar. Another Ibanez player is Tosin Abasi, lead guitarist of the progressive metal band Animals as Leaders, who uses an Ibanez RG2228 to mix bright chords with very heavy low riffs on the seventh and eighth strings. Stephen Carpenter of Deftones also switched from a seven-string to an eight-string in 2008 and released his signature STEF B-8 with ESP Guitars. In 2008, Ibanez released the Ibanez RG2228-GK, which is the first mass-produced eight-string guitar. Jethro Tull's first album uses a nine-string guitar. Bill Kelliher, guitarist for the heavy metal group Mastodon, worked with First Act on a custom mass-produced nine-string guitar.Main article: Ten-string guitar
B.C. Rich manufactures a ten-string six-course electric guitar, the Bich, whose radical shape positions the machine heads for the four secondary strings on the body, avoiding the head-heaviness of many electric twelve-string guitars. However many players bought it for the body shape or electrics and simply removed the extra strings. The company recognized this and released six-string models of the Bich, but ten-string models also remain in production.Main article: Twelve-string guitar
Twelve-string electric guitars feature six pairs of strings, usually with each pair tuned to the same note. The extra E, A, D, and G strings add a note one octave above, and the extra B and E strings are in unison. The pairs of strings are played together as one, so the technique and tuning are the same as a conventional guitar, but they create a much fuller tone, with the additional strings adding a natural chorus effect. They are used almost solely to play harmony and rhythm parts, rather than for guitar solos. They are relatively common in folk rock music. Lead Belly is the folk artist most identified with the twelve-string guitar, usually acoustic with a pickup.
George Harrison of the Beatles and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds brought the electric twelve-string to notability in rock and roll. During the Beatles' first trip to the United States, in February 1964, Harrison received a new 360/12 model guitar from the Rickenbacker company, a twelve-string electric made to look onstage like a six-string. He began using the 360 in the studio on Lennon's "You Can't Do That" and other songs. McGuinn began using electric twelve-string guitars to create the jangly, ringing sound of the Byrds. Both Jimmy Page, the guitarist with Led Zeppelin, and Leo Kottke, a solo artist, are well known as twelve-string guitar players.Main article: 3rd bridge
The third-bridge guitar is an electric prepared guitar with an additional, third bridge. This can be a normal guitar with, for instance, a screwdriver placed under the strings, or it can be a custom-made instrument. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth plays with a third bridge.Main article: Double neck guitar A Gibson EDS-1275
Double-neck (or, less commonly, "twin-neck") guitars enable guitarists to play both guitar and bass guitar or, more commonly, both a six-string and a twelve-string. In the mid-1960s, one of the first players to use this type of guitar was Paul Revere & the Raiders' guitarist Drake Levin. Another early user was John McLaughlin. The double-neck guitar was popularized by Jimmy Page, who used a custom-made, cherry-finished Gibson EDS-1275 to perform "Stairway to Heaven", "The Song Remains the Same" and "The Rain Song", although for the recording of "Stairway to Heaven" he used a Fender Telecaster and a Fender XII electric twelve-string. Mike Rutherford of Genesis and Mike + the Mechanics is also famous for his use of a double-neck guitar during live shows. Don Felder of the Eagles used the Gibson EDS-1275 during the Hotel California tour. Muse guitarist and vocalist Matthew Bellamy uses a silver Manson double-neck on his band's Resistance Tour. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson is also known for using double-neck guitars in the live performance of several songs. In performances of the song "Xanadu" during the band's 2015 R40 anniversary tour, Lifeson played a white Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck guitar with six-string and twelve-string necks, while bassist Geddy Lee performed with a double-neck Rickenbacker guitar with four-string bass and twelve-string guitar necks.
Popular music and rock groups often use the electric guitar in two roles: as a rhythm guitar which provides the chord sequence or "progression" and sets out the "beat" (as part of a rhythm section), and a lead guitar, which is used to perform melody lines, melodic instrumental fill passages, and guitar solos. In some rock or metal bands with two guitarists, the two performers may perform as a guitar tandem, and trade off the lead guitar and rhythm guitar roles. In bands with a single guitarist, the guitarist may switch between these two roles, playing chords to accompany the singer's lyrics, and then playing a guitar solo in the middle of the song.Gibson Les Paul has been used in many genres, including rock, country, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, reggae, punk, and heavy metal
In the most commercially available and consumed pop and rock genres, electric guitars tend to dominate their acoustic cousins in both the recording studio and live venues, especially in the "harder" genres such as heavy metal and hard rock. However the acoustic guitar remains a popular choice in country, western and especially bluegrass music, and it is widely used in folk music. Even metal and hard rock guitarists play acoustic guitars for some ballads and for MTV unplugged acoustic performances.
Jazz guitar playing styles include rhythm guitar-style "comping" (accompanying) with jazz chord voicings (and in some cases, walking basslines) and "blowing" (improvising solos) over jazz chord progressions with jazz-style phrasing and ornaments. The accompanying style for electric guitar in most jazz styles differs from the way chordal instruments accompany in many popular styles of music. In rock and pop, the rhythm guitarist usually performs the chords in dense and regular fashion, which sets out the beat of a tune. Rock and pop chord voicings tend to focus on the first, third, and fifth notes of the chord. In contrast, in many modern jazz styles, the guitarist plays much more sparsely, intermingling periodic chords and delicate voicings into pauses in the melody or solo. Jazz chord voicings are usually rootless and emphasize the third and seventh notes of the chord. Jazz chords also often include the 9th, 11th and 13th notes of the chord, which are called "extensions".
