Talk: Stratocaster vs. Les Paul
the war of rock and roll guitar, the battle has always been
between a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul. There
are other guitars to be sure, but the primary weapons for
guitar soldiers since the fifities have been the aforementioned.
you got your Telecasters and SGs, both fine guitars.
You got your Rickenbackers and Danelectros. You got your myriad
Strat copies in all their permutations, your semi-hollowbody
ES-335s and their ilk. But except for the Teles,
SGs and 335s, which are true "players"
guitars, the others are more for looks than they are for playing.
And theres nary a decent tone to be wrung from them!
sure a lot of you are thinking, "How can he just dismiss
all these other guitars?" And "Whats so special
about Strats and Les Pauls?" So let me explain my position
and answer these two valid questions.
I can dismiss all these other guitars because all the great
guitar players (with a few notable exceptions) have already
done so. Im just taking their lead. My opinion on Rickenbackers
and Danelectros is that they have a distinctive look and style
that is great for achieving a certain aesthetic on stage,
but the sounds they produce are mediocre at best. They are
also not sturdy, tough pieces of equipment. Rickenbackers,
in particular, are very brittle and do not hold up well. Danelectros
are pressboard. Nuff said!
are, however, other guitars that are great pieces of equipment
and sound fantastic. Telecasters and SGs , for example,
are also two of the great electric guitars. There are good
reasons why these two stalwarts are not as prevalent as Strats
and Pauls, though.
Tele is a classic rhythm instrument, as evidenced by the guys
who have made it their main axe: Keith Richards, Steve Cropper
and Bruce Springsteen. It has also been worked to perfection
by Roy Buchannon, Danny Gatton and blues great Albert Collins
-- the "Master of Telecaster" --, so it can be a
good lead guitar, as well. But, tonally, it has a very narrow
range. Its the same with the Gibson SG. Duane Allman
sure made that sucker sing with a slide. But its not
nearly as versatile as a Les Paul. These guitars always sound
the same and therefore do not have the "range" of
tonal qualities that Strats and Pauls have.
is the greatest thing that a Strat or a Paul have
going for them, a "range" of tonality so that they
fit a wide variety of musical applications. They are both
strong and sturdy, they are both great feeling and playing
guitars. But it is their tonal versatility that makes them
special. So, are they the same? Of course not! Why would you
choose one over the other? Let me tell you.
take a look at the Strat now shall we? Lets see, whos
played a Strat that we know about (Lots of pretend head scratching).
Lets see, um
.oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton,
Jerry Garcia, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and
so on. Many of the best guitarists of all time! And they not
only dont sound the same compared to each other, they
somehow managed to coax a wide variety of tones from their
Strat sounds like a Strat, yes. But, a Strat sound has a lot
of options. Its typically not a real fat tone, more
stinging and biting. But as Clapton demonstrates, it can be
fat and chunky, too. It can produce a smooth jazzy sound a
la Jeff Beck and also has that signature "out of phase"
sound that people like Robert Cray use very well.
what about the Les Paul? Only people such as Jimmy Page, Neil
Young, Peter Frampton, Gary Moore, Dickie Betts
get the picture. It has the ultimate fat tone, hands down.
Its a great guitar for blues, jazz or heavy rock and
can also sound very sweet and chirpy. Frampton really brought
out the clear, bell like tonalities it can produce. But no
one better showcased the Les Paul in all its tonal glory than
Jimmy Page (and I think the old man Les himself, would agree
with me on this!). Page displayed the heaviness and
fatness this guitar is famous for. He created some of
rock guitars greatest chunky rhythms as well as incredible,
soaring leads. With effects or without, it is unmistakably
a Les Paul. Its a very big sound.
put down that no-name brand! Stop looking for something obscure
or "cutesy" to get that great tone. Instead, go
for what everyone already knows will sound great, and make
it your own.