Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Les Paul Recording Guitar

In 1971 Gibson introduced the Gibson Les Paul recording guitar. The guitar was designed to be much like Paul's specially designed personal guitar which was equipped with low impedance pickups.

The Les Paul Recording came with two slanted low impedance pickups with Gibson logo molded on covers. The guitar was equipped with integral transformers to make the output impedance compatible with normal high impedance amps or low impedance. In other words,with the transformer off for recording in a studio plugged directly into the board, the low-impedance mode gave much cleaner tracks and broader frequency bandwidth, that could be tweaked in the mix.

For live performances, the Les Paul Low-Hi Impedance Tonal Circuitry was switched to high impedance, allowing the guitar to be played directly through standard guitar amplifiers. The pickups were produced for Gibson by a company that eventually was known as EMG.

Like most Les Paul's it was designed with a single cutaway bound body, however the Recording was made of solid Honduran mahogany. The necks were three piece laminated Mahogany with bound ebony rosewood fingerboards and mother-of-pearl block inlays.

The Les Paul Recording was manufactured between 1971 and 1980. The first version was produced through 1977 and a second version with a slightly different control arrangement was produced from 1977 to 1980. The first models were available in only a clear finish or a walnut finish. The later version was available in brown, black, white or sunburst.

Aside from the Hi-Lo impedance switches, the guitar had some other unusual features. It had an 11 position Decade Control that altered the treble frequencies. It also had a phase switch, which put the pickups in phase or out of phase with each other. The Tone Selector switch was unique in that it could bypass the treble and bass controls for a flat frequency. The bridge was a new version of the Tune-O-Matic bridge. The routed area for the control panel was completely shielded with a metal casing.

The Les Paul Recording was designed to be clean and noiseless. Which is probably why it didn't catch on like the Standard or Deluxe models. It is not the kind of instrument you would want to play through a 50 watt Marshall JPM stack.


The Beatles In 3D said...

Great blog and very interesing LP post. Check your email - I sent you a photo of Les with this guitar. Cheers.

Rob van den Broek said...

EMG did not design nor build the Gibson Lo-Z pickups.

Rob Turner didn't start experimenting with pickups any earlier than 1969. He was stil in high school at the time.
It took him until 1974 to start a business, which later became known as EMG.

I asked EMG to elaborate and here's their reply:


Sorry for the delay, I wanted to get with Rob Turner to verify.

The short version of what I got from him was "No." He had nothing to do with those pickups! He says that they were all Les Paul -- his design and concept, EMG was not involved in the production in any way."

toby said...

Can you do a piece on the Les Paul Signature? It was another LP Recording guitar of the '70s but also hollow bodied with different, also unique pickups.

Anonymous said...

Les Paul once joked that the chiropractic wing of some hospital should be named after him... given the weight of the LP Recording!