When jazz guitar players improvise, they use scales, modes, and arpeggios associated with the chords in a tune's chord progression. Jazz guitarists have to learn how to use scales (whole tone scale, chromatic scale, etc.) to solo over chord progressions. Jazz guitar improvising is not merely the recitation of jazz scales and rapid arpeggios. Jazz guitarists try to imbue their melodic phrasing with the sense of natural breathing and legato phrasing used by horn players such as saxophone players. As well, a jazz guitarists' solo improvisations have to have a rhythmic drive and "time feel" that creates a sense of "swing" and "groove". In addition to the traditional rhythm/comping and lead/blowing roles, some jazz guitarists use the electric instrument to play unaccompanied, combining harmony notes and the melody to form a complete piece of music, like classical guitarists.
Most jazz guitarists play hollow-body instruments, but solid-body guitars are also used. Hollow-body instruments were the first guitars used in jazz in the 1930s and 1940s. During the 1970s jazz fusion era, many jazz guitarists switched to the solid body guitars that dominated the rock world, using powerful guitar amps to get a loud sound.Electric guitars with acoustic guitars in the background
Until the 1950s, the acoustic, nylon-stringed classical guitar was the only type of guitar favored by classical, or art music composers. In the 1950s a few contemporary classical composers began to use the electric guitar in their compositions. Examples of such works include Luciano Berio's Nones (1954) Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen (1955–57); Donald Erb's String Trio (1966), Morton Feldman's The Possibility of a New Work for Electric Guitar (1966); George Crumb's Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death (1968); Hans Werner Henze's Versuch über Schweine (1968); Francis Thorne's Sonar Plexus (1968) and Liebesrock (1968–69), Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden (1965–70); Leonard Bernstein's MASS (1971) and Slava! (1977); Louis Andriessen's De Staat (1972–76); Helmut Lachenmann's Fassade, für grosses Orchester (1973, rev. 1987), Valery Gavrilin Anyuta (1982), Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint (1987), Arvo Pärt's Miserere (1989/92), György Kurtág's Grabstein für Stephan (1989), and countless works composed for the quintet of Ástor Piazzolla. Alfred Schnittke also used electric guitar in several works, like the "Requiem", "Concerto Grosso N°2" and "Symphony N°1".
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, a growing number of composers (many of them composer-performers who had grown up playing the instrument in rock bands) began writing contemporary classical music for the electric guitar. These include Frank Zappa, Shawn Lane, Steven Mackey, Nick Didkovsky, Scott Johnson, Lois V Vierk, Tim Brady, Tristan Murail, and Randall Woolf.
Yngwie Malmsteen released his Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in 1998, and Steve Vai released a double-live CD entitled Sound Theories, of his work with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra in June 2007. The American composers Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca have written "symphonic" works for large ensembles of electric guitars, in some cases numbering up to 100 players, and the instrument is a core member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars (played by Mark Stewart). Still, like many electric and electronic instruments, the electric guitar remains primarily associated with rock and jazz music, rather than with classical compositions and performances.R. Prasanna plays a style of Indian classical music (Carnatic music) on the electric guitar.
In the 21st century, European avant garde composers like Richard Barrett, Fausto Romitelli, Peter Ablinger, Bernhard Lang, Claude Ledoux and Karlheinz Essl have used the electric guitar (together with extended playing techniques) in solo pieces or ensemble works. Probably the most ambitious and perhaps significant work to date is Ingwe (2003–2009) by Georges Lentz (written for Australian guitarist Zane Banks), a 60-minute work for solo electric guitar, exploring that composer's existential struggles and taking the instrument into realms previously unknown in a concert music setting.
In Vietnam, electric guitars are often used as an instrument in cải lương music (traditional southern Vietnamese folk opera), sometimes as a substitute for certain traditional stringed instruments like the Đàn nguyệt (two-stringed lute) when they are not available. Electric guitars used in cải lương are played in finger vibrato (string bending), with no amplifiers or sound effects.An electric guitar store
The Gibson Les Paul is a solid body electric guitar that was first sold by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1952. The Les Paul was designed by Gibson president Ted McCarty, factory manager John Huis and their team, along with guitarist/inventor Les Paul.
