A Classic Pairing of Tonewoods — Maple and Mahogany
Since the very beginning, maple and mahogany have been the go-to tonewood combination used on the Gibson Les Paul models. A maple top offers enhanced definition, clarity and snap, while a mahogany back adds depth and richness. These perfectly matched woods are also known to produce a tight low-end while providing a bit more cut in the higher frequencies.
For the 2015 Model Year, Gibson has incorporated a new comprehensive Wood Selection Scale to accommodate the needs and preferences of each and every player. The Wood Selection Scale consists of the Top Grade, Back Grade, Fingerboard Grade and Body Contour.
Gibson 2015 Comprehensive Wood Selection Scale: Top Grade
Originally, the Gibson Les Paul featured relatively plain maple tops that were hidden beneath a flashy Gold finish, often referred to as “Gold Top” Les Pauls. Then, in response to a decline in Les Paul sales, Gibson revamped the Les Paul line by introducing a sunburst finish that revealed the grain patterns of the maple top in 1958. And while the maple tops on those 1958 Les Pauls were also relatively plain, by 1959 Les Pauls began flaunting more visually appealing figured maple tops. Soon, figured maple tops become an important part of the Les Paul image.
Today for the 2015 Model Year, Gibson offers a wide array of grades for the maple tops on the Les Paul models, which can range anywhere from a traditional C-grade maple top to an exquisite, rare, highly figured AAAA-grade maple top. The maple tops are graded with regard to the grain patterns that the wood exhibits, and then, each one is paired with a particular Gibson USA model based upon its figure consistency & intensity, wave, clarity and match quality.
The C Grade maple tops are the most plain of all the tops offered on the Gibson Les Paul. Typically, these tops are used on the more budget-friendly Gibson USA instruments such as the 2015 LPM, but are also used on the more expensive models that offer opaque finish options such as the 2015 Les Paul Deluxe.
Although still relatively plain, the B Grade maple tops have a bit more going on when it comes to figure consistency/intensity, clarity, wave and quality of match. The B Grade maple top can be seen beneath the beautiful transparent finishes offered on the 2015 Les Paul Studio.
Up next is the B+ Grade maple top, which exhibits better figure consistency/intensity, clarity, wave and quality of match than the C Grade and B Grade tops, but still less than the grades to follow. You can find a B+ Grade maple top on the 2015 Les Paul Less+.
The BB Grade maple top is the highest quality ‘B’ grade top available from Gibson, and can be found on the 2015 Les Paul Classic. A Grade Top
The A Grade maple tops begin to show off enhanced figure intensity/consistency as well as better clarity, wave and match quality in comparison to the C through BB-Grade tops.
A+ Grade Top
A step up from the A Grade top is the A+ Grade top, which can be seen on the 2015 Les Paul Traditional.
The AA Grade top has a more pronounced figure than the previous models, with a more intense figure, better grain consistency, enhanced clarity, wave and quality of match. An AA Grade maple top can be found on Gibson’s flagship model, the 2015 Les Paul Standard.
Nearing the top of Gibson’s maple top grade scale, the AAA Grade tops bears a striking visual aesthetic thanks to its high match quality, figure consistency, figure intensity, wave and clarity. The 2015 Les Paul Standard Premium Quilt utilizes an AAA Grade quilted maple top that is truly breathtaking.
Naturally, ranking right above the AAA Grade top is the AAA+ Grade top. Right below the highest grade Gibson top, the AAA+ Grade tops are among some of the most alluringly figured and beautifully matched pieces of maple you will find on a Les Paul.
Last but certainly not least is the AAAA Grade top. The highest grade figured maple top that you will see on a Les Paul is an AAAA Grade maple top, which exhibits the most figure intensity, the most figure consistency, the best match quality, and exceptional wave and clarity in comparison to the lower grade tops. Because these high-grade pieces of maple are so rare and incredibly stunning to look at, the AAAA Grade maple tops are reserved for Gibson’s top-of-the-line, premium Les Paul models such as the 2015 Les Paul Supreme.
Gibson 2015 Comprehensive Wood Selection Scale: Back Grade
Just as the maple tops are graded, Gibson now utilizes a wood grading system for the mahogany backs, which are graded based on density, which ranges from high to ultra low, and grain variation, which ranges from high to clear.
These pieces of mahogany are the densest on the scale, which provides a nice, bright sound. The high density mahogany also offers the most wood grain variation of the four. Typically, this grade of mahogany is used for the more budget-friendly Gibson USA Les Paul models such as the 2015 Les Paul Junior, the 2015 Les Paul Special Double Cut and the 2015 LPM.
Blending tone and comfort, these pieces of mahogany are moderately dense and they exhibit moderate wood grain variations. This medium density mahogany is usually used for the mid-priced Gibson USA Les Paul models such as the 2015 Les Paul Studio, the 2015 Les Paul Less+ and the 2015 Les Paul Classic.
