Heavy or light versus tone?

Big Do

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Just bought a 2016 Traditional with Zebra pickups. Incredibly heavy; almost 11 lbs. Huge tone and sustain with lots of bottom end. Got me thinking, what’s the experience within the Mylespaul community. Are heavy guitars better or vice versa?

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C Squared

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In my experience there is actually very little correlation. I have owned a LOT of guitars over the years and worked on many more. I own a few heavy guitars now and I used to look for heavier guitars but after a few turned out to be boat anchors with all the tone of a cement block being gang raped by dead cats in heat, I play everything I can in a store as a good piece of wood is tbat regardless of weight. My current number one is just at 8lbs and has more sustain unplugged than my others. My number 2 is around 10 lbs and pretty balanced tonewise but does have a little more on top than the other.

This is my observation after 35 years and highly subjective based on personal experience and some people buying into others beliefs as gospel (one way or the other)
 

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BKS

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My chambered les paul dc pro sounds huge and can lift it with one finger... My lc70rr at 12.4 is great but not as much sustain as the gibby so... :dunno:
Must say most of my les pauls are heavy... :laugh2::facepalm:
Can't really compare these as chambered sounds different from the solid cheeseburgers...
 

monstruo_loco

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Most of the Norlin Les Pauls (Customs) I played from the ‘70s were close to or over 10 pounds and I never heard complaints nor did I have any about the way they sounded including my ‘74 20th Anniversary model (wish I still owned it), and on the opposite side of that both my 2007 R8 & 2009 R0 weigh less than 10 pounds & sound great.
Some (myself included) feel that the sound of an unplugged Les Paul is important & others don’t, all that I can say is that the guitars I’ve played with good unplugged tone have sounded better to me when plugged in than those that sound “plunk plunk” played acoustically, YMMV & all other disclaimers apply here.
 

Big Do

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In my experience there is actually very little correlation. I have owned a LOT of guitars over the years and worked on many more. I own a few heavy guitars now and I used to look for heavier guitars but after a few turned out to be boat anchors with all the tone of a cement block being gang raped by dead cats in heat, I play everything I can in a store as a good piece of wood is tbat regardless of weight. My current number one is just at 8lbs and has more sustain unplugged than my others. My number 2 is around 10 lbs and pretty balanced tonewise but does have a little more on top than the other.

This is my observation after 35 years and highly subjective based on personal experience and some people buying into others beliefs as gospel (one way or the other)
Interesting comments and this lines up with what I expected. I have a weight relieved Les Paul that sounds very bright and resonant acoustically. It sings sweetly when plugged in, but it lacks the girth and weight of the Traditional. That might be down to pick ups, but I do think that the heavier wood also contributes.
 

Big Do

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Most of the Norlin Les Pauls (Customs) I played from the ‘70s were close to or over 10 pounds and I never heard complaints nor did I have any about the way they sounded including my ‘74 20th Anniversary model (wish I still owned it), and on the opposite side of that both my 2007 R8 & 2009 R0 weigh less than 10 pounds & sound great.
Some (myself included) feel that the sound of an unplugged Les Paul is important & others don’t, all that I can say is that the guitars I’ve played with good unplugged tone have sounded better to me when plugged in than those that sound “plunk plunk” played acoustically, YMMV & all other disclaimers apply here.
Completely agree on the comments about listening to a guitar acoustically. If it doesn’t ring out and sing sweetly unplugged, it’s never going to work? I’ve got a Tele that sounds totally dull unplugged. No matter what I’ve done to it (new hardware and pickups) it doesn’t change the essentially muddy character. To get any twang I’ve got to put it through a very bright amp and EQ it carefully.
 

monstruo_loco

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Completely agree on the comments about listening to a guitar acoustically. If it doesn’t ring out and sing sweetly unplugged, it’s never going to work? I’ve got a Tele that sounds totally dull unplugged. No matter what I’ve done to it (new hardware and pickups) it doesn’t change the essentially muddy character. To get any twang I’ve got to put it through a very bright amp and EQ it carefully.
Funny you mentioned Teles regarding this as back in the 80’s in AZ I had a stock ‘71 Tele (at first - was fortunate to get a 50’s bridge pickup wound by Seymour personally that was a monster!), and my best friend had a ‘68 stock Tele & pretty much the same experience you’ve described,
I’m not assuming that this is always true, but it was in this case.
He loved mine & hated his unfortunately..
 

jvin248

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Just bought ... Huge tone and sustain with lots of bottom end. ... Are heavy guitars better or vice versa?...
Compare sustain of E/e vs D/g strings, I've found that the longer the string overhang beyond nut and saddle the more the strings stretch and have friction over nut and saddle that robs sustain as the string moves. Compare a headless guitar to a mandolin sometime. The plinky one has a lot of excess string and long sustainer has nearly none.

