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How do you choose a good Les Paul? (What I’ve learned over the years)

P.Walker

New member
Joined
Apr 17, 2007
Messages
941
Hey all,

I’ve had to sell an R9 recently for reasons other than financial, and decided to organize some of my thoughts on what it means to choose and play a great guitar.

For some twenty years I’ve heard the adage, “You cannot polish a turd, and you cannot keep a good one down,” and “there is no bad or worse, just different.” I do have my own opinions, but my main scepticism with those so called “truisms,” were that they were all-encompassing or diplomatic only on a superficial level. That is, despite seemingly allowing for various opinions to coexist, that train of thought was to me, overly absolutist and very narrow-minded.

When I am serious about buying a guitar, assuming it’s a well cared for instrument, I can (within a short period of time) feel if it’s right for me or not. I used to think it was some instinct that we subconsciously developed as guitar players, but over a long period of time, both facts, opinions, and our ever-changing preferences materialize, and become internalized as “feel.” In short, behind the voodoo there is (pseudo-) science and a little bit of humanity.

To avoid the post getting out of hand, I’ve decided to talk about a few aspects of guitars in general, which help me decide if the guitar is a keeper or not.

The only disclaimer is that I don’t speak from the point of a collector, but actually from the perspective of player foremost and ultimately, the guitar.

The ultimate objective is to discuss and share (as usual), and it would be interesting if some of you agree or disagree with what I have to say.

Brand/Model

I think many of us underestimate how brand-loyal we are, despite how quick we are to criticize the big guys. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and there is no loss of self-integrity when we bash Gibson but play Les Pauls (or other Gibson instruments even before 1950).

For me though, I do like Fender and Gibson (and traditional plexis and blackfaces for amps).

My first ever experience with a Gibson Les Paul was a 59 burst from Lark Street a very long time ago. It was a very plain top, well-loved, well set-up, and had Daddario 010-046 gauge strings. Not just a wonderful les paul, but a wonderful guitar. In hindsight, it was a blessing and a curse, but I choose to think positively and that particular Les Paul has always motivated me to never settle or go for aesthetics above all else. Above all, it taught me what a good 50s LP with PAFs sounds like.

Aesthetics

I’m lucky in that I’m not very experimental when it comes to colors or finishes, so I like all the 50s gibson solidbody colors and 60s fender custom colors (though just not on gibsons :p ).

The R9 that I sold recently was a looker, and my idea of a vintage looking flametop. It was what drew me in to the first place. Historic value aside, it looked even better than the plain 59 burst at lark street that I mentioned above. I began to imagine things: It sounded more hollow, more delicate, more of everything.

Playability

And then I brought it home and compared it to my R7 unplugged, not to test the acoustic tone or some controversial what have-you, but to observe how well I played on each.

I am a pretty picky person and very demanding when it comes to setup, so specs-wise, both the R9 (from 2010) and the R7 (from 2008) were pretty much identical. Both necks are pretty similar as well. The R9 is a little thicker than average and the R7 is a little smaller than average. Frets are the same on both, the R7 slightly flatter because it is my daily player.

I fly around and dig in better with the R7, but it’s because I know the guitar inside out, so rather than this being some inherent advantage over the R9, I reasoned that the R9 was new, so a little unfamiliar, and I admit I was a little afraid to go all out on a practically NOS guitar.

I couldn’t help but notice the difference in volume and the immediate attack of the R7, although acoustic tone, while nice to have, does not do a thing for me until it is plugged in. That’s where it counts for me at least. But the R7 does feel better without the amp. The fingerboard is harder, less drag, and overall I don’t think much when I play.

Which brings me to…

Construction/Tone

Next I’d like to talk about setup, but beyond relief measurement and action height and pickup height (which are important in their own ways of course).

I find it very shocking that many don’t concern themselves with the actual geometry and physics of the guitar neck, and how the truss rod impacts the adjustability of the neck wood. I really got deep into this stuff after getting a rubber-necked ES-335 and I swore to myself I’d never do the same again. That, and C-4’s response in this thread (http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/s...ck-rise-quot-on-historics&highlight=Rise+hump) is a good resource to follow when you also want to dig deep.

