Is The Tone of a '59 Les Paul Tones Really That Unique?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Soyuz, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. Soyuz

    Soyuz Member

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    Over the last couple of years I've completely gutted my Norlin, Kalamazoo Les Paul Deluxe. I replaced the pots with 500k pots, rewired it to '50's specs, and dropped in some SD Antiquity humbuckers. The latter mod was made possible by someone routing the pickup slots out years ago for humbuckers. I wouldn't have done it but I'll take advantage of this mod.

    The guitar sounds rich in dynamics with a ton of sustain. I've been playing a lot recently with only the guitar and my amps (Blues Deville and JTM-45) and just taking all of its subtle notes in. This got me to thinking.

    I've never played a '59 Les Paul so there could be some major level up in tone that I'm missing but is the tone of a '59 Les Paul really that unique? My opinion is no. Certainly not worth the price point. I believe that most of what we attribute to the guitar is really mostly a function of the electronics, assuming similar materials and body shapes.

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  2. Magnets And Melodies

    Magnets And Melodies Member

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    Unique in what sense? They're on countless records from some of the biggest guitar icons in history, but because of that I think the '58/59 tone would be incredibly familiar to people and not exactly unique in the sense that it would stand out as something they haven't heard before.

    Because of their high profile, tons of guitar players consider them the holy grail of guitars - which adds a bit of mysticism and allure to the idea of them, which gets a lot of people treating them like a mythical unicorn that must have an other wordly tone that blows all other tones out of the water.

    Do they sound fantastic? Absolutely! Did Ted hit the jackpot in guitar design when he designed them? Oh yes, he did. Do I want one? Yesssss. Do I think historic replicas of them are worth the money over the standards production line? Yeah I do actually because of their construction (given you get a good deal on one or it buy used)... Infact I just wish they stuck to the same production methods for 59 LP's when producing their modern production line.

    But.. is their tone unique? Ehhhh.. I don't know. All you have to do is listen to Zeppelin, GnR, ZZ Top, early Fleetwood Mac... And they're all over the place in some of the most played, purchased, and familiar music in the world. To me I'd say their tone is amazing, and familiar.
     
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  3. Soyuz

    Soyuz Member

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    [QUOTE="Because of their high profile, tons of guitar players consider them the holy grail of guitars - which adds a bit of mysticism and allure to the idea of them, which gets a lot of people treating them like a mythical unicorn that must have an other wordly tone that blows all other tones out of the water.[/QUOTE]

    This is what I‘m talking about. It‘s no doubt a legendary guitar with loads of mojo. But the TONE isn‘t all that unique. What I‘m saying is that so long as the wood selection is similar and the electronics are the same, you should get more or less isentical tone. I‘m not convinced that a three piece mahogany neck and pancake body are significantly different tone wise from a solid chunk of mahogany. It‘s in the electronics which makes it something less mythical.
     
  4. cutaway

    cutaway Supporting Member

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    (i say in this in every thread concerning this topic)

    Considering we couldn't hear a difference in Jimmy Page's Tele and his LP, I'd say no.
     
  5. Bob T.

    Bob T. Member

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    I think this is a great part of the secret; I spend more time focusing on having the right amp than the right guitar, though I consider both important.

    Sorry, just a small aside with my $0.02.
     
  6. Magnets And Melodies

    Magnets And Melodies Member

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    This is what I‘m talking about. It‘s no doubt a legendary guitar with loads of mojo. But the TONE isn‘t all that unique. What I‘m saying is that so long as the wood selection is similar and the electronics are the same, you should get more or less isentical tone. I‘m not convinced that a three piece mahogany neck and pancake body are significantly different tone wise from a solid chunk of mahogany. It‘s in the electronics which makes it something less mythical.[/QUOTE]

    Well now you're starting to get into the tonewood/construction debate. TGP has tons of threads that hash that out over and over, no need to do it here again, but I'll just say this from my experience..

    Take 2 guitars that both have 2 piece bodies, 3 piece necks, same weight and same construction methods, electronics and heck even the same color, and they're going to sound different than on another. Take 5 guitars of the same make and model and you're going to get 5 different sounds. It's just the way it is - you can't say it's because of this wood, that grain, Joe was working on line today VS Fred, etc etc.... it's a combination of all of those things and all very subtle things that come together to give a guitar it's unique sound.

    Case in point - I have 2 Rosewood Telecasters. Both have very different sounds - one being bright, clear but less bottom end, the other being full and rounded with a tad less brightness. They look the same, were made the same, same wood, same electronics, serial numbers are not that far off and were made in the same run. But of course they sound different.

    But I will say the only time you're really going to hear that difference is when playing clean, in front of your amp with your focus directly on the guitars sound. In a club, nobody will tell.. with dirt, nobody can tell... on a recording perhaps if you're playing clean and AB'ing it they might be able to tell, but mostly nobody's gonna hear those subtle differences, because they're very subtle.

    Same deal with 1 '59 vs another one... goes for all guitars. End point - just find a guitar you love the sound of play the **** out of it.
     
  7. zeffbeff

    zeffbeff Member

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    No, there's nothing inherently unachievable about that tone.

