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Know Your Gibson

Find the right gibson guitar for you

When it comes to a luthier as legendary as Gibson, learning your way around the instruments can take a little reading. After all, it's a selection more than a century in the making, so getting familiar with it is practically a history lesson. But it's definitely one worth taking, and with so many stories leading up to where Gibson is today, the easiest way to get a sense for them is to approach them one class of guitar at a time.

Solid Bodies

Gibson solid body guitars made their debut with the original Les Paul in 1952, which was among the first electric guitar models mass-produced with a solid body design. At the time, it garnered a lukewarm reception that led to its redesign into what has since become the Gibson SG. Eventually, the music community came to see the Les Paul for the masterpiece it was and it resumed production in its original style, alongside the SG as well as Gibson's more exotic designs from the late '50s and early '60s: the Explorer, the Firebird and the Flying V. All of these guitars are still available today, and the years have only added more variations - which means there's a Gibson here for everybody.

The cult status of the Les Paul easily marks it as the flagship in Gibson's lineup, and it's built in more than enough sub-models to prove that. The anchors of the series are the Les Paul Standard, Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Traditional. If you're interested in an off-the-shelf Les Paul, these options are a good starting point. On the other hand, if you would prefer a guitar aimed at simpler tastes, the Les Paul Studio may be the one for you. Or, for those of us who value authentic vintage character or uniqueness above all else, there are collections like the True Historic, Historic Reissue, Collector's Choice and Limited Edition Les Paul - as well as a series of Musician's Friend originals designed through Gibson's "Made to Measure" program.

The Gibson SG is nearly as classic as the Les Paul. Although it was originally intended to replace its older brother, it became popular in its own right and stayed a favorite of musicians like Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Tony Iommi even after the Les Paul was reintroduced. From there, the body shapes only get more outrageous, from the unmistakable profile of the Gibson Explorer to the iconic neck-through body of the Gibson Firebird and, of course, the true-to-its-name Flying V. These instruments are usually fitted with dual humbuckers, although specific pickups vary from one guitar to another, offering plenty of different tonal options. Like all Gibson solid body guitars, they're fast and comfortable to play, and each model is backed by an impressive résumé of rock legends ready to show you exactly what these instruments are capable of.

Semi-Hollow & Hollow Bodies

Even before Gibson's iconic solid body guitars, there were hollow and semi-hollow body models. Bridging the gap between acoustic and electric started with the earliest Gibson archtop guitars, the L-4 and L-5, which became jazz mainstays in the 1920s and paved the way for all the various Gibson guitars to come in the decades that followed. Played by artists from Eddie Lang and B.B. King to Clapton and Harrison, Gibson's hollow and semi-hollow guitars earned themselves a place in music history just as revered as their solid body descendants like the Les Paul, SG and Explorer.

To kick things off with the archtop designs, you could start with a look at the original L-4 and L-5, which are still active in the Gibson lineup a century after their introduction. Or maybe you'd prefer to check out the ES-175, which was the first guitar in the ES series to come equipped with PAF pickups. Browsing the other Gibson archtops is like taking a trip through time, with the Le Grande, Byrdland and Citation each representing the unique features that were new, unique and sought-after in their respective years of release. Some of these designs even started as signature models - for example, the Le Grande was initially created for Johnny Smith in 1961.

Around the same time Gibson was customizing Smith's guitar, they were also looking for a way to fill the void between their new (at the time) solid body guitars and those classic hollow body instruments. The solution was to create the first semi-hollow electric guitars, which led to models like the ES-335 and ES-339. Some of the highlights from this class include "Lucille," inspired by B.B. King's signature guitar, and the ES-Les Paul, which takes all the best traits of the ES series and the Les Paul and merges them together into a world-class semi-hollow body instrument. These are just a few examples of what you'll find in the Gibson semi-hollow and hollow body guitar lineup, and it's definitely worth a closer look to see everything the category has to offer.


In the beginning there were no solid body, hollow body or semi-hollow body electric guitars - there were only acoustics. These were the guitars that got Gibson off the ground in 1902, and they really came into their own in the "golden age" of the 1930s, which is the decade that introduced guitars as iconic as the SJ-200, as well as the hand scalloped bracing pattern that's still in use in models like the J-35. Although Gibson has always been at the forefront of guitar development, the family of Gibson acoustic guitars stands as a testament that they've never forgotten their roots.

Today, the Gibson acoustic series offers you the choice of picking out your guitar by model or by body shape. Shopping by model is a good option if you're interested in tracking down a classic like the Gibson Hummingbird, which first appeared in the 1960s and quickly earned a reputation as an artist favorite - a rep that still stands today. You can also find newer designs in the Gibson model lineup, such as the Songwriter. This high-end dreadnought is designed for the working musician, delivering outstanding tone and range that make it an excellent instrument for the stage and studio alike.

For those who prefer to select guitars by shape, there are even more options in Gibson's acoustic stable. Browsing this way takes you even further back in Gibson history, especially when you consider the shape that started it all: the L-1. This guitar, in its original carved-top version, put Gibson on the map in 1902. It was later reconfigured with a flat top in 1926, and the design has stayed relatively unchanged ever since. Other Gibson guitar shapes followed later, including the LG-2 and SJ, as well as a variety of slope shoulder and square shoulder dreadnoughts, all of which are well-represented in the selection of Gibson acoustic guitars.

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