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Maple Caps vs. Solid Mahogany: Tonal Differences?

zombiwoof

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Feb 22, 2003
Messages
3,565
I remember reading that Les Paul claimed that on the original LP models (Custom and Standard/whatever), he wanted the Custom to have the maple top, he thought that it was a "deluxe" addition to the supposedly "classier" black Custom, but Gibson got it "mixed up" and put the maple top on the Standard (Goldtop) model. Gibson refutes this, but Les always maintained that it was his preference.

Al
 
Y

yeti

Guest
It's been said already but IMO the maple cap alters the envelope (attack and sustain across the frequency spectrum) of the guitar, both acoustically but more so amplified. a maple cap Lester is faster, not necessarily brighter but it's easily mistaken for overall brightness. There's a very immediate response with a P-90 GT that a JR/ special doesn't have. Same with a PAF GT/Burst vs a PAF Custom. Just my experience.
 

Big Al

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Apr 24, 2002
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14,547
I remember reading that Les Paul claimed that on the original LP models (Custom and Standard/whatever), he wanted the Custom to have the maple top, he thought that it was a "deluxe" addition to the supposedly "classier" black Custom, but Gibson got it "mixed up" and put the maple top on the Standard (Goldtop) model. Gibson refutes this, but Les always maintained that it was his preference.

Al

Which is odd, because Les had no input as far as wood, and the Custom wasn't even in the works when the Les Paul Model was premiered in 52.
 

zombiwoof

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Feb 22, 2003
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3,565
Which is odd, because Les had no input as far as wood, and the Custom wasn't even in the works when the Les Paul Model was premiered in 52.

According to Les, he did have input into the guitars, since they were going to have his name on them, but Gibson didn't follow all his "suggestions". There seem to be two sides to the story, Gibson's and Les's. I'm just referring to what Les said in an interview, who knows what the real truth is. He said the idea was always to have two versions, the standard model (GT) and the "upscale" custom model, with the "classy" black finish and ebony fingerboard.

Al
 

Larry Natalini

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Joined
Aug 25, 2023
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10
Also, how much difference in the overall tone can be attributed to the type of Fretboard? Rosewood vs. Ebony. I'd love to hear an A/B comparison of say a Historic GT, '58, or '59 with one of the all mahogany Historics with the Rosewood fretboards. I've seen various Custom Shop models like that and I think there was a limited edition sold by Sam Ash that was all mahogany.


BTW.... You work with my sister, Eileen Lubeck.
The overtones are different with different boards. I prefer the sweeter rosewood. Think Mike Bloomfield
 

akkermanfan

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Joined
May 30, 2015
Messages
27
I remember reading that Les Paul claimed that on the original LP models (Custom and Standard/whatever), he wanted the Custom to have the maple top, he thought that it was a "deluxe" addition to the supposedly "classier" black Custom, but Gibson got it "mixed up" and put the maple top on the Standard (Goldtop) model. Gibson refutes this, but Les always maintained that it was his preference.

Al
Hi zombiwoof : I found in a Dutch guitar magazine this interview with Les Paul, a few months before his death on August 13, 2009

What did you think of the first Gibson Les Pauls?
Answer from Les Paul: "They were full of mistakes! By the time I got involved, they had already built about a thousand of them - all wrong. A friend of mine had a house that was empty for recording purposes. There they brought me the guitar and right after I got it we got snowed in. I couldn't believe how many mistakes they made building that guitar. So I called Gibson on one of those crappy phones and told them that nothing was right and that I would try to make something of it, even though I had almost no rescue tools with me.
Firstly, the wood was the wrong way around: the good wood was where the bad wood should be and vice versa. They turned that around! The top of the guitar should be soft mahogany and the back (which is much less important) hard maple. They also mounted the bridge the wrong way around, so you couldn't play the guitar normally, it would get in the way. That had to be different. Everything had to be changed on that guitar."
 