    Mostly, it's older people who grew up on those albums who now have money to burn and they revere that tone on Internet forums and they spend thousands trying to recreate it. But, because the magic of that tone exists only in their heads, they refuse to believe that that tone can be achieved easily with modern, cheaper gear.
     
  8. rhinocaster

    rhinocaster Supporting Member

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    You're going to mainly get opinions (even yours OP) from people that have never played one of those vintage Les Pauls.....so, take it for what you will.
     
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  9. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

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    OP, Remember your history. To keep this in the proper perspective, bear in mind that the world regards Les Pauls as "amazing" and "superior" largely because a few much-admired heroes and well-respected role models in the UK decreed them as such 50+ years ago. Also remember that a vast majority of the guitars those players were forced to use during their developmental years before they tried a Les Paul or a Gibson in general, were deemed to be comparatively poor quality, "rotten", "garbage", or sub-par at best. And justifiably so. Acquiring a Les Paul in place of the Futura or Rosetti you had to play felt like moving out of a dumpster and into a mansion. So of course, the Les Paul is going to get hailed as being messianic. And of course, myth or no myth, anyone who stands to benefit or profit from that widely-held assertion is going to run it as long as possible for all it's worth, even if it lasts 60-70 years.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
  10. mikefair

    mikefair Member

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    There's something you hear on records where guys are playing pre-65 Gibsons. It's kind of a hollow, honky quality in the midrange. It's haunting. Early Santana, Live at Leeds, Peter Green, Bloomfield. I don't hear it in the modern ones. What is it? Lighter, more porous woods? Different chemistry of the metals? The coatings on the wire? Maybe it's everything.

    I like the sound of the modern ones too. But they sound different to me.
     
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  11. sfarnell

    sfarnell Member

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    I think that the best '59 bursts have a top end sizzle like a beefed up telecaster. I've played a couple of 'em and only one had the holy grail tone. My Yaron with 50 year old wood has that sizzle. I'm sure that some new LPs will have it to. Depends on the wood and specific guitar.
     
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  12. ejkennedy

    ejkennedy Member

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    It’s the studio preamps and recording process. Nobody in the guitar world seems to realize how MASSIVELY different the same guitar can sound with just different pre-amps, boards, and mics. It’s a strange thing to me.
     
  13. silot

    silot Member

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    I believe that 95% of it was the recording methods. The production.
     
  14. GT40

    GT40 Member

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    I only had the chance to play one 1958 Les Paul at a guitar show in Philly last year so I have a pretty limited sample size. But the one I played felt and sounded no more magical or special than my RI.

    So I would say no there is nothing unique outside of whatever expectation bias each individual brings with them.
     
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  15. Budokahn

    Budokahn Member

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    Talk about replicating the sounds of all of these classic albums and legendary guitar myths that created them is a bit pointless if your not also discussing the recording process, the post effects eq, compression, mics, mic placements, preamps and board summing etc.
    These things probably have more of an impact on the sounds you are hearing than the actual guitar, or the type of wood or the pickups used.
    A major part of the equation but it is never part of the discussions
     
  16. Drak

    Drak Member

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    Yeah, maybe some were quite good, but you'll find that to be true across the decades.
    Perceived worth is nothing I live my life by.
    I build guitars.
    I see them go from raw slabs of wood to a finished product.
    And everything in between.
    So there's no 'magic fairy dust' in historic guitars for me.
    They're just wood and parts that are assembled either well, or not.
    It's the decisive selection of those parts and how they work together.
    And attention and detail that all add up and pay off.

    For a good example, look at Les Paul's primary '54 Les Paul that HE used.
    He GUTTED that thing from head to toe.
    He rebuilt and routed and swapped parts in that thing over and over and over.
    It didn't matter, not one bit.
    He still sounded like Les every time he played it.

    The guitar itself is just a vehicle, that's all it is.
    Maybe a nice vehicle, but without someone driving it, it ain't going anywhere.
    So the question is: Where ya going, and can you drive?
     
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  17. korus

    korus Member

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    The tone of STOCK original Gibson Les Paul Standard is not inherently unachievable - Gibson was there in only a year after a launch, when they replaced the bridge with wraparound.

    It simply has not been achieved out of any guitar made since 1961, no matter who made it (even 'Gibson') and how much it costs and what it is called - reissue, copy, replica, counterfeit or whatever.

    And those who played a vintage guitar that sounded like a modern one, that vintage guitar was NOT STOCK, not original.

    This is not an opinion. If a person made new guitar that has the timbre of original STOCK Les Paul, we would have a clip of that guitar and a Burst in A/B demo. There is no such clip. How many clips of best replica Les Paul are available? There you have it. There are thousands of pictures and something like 7 or 17 clips. Why? Tone not yet there, not yet replicated. Fifty years already.

    Now, what was the question?
     
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  18. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    Similarly, the various burst owners who participate in TGP are likely not to join the often-had conversation. Especially when it starts with, "I have no experience with...but I already have an opinion on it".
     
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  19. misterg71

    misterg71 The premier Hack Guitarist Silver Supporting Member

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    100% agree. I had a '56 LP Junior and I'll be damned if I didn't sound any better/worse on that one than any other guitar I've owned/played.
     
  20. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    They can make a guitar as good or even better than that today if they want to. With the aid of computers they can even lay out the frets more accurately. Which will cause it to play in tune better.
     
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