Also combining tone and comfort, the low density pieces of mahogany offer a lighter guitar and show subtle wood grain variations. The low density mahogany tends to be used on the higher-end Les Paul models including the 2015 Les Paul Deluxe and the 2015 Les Paul Traditional.
The ultra low density mahogany is the lightest on the scale, and bears naturally uniform wood grain. The ultra-low density mahogany is reserved for the top-of-the-line Gibson USA models such as the 2015 Les Paul Standard, the 2015 Les Paul Standard Premium and the 2015 Les Paul Supreme.
Solid vs. Weight-Relieved
Of course, the mahogany body ranges from one Les Paul Model to the next just as the maple tops do, but not all of those differences are visible from the outside. While some Les Paul models still hold true to the original design with a completely solid mahogany back, other Les Paul models feature a back that’s undergone one of the weight relieving techniques used by Gibson USA, mainly as a way to reduce the weight of the guitar. Let’s take you through the some of the differences between the three relief routs Gibson uses, and why someone might prefer one type over another:
Traditional Weight Relief is the oldest of the three techniques. In this technique, nine holes are strategically routed into the lower bout on the bass side of the Les Paul’s mahogany body (before the maple top is attached). Traditional weight relieved Les Pauls will be lighter then true solid bodies, but still have enough weight for a solid feel, while also improving the guitar’s resonance. A Les Paul with traditional weight relief would be good if you prefer a more solid feel at a weight that’s not too overbearing.
Chambered: On the other end of the spectrum, full-on chambering is a more extreme type of weight relieving technique. For this technique, large, oval chambers are routed into either side of the central core (where the pickups and bridge are mounted) of the mahogany body of the Les Paul. Naturally, since there is more room inside the body, there’s more room for the sound to resonate. The Les Pauls that use the chambering technique tend to have more of an acoustic resonance and are much lighter in comparison to traditional and modern weight relieved Les Pauls. These Les Pauls are ideal if you prefer a lighter guitar with a more resonant tone.
Modern Weight Relief stands as a compromise between traditional weight relieving and chambering—employing several smaller elliptical sound chambers within the Les Paul body. The result of modern weight relief is a resonance and weight that falls somewhere in between traditional weight relief and chambering. A Les Paul with modern weight relief would be perfect if you want a guitar that’s not overly resonant and isn’t too heavy or too light.
Supreme Weight Relief is a special weight relieving technique used by Gibson specifically for the 2015 Les Paul Supreme model. This type of weight relieving technique offers players an exceptionally lighter feel and a gorgeous acoustic-like resonance.
Each Les Paul will have slight variances in both top figuring and weight—even two Les Pauls that are the same exact model. Want to see some of the most stunning Gibson Custom and Gibson USA Les Paul models that are in stock right now at Sam Ash Direct? Be sure to check out our extensive selection of Les Paul models within our Guitars of Distinction collection. All of the Les Paul models in our premium Guitars of Distinction collection have been individually photographed, listed by serial number and weighed to capture the subtle nuances that make each instrument truly unique.
Gibson 2015 Comprehensive Wood Selection Scale: Body Contour
Gibson USA now offers four distinctive body contours for the 2015 Model Year that range from a flat carve to enhanced carve.
The no-nonsense flat body carve offers a more budget-friendly guitar design. The 2015 Les Paul Junior and 2015 Les Paul Special Double Cutaway both feature a flat body carve.
To highlight the classic Les Paul shape, the slight body carve benefits from the addition of a subtle curve. Models such as the 2015 LPM and the 2015 Les Paul Studio both sport a slight body carve.
The classic body carve features a moderate carve that emphasizes the beautiful wood grain as well as the Les Paul body shape. The 2015 Les Paul Less+, 2015 Les Paul Classic, 2015 Les Paul Deluxe and the 2015 Les Paul Supreme all utilize a classic body carve.
The enhanced body carve provides the maximum amount of carving available on the 2015 Gibson USA Les Paul models. The enhanced body carve accentuates the gorgeous grain patterns to increase the visual impact of the guitar. Enhanced body carve models include the 2015 Les Paul Traditional, the 2015 Les Paul Standard and the 2015 Les Paul Standard Premium Quilt.
Gibson 2015 Comprehensive Wood Selection Scale: Rosewood Fingerboard
For the 2015 Model Year, the high-quality rosewood fingerboards used on the 2015 Les Paul models are graded based upon their shade, ranging from light to dark, as well as the amount of grain variation they exhibit.
A lighter shade of rosewood that exhibits the most grain variation of all 3 on the scale. Models include the 2015 Les Paul Junior, the 2015 Les Paul Special Double Cutaway and the 2015 LPM.
