Should You Buy a Gibson Les Paul or an ES-335

Things all seem pretty simple when you set out on your guitar journey. However, as time goes by and you get your skills sorted out, you slowly begin gravitating towards a certain type of guitars. But the moment might come when you get to the point where you just can't decide between these two particular guitar models.

And it usually is the case with the guitars that have something in common. Two guitars models that we're going to discuss in this article are the Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson ES-335. Over the years, they often saw some similar type of use and you'll often see them being played by both rock and jazz guitarists. But, at the same time, there are some significant differences that are worth getting into and explaining if you're having trouble deciding between these two. So let us begin.

Les Paul

These guitars got their name after the jazz legend himself – Lester William Polsfuss, also known as Les Paul. This simple single-cutaway shape pretty much became a standard in the guitar industry and it's now a Gibson staple.

Les Pauls these days come in various different versions. They are usually packed with humbucker pickups and are designed for "rougher" tones, those you usually hear in hard rock music. However, there's a lot of versatility to its tone and applications. What's more, you'll see the same exact model with the same exact pickups used in genres like blues and jazz as well as hard rock and heavy metal.

What's important to note in this discussion is that Les Paul is a solid body guitar made of mahogany with the maple top. Necks are also often made of mahogany while the fretboards are usually rosewood. It also features the classic tune-o-matic bridge and comes with either two humbuckers or two P90 pickups.

Tones are usually rough, but thanks to its detailed controls you can dial in something smoother. Almost all of the Les Pauls out there have a three-way pickup switch that selects bridge, neck, or both pickups. There are usually four knobs, one volume and one tone for each of the pickups.


Now going over to the ES-335, there's one main obvious difference – these are semi-hollow body guitars. This is somewhat of a crossover between solid body guitars, like the Les Paul, and hollow body ones, like the ES-175. The main difference between semi-hollow and completely hollow body electric guitars is that the former have a solid block of wood going through the body. The tone and application are right somewhere in the middle – Les Pauls mostly see the use in rock music with occasional jazz and blues applications while hollow-body guitars are exclusively for jazz and blues. The ES-335 is more leaned on to the blues and jazz side, but can also be used in rock.

Compared to hollow body guitars, semi-hollow bodies manage to work with distortions without making too much feedback. However, if you're planning to get one of these, expect to have at least some feedback, especially if you're entering those higher gain territories.

When it comes to the pickup configuration, switching, pot configuration, and the bridge, it's mostly the same situation compared to the Les Paul. However, you'll often find lower gain pickups on ES-335 guitars. This allows some smoother tones and more control in clean or lower gain territories.

So, which one is better for me?

Before we say anything, you need to bear in mind that there are many different versions of both of these guitars. Our estimates here rely on a few popular examples of both of these models.

Since ES-335 is a double-cutaway guitar, it's a bit easier to access those higher frets. However, the LP usually has a slightly rounder fretboard radius, which might be useful with grabbing those higher notes.

The overall design is obviously different and if you do care about the looks, you'll have less of the rock and hard rock feel with ES-335s. Being semi-hollow body guitars, they look more stylish compared to LPs.

But as we mostly care about the tone and the performance, we'll try to make the distinction as direct as possible in this regard. Les Pauls will work better in the higher gain territories compared to 335s, even if when they're packed with P90 pickups. This is especially due to the fact that semi-hollow bodies still produce some unwanted feedback and won't have the "tightness" that you might want as a hard rock player.

On the other hand, if you're more into smoother stuff, like jazz or blues or even indie/alternative rock, you'll probably want to go with an ES-335. They also allow more versatility in clean tones.

But at the end of the day, it's up to you to decide. After all, music should have no boundaries and you're free to experiment and choose the right guitar for whatever you want to do.

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  • If you can run a cord from it to an amplifier and

    James Glenn .aka. The Alabama guitar pickin' wild man
  • If you can run a cord from it to an amplifier and

    James Glenn .aka. The Alabama guitar pickin' wild man
  • I have owned 2 LPs and now a Memphis 335.I enjoyed the LPs at the time but as I matured I found the 335 has a resonance that was missing in the LPs.Claptons Crossroads is an example of the tones available by a 335.But I enjoy the complete tone and resonance in the 335 that I was never able to obtain with the LPs .I have no plans to go back to LP.

    Leonard Langford

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