This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
CA
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Canada version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions > The Guitar Magazine > Apr-18 > TO VINTAGE LES PAUL TONE

TO VINTAGE LES PAUL TONE

‘Les Paul tone’ means lots of different things to lots of different people, but there’s no doubt that the blend of clarity, sustain and power offered by original Bursts and Goldtops still represents the high-water mark for many electric guitar fans. Here, HUW PRICE attempts to find out precisely what makes golden era Les Pauls tick and explains how you too can taste the tone fantastic without breaking the bank…

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VINTAGE LES PAUL TONE

Our three test bed guitars – a Gibson Custom Collector’s Choice #26 Whitford Burst, our work-in-progress Greco conversion and a 1954 Goldtop

We swap the original wrapover tailpiece and studs from the 1954 Goldtop onto our Greco, and the Greco now sounds like a vintage Gibson

In last month’s in-depth look at the 1960 Les Paul Standard formerly owned by Doug Lock and Luther Grosvenor, we made the bold claim that anyone can enjoy something unnervingly close to vintage Les Paul tone by combining the right pickups, hardware and electronics with a suitable body.

We also promised to expand on the theme and that’s precisely what follows across the next 10 pages. In short, armed with an original 1954 Goldtop, a Gibson Custom Collector’s Choice #26 Whitford Burst and our work-in-progress Greco Goldtop conversion (which you can read more about on p111), we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to achieving vintage Les Paul tone without having to sell your house in the process.

If you are shooting for 1950s Les Paul tone, we think that success is more likely if you consider things as a whole rather than obsess over specific details. The electric guitar is a ‘system’ and, as with all systems, individual components interact. Identifying the key components and gaining insight into how they work together is essential. Read on for an analysis of what we consider to be the key components, the way they effect tone and what your options are.

Hardware

A significant proportion of vintage Les Pauls were retrofitted with Grover or Schaller machineheads at some point – many have since been converted back to Klusons. The balance of the guitar changes with heavier tuners and you may notice changes in transient attack, but it’s hardly a make or break issue. The same can be said for nylon nuts and if you do notice sonic differences compared to bone or other materials, you’ll only hear them when you play open strings.

Consequently, attention focuses on bridges and tailpieces and we conduct our primary listening tests with the guitars unplugged. We’ve always found vintage Gibsons a bit softer in the treble and woodier in the mids than even the best reissues. With the electrics eliminated, these differences can only be attributed to the wood, the bridges and tailpieces or a combination of both.

We test the hypothesis by swapping the original wrapover tailpiece and studs from the 1954 Goldtop onto our Greco and putting the Greco’s Faber aluminium tailpiece onto the Gibson. The strings on both guitars are identical sets of Ernie Ball Pure Nickel 0.010s.

READ MORE
Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of The Guitar Magazine - Apr-18
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - Apr-18
$5.49
Or 549 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 2.92 per issue
SAVE
47%
Was $41.99
Now $34.99
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only $ 3.99 per issue
SAVE
27%
$3.99
Or 399 points

View Issues

About The Guitar Magazine

The April 2018 edition of The Guitar Magazine is out now featuring a FREE digital guitar DIY handbook containing 132 pages of essential tone tops, mods and upgrades that’ll make your guitar sound and play better today. Inside the main mag we go in-depth with Les Pauls and unlock the secrets of authentic 1950s tone. Spoiler alert: it’s not all about ‘old wood’ – we explain how your guitar can go toe-to-toe with a Burst or Goldtop without selling your house to fund a vintage purchase. We also put a pair of Gibson’s new 2018 Les Pauls to the test but if Lesters ain’t your thang, fear not – in addition we check out gorgeous new gear from Fender, Gretsch, B&G and more, including a brand new Lazy J that might just be Jesse Hoff’s finest amplifier to date. Elsewhere in this month’s mag we catch up with JD McPherson, who tells all about recording at RCA Studio B and jamming with Queens Of The Stone Age, pay tribute to legendary innovator Ray Butts and give you the chance to win an awesome Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall delay pedal worth £399. Pick up your copy of the feature-packed April 2018 issue of The Guitar Magazine now from WH Smith, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Easons and all good newsagents.