Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Les Paul Recording Guitar

It was in 1971 Gibson introduced the Gibson Les Paul recording guitar. This guitar was designed to be much like Paul's specially designed personal guitar which was equipped with low impedance pickups.
As you may know one of Les’ inventions was multi track recording. He incorporated this with sound-on-sound recording. The problem with sound-on-sound aka bouncing was with each addition the sound would degrade.

Les discovered the solution to this was lo-impedance input. Gibson added this feature to their Les Paul Recording model. The guitar 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 guitars two Low Impedance humbucking pickups that were stacked and angled.

This guitar was designed to sound best when plugged into a mixing desk at (Low Impedance setting). When used with a regular amp, you had to engage the inbuilt impedance transformer. Controls were relatively complex — Volume, Treble, Bass, “Decade,” Microphone Volume, Pickup Selector, Tone Switch and Phase Switch on its large inlay panel. The Decade switch was designed to “tune”/alter treble harmonics, for "biting" or "silky" highs. And the Decade switch was feasibly the start of a guitar culture joke: although called the Decade, the selector switch had one more position. It actually went up to 11

The pickups were designed by Les Paul for this guitar. He had similar pickups on his own version of the Les Paul Black Beauty.

Like most Les Paul's it was designed with a single cutaway bound body, however the Recording guitar 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 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 designd to be clean and noiseless, which is probably why it did not do well in sales. It was designed to play the music that Les played.


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!