Posts Tagged ‘les paul’

No, I’m not taking a poll. But I do have to say that people are passionate about Les Pauls on either side of the fence. The haters REALLY hate them, and the lovers REALLY love them. I’m one of the lovers; always have been. But it wasn’t until recently that I could actually afford one. Yeah, I know, I could’ve gotten a Les Paul Studio for a great price, but for me, a REAL Les Paul is a Standard or Custom, and they don’t come cheap.

Most haters’ problems that I’ve read about have to do with the high price Gibson charges for these guitars; and they all point to the fact that the LP requires a high price to pay when there have been known quality issues. I’ll give them that. There were indeed quality issues back in the 90’s, but I think those issues are less of a problem now. I’ve personally examined a good many in the last few years, and haven’t seen any quality problems with the ones I’ve played.

The lovers on the other hand, love the Les Paul for a variety of reasons. For me, there’s a certain magic in the tone and feel of a Les Paul that I just can’t describe. And since I got my R8 (’58 Standard Reissue) and ’59 Replica, those are pretty much all I’ve been playing, with the exception of my Yamaha acoustic when I do my solo acoustic gigs. But in the studio or when I’m playing with my band, I go to my Les Pauls. Just can’t get enough of ’em.

Admittedly though, I was a hater, and it was an unreasonable hate. I couldn’t believe how much those guitar were! The prices were on par with boutique guitars. I just couldn’t understand it! I paid less than that for Goldie, my custom Saint Guitar Goldtop! But then I met Jeff Aragaki who is a Les Paul collector, and that completely turned my world upside-down. As they say, information is power, and Jeff was loaded with information about Les Pauls, especially how to get them for much more reasonable prices than retail. And armed with that information, I was able to procure my R8 and ’59 Replica for under $2000 each.

But besides price, I was also a bit intimidated by Les Pauls. After all, at least to me, those are the guitars that defined the sound of rock and roll for me. Part of me didn’t feel “worthy” to play a Les Paul, so I told myself I hated them. But Aragaki came to the rescue again, and had me play several of his LP’s, including a ’53 that he had upgraded to ’57 specs. Needless to say, I fell in love, and now I’m hooked on Les Pauls.

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I love to read, but sometimes, and especially with guitars, I just love to drool over pictures, and that’s exactly what the “Beauty of the Burst” is – at least half of it. The first half of the book has a forward by Ted McCarty (former president of Gibson), then jumps into pictures of Les Paul Standards from ’58 to ’60. It then briefly shows famous Les Paul guitar players, then closes out with very important information regarding the physical features of the guitar from the striping pattern of the flame down to the hardware.

There is a chapter dedicated to the PAF, which goes into a deep dive of the pickup. I found this chapter to be incredibly useful. In case you didn’t know, the PAF pickup is as the author of the book says, “the heart of the Les Paul.” It is an incredibly expressive pickup – not very high in gain – and it was responsible for giving the Les Paul its distinctive, singing sound. There was lots of magic in this pickup developed by Seth Lover back in the day, and it’s not a surprise why there are so many boutique pickup manufacturers that have been trying to capture that magic.

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It has been a long time coming, but I finally got an actual Gibson Les Paul. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been wanting to get one for quite awhile, and when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it. It took me about two years to get just the right deal, but it was definitely worth the wait!

When I first considered getting one, I didn’t know too much about Les Pauls and just how many different ones there are! But then meeting Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps helped me educate myself on the type of Les Paul to get. Jeff has an encyclopedic knowledge of Les Pauls; especially vintage ones as he has a fine collection of them himself. So it was fortuitous to meet and befriend him; otherwise, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to get.

I looked at and played countless Les Pauls in shops, and several months ago, almost pulled the trigger on a ’58 VOS at Gelb Music. But then I discovered the Gibson Nighthawk, and I got distracted. Luckily I did that because the Nighthawk is very Les Paul-like, though with the super hot pickups, it has a much fatter sound. Then I got a ’59 replica, and that was a real game changer for me. But still, I wanted a real Gibson. So I waited some more, and that gave me more time to narrow down exactly what I wanted.

I finally narrowed it down to the Standard Reissues, from ’58 to ’60. So I started monitoring auctions on EBay. I must’ve looked at hundreds of guitars, and I did a lot of sifting. It was a bit mind-numbing, but I wanted to make sure I’d get exactly what I wanted. Here were my parameters:

  • Didn’t want to spend over $2200
  • The Standard had to have all the case candy in addition to the Certificate of Authenticity (there were a lot that only had the COA and were missing some or all of the case candy).
  • It had to be a Standard Reissue
  • The guitar had to be in great shape: No worming down to the finish and minimal dings.
  • Finally, the EBay seller had to have lots of positive ratings, 99% positive and above.

That was a fairly tall order, but then Jeff had mentioned he’d seen a few in his own searches that were going for a good price and had all the right stuff. So I waited. And waited. And waited, until I finally found what appeared to be a fantastic deal, and now I have the guitar.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to “Amber.”