I’ll start by saying that understanding neck relief is the most important part about setting up a guitar. Reason? It affects next fret clearance, intonation, and tone. Everyone can be taught to turn a truss rod, but that’s not what’s important. It’s to recognize when the nect is “right.” Preference excluded, a neck should be very to close to dead flat, or dead flat with a dead level fret surface.

Even when it comes to basic setup parameters and I don’t mean to denounce specific persons or groups, but when people say, “My guitar likes 0.020” relief and very high action,” it does make you raise your eyebrows a little. If you like what the less than accurate intonation does, and if that accompanying sound fits your bill, I won’t argue though. But it would also behoove one to try the alternative “correct” approach as stated in literature.

But even common literature says .010” Fender and .012” Gibson Usa. My personal belief is that that is to cover ass for improper fret leveling and buzzing on the lower frets.

When it comes to adjusting a truss rod and the relief of a neck, in an ideal world, the frets will be level and the surface of the wood is not twisted side to side, or bowed vertically in an extreme manner (extreme manner would be defined as a case where surface anomalies cannot be planed out of the frets themselves), or have “waves” in the wood.

As per the original title though, it’s about choosing which guitars to buy and keep, so I’d like to exclude luthier “tricks” and evaluate the guitar on its own merits, without any help (because really, anything can be fixed. the problem is finding the money, time, and talent to do so).

Normally when people measure relief, they will use the string as a straightedge between the first fret and the neck body joint (to remove the nut and bridge from the equation). But the story does not end there. You will find that relief differs from string to string and the most worrisome case is where the relief on the treble side is MORE than the relief on the bass side (conversely, an intentional planing to leave small relief in the bass side with a dead straight treble side during a fret job will yield in a terrific playing monster of a guitar. Of course it needs to be said that sometimes uneven frets will throw off the reading, but then again, what do uneven frets tell you about the surface of the fingerboard, and conclusively the guitar itself?

And then there is the all too common case of overly bowed necks that force the truss rod to work overtime to compensate for the bow…and that’s not too good either.

Sometimes you will also find that amidst all this, the truss rod adjusts both sides at an uneven rate (or the wood responds at a different rate, or whatever else you want to call it). If you’re picky you will replane and refret…but then what if it still sounds like a dog (to you)?

What about the hump? What if the truss rod can’t adjust for irregularities in the wood?

Answer is that a competent uthier can pretty much fix anything

The better answer is to not worry about such things and shut up and play the guitar,

But for the picky few out there, the best answer is to pick the right one from the very start and play it, treat it well, and get a competent luthier to do upkeep while you making sure that the neck doesn’t go out of wack

I feel the construction of a guitar is a much unappreciated and under-discussed aspect of electric guitars, and the lack of understanding the simple physics behind it creates much confusion, and creates unnecessary “noise.”

This could be the perfect time to talk about tonewoods and the like, but I’d rather not create controversy but rather examine wood as an important component when discussing the guitar on a holistic level. My personal opinion is that the resonance of the solidbody blank is not as important as a hollow chamber on an acoustic guitar, but it is important in other physical ways in an electric guitar. Both acoustic and electric guitars were made with opposing philosophies, and thus I will treat them as such. Simply put, beyond the common truism, “all wood is different,” is my opinion that the physical qualities (density, weight, moisture content, rigidity, ability to retain shape) are more important than the name of the wood, since the former does have a scientific and measurable effect on the sound and way a solidbody guitar (an especially a les paul) sounds.

Coming back to the R7 and R9, the R9 feels and sounds “wet” for lack of a better word. Forgive me for I am not a linguistics major, but the aural is very hard to explain into words…

I like guitars that sound immediate, bright, and have a wide dynamic range; they can get soft and loud. It’s why I like Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles because to me they feel strident, and preserve the attack of the note very well. I like Plexis for the same reasons, and I feel it’s much more exciting to tame the beast than try to wring the tone out of a polite guitar. I’m not a fan of “sag” or “squish” or “compression” or whatever buzz word there is out there to describe the ease of playing a guitar, but I feel those qualities are best displayed through the hands of an experienced player rather than the gear itself. I know I’ve become a better player due to this. If for some reason the musical context calls for even more delicacy than what the hand can provide, than the tone controls on a “wilder” guitar can be more versatile than a guitar that is “dead” from the start.

