Les Paul Classic
The Les Paul Classic is a modernized, full-throttle version of the traditional Les Paul, combining the high-speed playability of a ’60s slim-taper neck with rosewood fingerboard and the muscle of uncovered ceramic magnet humbucker pickups. The result is a speedy, powerhouse Les Paul perfect for today’s supercharged rockers. The 496R pickup is as hot and aggressive as any neck position pickup in Gibson’s lineup. It fits perfectly with Gibson’s sizzling 500T bridge pickup, providing increased definition and sustain with blistering, ear-splitting tone. Essentially, it’s Gibson’s iconic Les Paul with a few adjustments—as in, high-performance modifications. Available in Ebony, Honey Burst, and Wine Red.
The Gibson Logo
The most innovative and revolutionary stringed instruments of all time have carried the name Gibson—the Les Paul, the ES-335, the Explorer, the Flying V, the SG. The list goes on and on. There is no mistaking the classic, hand-crafted mother of pearl logo, inlayed into a pressed fiber-head veneer that is then glued to the face of the mahogany headstock. A thin coat of lacquer finishes the process. It is the most recognizable logo in all of music, representing more than a century of originality and excellence. There is simply no equal.
The angled headstock is another example of Gibson’s industry-changing way of thinking. Every Gibson headstock is carved out of the same piece of mahogany as the neck then fitted with Gibson’s traditional wing blocks. It is not a “glued-on” headstock, and the process takes craftsmanship, time, and effort. But the rewards are worth the effort. The headstock is carefully angled at 17 degrees, which increases pressure on the strings and helps them stay in the nut slots. An increase in string pressure also means there is no loss of string vibration between the nut and the tuners, which equals better sustain.
Adjustable Truss Rod
The adjustable truss rod is a Gibson innovation that revolutionized the guitar. Before this ground-breaking discovery in the early 1920s, the truss rod was used only to strengthen and stabilize the neck. By making it adjustable, the truss rod now allows a guitar to be set up using a variety of string gauges, as well as string heights. This easily accommodates any style of playing, and allows a limitless range of set-up options. And by placing it at the base of the headstock, the adjustable nut is easily accessible, even while the strings are still on the guitar.
’60s Slim-Taper Neck Profile
No guitar neck profiles are more distinguishable than the neck profiles employed on the Gibson models of today. The ’60s neck profile—found on the Les Paul Classic—is the more modern, slim-tapered neck most commonly associated with the Les Paul and SG models of the early 1960s. The neck is machined in Gibson’s rough mill using wood shapers to make the initial cuts. But once the fingerboard gets glued on, the rest—including the final sanding—is done by hand. That means there are no two necks with the exact same dimensions. So while it still has the basic characteristics of its respective profile, each neck will be slightly different, with a distinct but traditional feel.
22-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
Rosewood has always graced the fingerboards of the world’s finest stringed instruments, including many of today’s Gibsons. The fingerboard on the Gibson Les Paul Classic is constructed from the highest grade rosewood on the planet. The rosewood is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the factories to be fitted onto the neck of the Les Paul Classic. The resilience of this dense and durable wood makes these fingerboards extremely balanced and stable, and gives each chord and note unparalleled clarity and bite. The 12-inch radius of the fingerboard provides smooth note bending capabilities and eliminates “dead” or “choked out” notes, common occurrences on fingerboards with lesser radiuses.
Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
The fret wire on all Gibson models is a combination nickel and silver alloy (approximately 80 percent nickel and 20 percent silver) specifically designed for long life and superior wear. Gibson’s traditional “medium/jumbo” fret wire is first shaped by hand, then cut to an exact 12-inch radius. After hand pressing it into the fingerboard, a machine press finishes the job to eliminate the gap between the bottom of the fret wire and the fingerboard.
The classic trapezoid inlay is one of the most distinguishable features of many traditional Gibson models, including the Les Paul Classic. A figured, swirl acrylic, combined with a classic yellow hue, gives these inlays that vintage “pearl” look. They are inserted into the fingerboard using a process that eliminates gaps and doesn’t require the use of fillers.
Like all classic Gibson guitars, the necks on Les Paul Classics are distinguished by one of the more traditional features that have always set them apart—a glued neck joint. Gluing the neck to the body of the guitar ensures a “wood-to-wood” contact, no air space in the neck cavity, and maximum contact between the neck and body, allowing the neck and body to function as a single unit. The result? Better tone, better sustain, and no loose or misaligned necks.
