Strat vs Les Paul

Strat vs Les Paul

Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Slash...legendary guitarists who generally choose (or chose) to use either the Fender Strat or the Gibson Les Paul. Two iconic guitars, so what's the difference and what'll suit you best?

One question that crosses many guitarists’ minds at some point is the age old dilemma, ‘Strat vs Les Paul’.

What is better, a Fender Strat or a Gibson Les Paul? Much has been written, discussed and argued about on this matter, and for certain guitarists, being seen playing the ‘wrong’ one of the two is a very bad thing. There is, however, no right answer. Both guitars, the headline acts from their respective manufacturers, have played an equal part is ensuring their name goes down in history as an iconic and legendary instrument. 

But what are the differences between the Strat and the Les Paul? Well these are easier to describe as the two guitars couldn’t be less alike.

Let’s start with how they’re built. Traditionally, the Les Paul is crafted from a solid Mahogany body with a carved maple cap. A mahogany neck is set (glued) into the body and is fitted with a Rosewood fretboard.  This method of construction, however, is very labour intensive and gave rise to Leo Fender’s own designs for the Telecaster and laterly, Stratocaster. These were designed to be built more quickly with parts that could easily be replaced if damaged.

As a result, the Strat is a much more simply constructed guitar. With an ash or alder body, bolt on maple neck and ‘pre-wired’ electronics, they were easier to build and could therefore be produced in greater numbers.

So, what sounds better, a Strat or a Les Paul? Unfortunately, this is another unanswerable one. The sound of a guitar is completely subjective and can be interpreted a different way by every single person that hears it. 

The Strat and Les Paul have very different characters when it comes to tone. Most of this is due to their construction. The big, heavy mahogany body and neck of the Les Paul, coupled with a pair of humbucking pickups combine to create its instantly recognisable sound. 

Famous for its sustain, the Les Paul delivers a powerful, gutsy tone full of rich bass, punchy mids with the maple cap delivering snappy trebles. Ideal for anything from warm mellow jazz and blues, right through to the full-on heavy stuff, the Les Paul is more versatile than many give it credit for.

The Strat is a completely different beast. With three single coil pickups and switching to allow for various combinations of these, it is capable of a wide range of different tones. Less powerful than the Les Paul, the Strat delivers a range of snappy, ‘choppy’ tones making it ideal for cleaner playing styles. Don’t be fooled, however, a Strat, even with its single coils, is still capable of producing a big, crunchy sound - just ask a certain Mr Hendrix!

So who uses Strats and Les Pauls? A huge amount of guitar music over the last 60 years has been recorded using one of these two giants of the guitar world. 

Strats have proved immensely popular with the likes of Hank Marvin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nile Rodgers, Richie Sambora, John Mayer, Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) and countless others.

The Les Paul has been the guitar of choice for Slash, Zakk Wylde, Eric Clapton (again!), Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Pete Townsend, Gary Moore, Paul Kossoff, Joe Bonamassa and, of course, Les Paul himself.

As you can see, it doesn’t come down to which guitar is ‘better’ as they both are legends in their own right. Ultimately, the best guitar is the one that’s right for you for reasons determined by the individual player. Try them both - you may be surprised!

We have a huge range of Strats (including the current crop of Fender Standard Stratocasters and Fender American Standard Straocasters) and Les Pauls (including the latest Gibson Les Pauls) here at GigGear. If you need any further info, please call us on 01279 432 900, or come and pay us a visit to try these iconic guitars for yourself.




22nd May 2012
Fender Shop Fender


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