Specifically, the R9 inherently has a very muddy and soft neck position sound, and a thinner bridge position sound. You know the saying about how a good LP is like a tele on steroids? This R9 bridge is a tele, just not on steroids :( In comparison, the R7 neck has that clank and attack of a good 50s burst (even under high gain), sounds very bright, and the bridge is thick and honky. I should point out that common setup parameters and hardware are identical for both guitars. Both guitars also weigh the same. And because of these differences I find the R7 is a much better sonically balanced guitar, much more dynamic, clear, and more versatile.

Now, another man’s trash is another man’s gold, and the difference between preference and performance is a very gray area to some. Less mentioned is the fact that we also lie to ourselves because of the opportunity cost of such guitar. But I feel the moment I try to justify the reason for a particular guitar not sounding so well relatively, and try to “see the good side” is the moment I know I will never bond with it. Come to think of it, the R7 from the wall to the cashier took slightly less than five minutes. I do admit the R9 is more pretty, and I’m lucky I like goldtops. However, just like I can make that honest assessment for myself, I should also be able to admit that the R7 sounds better, and I can’t just say the R9 “sounds different” because it has a prettier top. Not to get too philosophical but behind every form of subjectivity lies some sort of objective standard we hold ourselves to.

So since this post went way overboard, I’ll conclude with pics of my two favorite guitars…

H7dEVjHl.jpg


0qufSUKl.jpg
 

El Gringo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
4,547
First off thank you very much for your insights ,very well thought of and very knowledgeable .Secondly you mentioned Lark Street one of my all time favorites as I am a fan f Buzzy and his most awesome store .
 

JPP-1

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 11, 2006
Messages
1,310
Nice post and just goes to show how different two historics can be.

I like how unlike some on this forum you didn't extrapolate that R7s sound better than R8s, R9s or R0s after your experience.


Hey all,

I’ve had to sell an R9 recently for reasons other than financial, and decided to organize some of my thoughts on what it means to choose and play a great guitar.

For some twenty years I’ve heard the adage, “You cannot polish a turd, and you cannot keep a good one down,” and “there is no bad or worse, just different.” I do have my own opinions, but my main scepticism with those so called “truisms,” were that they were all-encompassing or diplomatic only on a superficial level. That is, despite seemingly allowing for various opinions to coexist, that train of thought was to me, overly absolutist and very narrow-minded.

When I am serious about buying a guitar, assuming it’s a well cared for instrument, I can (within a short period of time) feel if it’s right for me or not. I used to think it was some instinct that we subconsciously developed as guitar players, but over a long period of time, both facts, opinions, and our ever-changing preferences materialize, and become internalized as “feel.” In short, behind the voodoo there is (pseudo-) science and a little bit of humanity.

To avoid the post getting out of hand, I’ve decided to talk about a few aspects of guitars in general, which help me decide if the guitar is a keeper or not.

The only disclaimer is that I don’t speak from the point of a collector, but actually from the perspective of player foremost and ultimately, the guitar.

The ultimate objective is to discuss and share (as usual), and it would be interesting if some of you agree or disagree with what I have to say.

Brand/Model

I think many of us underestimate how brand-loyal we are, despite how quick we are to criticize the big guys. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and there is no loss of self-integrity when we bash Gibson but play Les Pauls (or other Gibson instruments even before 1950).

For me though, I do like Fender and Gibson (and traditional plexis and blackfaces for amps).

My first ever experience with a Gibson Les Paul was a 59 burst from Lark Street a very long time ago. It was a very plain top, well-loved, well set-up, and had Daddario 010-046 gauge strings. Not just a wonderful les paul, but a wonderful guitar. In hindsight, it was a blessing and a curse, but I choose to think positively and that particular Les Paul has always motivated me to never settle or go for aesthetics above all else. Above all, it taught me what a good 50s LP with PAFs sounds like.