Amp360

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Feb 16, 2012
Messages
901
I have no idea, but I have a 1970s Custom that for some reason has a mahogany top even though it should be maple. I posted pics of the routes a few years ago here.

The guitar is mellower sounding, even unplugged and I love it. it's got a darker and smoother tone even when unplugged. It had Throwbaks in it when I got it and sounded pretty bad. I pulled those out and put Antiquity pickups and then a set of correct-era pickups and it sounds really good.

Is this because of the particular guitar or the wood I have no idea, but I like the guitar.
 

akkermanfan

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May 30, 2015
Messages
27
I have no idea, but I have a 1970s Custom that for some reason has a mahogany top even though it should be maple. I posted pics of the routes a few years ago here.

The guitar is mellower sounding, even unplugged and I love it. it's got a darker and smoother tone even when unplugged. It had Throwbaks in it when I got it and sounded pretty bad. I pulled those out and put Antiquity pickups and then a set of correct-era pickups and it sounds really good.

Is this because of the particular guitar or the wood I have no idea, but I like the guitar.
Hi Amp360 : the wood surely has an impact on the tone ! Congrats with your guitar !

HNGD - Les Paul Custom was this the thread with the pictures of your guitar? It's a pity that the pictures not can be seen anymore. Could you reload them please ? Thanks and greetings, akkermanfan​

 

Amp360

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Feb 16, 2012
Messages
901
It is but I don't have the pics I posted anymore. Here's a regular pic of it:

362266926_10230019630023728_6202341285844844195_n.jpg
 

akkermanfan

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May 30, 2015
Messages
27
Wow, what a beautiful equipment you have ! I am of the same opinion like you that I put my amplifier on a shelf on wheels. Also a beautiful 1968-69 Fender Vibrolux Reverb-Amp you have there ! Thanks for the picture :)
 

Standard Magic

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Mar 31, 2019
Messages
120
He (or someone else connected w/ Gibson back then) claim they arrived at the precise ratio of maple to mahogany because of the the tone that particular ratio produced.
I saw a pic of an old article/brochure on one of these forums stating exactly the above. If anyone has this pic/article, much appreciated if you post it.
 

EdF_PA

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Joined
Dec 10, 2016
Messages
39
So what would have been the rationale for making the Custom body all mahogany with no cap? I would have assumed that if that Gibson thought the best sound was maple cap on mahogany body, they would have used that same formula for the Custom and just made all the cosmetic changes that define a Custom (Ebony finish, double binding, gold hardware, etc). Why use what their testing told them was an “inferior” construct?
 

delawaregold

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Jun 27, 2005
Messages
1,829
So what would have been the rationale for making the Custom body all mahogany with no cap? I would have assumed that if that Gibson thought the best sound was maple cap on mahogany body, they would have used that same formula for the Custom and just made all the cosmetic changes that define a Custom (Ebony finish, double binding, gold hardware, etc). Why use what their testing told them was an “inferior” construct?
Gibson's desire was to make a bright, articulate, long sustaining guitar, that would stand out under the Television lights.
In 1952, Gibson delivered the Goldtop Standard to Les Paul, to use on his Television show.
Almost immediately, Les complained that the guitar was too bright, and sustained too long to suite his palm muted
staccato playing style, and that the guitars appearance was taking the audience's attention away from his hands, and
Les wanted his hands to be the focal point. Les requested an all Mahogany, Black version of the guitar, which by late 1953,
Gibson made for him. Les featured both guitars on his TV show, and by 1954, Gibson offered both guitars for sale in retail
stores. As it turned out, budding Rock and Roll players gravitated to the Goldtop Standard for it's long sustain, that would
cause the notes to bloom, and the Classic, and Jazz players gravitated to the Black Custom for it's muted woody tone.
Both models sold well.
 
Last edited:

synthetic88

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Apr 13, 2024
Messages
6
Cool video illustrating the sound of the maple-topped Goldtop against the solid mahogany custom:
 
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