How to Use the Controls on a Les Paul

P A U L

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Just ran across this and what a pleasure to read info that someone has it right.
The whole magic thing about the LP is the tone and volume control and mix.
Billy Gibbons once said, "you are never going to know what real tone is until you start messing with the volume and tone controls on the guitar".
One of Hendrix's clean sound tricks was to roll off the guitar volume with his fuzz face on and it enhanced his clean tones, crank up the volume when away from the pedal and presto fuzz. I can't believe for years I had Strat knobs on 10, I guess that is a newbie's thing as it took me a long time to start using them.
The LP is truly a touch of heaven for the experienced player. Thank you Gibson and Les!
 

flannelflag

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I have a question/problem with my volume control on a 2016 T. I'm not sure I can even explain it but here goes. When I'm set middle position, the only volume control I get is with my bridge volume knob. BUT, and here's the part I don't get, If I have my bridge turned down and my neck turned up, my volume does increase when I switch from bridge to middle setting. With my bridge turned all the way down though, I can crank my neck pickup to full volume and still get nothing on my middle setting. When I switch to just the neck pickup though, the neck volume control functions as it should. This is my first LP so I'm not sure if I'm simply misunderstanding my controls or if I have an issue with my wiring/electronics. I hope this explanation makes sense to somebody because I'm baffled.
 

Splattle101

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I have a question/problem with my volume control on a 2016 T. I'm not sure I can even explain it but here goes. When I'm set middle position, the only volume control I get is with my bridge volume knob. BUT, and here's the part I don't get, If I have my bridge turned down and my neck turned up, my volume does increase when I switch from bridge to middle setting. With my bridge turned all the way down though, I can crank my neck pickup to full volume and still get nothing on my middle setting. When I switch to just the neck pickup though, the neck volume control functions as it should. This is my first LP so I'm not sure if I'm simply misunderstanding my controls or if I have an issue with my wiring/electronics. I hope this explanation makes sense to somebody because I'm baffled.
I'm not entirely certain what you're describing but it doesn't sound quite right to me. There are two common, conventional ways for a Les Paul to be wired: vintage and modern. They behave differently on the middle position.

With vintage, if you put the pickup selector in the middle position, and you turn either volume to zero, the guitar volume should drop to zero. Turn either volume all the way off, and you've turned the guitar off.

With 'modern', if you try the above, your sound should change and lose treble, but the guitar will remain on. You'll still have sound (a very distinctive and odd sound, but sound nevertheless).
 

flannelflag

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The "vintage" wiring is exactly what it's doing. I just explained it poorly. Sometimes I don't translate well to the written word which would be funny, if English weren't my first language. :) I've learned over the past couple days that with a little tinkering with knobs n switches, I can get an awful nice transition from loud to soft with just a quick flip from bridge to middle. Thanks for the explanation, Splattle.
 

QReuCk

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I'm not entirely certain what you're describing but it doesn't sound quite right to me. There are two common, conventional ways for a Les Paul to be wired: vintage and modern. They behave differently on the middle position.

With vintage, if you put the pickup selector in the middle position, and you turn either volume to zero, the guitar volume should drop to zero. Turn either volume all the way off, and you've turned the guitar off.

With 'modern', if you try the above, your sound should change and lose treble, but the guitar will remain on. You'll still have sound (a very distinctive and odd sound, but sound nevertheless).
I would not call that vintage vs modern. What your describe is just the effect of having volume pots wired as a voltage dividers (what you call vintage) vs reversed (what you call modern). To my understanding, all Gibson Les Pauls have volume pots wired as voltage dividers from stock. The reversed volume pots are sometimes refered to as "indonesian wiring". I had it stock in a Greg Bennett AV6. Unfortunately, what it does to your tone when rolling off volume is not only decreasing the output, but also lowering the load impedance of your pickups, removing from them any sort of resonant peak there might be, which IMO translates pretty well into removing all the life from the sound.
By the way, although this is kind of related to the topic of maximizing the usage of the controls of the guitar, this topic is better adressed in a thread about the relative merits of wiring schemes than in this one I think.
 

valvestate

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It's 2016 and this post is still very very helpful! As a new user of LP guitars, this opened up a lot of spectrum of sounds!

Thanks a lot @Splattle101!! :thumb::fingersx:


Because a couple of people asked about it, here is the stuff I wrote in another thread about using the controls on a Les Paul. The OP asked how to use the controls to get sounds like Page and other classic players. My reply includes some alternative suggestions on how you might EQ your amp to get a different range of noises, and get a little bit more out of the neck and middle positions.

Hope it's of some use. Here it is:



First, your volume controls do not just control your loudness, but also your level of distortion (‘gain’ or ‘overdrive’). If your guitar has modern wiring, lowering the volume will also reduce the available treble, as if you’d turned the tone down too. If you have 1950s wiring this effect is far less prominent.

Secondly, your tone control not only cuts your treble, it also reduces the amount of ‘space’ your guitar seems to take up in the mix. Turning your tone down can effectively pull you ‘back’ into the mix.

Enough basics. Here’s some pointers.

EQ Your Amp for the Neck
Most of the time you’ve probably set up your amp for a good tone from the bridge. Try this instead and see what happens.