Aesthetics

I’m lucky in that I’m not very experimental when it comes to colors or finishes, so I like all the 50s gibson solidbody colors and 60s fender custom colors (though just not on gibsons :p ).

The R9 that I sold recently was a looker, and my idea of a vintage looking flametop. It was what drew me in to the first place. Historic value aside, it looked even better than the plain 59 burst at lark street that I mentioned above. I began to imagine things: It sounded more hollow, more delicate, more of everything.

Playability

And then I brought it home and compared it to my R7 unplugged, not to test the acoustic tone or some controversial what have-you, but to observe how well I played on each.

I am a pretty picky person and very demanding when it comes to setup, so specs-wise, both the R9 (from 2010) and the R7 (from 2008) were pretty much identical. Both necks are pretty similar as well. The R9 is a little thicker than average and the R7 is a little smaller than average. Frets are the same on both, the R7 slightly flatter because it is my daily player.

I fly around and dig in better with the R7, but it’s because I know the guitar inside out, so rather than this being some inherent advantage over the R9, I reasoned that the R9 was new, so a little unfamiliar, and I admit I was a little afraid to go all out on a practically NOS guitar.

I couldn’t help but notice the difference in volume and the immediate attack of the R7, although acoustic tone, while nice to have, does not do a thing for me until it is plugged in. That’s where it counts for me at least. But the R7 does feel better without the amp. The fingerboard is harder, less drag, and overall I don’t think much when I play.

Which brings me to…

Construction/Tone

Next I’d like to talk about setup, but beyond relief measurement and action height and pickup height (which are important in their own ways of course).

I find it very shocking that many don’t concern themselves with the actual geometry and physics of the guitar neck, and how the truss rod impacts the adjustability of the neck wood. I really got deep into this stuff after getting a rubber-necked ES-335 and I swore to myself I’d never do the same again. That, and C-4’s response in this thread (http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/s...ck-rise-quot-on-historics&highlight=Rise+hump) is a good resource to follow when you also want to dig deep.

I’ll start by saying that understanding neck relief is the most important part about setting up a guitar. Reason? It affects next fret clearance, intonation, and tone. Everyone can be taught to turn a truss rod, but that’s not what’s important. It’s to recognize when the nect is “right.” Preference excluded, a neck should be very to close to dead flat, or dead flat with a dead level fret surface.

Even when it comes to basic setup parameters and I don’t mean to denounce specific persons or groups, but when people say, “My guitar likes 0.020” relief and very high action,” it does make you raise your eyebrows a little. If you like what the less than accurate intonation does, and if that accompanying sound fits your bill, I won’t argue though. But it would also behoove one to try the alternative “correct” approach as stated in literature.

But even common literature says .010” Fender and .012” Gibson Usa. My personal belief is that that is to cover ass for improper fret leveling and buzzing on the lower frets.

When it comes to adjusting a truss rod and the relief of a neck, in an ideal world, the frets will be level and the surface of the wood is not twisted side to side, or bowed vertically in an extreme manner (extreme manner would be defined as a case where surface anomalies cannot be planed out of the frets themselves), or have “waves” in the wood.

As per the original title though, it’s about choosing which guitars to buy and keep, so I’d like to exclude luthier “tricks” and evaluate the guitar on its own merits, without any help (because really, anything can be fixed. the problem is finding the money, time, and talent to do so).

Normally when people measure relief, they will use the string as a straightedge between the first fret and the neck body joint (to remove the nut and bridge from the equation). But the story does not end there. You will find that relief differs from string to string and the most worrisome case is where the relief on the treble side is MORE than the relief on the bass side (conversely, an intentional planing to leave small relief in the bass side with a dead straight treble side during a fret job will yield in a terrific playing monster of a guitar. Of course it needs to be said that sometimes uneven frets will throw off the reading, but then again, what do uneven frets tell you about the surface of the fingerboard, and conclusively the guitar itself?