A shade of rosewood that is in between the light and dark fingerboards. This type of rosewood exhibits grain variations that are a bit more subtle than the light fingerboard, yet not as uniform as the dark fingerboard. Models with a medium rosewood fingerboard include the 2015 Les Paul Studio, the 2015 Les Paul Less+, the 2015 Les Paul Classic and the 2015 Les Paul Deluxe.
Typically reserved for the higher-end Les Paul models including the 2015 Les Paul Traditional, the 2015 Les Paul Standard and the 2015 Les Paul Standard Premium Quilt, the dark rosewood fingerboard exhibits a striking aesthetic with its uniform grain pattern.
Les Paul Necks
Gibson offers a variety of neck profiles for the Les Paul. When comparing the neck profiles of Gibson Les Pauls, thickness is a key factor. The shape of the neck is purely a matter of personal preference—and whether you prefer a thick neck or maybe one on the thinner side, there is a Gibson Les Paul with a neck that’s sure to fit your fretting hand beautifully. Let’s take a look at some of the different Les Paul neck profiles available:
Gibson 2015 Neck Profiles
For the 2015 Model Year, Gibson incorporates five of their most popular neck shapes in order to satisfy the individual needs and preferences of every player.
- The SlimTaper Neck is the thinnest of the five neck profiles offered for 2015. Fast players, you will appreciate the ease of playability delivered by the thinner SlimTaper neck, and if you’re the type of player who has found that slimmer necks tend to sit more comfortably in your fretting hand (in comparison to a “chunkier” neck), the SlimTaper neck makes a great choice. The 2015 Les Paul Junior, the 2015 Les Paul Special Double Cutaway, the 2015 Les Paul Studio and the 2015 Les Paul Classic all feature the fast SlimTaper neck shape.
- The SlimTaper Asymmetrical Neck offers that same fast playability as the standard SlimTaper profile, but thanks to its asymmetrical design, this shape provides additional comfort for those players who rest their thumb on the back of the neck. Models that utilize the fast, ergonomic SlimTaper Asymmetrical neck include the 2015 Les Paul Standard and the 2015 Les Paul Standard Premium Quilt.
- The Rounded Neck offers more of a classic Les Paul feel with its full, comfortably rounded profile. The Rounded neck is ideal for the player who prefers a “chunkier” neck with a substantial feel. The 2015 LPM and the 2015 Les Paul Less+ both make use of the Rounded neck profile.
- The Rounded Asymmetrical Neck combines the more traditional Rounded shape with a modern, ergonomic asymmetrical design to offer added comfort for players who rest their thumb on the back of the guitar neck. The 2015 Les Paul Deluxe and 2015 Les Paul Supreme both carry a Rounded Asymmetrical neck.
- The Rounded XL Neck is the beefiest neck profile offered by Gibson for 2015, and its shape and feel most closely resembles those “baseball bat” necks found on those coveted earliest Gibson Les Paul models from the ’50s. The additional mass of the neck provides maximum sustain while offering classic Les Paul playability. The 2015 Les Paul Traditional employs this vintage-style Rounded XL neck.
Gibson 2014 Neck Profiles
- If you prefer a neck with a little bit of chunk and heft to it, the ’50s Rounded Neck is for you—with a thick, rounded profile that will surely satisfy. Some Les Pauls that make use of this beefy ’50s neck include the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Melody Maker, the Gibson 2014 LPM, the Gibson 2014 LPJ and the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Signature.
- In the 1960s, Gibson made the switch to a slimmer neck profile, and the ’60s SlimTaper Necks on today’s Les Pauls are based upon that significant change in Gibson history. If you find a thinner neck to be more comfortable, the sleek and slender profile of the ’60s SlimTaper neck is the perfect choice. Some Les Paul models that employ a ’60s SlimTaper neck are the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Studio/Les Paul Studio Pro, the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Futura, the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Classic and the Gibson 2014 Les Paul Peace.
- The ’60s Asymmetrical SlimTaper Neck takes the popular ’60s SlimTaper neck to the next level—featuring a more rounded curve on the bass side of the neck for enhanced player comfort in open chord positions, while a flatter curve on the treble side helps deliver those fast lead licks with ease. The Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard, Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard Plus, and Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard Premium all use this neck profile.
Rosewood fingerboards are typically used on the Gibson Les Paul models (with exceptions such as the composite fingerboard used on the 2015 Les Paul Supreme) and depending on the model, the fingerboard may feature any of these common Gibson fretboard inlays: dot inlays, trapezoid inlays or crown inlays.
2014 Model Year Inlay
Guitars from the Gibson 2014 Model Year feature a special 120th Anniversary inlay at the 12th fret and it appears on everything from the most stripped back LPJ to the flashiest 2014 Les Paul Standard Premium.
2014 Model Year 120th Anniversary inlay at 12th fret