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Mats A

Mahogany bodies on Les Pauls

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My brother and I have nearly identical '60s Tribute Les Pauls, made within a couple of weeks of each other. Mine has a one piece back, and his is either two or three piece, can't remember for sure. I can detect absolutely no difference between them in tone or sustain. It's actualy kind of eery how they sound so much the same. Personally, I think they're chambering makes a bigger impact on their tone and feel than the differences in back construction, and we know a lot of people swear that chambering has as surprisingly small effect on tone.

 

My two best sounding Fenders are my '66 Jazzmaster, and a Japanese '57 Strat reissue made in the mid '80s. I paid less than $500 for the two of them combined (in the '80s, of course). Both are made of multiple body pieces. I have a number of other Fender guitars, some single piece, and some of which were very much more expensive than that pair. I'm confident that even some metal hound playing them through dimed triple rectifires would prefer the Jazzmaster and the Japanese Strat to the others.

 

Having said that, if I paid for a single piece guitar, that's what I'd expect to receive.

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The most interesting thing about this thread is the different perceptions, and where they come from. I am even a little surprise at some.

 

Personally, I would say that I didn't even give it a thought or even HEARD of a one-piece being desirable or important until I read it on these forums. I will also add that I didn't know or was aware of "real" (58-60) burst being one piece or 2 piece. As far as I knew, they were 2 piece with the occasional one-piece being made. I still don't know what is reality.

 

I think it is actually a good question wether they were mostly one-peice or two-peice. I mean the reality, not what the reissues are.

 

Regarding reissues, I think the game is how CLOSE one can get to what the new one is to the origonal. Not always what is better or worse. At the same time, understanding what made them so good and making an attempt at reproducing those aspects of the better ones. It makes sense that killer tops would be more common as that is more desirable for the vintage ones, but the reality is that they are rare, and thus while not so "realistic", still acceptable to most as some do exist.

 

But as for tone? Quality? All we CAN have is opinions, as there is no way possible to prove or even come up with a way of making a judgement. There are so many variables that each guitar would have that actually make a difference, such as the grain, the weight, and that is just the body wood. When you consider the OTHER woods like the neck, the top, there is NO WAY to be able to judge and make a determination if a one-piece or a two-piece makes any difference.

 

The baffling thing to me is where these opinions come from. Why do poeple, and even guitar junkies, come up with some of this?

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As ever, stein, you give us much food for thought.

 

In Yas Iwanade's ubiquitous "The Beauty of the 'Burst" there are around one hundred '58-'60 Standards pictured and they all, without exception (as far as I can tell from the snaps), have had their bodies made from a one-piece slab of mahogany.

 

Furthermore, from rct's post above (#21) he mentions his own personal experience of four fifties LPs. The two Gold-Tops each had two-piece bodies whilst the two 'bursts each had one-piece bodies. I know it's completely presumtious to make an assumtion from such scant evidence but it would appear to have been the practice that the construction process of 'bursts and G-T's (and possibly Customs) varied with only the '58 - '60 'bursts always receiving, in every case, a one-piece lump of wood.

 

'Flamed' tops (TBOtB again) made up only around 10% of the '58-'60 run and 'Highly Flamed' were a small percentage of this number. Plain tops were by far and away the norm.

 

Like yourself, I wasn't even aware of the 'One- or Two-piece' situation until well after I had bought my current clutch of LPs. I bought them purely and simply on playability and tone. Whilst I believe it to be a truism that the number of slabs makes absolutely no fundamentally important, discenable, difference to the final sound produced from any individual LP in question I must admit that, on inspection after I had been made aware of the subject, all four of mine have one-piece backs. Make of that what you will...........but I certainly won't draw any conclusions.

 

Finally I'll say that my own opinion (and I'm 100% certain of this, so don't argue!) with regards what makes a Les Paul sound either 'Fantastic' or 'Flat' is the individual piece of mahogany used for the neck - not the body construction.

 

P.

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One of these days, I will have to get this book...I have heard good things about it, and the impression I have of it from what I have heard is that it is very "technically" oriented with a lot of info, theories, and experience behind it.

 

And at least in my case, there would have to be much, MUCH more experience and knowledge put into this book than I could ever hope to have.

 

As to your "theory" on the neck woods, It makes a whole lot of sense to me that it would have a much larger impact than the body wood. For one, most of the length of the string is on the neck than it is on the body. And no matter if you play the nut or a fret, it would have to involve at least half of it, as the neck is always one side of the string while the bridge and body the other half. Also, the amount of wood involved is far less, so a slight variation in density and size would have a larger PERCENTAGE of an impact than would a variation from the body wood.

 

As for my own experience, I would agree that on the whole, guitars with larger necks have a certain something and tone compared to guitars with thinner necks. Similer to the differences of heavier guitars vs lighter ones.

 

I also have some experience with turnatables (record players) and where that is concerned, mass is an IMPORTANT consideration. I subscribe to the point of view that mass has a direct consequence on resonence, as does also stiffness.

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.

Les might have agreed with you guys to a point - The Log, a solid body made from a 4X4 with detachable wings (basically a neck-through).

 

Les-Paul-and-the-Log.jpg

 

log-cu.gif. log.gif

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One obvious factor about tone sleuthing is that you can't be scientific about it. It's not like we can build a whole set of Les Pauls to test one or another theory about which construction variables are really important.

 

You can get a little closer with Fenders, just because you can swap out more parts easily and cheaply. I bought a Squier Strat in Squier's very early days, about '87 I think. I swapped out the neck for a custom Warmoth one almost immediately after I got it. Played a lot better, and had improved sustain, but didn't sound much different. Then I put some good Seymour Duncan pickups in it, and that made a big improvement in tone - much more complex and interesting sounding, and not as thin. Next I replaced all the low quality electronic parts, and that made the tone a little better for sure. About ten years later, I got a really nice one piece Alder body, and that was a very dramatic tone difference, maybe even moreso than the pickups. When I looked really closely, it appeared that the original Squier body was laminated, and contained an awful lot of glue between the wooden pieces. So now that guitar has no orignal Squier parts, other than the pickguard and the neck plate. And it still doesn't sound nearly as good as my $180 Japanese '57 reissue. Easier to play though. And definitely can't tell us anything about Les Paul construction.

 

All other things being equal, I think I'd want a one piece back. But since I can't detect any different in tone between my '60s tribs with a one piece, and my brother's with a three piece, I'd hesitate to say that's a decisive factor in a Les Paul. There again, those are chambered guitars with P90s; could be that things are very different in the 'burst universe.

 

You can make yourself crazy trying figure it out. And a lot less wealthy.

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Les Pauls with one piece backs are generally lighter. That's why some people like them. It doesn't have to do with the sound.

 

Look at the new Les Pauls on the market. Look at how much they weigh and whether their back is one or two piece. If you find a Standard that weighs 8 pounds I'll bet you it has a one piece back. Look at the ones over nine pounds. They're almost all two piece.

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