As for the heavy/dark tone ... that is as much the Pots 'n Caps as the pickups. Measure volume pots actual kohms not what's stamped on the case and Gibsons are often found festooned with 300kohms. The guitar to guitar variation is due to 20% tolerance range of pots, 10% tolerance range of caps, and an unreported tolerance range of pickup kohms/mH/uF.

If you are just considering guitar weight ... Les Paul did most of his playing in a band or studio recording sitting down not standing with a strap except for early short television spots that were not three to five hour wedding gigs. So his guitar design being heavier was not a problem. Gibson kept with the weight because buyers associate increased weight/thickness as signs of luxury and premium prices (only a few products are priced higher for light weight). Think about thick carpet and pad in a high-end home vs utility stuck-down thin carpet squares at an industrial office. Marketing.

Gibson carried over their light weight mandolin headstock/neck design cut from a single piece of wood to the much heavier Les Paul ... and that is why they snap off so easily. So be careful.

.
 

stratfish

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+1 on what Big Do and others have said about it has to sing acoustically.
Weight seems to not be a reliable predictor/indicator of how a guitar is going to sound.
I bought a LP Special about 6 months ago that was hand-picked from among 3 of same year/model (at Wildwood Guitars.) It was the most resonant acoustically and most balanced across the tone spectrum. To my surprise and the surprise of the the guy doing the comparison it was the featherweight from the 3 Specials - weighing only 7 pounds. I has a nice chunky neck on it, yet is not neck-heavy. A perfect guitar!

One thing that I think contributes more to a guitar's tone than people realize is the neck.
I've learned that chunkier necks produce warmer tone, while thin necks produce brighter tone. A luthier explained this to me as follows: "... other than the strings the only part of a guitar that moves when you're playing it is the neck. which actually flexes as the strings vibrate... if you took a high speed video of the side view of the guitar's neck and strummed the strings (then slowed down the video) you would see the neck flexing up & down."
To build on this...the two points of tonal transfer into a guitar's body are the bridge/tailpiece and the neck joint.
The bridge/tailpiece are the source of the high end tones going into the guitar body.
The neck and neck joint are the source of the low end.

From here things get complicated when you consider all the variables in bridge/tailpiece formula and same for the construction of the neck. Everything matters to some extent, and it is the combination of how all the parts interplay that make for a truly musical sounding instrument.... but... all of it can get flushed down the toilet if the guitar body is dead tone-sucking crap wood.

...um... what were we talking about?
Oh yeah! Guitar weight and tone!
Not as big of a factor as I used to think it was.
 
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JMP

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I also have a 2016 Traditional.......its heavy and sounds. I really don’t know if there is correlation is between weight and tone. BUT, congratulations on that heavy and awesome guitar.
 

sonar1

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This one weighs 9.9lbs and sounds great with Burstbuckers through my amp.
I’ve had lighter that sounded the same.

The one that sounded different was my Lite version. More of an SG sound
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tnlpaul59

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New here and just got the 2019 Traditional after many years of fender and a few in between. This guitar is pretty heavy and it is a tone beast and probably the most satisfying guitar I have ever played. The neck fits like a glove. Appreciate this site and all the great information.
 

monstruo_loco

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New here and just got the 2019 Traditional after many years of fender and a few in between. This guitar is pretty heavy and it is a tone beast and probably the most satisfying guitar I have ever played. The neck fits like a glove. Appreciate this site and all the great information.
Much older, but I have a 2008 Traditional (9lbs. 4oz.) that I’m very pleased with, bought it used a few years ago & it had some after market mods including stainless frets & new bridge/electronics, loved the frets but changed out the bridge & tailpiece to Faber & a harness made by Jonesyblues with Mojotone ‘59 Clone low output pickups, this one probably gets played more than any of the others including my CS models, partially because I’m less worried about leaving it out & it’s close at hand, really a good solid guitar that is well worth the money I have into it.
Sounds like yours is a good one too, and they come stock as good guitars, no need to change anything & I think Gibson USA got it right with the Traditional, have really liked the few that I’ve played & a gold top would be nice someday.
Hope yours works out well for you, sounds like you’re off to a good start with it. :cheers:
 
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timgman

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to me**** My heavy LP's sound crisp and dark.. FAST attack.. great for metal.. great for slamming meaty tones....
The Ligher ones sound fatter / more woody. a little more sag tot he tone. Gerat for BLues / classic tones. I'm old so that's where I am now... but If I were to play metal.. I'd have a 9.5 lbs LP or a 10 lb'er.
 

Michael Matyas

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I like the tone and sustain of heavy guitars, despite a decades-long bad back. But I have a Samick knockoff that comes in at a little over seven pounds that sounds pretty good too. The light one definitely has less sustain, so it sounds a bit more appropriate for jazz and blues.
 

Christosterone

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I prefer boat anchors...
[in my mind] they have better sustain...
but my ESLP rings like the moon too...

-chris
 


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