And then there is the all too common case of overly bowed necks that force the truss rod to work overtime to compensate for the bow…and that’s not too good either.

Sometimes you will also find that amidst all this, the truss rod adjusts both sides at an uneven rate (or the wood responds at a different rate, or whatever else you want to call it). If you’re picky you will replane and refret…but then what if it still sounds like a dog (to you)?

What about the hump? What if the truss rod can’t adjust for irregularities in the wood?

Answer is that a competent uthier can pretty much fix anything

The better answer is to not worry about such things and shut up and play the guitar,

But for the picky few out there, the best answer is to pick the right one from the very start and play it, treat it well, and get a competent luthier to do upkeep while you making sure that the neck doesn’t go out of wack

I feel the construction of a guitar is a much unappreciated and under-discussed aspect of electric guitars, and the lack of understanding the simple physics behind it creates much confusion, and creates unnecessary “noise.”

This could be the perfect time to talk about tonewoods and the like, but I’d rather not create controversy but rather examine wood as an important component when discussing the guitar on a holistic level. My personal opinion is that the resonance of the solidbody blank is not as important as a hollow chamber on an acoustic guitar, but it is important in other physical ways in an electric guitar. Both acoustic and electric guitars were made with opposing philosophies, and thus I will treat them as such. Simply put, beyond the common truism, “all wood is different,” is my opinion that the physical qualities (density, weight, moisture content, rigidity, ability to retain shape) are more important than the name of the wood, since the former does have a scientific and measurable effect on the sound and way a solidbody guitar (an especially a les paul) sounds.

Coming back to the R7 and R9, the R9 feels and sounds “wet” for lack of a better word. Forgive me for I am not a linguistics major, but the aural is very hard to explain into words…

I like guitars that sound immediate, bright, and have a wide dynamic range; they can get soft and loud. It’s why I like Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles because to me they feel strident, and preserve the attack of the note very well. I like Plexis for the same reasons, and I feel it’s much more exciting to tame the beast than try to wring the tone out of a polite guitar. I’m not a fan of “sag” or “squish” or “compression” or whatever buzz word there is out there to describe the ease of playing a guitar, but I feel those qualities are best displayed through the hands of an experienced player rather than the gear itself. I know I’ve become a better player due to this. If for some reason the musical context calls for even more delicacy than what the hand can provide, than the tone controls on a “wilder” guitar can be more versatile than a guitar that is “dead” from the start.

Specifically, the R9 inherently has a very muddy and soft neck position sound, and a thinner bridge position sound. You know the saying about how a good LP is like a tele on steroids? This R9 bridge is a tele, just not on steroids :( In comparison, the R7 neck has that clank and attack of a good 50s burst (even under high gain), sounds very bright, and the bridge is thick and honky. I should point out that common setup parameters and hardware are identical for both guitars. Both guitars also weigh the same. And because of these differences I find the R7 is a much better sonically balanced guitar, much more dynamic, clear, and more versatile.

Now, another man’s trash is another man’s gold, and the difference between preference and performance is a very gray area to some. Less mentioned is the fact that we also lie to ourselves because of the opportunity cost of such guitar. But I feel the moment I try to justify the reason for a particular guitar not sounding so well relatively, and try to “see the good side” is the moment I know I will never bond with it. Come to think of it, the R7 from the wall to the cashier took slightly less than five minutes. I do admit the R9 is more pretty, and I’m lucky I like goldtops. However, just like I can make that honest assessment for myself, I should also be able to admit that the R7 sounds better, and I can’t just say the R9 “sounds different” because it has a prettier top. Not to get too philosophical but behind every form of subjectivity lies some sort of objective standard we hold ourselves to.