Mahogany Back and Maple Top
There isn’t anything more critical than the marriage of the Les Paul’s mahogany back with a maple cap, as well as the regimen involved in selecting the right wood and the formula to dry it out. First, the wood is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the Gibson factories. These onsite inspectors also ensure that the plain maple comes from corporations adhering to the forest-saving standards of the Rainforest Alliance, of which Gibson is a proud member and sponsor. Inside the Gibson factories, humidity is maintained at 45 percent, and the temperature at 70 degrees. This ensures all woods are dried to a level of “equilibrium,” where the moisture content does not change during the manufacturing process. This guarantees tight-fitting joints and no expansion, and controls the shrinkage and warping of the woods, in addition to reducing the weight. It also improves the woods’ machinability and finishing properties, and adherence to glue. Consistent moisture content means that a Gibson guitar will respond evenly to temperature and humidity changes long after it leaves the factory.
There’s something about playing a guitar with perfect tone, balance, and weight. One of the ways the expert craftsmen at Gibson USA achieve this equilibrium is by carving carefully mapped-out chambers in the Les Paul’s solid mahogany back using a Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) router before the maple top is glued on. The positioning of the routes was established after careful examination of the resonant characteristics of the Les Paul. Gibson approached this process with the awareness that every change to the formula would have repercussions on the instrument’s sound. So, in addition to relieving the stress on a player’s back and shoulder, these lighter Gibson guitars also enhance the tone palette in a manner unique only to these guitars. The results are comfortable, lightweight guitars that are acoustically louder, with increased sustain and resonance.
GIBSON’S 496R AND 500T PICKUPS
No event is more responsible for dramatically influencing the evolution of popular music than Gibson’s introduction of the double-coil “humbucking” pickup in 1955. From the warm jazz tones of Charlie Christian, to the world-shaking rockabilly of Scotty Moore, and the cruching rock of Jimmy Page, countless players around the world explored the limitless possibilities of the tonal spectrum through Gibson pickups and guitars. As the musical landscape changed, so did the development of the humbucker pickup. Introduced in the early 1970s, Gibson’s 496R and 500T pickups filled the need for more powerful humbuckers and energized the emergence of hard rock and heavy metal. The 496R produces incredible sustain and cutting power with its ceramic magnet, adding more highs with increased definition and no muddiness at all. The 500T is one of Gibson’s most powerful pickups, containing a three ceramic magnet structure, which enables a no-holds-barred rock and roll crunch that never loses its rich combination of enhanced lows and crystal clear highs. This is one of Gibson’s most potent pickup combinations.
The Tune-o-matic bridge was the brainchild of legendary Gibson president Ted McCarty in 1954. At the time, it was a true revelation in intonation, and set a standard for simplicity and functionality that has never been bettered. This pioneering piece of hardware provides a firm seating for the strings, allowing the player to adjust and fine-tune the intonation and string height in a matter of minutes. It also yields a great union between the strings and body, which results in excellent tone and sustain. It is combined with a separate “stopbar” tailpiece, essentially a modified version of the earlier wraparound bridge. To this day, the Tune-o-matic remains the industry standard. It is the epitome of form and function in electric guitar bridge design, and is one of the most revered and copied pieces of guitar hardware ever developed.
Applying a nitrocellulose finish to any Gibson guitar—including the Les Paul Classic—is one of the most labor-intensive elements of the guitar-making process. A properly applied nitro finish requires extensive man hours, several evenly applied coats, and an exorbitant amount of drying time. But this fact has never swayed Gibson into changing this time-tested method, employed ever since the first guitar was swathed with lacquer back in 1894. Why? For starters, a nitro finish dries to a much thinner coat than a polyurethane finish, which means there is less interference with the natural vibration of the instrument, allowing for a purer tone. A nitro finish is also a softer finish, which makes it easily repairable. You can touch up a scratch or ding on a nitro finish, but you can’t do the same on a poly finish. In addition, a nitro finish is very porous in nature, and actually gets thinner over time. It does not “seal” wood in an airtight shell—as a poly finish does—and allows the wood to breathe and age properly.
To see the process of putting the binding on a Les Paul Classic is to really appreciate the effort and attention that Gibson puts into each instrument. A lone craftsman carefully glues and fits two pieces of binding around the entire body of a Les Paul. He then winds a single, very long piece of narrow cloth around the entire body until the entire surface is nearly covered. The body is then hung to dry for a full 24 hours before it is unwrapped and moved into the next phase of production. It has been done the same way for over 100 years. Some question the value of adding binding, but Gibson believes it is a fundamental part of our rich guitar-making history. The binding adds elegance to the Les Paul Standard, and helps protect the edges of the body. The neck binding is installed over the fret ends, which eliminates sharp fret edges and provides for a smooth neck and easier playability.