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Here are some clips I recorded this evening. The first two and the fourth and fifth clips are of Amber recorded raw. With the fourth, I added a touch of reverb to both tracks, and the sixth is an excerpt from a song I wrote.

Neck, Clean

Neck, Dirty

Middle, Clean (Rhythm) Neck, Clean (Lead)

Middle, Dirty

Bridge, Dirty Lead

Bridge, Dirty Lead Again as part of a song

3D Sound

It’s hard to capture in a recording, but Amber projects a real 3D sound; especially when she’s cranked up. Her tone is so complex, and has all these subtle overtones and harmonics. It’s the type of tone that just makes you close your eyes and smile while you’re playing to soak up all that tonal goodness.


Being that this was a purchase of a guitar I had never even played, I was a little concerned about how fat the neck might be, as I have short fingers, and fat necks and short fingers don’t go well together. But when I took Amber out of her case for the first time, and started playing, yeah, her neck is hefty, but not like a baseball bat. In fact, the size of her neck was absolutely perfect, and I found that I could move up and down her neck with utter ease!

The setup is absolutely perfect. The original owner really took good care of her! Even though it’s a 2005, before Gibson started to plek its Les Pauls, there is no setup necessary. The intonation is perfect, and the fretboard – oh that wonderful fretboard – just plays like butter!

I Finally Understand

After getting my ’59 replica, I really started getting the vibe about vintage and historic Les Pauls. I used to dismiss those who extolled the Les Paul – especially the historics – as people spouting semi-religious drivel. But now that I have one, I understand why it’s hard to put one the guitar down. I’m hooked!!!

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Not much to say about how this guitar sounds. It plain sounds awesome! I finally got my recording rig set up this evening, and the first thing I did was record a quick little song that I was working on a couple of months ago. I erased both guitar parts and re-recorded them using the ’59.


Amp: Aracom VRX22

Rhythm Part (left): Channel 1, Volume at halfway, Tone at 2pm; Guitar in neck position, volume at 5

Lead (Right): Channel 1, Volume Cranked, Tone at 2pm; Guitar in middle position, neck volume 5, bridge volume 8

Close miked with a Senheiser e609. Amp was attenuated with an Aracom PRX150-Pro. For Rhythm part, I was on “C” which is about -9dB down in volume. Lead was on “E” at about -15dB down in volume.

I will have more clips in the next few days demonstrating this guitar’s incredible versatility. With this particular song, I wanted to capture how great it sounds clean, and just slightly overdriven. But this is an awesome rock machine as well. More later.

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1959 Les Paul Replica

Summary: About as close as you can get to the real deal without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pros: Bright and super smooth tone, and sustain that’s absolutely to die for! This guitar is everything I imagined a ’59 Les Paul to sound and play like. Sounds and plays better than any Gibson re-issue I’ve ever played.

Cons: None


  • One piece Honduran (Old Growth) Mahogany body and neck (long tenon), 1959 neck profile
  • Brazilian rosewood fretboard with trap inlays
  • Lightly figured (realistic) maple top
  • Holly headstock veneer
  • RS Guitarworks (Winchester, KY) Nitro Lacquer finish with light aging in a Perryburst (Joe Perry burst colors), includes RS Guitarworks Certificate of Authenticity
  • PLEK and nut work
  • RS aluminum tailpiece
  • Tonepros AVRII bridge (Locking) ABR-1 Bridge with Maple Flame Mod (extra long stainless steel bridge studs)
  • Pots and Tone Capacitors from RS Guitarworks
  • Bone Nut
  • Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups with aged Nickel covers
  • Single line Kluson tuners
  • Weighs 9.68 lbs and is a rock machine
  • Year Built:  2008

Price: Vary from $4000 to  $20,000 depending upon who builds it (more on that below)

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ This guitar is a dream come true! I recently wrote on my Facebook status: “There are guitars and then there are Les Pauls. There is no substitute.”

The first thing you’ll notice in the review is that I didn’t name the luthier of this guitar. That’s because I didn’t want to “out” the luthier, lest Gibson finds out and sues them for copyright infringement; that’s how close these replicas get to the original. But despite the risk of litigation, there’s an incredibly active underground market for these replicas, and having played around with this one for a few days, I don’t think that market will ever die. BTW, if you want to know who the luthier is, just send me an e-mail (goofydawg “|” guitargear.org), or if you’re on TGP, send me a PM.

Besides, replicas like this put Gibson back on the relevance map. Can you say Slash and GnR’s “Appetite for Destruction?” Whether or not Gibson likes it, the replica that Slash played made the Les Paul popular among guitarists again.

Forget how close it may come to the sound, feel, and dynamics of the original. Playing this guitar is like a religious experience! With this particular model, the original owner had the neck slightly tapered near the heal to relieve some of that “baseball bat” girth. It worked marvelously! Combined with the PLEK treatment, this guitar is absolutely easy to play. I usually have to take a few days to get to know the feel of a new neck. I even had to do this with my beloved Gibson Nighthawk. But with this guitar, I felt right at home!