The Les Paul was originally offered with a gold finish and two P-90 pickups. In 1957, humbucking pickups were added, along with sunburst finishes in 1958. The sunburst 1958–1960 Les Paul – today one of the best-known electric guitar types in the world – was considered a failure, with low production and sales. For 1961, the Les Paul was redesigned into what is now known as the Gibson SG. This design continued as a separate guitar when the traditional single cutaway, carved top bodystyle was re-introduced in 1968. The Les Paul has been continually produced in countless versions and editions since. Along with Fender's Telecaster and Stratocaster, it was one of the first mass-produced electric solid-body guitars. Les Pauls have been used in many genres, including rock, country, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, reggae, punk, and heavy metal.Les Paul and "Clunker" (1947) ES-150 (1936)
In 1950, the ancestors of Fender Telecaster (Fender Esquire and Fender Broadcaster) were introduced to the musical market and solid-body electric guitars became a public craze. In reaction to market demand, Gibson Guitar president Ted McCarty brought guitarist Les Paul into the company as a consultant. Les Paul was a respected innovator who had been experimenting with guitar design for years. He hand-built a solid-body prototype called "The Log", often suggested as the first solid-body Spanish guitar ever built. "The Log" was given its name from the pine block running through the middle of the guitar whose width and depth are a little more than the width of the fretboard; conventional hollow guitar sides or "wings" were added for shape. Although numerous other prototypes and limited-production solid-body models by other makers have since surfaced, it is known that in 1945–1946, Les Paul had approached Gibson with "The Log" prototype, but his solid body design was rejected.
In 1951, Paul, McCarty, and his team at the Gibson Guitar Corporation began work on what would eventually become the Les Paul Model. Early prototypes are very similar to the final version. The new Les Paul guitar was to be an expensive, well-made instrument in accordance with Gibson's reputation at the time. Although recollections differ regarding who contributed what to the Les Paul design, it was far from a replica of rival guitar manufacturer Fender's models.Les Paul logo on headstock
Additionally, Gibson's president Ted McCarty stated that the Gibson Guitar Corporation approached Les Paul for the right to imprint the musician's name on the headstock with the intention of increasing sales; in 1951, Gibson presented Paul a nearly finished instrument for approval. Subsequently, McCarty claimed that design discussions with Les Paul were limited to the tailpiece and the fitting of a maple cap over the mahogany body for increased density and sustain, which Les Paul had requested reversed. However, this reversal would have caused the guitar to become too heavy, and Paul's request was refused. Paul states that the original Custom should have had the maple cap and the Goldtop was to be all mahogany. The Custom did not appear on the market for another two years following the introduction of the Goldtop; it is possible that Gibson had planned a full model range of guitars (with a roll-out over the course of several years) at the time when initial specifications were being set. Les Paul's contributions to the guitar line bearing his name were more than cosmetic, but certainly included them. For example, Paul specified that the guitar be offered in a gold finish, not only for flashiness, but to emphasize the high quality of the Gibson Les Paul instrument. The later-issue Les Paul models included flame maple (tiger stripe) and "quilted" maple tops, again in contrast to the competing Fender line's range of car-like custom color finishes.
The 1952 Les Pauls featured two P-90 single coil pickups, and a one-piece, 'trapeze'-style bridge/tailpiece with strings fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar.[note 4]
The guitar made its public debut when Paul used it onstage in June, 1952, at the Paramount theatre in New York. On July 24, 1952, at a special musicians clinic at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, it was previewed by prominent guitarists such as Tiger Haynes, George Barnes, Mundell Lowe, Tony Mottola, and Billy Mure. The clinic preceded the annual NAMM Show held at the New Yorker hotel starting July 27, where the guitar was first received by the general public at Gibson's exhibit in rooms 611 through 615."Patent Applied For" (PAF) pickups on a Les Paul Standard Tune-o-matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece
A second Les Paul model was introduced in 1953. Called the Les Paul Custom, this black guitar with gold-plated hardware was dubbed the "Black Beauty". Various bridge and tailpiece designs were added in 1953 and 1954, including the popular Tune-o-matic bridge. The Goldtop and Custom models continued without significant changes until 1957. In 1957, P-90 pickups were no longer offered on Les Pauls. New humbucker pickups designed by Seth Lover in 1955 (U.S. Patent 2,896,491) debuted on Les Pauls in 1957. This innovation in pickups became the flagship pickup design most associated with Gibson. Many other guitar companies followed suit, outfitting their electrics with versions of the humbucking pickup.1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue Peter Green (1970) Jeff Beck (1968)
In 1958, the Les Paul saw its first major design change. A new model, called the Standard, retained most features of the 1957 Goldtop. However, Standards featured a cherry-red sunburst finish. These guitars were priced higher than the Goldtop models, but lower than the Customs. At this time, Gibson instruments were marketed toward an older, jazz-oriented audience rather than young burgeoning guitarists. As a result, over the three-year period of production, only c. 1,700 Standards were made.
These Les Pauls were considered to be too heavy and old-fashioned, and they initially did not find favor amongst guitarists. In 1961, Gibson stopped producing the traditional Les Paul in favor of a lighter redesign which was later called the SG. The mid-1960s, however, brought a resurgence of interest in the Les Paul Standard. In 1964, The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards began using a sunburst, 1959 Les Paul Standard – becoming the first "star-guitarist" to play a Les Paul on the British scene. The guitar, outfitted with a Bigsby tailpiece, served as one of the guitarist's prominent instruments and provided the first impetus to the use of Les Pauls during the British blues boom. In 1965, Eric Clapton began using Les Pauls because of the influence of Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin, and played a 1960 Standard on the groundbreaking album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. In America, Mike Bloomfield began using a 1954 Les Paul goldtop while touring with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and recorded most of his work on the band's East-West album with that guitar. A year later, he traded it for a 1959 Standard with which he became most identified. By 1967, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was using mid-1950's, P-90 pickup-equipped goldtops or black custom models, which he used through 1968. Concurrently, artists such as Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff, and Jimmy Page began using sunburst Les Paul Standards in the late 1960s. Responding to this influence and increased pressure from the public, Gibson reintroduced Les' single-cutaway guitar in July 1968, and the guitar remains in production today.
