By Will Swanson
A great many of you reading this probably just got a chill up your spine, and a bit of anger as you move to defend this amazing instrument but those who know the history of the Les Paul guitar as played by its inventor know what amazing sounds he could evoke from it – and how great it sounded – as the jazz came out of it.
Most everyone know this guitar from a very different arena though, whether it is an actual rock show in an arena maybe with Led Zepplin or Guns n Roses or from an exceptional blues experience at the hands of Gary Moore or Joe Bonamassa.
The Les Paul instrument is a tradition in classis rock, the nemesis to the Stratocaster for many, you are for either one or the other in many player’s eyes but its not due to lack of respect for either instrument, its just they play and sound so different. There are also a lot of famous people that played Les Pauls but somewhere along the way became known for something else, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Eric Clapton just to name a few.
The classic LP consists of a set neck, dual humbuckers separated by a 3 way switch, 2 volumes and 2 tone controls. They are usually heavier than most other solid body guitars, something that many feel adds sustain and yet also the crux for a live player that has to hold the thing all night. This is a result of extensive use of mahogany in both the body and the neck usually with a decorative maple cap.
The Les Paul junior is the stripped down version of the LP, it is the same size and scale but offers only one pickup, traditionally a real p90 (a badass screaming single coil design) and also less decorative wood and a lighter weight.
LPs have a 24.75 scale, shorten than a tele or strat, so bends are easier and string tension is slacker, it will feel different if you’re not used to it but keep playing it and see how cool that can be.
There are million dollar Les Paul’s out there but to experience this unique instrument a six figure income is not required, The more reasonable priced ones, or even the Epiphone ones will allow you to find some of what makes this design so don’t be afraid to start there…
But get your hands on a Les Paul (thinking traditional here) and this is what you need to do: play a blues solo with long, warm, bending notes over a 12 bar backing track and listen to those notes carry forever. Play a classic rock chord progression into a heavy smooth show boating session and listen to the collision of notes and the thickness of the sounds and that tone. Next, play some punk power chords and feel it kick back, feel that anger and punch – all of this can be done with a decent amp and smooth overdrive, just play with it and get to know it, you won’t regret it.
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