Weight-wise, it has some heft at 9.6 lbs., but it’s so comfortable, and once I started playing, I completely forgot about the weight.

Here are some pictures:

Pictures courtesy of Bennie Delumpa (my son).

Fit and Finish

As you can see from the pictures, the guitar has been lightly relicked. I’m not normally a fan of aging a perfectly good guitar, but the purpose behind the aging was to produce a guitar that looked like a well-taken-care-of guitar from 1959. It has a couple of nicks on the binding of the body, and the lacquer has been very, very lightly checked. But other than that, it’s gorgeous.

How It Sounds

Unfortunately, my studio is still in a bit of disarray after the construction I had done on my house, so I don’t have my usual sound clips. But all I can say about the tone of this guitar is that it is nothing short of spectacular. The tone is on the brighter side of midrange, but the guitar produces all sorts of overtones and harmonics. The pickups used in the guitar are not hot at all, but that just makes it real smooth. Another thing is that the cap values used for the tone knobs make them quite usable. You can really knock the tone down, and the tone will not muddy up. I love that, as it gives me that much more tone shaping capabilities that I can do right at the guitar, as opposed to doing it at the amp.

The guitar also sports the classic Les Paul “bloom” as the body resonates, and boy does it resonate! Pluck a string, and you get your note, and then the body starts resonating, and you can hear AND feel the swell of the string vibrations as they course through the tone woods. I just close my eyes and go off to Never-never land.

There’s a lot to be said about old growth wood that has been drying for 50 years. Jeff Aragaki, who is quite knowledgeable about Les Pauls (he has many) is convinced that the combination of materials (old growth woods, hide glue, nitro-cellulose lacquer, correct hardware, etc.) that were used on this guitar make its sound that special. I really have never played a guitar that sounds and responds to like this!

I was just thinking that once I do manage to get a recording of this guitar, it just won’t do justice to the feel and dynamics of this spectacular specimen. I’ll hopefully be able to capture at least some of what I’m talking about.

Overall Impression

As I said above, forget about how close it may come to the original. I’ve never played a guitar that felt and sounded as good as this. I’ve never played a real ’59, but this guitar just oozes Les Paul goodness, and it’s everything I believe a Les Paul should be!

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27_Les-PaulEarly this morning, I got a text message from my friend Jeff saying that Les Paul had passed away. While part of me is sad from this inevitability, a very large part of me is thankful to him for what he brought to the guitar and recording world. The man was a living legend while alive, having invented the humbucker, the reverb effect, and multi-track recording. His contributions, not only to the guitar world, but to the music world in general have literally shaped the course of musical history, let alone history, as artists the world over have made music – I believe the ultimate leveler in the world – with his inventions.

So while he will be missed, instead of mourning the loss, I for one will celebrate the fact that I had the privilege to live in a time when a legend walked.

Here’s a news story: http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/08/13/obit.les.paul/index.html?imw=Y&iref=mpstoryemail

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by controversy – especially when it has to do with our beloved instrument, the guitar…

Les Paul is generally credited with creating the first solid-body electric guitar he called “The Log,” though it was Leo Fender who made the solid-body electric guitar available to the masses through mass production with the “Fender Broadcaster.”

Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of controversy that surrounds just who actually invented the solid-body electric guitar, some documented, and a lot of it not. I’m going to stir the pot a bit here, and share something that I just heard this morning from a friend of mine.

Every morning before heading off to the office, I go to a local coffee house to go through e-mails and review my day’s calendar. By the time I finish that, a couple of friends usually join me and we shoot the breeze before we all head into our respective places of work. This morning, I brought along the guitar I spec’d out for Saint Guitar Company (don’t worry, I’ll have pictures and a full review in the next couple of days…) to show my friend Phil from Phil ‘N The Blanks, a local cover band here in the Sillycon Valley.

Phil and I were discussing the guitar, when our friend Kim sat down with us. She noted the beauty of the guitar, and said, “Hey! You wanna know a cool story?” And she then recounted a tale of how her grandfather, Kenneth Clark, had known Les Paul back in the day, and had shared with him his ideas behind building a solid-body electric guitar. Soon after, Kenneth contracted a disease that left him in quarantine for five years! Yikes! But during that time, Les apparently ran with the idea, and successfully created what is generally recognized as the first solid-body electric guitar.

Who knows whether or not this is true? None of this is documented, but it sure stirs the pot, doesn’t it? Of course, let’s not take anything away from the venerable LP. Without him, we wouldn’t have multi-track recording or reverb. Even Leo Fender is accused of stealing ideas for creating the Broadcaster, but he created an industry where none had existed. Is this an apologia? Not really. But it does go to show that the people who are attributed with inventing something usually are the ones who’ve gotten their invention to the public first.

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