1969 Standard (refinished) 1974 Custom Sunburst
In 1969, Gibson's parent company (Chicago Musical Instruments) was taken over by the conglomerate ECL. Gibson remained under the control of CMI until 1974 when it became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments.The pancake-like layers, seen on the edge of cross-banding, multi-piece body in Norlin Era
These ownership changes, often called the "Norlin Era", caused Gibson products of the time to decline in quality. Les Paul designs were altered and a reinforced upper neck volute to decrease headstock breaks was added. Neck woods were changed from one-piece mahogany to a three-piece maple design. The body was also changed from one-piece mahogany with a maple top to multiple slabs of mahogany with multiple pieced maple tops. This is referred to as "multipiece" construction, and sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "pancake" body. The expression "pancake body" actually refers to a body made of a thin layer of maple sandwiched between two slabs of mahogany, with a maple cap. The grain of the maple was placed at 90 degrees to that of the mahogany. The "pancake"-like layers are clearly visible when looking at the edge of the guitar. This process is also known as "crossbanding", and was done to make use of less expensive and more readily available thinner mahogany. Crossbanding was phased out by 1977.
In this era, Gibson began experimenting with new models, such as the Les Paul Recording. This guitar was generally unpopular with guitarists because of its complex electronics. Less noticeable changes included, but were not limited to, optional maple fingerboards (added in 1976), pickup cavity shielding, and the crossover of the ABR1 Tune-o-matic bridge into the wide "Nashville" bridge. During the 1970s, the Les Paul body shape was incorporated into other Gibson models, including the S-1, the Sonex, the L6-S, and other models that did not follow the classic Les Paul layout.Gibson Les Paul Custom Florentine
In January 1986, Gibson again changed ownership and began manufacturing a range of varied Les Paul models. The 1980s also saw the end to several design characteristics, including the volute and maple neck. However, because of consumer demand, the Gibson Les Paul guitar is available today in a wide array of choices, ranging from guitars equipped with modern digital electronics to classic re-issue models built to match the look and specifications of the guitar's earliest production runs from 1952 to 1960.
In 1986, to respond to the high demand for vintage models, Gibson formed a "Custom Shop" division. Originally, the Shop began producing accurate reproductions of early Les Pauls as well as one-off orders. Today, the Custom Shop produces numerous limited-run "historic-spec" models, as well as signature artist models. The first Custom Shop artist guitar was the 1996 Joe Perry Les Paul.
The post-1954 Les Paul guitar line included two models: the Standard (nicknamed the Goldtop), and the Custom (which offered gold hardware and a more formal black finish). However, advancements in pickup, body, and hardware designs allowed the Les Paul to become a long-term series of electric solid-body guitars that targeted multiple price-points and market levels.1952–53 Goldtop with trapeze bridge[note 5] 1953–55 Goldtop with stopbar bridge 1955–57 Goldtop with Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece 1957–58 Goldtop with PAF pickups
Goldtops, the first Les Paul model, were produced from 1952–1957. Early 1952 Les Pauls were not issued serial numbers, did not have bound fingerboards, and are considered by some as "LP Model prototypes". However, later 1952 Les Pauls were issued serial numbers and also came with bound fingerboards. Interestingly, the design scheme of some of these early models varied. For instance, some early Les Pauls were fitted with black covered P90 pickups instead of the cream-colored plastic covers that are associated with this guitar. The weight and the tonal characteristics of the Goldtop Les Paul were largely due to the mahogany and maple construction.
In 1953, the trapeze tailpiece was dropped, and a new stopbar design was added. This design combined a pre-intonated bridge and tailpiece with two studs just behind the bridge pickup. This increased the sustain of the Goldtop noticeably; however, the intonation and string height adjustability were limited. A new design, the Tune-o-matic, replaced the stopbar in 1955. It consisted of a separate bridge and tailpiece attached directly to the top of the guitar, combining an easily adjustable bridge with a sustain-carrying tailpiece. This design has been used on most Les Pauls ever since. The tuners were produced by Kluson.1954 Custom with P90 pickups. 1960 Custom reissue with PAF pickups. Main article: Gibson Les Paul Custom
The Les Paul Custom features gold hardware, multilayer binding including the headstock, ebony fingerboard, real mother-of-pearl inlays and two or three-pickup layout. 1950s Customs were all-mahogany, rather than the mahogany-with-maple-cap of the Goldtop. The original Customs were fitted with a P-90 pickup in the bridge position and an Alnico V "staple" pickup in the neck. In 1957, the Custom was fitted with Gibson's new PAF humbucker pickups, and later became available with three pickups instead of the usual two. The traditional Les Paul Custom was discontinued in 1961 and its name transferred to the custom version of the then-new Gibson SG.