So since this post went way overboard, I’ll conclude with pics of my two favorite guitars…

H7dEVjHl.jpg


0qufSUKl.jpg
 

shred

Active member
Joined
Nov 13, 2003
Messages
4,648
Interesting and well written ---not to mention successfully using the word "behooves." :applaude

I agree with you about truss rod adjustments and dead flat necks... Thanks for sharing :salude
 

ff1337

Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2016
Messages
371
I had an experience years ago where I had 3 different Les Paul's on stands to try at a store, and they all had a different voice. Believe it or not the most expensive sounded like shit, but the two used ones sounded great with one prevailing as king. Again, Its still amazing how they vary, Greg Koch's videos are great at displaying the nuances of those different Les Paul's. In another thread I mentioned how I put used custombuckers in an R9 and they did not sound very well but then I bought a TH with custombuckers and it sounds outstanding! So to me what makes a good les Paul? One that resonates with you, one that helps you through a tough time, one that inspires you to play and a nice top doesn't hurt either :laugh2:
 

surfreak

Active member
Joined
May 6, 2002
Messages
1,112
Thank you for your very informative post.

I would add another key area for me as a player, and that is "tonal response", for my lack to find a better expression.

What I mean is, I look for guitars, and in particular Les Pauls, that do not have any noticeable structural dead spots, especially in the common fretboard real estate between the 10th and 15th fret, and usually more prominently on the G and B strings.

These dead spots cannot be corrected, even adding mass to the headstock only moves the dead spot to a different frequency, so I usually play every single note on the fretboard and look for an even sustain.

The good thing is that typically Les Pauls seem to be less prone to dead spots than bolt-on F-style guitars or other guitars that have a low mass neck joint. I do not have any "scientific" explanation for this, but in my experience a substantial neck joint, such as in a Les Paul, tends to minimize the issue.
 

P.Walker

New member
Joined
Apr 17, 2007
Messages
941
First off thank you very much for your insights ,very well thought of and very knowledgeable .Secondly you mentioned Lark Street one of my all time favorites as I am a fan f Buzzy and his most awesome store .

I agree. He's an awesome guy with an awesome store. He was very gracious and laid-back and did not bat an eye when I asked to see the burst. He also has great taste in amps.
 

P.Walker

New member
Joined
Apr 17, 2007
Messages
941
Nice post and just goes to show how different two historics can be.

I like how unlike some on this forum you didn't extrapolate that R7s sound better than R8s, R9s or R0s after your experience.

Thanks for pointing that out; the R7 was also chosen out of many. It just goes to show that some are better than others and then choosing the "right" one for you. That's why I'm still on the lookout for another R9.
 

P.Walker

New member
Joined
Apr 17, 2007
Messages
941
I had an experience years ago where I had 3 different Les Paul's on stands to try at a store, and they all had a different voice. Believe it or not the most expensive sounded like shit, but the two used ones sounded great with one prevailing as king. Again, Its still amazing how they vary, Greg Koch's videos are great at displaying the nuances of those different Les Paul's. In another thread I mentioned how I put used custombuckers in an R9 and they did not sound very well but then I bought a TH with custombuckers and it sounds outstanding! So to me what makes a good les Paul? One that resonates with you, one that helps you through a tough time, one that inspires you to play and a nice top doesn't hurt either :laugh2:

Precisely! I notice though that the ones Greg says are "squishy," are the ones I avoid!:rofl
 

P.Walker

New member
Joined
Apr 17, 2007
Messages
941
Thank you for your very informative post.

I would add another key area for me as a player, and that is "tonal response", for my lack to find a better expression.

What I mean is, I look for guitars, and in particular Les Pauls, that do not have any noticeable structural dead spots, especially in the common fretboard real estate between the 10th and 15th fret, and usually more prominently on the G and B strings.

These dead spots cannot be corrected, even adding mass to the headstock only moves the dead spot to a different frequency, so I usually play every single note on the fretboard and look for an even sustain.

The good thing is that typically Les Pauls seem to be less prone to dead spots than bolt-on F-style guitars or other guitars that have a low mass neck joint. I do not have any "scientific" explanation for this, but in my experience a substantial neck joint, such as in a Les Paul, tends to minimize the issue.

