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Fender Vs Gibson


Chris Wiggin
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I can hear the groans now: Not that old chestnut! And I usually tend to agree but I’ve read a couple of members on here say they’ve never owned a Les Paul and never would. What’s interesting to me is that up until a couple of months ago I’d have agreed but here’s my take on it (spoiler: This will probably end up being a long post, most often mine are, so either click away or get yourself a brew and settle down).

If pushed, I’d describe myself as a Fender guy. My very first electric was a cheap Strat copy from a catalogue that my mother bought me when I was about 14. Shortly after that I sold my early Marvel comic collection and bought a spanking new American made Fender Stratocaster with maple neck (which was an extra cost option). I remember plugging it in to the back of my parent’s stereogram (the only amp I had) for the first time and feeling crestfallen that I still sounded like me and not Hendrix. That comic collection would be valued in six figures now but the Strat is long gone. Let’s not dwell and move on.

About thirty years later I decided to take up guitar again and (oddly) decided to buy an Epiphone Sheraton (335 style guitar) because I wanted to sound like B B King. Déjà vu moment. I didn’t. But after that my search for the perfect tone accelerated and I ended up buying many guitars – mostly Fenders. I still have the two Strats that I  bought, both Mexican Classic players – a 50s Daphne blue and a 60s sunburst. These are the early ones designed by the Fender Custom Shop and I swear they are as good as any other Strat out there. Without getting into my stop/start history of trying to learn to play, these have been the guitars I always pick up out of all the (19) guitars I own. So yeah, I’d say I was a Fender guy.

About five years ago I bought an Epiphone standard Les Paul because I thought I ought to own one and I tried to like it, I really did. But it just never felt right. The Strat just fits so naturally into my body like a glove whereas I found the Les Paul uncomfortable to hold and, especially when sitting down, I found it often sliding backwards off my lap. It didn’t take long before it went back into the rack and the Strats came out again.

But recently, with my renewed enthusiasm for learning guitar properly I thought I’d get it out again and try to get along with it. I’ve been playing it for several weeks now and I have to say, it’s growing on me. It still tries to slide off my lap but I’ve found that if I wear a strap even when sitting down (something I never have to do with a Fender) it stays in place. It’s a bit of an added inconvenience but at least it’s a solution. Also, this may just be in my imagination, but it seems easier to play. I think it’s probably to do with the shorter scale length which I know is only three quarters of an inch but that slightly lower tension seems to make a massive difference to bending and vibrato. With a Strat I find I have to really dig in and work it hard to get a good sound out of it whereas a Les Paul requires a much more relaxed laid-back style.

I always promised myself that one day if my playing ability ever justified it I’d buy a proper Custom Shop Strat (in shell pink, don’t shoot me) bit whereas Fender are getting more and more expensive, it seems Gibson’s are getting cheaper. Totally bizarre and I’ve got a lot to say on that subject but we’ll leave that for another post.

The current Les Paul Standard has ditched all the fancy stuff people hated, weight relief, robot tuners, fancy electronic tone circuits with push/pull control knobs and gone back to basics – no weight relief, classic Kluson tuners, tone circuit with orange drop caps and dropped the price as well. I’ve seen them advertised in the UK for about £1800 and you can pay almost that much for a standard production line Strat. Madness. So yeah, if I ever want to splash out (I might have to sell a few guitars) I think I’d buy a Gibson Standard 50s Les Paul in Heritage Cherry Sunburst rather than an over-priced Start. And that’s a Fender guy talking!

Edited by Chris Wiggin
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7 hours ago, Chris Wiggin said:

So yeah, if I ever want to splash out (I might have to sell a few guitars) I think I’d buy a Gibson Standard 50s Les Paul in Heritage Cherry Sunburst rather than an over-priced Start. And that’s a Fender guy talking!

Hi Chris,

Your choice echoes, maybe that should be would echo, mine very closely, with a few minor differences. I went with a 2016, about $1000 (£736.76 at the moment) less than a 1950s model, or reissue of a 50s model. Also, mine’s a Classic as opposed to a Standard. What that difference is, besides costing more, I’ll wait to hear from an enterprising expert reading this blog because I haven’t got a clue. Whatever the story behind nomenclature, she’s a sweet guitar and if I had to choose, she’s probably the queen of the guitar arsenal at my house. Just don’t tell my Epiphone Casino. I’d have to separate those two. Again. Jealous guitars, fighting. Such a pity. 😄   Below is HM’s picture in the rehearsal space. That’s allright, you don’t have to kneel. 😄😄

 

FCB17FD2-0025-4D4B-BFED-34B53150DB2B.jpeg

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  • 1 month later...