In 1968, Gibson reintroduced the Les Paul Custom as a two-pickup-only model. The headstock angle was changed from 17 degrees to 14, and a wider headstock and a maple top (in lieu of the original 1953-1961 mahogany top construction) were added. White and two sunburst finish options were added to the color palette in 1974. Also new in 1974 was the optional TP-6 fine-tuner tailpiece, allowing for micro-adjustment of string tuning from the bridge. The mahogany neck was replaced with a three-piece maple neck in 1975 (though mahogany still saw limited use) with this change lasting till around 1982. Popular colors, such as wine red and "silverburst," were added in the 1970s and '80s. Gibson currently produces several Custom models with various finishes and pickups.See also: Flame maple § Gibson Les Paul Standard Paul McCartney playing a 1960 left-handed cherryburst Les Paul Gibson Custom 50th Anniversary 1959 Les Paul Standard (2009)
In 1958, new Standard model retained most specifications of the 1957 Goldtop, including PAF humbucker pickups, a maple top, and a tune-o-matic bridge with a stop tailpiece or Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The gold color used since 1952 was replaced by a cherry-red version of the Sunburst finish long used on Gibson's flat-top and archtop acoustic and hollow electric guitars. Since the maple cap was now visible, tops were made either with a solid "plaintop" piece of maple or two bookmatched pieces of figured (curly or quilted) maple. To differentiate from the earlier Goldtop model, the new Les Paul was referred to as The Les Paul Standard. Specifications during 1958–60 varied from year to year and also from guitar to guitar. Typical 1958 Les Paul Standard necks had a thicker neck, thinner frets and lower fret height, which changed during the course of 1959 to develop into typical 1960 necks with a thinner cross-section and wider, higher frets.[note 6][note 7] The cherry dye used on the 1958–59 models faded rapidly from ultraviolet light exposure, so in early 1960 Gibson switched to a new, fade-resistant formulation which was also less translucent and slightly more orange; this is sometimes called the "tomato soup burst." Original production of the Standards lasted from 1958 to early 1961. Only about 1,700 of these early models were made and have subsequently become highly valuable.[note 7]
Production ended when, in 1961, Gibson redesigned the Les Paul to feature a "double cutaway" body, which has subsequently become the Gibson SG. Because of high demand, Gibson resumed production of Les Paul Standards in 1968.Main article: Gibson Les Paul Junior 1958 Junior 1959 TV reissue
(Junior DC in TV Yellow)
In 1954, the Les Paul Junior debuted, targeted the beginning or student guitarist. The Junior is characterized by its flat-top "slab" mahogany body, finished in sunburst. It had a single P-90 pickup, simple volume and tone controls, an unbound rosewood fingerboard with plain dot-shape position markers, and a combination bridge/tailpiece unit similar to the Goldtop.
In 1955, Gibson launched the Les Paul TV model, which was identical to the Junior except for the name and a fashionable contemporary "limed oak" style finish, later more accurately named "limed mahogany". This natural wood finish with white grain filler often aged into a natural wood or dull yellow appearance, and eventually evolved into the opaque mustard yellow, popularly called "TV yellow". The model was not, as a popular myth says, to avoid glare from old TV cameras, but a modern look and a name to promote "The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show" then on television.
Gibson made a radical design change to their Junior and TV models in 1958: to accommodate player requests for more access to the top frets than the previous designs allowed, these electric guitar models were revamped with a new double-cutaway body shape. In addition, Juniors were now available with a cherry red finish, while the re-shaped TV adopted a more yellow-tinged finish.1956 Les Paul Special Singlecut in TV Yellow 1960 SG Special (Les Paul Special Doublecut) Recent Les Paul Special Faded Main articles: Gibson Les Paul Special and Gibson Les Paul Doublecut
The Les Paul Special was released in 1955, featuring a slab body, two soapbar P-90 single coil pickups, and was finished in a color similar to TV Yellow (but not called a TV model).
In 1959, the Special was given the same new double-cutaway body shape as the Junior and the TV received in 1958. Around this time, Les Paul decided to discontinue his affiliation with Gibson; the model was renamed "SG Special" in late 1959. However, when the new design was applied to the two-pickup Special, the cavity for the neck pickup overlapped the neck-to-body joint. This weakened the joint to the point that the neck could break after only moderate handling. The problem was soon resolved when Gibson designers moved the neck pickup farther down the body, producing a stronger joint and eliminating the breakage problem.Gibson The Paul See also: Gibson The Paul
A single sharp cutaway Les Paul-style walnut body, set walnut neck, 22-fret ebony fingerboard with pearl dot inlays, walnut headstock overlay with gold Gibson logo (1978-1981) or Gibson logo branded into the headstock (Firebrand, 1981-1982), three-per-side tuners, tune-o-matic bridge, stop tailpiece, two exposed humbucker pickups, four knobs (two v, two tone), three-way pickup switch, chrome hardware, available in Natural Walnut finish, 24.75 in. scale, 1.6875 in. nut width, mfg. 1978-1982. It included such high end items as the Grover tuning keys and the Tune-O-Matic bridge. Affectionately called by some, "The Coffee Table Burst" because of its natural finish.
