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How to describe the sound of your Les Paul

Bonsaimaster

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Nov 16, 2021
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I have been trying to communicate how different Les Pauls sound when you pick them up and pay them WITHOUT an amp. Just the guitar to decouple the variables of amp, speaker, etc. When I play them I get a feel for the instrument and definitely have different sounds. Has anyone come up with a good nomenclature for describing a guitars sound? And what is your opinion on a "Good" Les Paul vs a not so good one. Example if I had the ability to play one of Jimmy Page's Les Paul's - What would it sound like? I have a collection of Les Pauls and they all sound different. I have used these terms below often to describe them. Do you have better ones? Do these translate well?

Bright - can be used to describe the top three strings or the bottom three strings or both.
Hollow - Resonance within the body of the guitar, some guitars just play the strings other involve the instrument more.
Muffled - That rounded tone of the top three strings or the bottom three strings or both
Volume - How much volume with equal effort of playing.
Feel - Is the guitar easy to play or are you fighting the instrument. (Not so much about tone but general impression).

Thanks
 

DutchRay

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Mar 15, 2015
Messages
600
I have no way to describe it with one word.
I've always had a guitar sound in my head, it is not unplugged. I used to play strats and always used pedals to get closer to sound I wanted to hear. When I got my first experience with an old Les Paul (Eelco Gelling's 1960), I just had to plug it into a great amp and the sound was there. Over the years I've had many reissue Les Pauls and in 2015 I ran into a restored '55 Goldtop with PAF's. Just that guitar and a loud Fender amp is all I need to get that sound I hear in my head.
 
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El Gringo

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Apr 8, 2015
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5,321
I can't imagine not plugging into an amp and playing an electric without hearing it's electrified sound from her pickups .
 

bern1

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Nov 23, 2004
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1,243
I’ll try. The sound of an unplugged Les Paul does have some relation to the plugged in sound.

To me, most “good” (to me) Les Pauls, regardless of vintage, will exhibit a midrange with an upper treble bite. Some people might call this a hollow sound, but I always think of it as a “sandwich”, wit h the midrange making up the substantial part of the “meat” and the singing, sustaining treble occupying the upper layer, maybe with magical air or some lettuce separating the two.

And yes, if it’s a good one, I can hear this quality unplugged. If the magic is present.
 

NINFNM

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Jan 20, 2018
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43
It's got a musical and acoustic tone to it. Far better than the plastic unplugged tone from my strat
 

Sol

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Oct 26, 2001
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775
Surely all guitars are essentially acoustic by design. Its just that were taking a very quiet acoustic signal and via the pickups amplifying it massively..

A perfectly setup Les Paul or Telecaster for that matter should present your ear with a range of frequencies with a tonal range not dissimilar from that of an acoustic guitar.

To hear these tones, many experienced guitarists will raise the guitar in order to place their ear to the beck of the guitar whilst playing chords.. Its a little uncomfortable but with your ear flat to the back its possible to hear a fuller bodied tonal range of the guitar in question, whether that be a Les Paul, Telecaster or some other model.. The more practice and familiarity you have will help determine the accuracy of your evaluation.
 
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Peter M

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Aug 19, 2021
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All my LPs sound loud and thick unplugged, especially when compared to thin-sounding, "plink-plink" Strats and Teles.
 

sws1

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Dec 4, 2001
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2,742
Surely all guitars are essentially acoustic by design. Its just that were taking a very quiet acoustic signal and via the pickups amplifying it massively..

Couldn't disagree with this more. A electric guitar is using an electromagnetic coil to produce an electrical signal. The coil is not tapping into nor hearing anything acoustic.
 

Sol

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Oct 26, 2001
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775
Couldn't disagree with this more. A electric guitar is using an electromagnetic coil to produce an electrical signal. The coil is not tapping into nor hearing anything acoustic.
"were taking a very quiet acoustic signal and amplifying it massively".

I was simply illustrating that solid bodied guitars are very acoustically quiet, I did not infer that acoustic volume plays any role in the amplified guitar.

Pickups, as we know are not microphones and are indifferent to the acoustic volume of a guitar.

The purpose of my post was to illustrate how, with practice its possible to evaluate certain property's of an unplugged electric guitar prior to plugging it in.

Pickups magnetise the strings and the movement of them within the pickups electrical field generates an electric signal that is converted to sound via an amplifier.

For any misunderstanding or confusion caused, I apologise.
 
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