What a sad story to hear everyone fighting over Gibson and Fender guitars. Both have been around a long time. Both have a long list of famous users and many famous users still use both today. I should start by saying I grew up in San Francisco in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s. Drafted to Viet Nam in 67.  I am now retired in my 70s and have the fortunate  ability to own two Fender Strats (Original 1962 and 2013), Two Gibsons (2011 Les Paul Traditional Pro and 2016 ES-335) and two Martins (Custom 1968 and 12 string 1980), all purchased new by me over the years. Number one thing is that they all sound different through my three fender amps (2 Custom Blues Jr run stereo or Fender twin reverb). The two Strats sound different from one another and the Les Paul is a very different sound from the 335. All sound very good doing the thing they do best. Some days I wear my Fender shirt, some days I wear my Gibson shirt and even some days I wear my Martin shirt. Rather than argue over which is best, we should enjoy Buddy Holly on his old Strat, I have seen Eric Clapton live on stage playing every guitar that I own. I have had the pleasure to see most every 1960s famous guitar player live in San Francisco and they play both Fender and Gibson. I also remember when Carlos Santana showed up with a Paul Reed Smith with birds all over the neck. What I remember is that everyone sounded good on the guitar they played. I do not understand today the big question about which one is best. I remember being in a music store in San Francisco in the 60s and listened to Grateful Dead playing on a Sears Silvertone guitar and they still sounded good. We need to practice on what we can afford, enjoy the instrument we have and appreciate the guitar learning journey to play music. After 75 years you find time passes very quickly to worry about which one guitar is better, just make yourself a better guitar player.

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  • 5 months later...

Got to play friends Gibson Les Paul. I really enjoyed the tonal quality of the guitar, but I realized that when I play my Strat or PRS I can still play like a Gibson if I set it up properly. So, I can still wait until I can afford one or find a good used one.

Fred 🎸 

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  • 2 months later...

I agree, but that may be because I don't have any of those. lol I have a 1999 Indonesian Squire Strat by Fender that a student donated to the school several years ago that he got for Christmas and never got into playing guitar. I only recently picked it up myself while other students borrowed it to learn music and get credit until they knew whether they were going to stick to it or not. I just upgraded the pickups to some cheap but better alnico V ones with the help of my husband and floated the tremelo bridge and added the trem bar. I am learning all about set up on that old thing. It is sounding better than ever. I have a Strindberg my husband got for me for early Christmas or birthday a year or so ago that I absolutely love. Then I have a Taylor 214ce DLX and a lower end Ibanez acoustic for playing out by the fire pit. All sound different, but great in their own ways and certainly make me sound better than when I only had an old $50 bottom end Cort. Will I ever own anything else and especially a Gibson? I don't know. I might wind up with a Firefly Les Paul first just because I can afford it with a little savings, and I want to explore what Les Paul types can do. I am definitely figuring out that they all sound good no matter what you play, but each have their points where they really shine best. I think I have even gotten my husband understanding that you really can say you can never have too many guitars. They all have different tones.

 

Loved this thought!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I will probably get crucified but here goes . I own a Hagstrom H-45 E that has seen better days but I can't seem to get rid of her , almost as old as I am and a 1 year old Orangewood Duke that cost me a rediculous amount of money to import from the States just 2 months before they started to import up here in Canada . I really like the Orangewood for playability and she's holding up nicely . Anyway when I was 14 I met a gentleman in the Winnipeg Manitoba Greyhound station when I was waiting to travel west and he had a really nice black Les Paul in a case that was obviously quite well traveled and I started bragging about how great a player my brother was so he plinked a bit and we chatted a bit more and names came up . Les Paul you say ? I wasn't born yesterday sir , but he calmly insisted that's who he was . Didn't believe it but we kept chatting for a bit till his bus left for parts east . A few years later I was at my brothers an he had a Guitar Player mag or maybe Rolling Stone and by golly there was an article about the very man I met at the station in Winnipeg .When we were talking he said he didn't like to fly and that was confirmed in the article . Always thought that was the coolest thing ever happened to me . BTW , he wasn't real keen on his Gibson . No joke .

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You are exactly correct. I met Les Paul when he was playing in New York City at the Platium Club every week. The guitar he used was a Gibson Les Paul that was so highly modified that Gibson would not have recognize it. Les told many stories about the arguments Les had with Gibson management. Les had a lot of different ideas from Gibson and even tried to get his name removed from the guitar. After many lawyers and law suits, Gibson got to use his name but Les refused to use a stock Les Paul when he played gigs. 

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