Main article: Gibson SG 1962 Les Paul Standard (SG Standard)
In 1960, Gibson experienced a decline in electric guitar sales due to strong competition from Fender's comparable but much lighter double-cutaway design, the Stratocaster. In response, Gibson modified the Les Paul line. For 1961, the Les Paul was thinner and much lighter than earlier models, with two sharply pointed cutaways and a vibrato system. However, the redesign was done without Les Paul's knowledge, and he hated the design, so he asked Gibson to remove his name. The single cutaway designed retained the "Les Paul" name until 1963 when Les Paul's endorsement deal with Gibson ended. Without a contract, Gibson could no longer call its guitars "Les Pauls', and it renamed them "SGs" (for "Solid Guitars").1972 Deluxe with mini-humbuckers 1969 Deluxe
The Deluxe was among the "new" 1968 Les Pauls. This model featured "mini-humbuckers", also known as "New York" humbuckers, and did not initially prove popular. The mini-humbucker pickup fit into the pre-carved P-90 pickup cavity using an adaptor ring developed by Gibson in order to use a surplus supply of Epiphone mini-humbuckers. The Deluxe was introduced in late 1968 and helped to standardize production among Gibson's U.S.-built Les Pauls. The first incarnation of the Deluxe featured a one-piece body and slim three-piece neck. The multipiece body (a thin layer of maple on top of two layers of Honduran mahogany) arrived in 1969. In late 1969, a reinforcing neck volute was added. 1969 Deluxes feature the Gibson logo devoid of the dot over the "i" in Gibson. By late 1969/early 1970, the dot over the "i" had returned, plus a "Made In USA" stamp on the back of the headstock. The Deluxe could be specially-ordered with full-size humbucker pickups; such full size versions of the Deluxe were "Standard" spec. By 1975, the neck construction was changed from mahogany to maple, until the early 1980s, when the construction was returned to mahogany. The body changed back to solid mahogany from the pancake design in late 1976 or early 1977. Interest in this particular Les Paul model was so low that in 1985, Gibson canceled it. In 2005, the Deluxe was re-introduced.
In 1978, the Les Paul Pro Deluxe was introduced. This guitar featured P-90 pickups (like the original 1952-1956 LPs) instead of the "mini-humbuckers" of the Deluxe model, an ebony fingerboard, maple neck, mahogany body and chrome hardware. It came in ebony, cherry sunburst, tobacco sunburst or gold finish. It was discontinued in 1983.
The Gibson Dark Fire, a variant of the Gibson Les Paul, was an electric solid body guitar produced by Gibson Guitar Corporation. It was a second generation Robot Guitar, using an updated version of the Powertune self-tuning system produced by Tronical Gmbh. The Dark Fire also introduced Gibson's Chameleon Tone Technology, a system consisting of onboard electronics designed to simulate various guitar tones. Additionally, the guitar included an audio interface called the Robot Interface Pack or RIP.
The Dark Fire had one Burstbucker 3 humbucker in the bridge position, a P-90H at the neck, and a special Tronical-designed piezoelectric tune-o-matic sat in the place of the bridge. The Burstbucker 3 and P-90H were selected via the three-way selector switch. The piezoelectric could be activated via the MCK, blending the magnetic and piezoelectric together under a standard 1/4" guitar cable. Gibson supplied a TRS stereo cable that allowed the piezo signal and the magnetic signal to be split between two different amps.See also: Gibson Les Paul Studio Studio 2001 Studio headstock
The Studio model was introduced in 1983, and is still in production. The guitar is intended for the studio musician; therefore, the design features of the "Les Paul Studio" are centered on optimal sound output and not on flashy appearance. This model retains only the elements of the Gibson Les Paul that contribute to tone and playability, including the carved maple top and standard mechanical and electronic hardware. However, the Studio design omits several stock Gibson ornamentations that do not affect sound quality, including body/neck binding. The first Studios from 1983 to 1986 were made with alder bodies rather than mahogany/maple. The current Studios come with a chambered mahogany body with either a maple or mahogany cap. The entry level Les Paul Studio "faded" has a weight relieved mahogany body and top and a satin finish.
Gibson also offered the Studio in a "standard" model. This variant was adorned with neck and body binding, ebony fretboard and sunburst paint job. All Studios at the time had dot fretboard markers and a thinner body.
Gibson released the ES-Les Paul in 2015. It is a semi-acoustic model with f-holes and two Alnico humbuckers. The neck is mahogany, but the sides and back are laminated maple and poplar. A mahogany block runs throughout the body to increase sustain.Les Paul playing his customized Les Paul Recording guitar
Until his death in August 2009, Les Paul himself played his personal Les Paul Guitar onstage weekly in New York City. Paul preferred his 1971 Gibson "Recording" model guitar, with different electronics and a one-piece mahogany body, and which, as an inveterate tinkerer and inventor, he had modified heavily to his liking over the years. A Bigsby-style vibrato was of late the most visible change although his guitars were formerly fitted with his "Les Paulverizer" effects.Main article: Epiphone Les Paul Les Paul Special II Les Paul Ultra II
The Gibson-owned Epiphone Company makes around 20 models of the Les Paul, most are similar copies of Gibson-made models. Made in places outside the U.S., the Epiphone Les Pauls are made from more commonly available woods using less expensive foreign labor and have less hand detailing than the Gibson models, and, as a result, sell for a lower price. Epiphone Guitar Co. has been owned by Gibson Guitars since the 1950s.