Ah yes, dead spots! Like you, I've also had extremely light guitars that had dead spots, and a guitar that sounded better after with a bigger refret, although sounding better could be attributed to better coupling between fret and board and not necessarily a dead spot issue (which is fundamentally different from coupling). You're definitely right about how you can not remove a dead spot and the best you can do is to shift it away from where you usually play.

It's worth reading into why Paul redesigned the PRS heel from a slicker one to a clunkier one. Many debate whether it's really effective or even the best solution from an aesthetic and playability point of view.
 

Fan of LP

New member
Joined
Jan 8, 2017
Messages
181
Excellent post. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it.

You mentioned that when comparing the guitars they both had the same setup. I want to mention something related that can be pretty obvious but it's sometimes overlooked, especially by new guitarists like myself (I've been playing on and off for only 5 years): proper guitar setup. Yes, stores are not always good about keeping guitars in good shape. Especially stores that don't move historics very often. As soon as you get the guitar off the wall at the store (or from behind that heavily guarded glass shelf), make sure strings are not rusty, that the fretboard is not too dry or too wet (?), that it's in tune (ask for a a snap-on or pedal tuner. Music stores tend to be very loud), etc., etc. You're about to spend a couple of grands on an instrument, the store shouldn't have problems sending the guitar to their tech for a few minutes. If the guitar does not have a good setup, you won't be able to hear what the OP described, and/or it will be very difficult to determine which issues are due to improper setup or inherent to the guitar.

Oh, and one more thing: plug the guitar into a cheap amp, like the one you have at home, and not into the $3,000.00 Friedman they have in that private room :p
 
Last edited:

ff1337

Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2016
Messages
371
Excellent post. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it.

You mentioned that when comparing the guitars they both had the same setup. I want to mention something related that can be pretty obvious but it's sometimes overlooked, especially by new guitarists like myself (I've been playing on and off for only 5 years): proper guitar setup. Yes, stores are not always good about keeping guitars in good shape. Especially stores that don't move historics very often. As soon as you get the guitar off the wall at the store (or from behind that heavily guarded glass shelf), make sure strings are not rusty, that the fretboard is not too dry or too wet (?), that it's in tune (ask for a a snap-on or pedal tuner. Music stores tend to be very loud), etc., etc. You're about to spend a couple of grands on an instrument, the store shouldn't have problems sending the guitar to their tech for a few minutes. If the guitar does not have a good setup, you won't be able to hear what the OP described, and/or it will be very difficult to determine which issues are due to improper setup or inherent to the guitar.

Oh, and one more thing: plug the guitar into a cheap amp, like the one you have at home, and not into the $3,000.00 Friedman they have in that private room :p
Lol! +1
 

Jimty

Member
Joined
May 12, 2016
Messages
41
Excellent post OP - thanks for sharing. I'm always fascinated by how different LPs can sound and feel. It's why I doubt I'd ever buy "blind" without playing (or at the very least hearing) a guitar first. I played around 30 CS guitars before settling on my R8 and each was unique - some better, some worse, some just different. But when you find the guitars that speak to you....it's a very cool thing. I also never demo anything nowadays without bringing one of my own guitars along for a direct comparison - I like to minimise the risk of "new guitar syndrome" convincing me that the guitar I'm demoing is demonstrably "better" than something I already own..... Totally agree with Fan of LP too - getting a guitar set up properly and in tune before demoing is huge.
 
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JPP-1

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Jul 11, 2006
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1,310
I'd like to add a couple of factors which are very important

Guitar strings and Amp

I stopped playing Les Paul's for awhile because they felt slightly numb next to my strats. Not so with my current Historic. It's articulation and transparency for lack of a better word is startling. Pick attack, tonal light and shade, clarity, chime and growl are easy to coax from the guitar with the right amp. Which leads me to the the factors mentioned above

Guitar strings:
the difference between new and old strings, even brands of strings is a huge tonal factor in a very transparent and articulate guitar. On a numb truck like guitar not so much but on the recent Historics I owned, the difference guitar strings makes is pronounced.

