1. Gibson Les Paul Junior
The Les Paul Junior will appeal to the minimalist who wants a simple configuration and Gibson tone. Note that the “junior” designation doesn’t mean it’s small or intended for kids. It’s shipping weight is about 20 pounds.
The Les Paul Junior is one of the best Gibson guitars for beginners, thanks largely to its friendly price tag. That price, combined with a straightforward setup, gives the Junior wide-ranging appeal that ranges beginners to the professional performer. Stylistically the Junior can handle nearly anything, as it commonly falls into the hands of rock, country, blues and even jazz artists on a regular basis.
Gibson uses Mahogany for both the body and neck of this guitar, giving it a thick push on the low-end frequencies and accounting for some of the extra weight. Session and gigging guitarists alike can make it work.
Features and price tag
Additional features include one P-90 pickup and the G-Force tuning system. Two controls for volume and tone round out one of Gibson’s simplest guitars. The guitar retails around the $750 mark, making it one of the cheapest Gibson Les Pauls available.
2. Gibson SG Special
The Gibson SG Special, compared to the SGM and the other Les Pauls in this list, gives you a lot of the same features that we’ve already seen. You’ll start to see that Gibson’s cost-cutting go-to seems to be the combination of a the ’61 Zebra pickups, a Mahogany body and Maple neck. However the finish on the SG Special seems to be a little nicer, with a gloss lacquer that shines more than the SGM.
Everything else about this guitar is fairly consistent with what we’ve already seen. The tone from the Zebra humbuckers provides plenty of good sustain and sounds best when paired with a grungy distortion pedal like the Pro Co Rat or Boss DS-1.
Just a style difference from the Les Pauls?
A lot of folks who prefer the SG over the LP, do so simply because of the looks and shape. If you like that aspect of the SG, there’s no need for concern that you’re missing out on better features with the LPs.
In this list, at least, they’re extremely similar.
3. Gibson Les Paul Special
In a model that’s very similar to the Les Paul Junior, Gibson removes the pickguard, adds a second cutaway and a second dog ear pickup. Our result is the Les Paul Special Double Cutaway. Like the Junior, it weighs about 20 pounds, packing dense Mahogany into both the body and neck of the guitar. Gibson also tacks the G-Force tuning system onto this model.
Since there’s a second pickup, Gibson adds a three-way selector next to the tone and volume knob. It offers a little more versatility, perhaps more palatable to someone who likes the Junior but would miss the flexibility added by a second pickup and selector switch. People in that situation are most likely to be happy with the Special.
However, this model does cost more, retailing around $950 which is about $200 above the Junior. Price difference is primarily due to the additional hardware and wiring that goes into adding a pickup selector switch.
If you don’t mind a guitar without a neck pickup, the Junior is a good way to save a little more money.
4. Gibson Les Paul Studio
The price of the Gibson LP Studio is low enough that you can often snag one for less than $1000. It’s perhaps the most ideal budget, cheap Gibson guitar, simply because it so closely looks the part of a Les Paul Classic. It also has some of the higher end Les Paul features with a carved Maple top and an upgrade in wood quality and grain. Push-pull volume and tone controls for each pickup, lighter construction and the classic Les Paul look and feel are the most notable features.