Epiphone also makes several less common models of the Les Paul such as the Les Paul Goth, Les Paul Ultra/Ultra II, Les Paul Prophecy, and Les Paul Tribute Plus.Jimmy Page with a Goldtop Classic Premium, one of his many Les Pauls Main article: Jimmy Page § Signature models
Gibson has produced three Jimmy Page signature models. The first was issued in the mid-1990s. It is based on a stock sunburst Les Paul Standard. In 2005 the Gibson Custom Shop issued a limited run of Jimmy Page Signature guitars based on Jimmy Page's 1959 "No. 1". Several years later, Gibson issued its third Jimmy Page Signature guitar, this one based on Jimmy Page's #2, issued in a production run of 325 guitars.Slash with one of his signatures in 2007
Slash has collaborated with Gibson on eight signature Les Paul models.
The first of these guitars is the Slash "Snakepit" Les Paul Standard, which was introduced by the Gibson Custom Shop in 1996, based on the smoking snake graphic off the cover of Slash's Snakepit's debut album and a mother of pearl snake inlay covering the length of the ebony fretboard. Production was limited to 100.Gibson Slash "Appetite" Les Paul
In 2004, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard, a guitar that Gibson has used ever since as the "standard" non-limited edition Slash Les Paul. In 2008, Gibson USA released the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard, an authentic replica of one of two Les Pauls Slash received from Gibson in 1988. It has an Antique Vintage Sunburst finish over a solid mahogany body with a maple top. Also in 2008, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash "Inspired By" Les Paul Standard. This guitar is a replica of his 1987 Les Paul Standard.
In 2010, Gibson released the Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard as a tribute to Guns N' Roses' debut album, Appetite for Destruction, which resembles the Kris Derrig built 1959 Les Paul replica Slash used for the recording of the album. Production was limited to 400, with 100 aged guitars signed by Slash, and another 300 finished with the Custom Shop's VOS process.Joe Perry playing his signature "Boneyard" Les Paul
Gibson has issued two signature Les Paul guitars for Joe Perry of Aerosmith. The first was developed in 1996 and was customized with an active mid-boost control, black chrome hardware, and a translucent black finish. It was replaced in 2004 by a second, more visually distinctive Les Paul, the "Boneyard" Les Paul. This guitar is characterized by Perry's custom "Boneyard" logo on the headstock and a figured maple top with a green tiger finish, and is available with either a stopbar tailpiece or a Bigsby tailpiece.Gary Moore Les Paul
Gary Moore created his own signature Les Paul in the early 2000s, characterised by a yellow flame top, no binding and signature truss rod cover. It featured two open-topped humbucker pickups, one with "zebra coils" (one white and one black bobbin). In 2009, Gibson released another Gary Moore signature guitar, the Gibson Gary Moore BFG Les Paul. The Gary Moore BFG is much like their previous Les Paul BFG series, with the added styling of Moore's various 1950s Les Paul Standards.Peter Frampton '54 Custom
A replica of the three-pickup "Black Beauty" Les Paul Custom used by Peter Frampton as his main guitar from his days in Humble Pie through his early solo career was introduced through the Gibson Custom Shop in 2012. Frampton's original guitar was a 1954 Les Paul modified extensively. His famous guitar was presumed lost in a South American plane crash in 1980, but was returned to Frampton in 2011.
Gibson used hundreds of photographs of the late blues guitarist's instrument to produce the limited-edition Bloomfield signature. The company produced one hundred Bloomfield models with custom-aged finishes and two hundred more with the company's VOS finishing in 2009. They reproduced the tailpiece crack on the aged version, plus the mismatched volume and tone control knobs and the "Les Paul"-engraved truss rod cover on both versions, while including a toggle switch cover. The headstock was characterized by the kidney-shaped Grover tuning keys installed on the guitar before Bloomfield traded for it.Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend with his modified Les Paul Deluxe
In 2005, Gibson issued three Pete Townshend signature edition Les Paul Deluxe guitars, based on Townshend's heavily customised "#1" Wine Red 1976 Les Paul Deluxe, "#3" Gold top 1976, and "#9" Cherry Sunburst 1976. These guitars were modified by Alan Rogan and used extensively on stage and in the studio with The Who. In addition to the two mini-humbuckers the guitar carried, Rogan modified Townshend's originals with a DiMarzio humbucker in the middle. Toggle switches located behind the guitar's tailpiece turned the pickup on and off and added volume boost. The control knobs were wired for volume, one for each pickup and a master volume. The reissues differed from Townshend's originals in that the reissues had an inlay at the first fret while the originals did not.Ace Frehley
with his 3-pickup Les Paul Custom Billy Gibbons
with a Les Paul Goldtop
The Ace Frehley (KISS) signature model (released in 1997 and re-released in 2012) has three double-white DiMarzio pickups, a cherry sunburst finish (AAAA), a color image of Frehley's face in his Kiss make-up on the headstock, mother-of-pearl lightning bolt inlays, and Ace's simulated signature on the 12th fret. A Custom Shop run of only 300 guitars were built with DiMarzio PAF, Super Distortion, and Dual Sound pickups. The production run model was only built with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. This was one of Gibson's best selling artist runs. The more recent 2012 "Budokan" model, intended to pay tribute to the guitar used during the KISS' first trip to Japan in 1977, features mother-of-pearl block inlays (no signature at the 12th fret), Grover machine heads with pearloid banjo buttons, and a grade A maple top.