With a good set of new strings, all the bell like chime you can get from a great strat is present in my Les Paul and the rush of overtones and extra fundemental harmonic content Just swirls around you. As the strings fade, that woody hollow quality still exists but the fall off in overtones and extra fundamental harmonic content is significant, like someone turned the tone control way down.

I have to ask myself how many judgements have I made where the strings may have been a factor that I just didn't recognize.

Amp
While amps are a personal preference, having tried everything from vintage black face Fenders to limited edition Two-Rocks, I can say that everyone should at least experience a great cranked vintage Marshall style amp in a good room. Being able to go from cleanish chime to shimmery growl just by using pick attack is one of the greatest tonal joys I've experienced playing guitar. There's an immediacy there you can't get from cascade gain amps whether they're built by Randal Smith or Howie Dumble.

The level of expressiveness and resolution between guitar and amp with this combination is off the charts afaic. If you value your ears I would recommend the use power scaling or a great attenuator, Inefficient speakers can help too. While hearing JBL120Fs cry may be the icing on the cake, I value my hearing too much to over indulge in that type of sonic goodness and this Marshall style Les Paul cake is so good you probably won't miss the icing.

I highly agree that every guitar is unique, but certain factors some tiny like Guitar strings can play a huge role. And the synergistic connection between guitar and amp should not be overlooked either.
 

slammintone

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Jul 19, 2001
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1,924
Give me 10 Historics to pick one from and I'll end up thinking, "I like the neck of this one, but the one with the funky neck sounds better. The heavy one also happens to have the best color, the one that sounds the mushiest has the best top. The lightest one is an R0 and I hate skinny necks. " Etc etc. Back in the early 2000s I went through that whole choosing regimen quite a few times. In more recent years I've had better success with used Historics. It's been like "where the hell were you guitars 6-10 years ago when I was going through the rigmarole of trying to find a decent all 'rounder?" Buying used it helps tremendously IMO if the guitar has the stock pickups and electronics because that's the best way you'll know if the guitar is bright or muddy or just right. I've found a stock muddy guitar tone usually cannot be helped much other than marginally with expensive aftermarket pickups enough times to make me steer clear of them and to stay away from modded guitars unless the seller puts the stock humbuckers, pots etc back in. It's too much headache that usually ends in me being unhappy and selling off the offending piece.
 

Sct13

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Oct 27, 2011
Messages
568
I just had to play a bunch, (buy and sell) till I found the one(s) I realy couldn't live without....and it took years and regrets...cuz I wish I could have kept most of them.

Neck size and shape became more important than I ever thought it would....Fret board feel (believe it or not) and resonance....of course there is the top and the color....getting all those little stars to align is pretty ridiculas ...but it was fun...

I think I have the three best LP's on the planet right now...but someone else's hands might think differently about my choices....so its all very personal
 

marshall1987

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Jan 30, 2005
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3,225
"Flat neck" terminology doesn't register with me.......:hmm

The Les Paul necks I have played don't have any "flat" geometry whatsoever. The back of the neck is rounded the whole length, and most often, exhibiting a taper from the first fret up to the neck joint. And the front fingerboard side normally has a 12" radius all the way down the neck in the lateral plane. Gibson doesn't normally do a compound radius on their fingerboards.

Instead, I normally think of the neck with no relief as being straight.
 

P.Walker

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Apr 17, 2007
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"Flat neck" terminology doesn't register with me.......:hmm

The Les Paul necks I have played don't have any "flat" geometry whatsoever. The back of the neck is rounded the whole length, and most often, exhibiting a taper from the first fret up to the neck joint. And the front fingerboard side normally has a 12" radius all the way down the neck in the lateral plane. Gibson doesn't normally do a compound radius on their fingerboards.

Instead, I normally think of the neck with no relief as being straight.

Which is exactly what I mean. A "dead flat" neck is flat regardless of 7.25" or 12."

A neck with no relief will ideally have fret board surfaces that the string will "see" in a perfectly linear fashion.

Yes of course the back of the neck is not flat. That would be very sharp and thus uncomfortable.

Yes of course gibson does not compound the radius. For most purposes it's a ~12".
 
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