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top has a signature model and pick-up based on his famous "Pearly Gates" 1959 Les Paul Standard.Eric Clapton playing a Les Paul in 1987, on the right of George Harrison
Clapton played a 1960 Standard as a member of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers as well as in the early days of Cream. The guitar was said to have been stolen while Clapton was preparing for the first Cream tour in 1966, following the recording of Fresh Cream, and was long considered an iconic instrument by Clapton's fans. Gibson announced production of the Clapton 1960 Standard, also nicknamed the "Beano Burst", in 2010. Gibson says the instrument "accurately represents what Eric Clapton personally feels his 1960 Les Paul should be", with Clapton consulting on the design of the guitar. Production is limited but all feature period-correct hardware, two Gibson reproduction PAF humbucking pickups, and subtly figured "antiquity burst" maple tops.
Paul Kossoff, of Free and Back Street Crawler, favored a 1959 Les Paul Standard. In 2011–12, Gibson's Custom Shop made a reproduction of Kossoff's Standard, featuring a so-called "green-lemon" flametop, two-piece carved maple top, mahogany body and neck, Custom Bucker humbucking pickups and kidney-bean shaped Grover tuners similar to those Kossoff had installed on the instrument. 100 Kossoff models were made to resemble the guitar at the time of Kossoff's death in 1976, with another 250 in a VOS finish.Main article: List of Gibson players
Although early Les Paul imitations in the 1960s and 1970s, such as those made by Höfner, Hagström, Harmony Company, and Greco differed from Gibson's designs, with different electronics and even bolt-on necks, in the late 1970s some Japanese companies came very close to perfecting copies of the original 1958-1960 Standards.
A lawsuit was brought by the Norlin Corporation (the parent company of Gibson) in 1977, against Elger/Hoshino U.S.A. (manufacturer and distributor, respectively, of Ibanez) over use a headstock shape and logo, both considered similar to the Gibson designs. However, the suit was based on an Ibanez headstock design that had been discontinued by 1976. The case was officially closed on February 2, 1978. Those mid-1970s guitars later became known as "lawsuit era" guitars.
ESP Guitars makes several guitars based on the Les Paul design. The Edwards and Navigator lines are made in Japan in the vein of the late 1970s and 1980s guitars from Tokai, Burny, and Greco, complete with Gibson style headstocks.
Heritage Guitars, founded in 1985 by four long-time Gibson employees when Gibson relocated to Nashville, continues to build guitars at the original factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Many of their models are inspired by Gibson's late-1950s/early-1960s sunbursts and Customs.
In 2006, Gibson lost a lawsuit against PRS Guitars, Gibson claiming PRS was infringing on the Les Paul shape and design. The court's decision allowed PRS to reintroduce single cutaway versions of its instruments.
In 2008, Gibson lost the trademark for the Les Paul in Finland. According to the court, "Les Paul" has become a common noun for guitars of a certain type. The lawsuit began when Gibson sued Musamaailma, which produces Tokai guitars, for trademark violation. However, several witnesses testified that the term "Les Paul" denotes character in a guitar rather than a particular guitar model. The court also found it aggravating that Gibson had used Les Paul in the plural form and that the importer of Gibson guitars had used Les Paul as a common noun. The court decision will become effective, as Gibson is not going to appeal.
- ^ Original "The Log" was exhibited at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville. A replica of "The Log" (loaned from Les Paul Foundation) have been exhibited on "Les Paul Experience" permanent exhibition at Waukesha County Museum.
- ^ This Les Paul prototype was refinished in cherry sunburst from original goldtop, pickups are replaced with his lo-impedance type, and also Bigsby vibrato tailpiece is installed. This guitar have been exhibited on "Les Paul Experience" permanent exhibition at Waukesha County Museum.
- ^ This Les Paul prototype (white) has an appearance similar to the later Les Paul Personal model because its pickups were replaced by the low-impedance type, however, the existence of trapezoid-type bridge/tailpiece imply that it is early Les Paul.
- ^ In the summer of 1952, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was priced at US$209.
- ^ This guitar (1953 Goldtop exhibited at FUZZ Guitar Show 2008) was used by Carl Perkins on many of his early "Sun Records" Recordings
- ^ "10 Most Valuable Guitars", Vintage Guitar (2010) , mentioned on:Paul Schille (Dec 17, 2010), Vintage Guitar Releases List of 10 Most Valuable Guitars, TheGiggingMusician.com
- ^ a b Greenwood, Alan; Gil Hembree (April 2011). "25 Most Valuable Guitars". Vintage Guitar. pp. 38–40.
The 1958–60 Standard is one of the highest priced vintage guitar models on the market, ranked at # on the 2011 Top 25 published by Vintage Guitar, and worth between $225,000 and $375,000.