1. Turn all your volumes and tones up to 10.
2. Select the neck pick up.
3. Adjust your amp so you get a good soloing tone for that pickup.
4. Switch to bridge. This will be too bright. Ice-pick through ear territory.
5. Tame bridge with tone control, until you’ve got a good soloing tone.

You now have your ‘boost’ sounds. Now turn the bridge vol down (about 75-80%), until you’ve got a good crunching rhythm sound. If you have modern wiring you may need to turn up the tone a little at this stage. You could now play the rhythm on the bridge, and switch to the neck for the solo.

Solo on Bridge, cleans on Neck
Turn up your bridge tone and vol. That’s your solo sound (ice pick and all). Turn your neck vol down to about 50%. If your amp is any good, that should be nearly clean. If you’ve got 1950s wiring, it won’t be muddy either. You may now play the intro to Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You on the neck pick up. Switch to bridge for the signature lick. Back to neck, or turn down bridge to 50-60%. For a more sensible bridge pick up sound, just turn the tone down a fraction to clip some of the hairs off it.

If your amp is good, it should be sensitive enough to clean up when you turn down, and also to clean up if you back off with your right hand an pick gently. Use both these effects to control your tone.

Middle positions

Leave your bridge in its rhythm setting, then switch to middle. Now turn down the neck to nearly nothing, then slowly turn it back up (to about 50%). Somewhere across this range you’ll hear three fairly distinct tones. It’ll start out sounding like the bridge on its own. Next, it will fill out (i.e. get some extra bass), and it might do this quite suddenly. This is a really useful sound for soloing, because it basically sounds like the bridge pickup, but it’s fuller and meatier without being in any way muddy. As you keep turning up the neck vol it will start to sound more like both pick ups. This can be sort of nasal, but quite good.

Once you get both pick ups to the same vol (~ 75%) you’ve got the classic middle sound. Many people find this a bit muddy, but if you EQd the amp for your neck pick up, you should be OK.
 

Splattle101

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It's 2016 and this post is still very very helpful! As a new user of LP guitars, this opened up a lot of spectrum of sounds!

Thanks a lot @Splattle101!! :thumb::fingersx:
You're most welcome, sir! Glad it's been of use to you. :thumb:
 

kmasters68

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OK, like my input even matters at this point with this mega thread. I tried this last night. The tube amp I was using is a monster tone machine and it helped a lot, but I'm sure it will work similarly in a big rig.

LP middle position>boost>tube amp.

1) Bring the amp to break up not past.
2) Engage a good boost pedal (you should have screaming guitar tone at this point)
3) Roll neck to 7.5 or so
4) Roll bridge to 5 or so
5) Ride the treble tone knob to taste.

I tried this with a LPC 68 and a 2008 STD. What I got was vintage tone like I couldn't believe. Plenty of headroom and note clarity. I enjoyed flipping to the neck for boosted soloing or leaving it in middle position and turning up the bridge volume. I didn't use the bridge alone at all. When going from an authentic vintage tone to the high gain attack of the neck or rolled on bridge in middle has authority! Then back into the vintage mode.

I've always thought that rolling the volume "takes away".

NOT ANYMORE!
 

Classicplayer

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I've read and re-read the original posting and comments several times and still believe it to be the most practical and helpful writeup on dialing in a Les Paul that I have ever seen on a forum about Lesters.

I can't say I end up with the same exact settings as the OP detailed, but my own settings are in the spirit of the elements detailed in Spattle's original thesis.

Using his template, I find I can apply it to my Les Pauls and it makes little difference with any amp. His post also reveals that it may involve some minor tweaking of the amp itself; which I discovered usually is the case with me...because there is a certain idea I always carry in my mind of just how I want my Les Paul to sound when I use my tube amp.


Classicplayer
 

Les Paul John

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My older brother doesn't use his knobs for tone shaping. It's always on 10 and on the bridge pickup.

His amp is always too loud, you know that point where it sounds harsh and not good anymore. I mean he's been playing in bands for 45 years.

I don't get it.
 

dmac in SC

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Very interesting thread...I had never thought about the different wiring that could be on the inside..I apparently have vintage wiring in my 1998 studio (some here may scoff, but it's the one and only LP I need and love)...

All the tone stuff is very subjective and depends on the music you play and the volumes you use...I only use my LP for stuff where I want crunch..for that I will crank the volume and tone for the bridge PU to about 90% (or wide open) and make the rest of the adjustments on my pedals (Amps remain constant) ...then I turn the neck PU volume down to about 15% and leave the tone up high..that allows me to use the PU switch between treble and middle essentially as a clean boost..sounds fantastic

I have never been a fan of having to constantly turn knobs and make adjustments when there is so much else going on during a performance, and so much that can go embarissingly wrong

Just my 2c
 

Jewel the Sapphire

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I enjoy having my amp hot, running 50s wiring and leaving the volume right under 5 for the neck pickup, that way the middle position is a touch cleaner than the bridge and when I switch to neck its almost cleaned up
 

Splattle101

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I enjoy having my amp hot, running 50s wiring and leaving the volume right under 5 for the neck pickup, that way the middle position is a touch cleaner than the bridge and when I switch to neck its almost cleaned up
That's a cool setting that I notice Jimmy Page using a lot, eg, 'What is and What Should Never Be' from Led Zep 2. The soft 9 & 7 chords of the verse are played on the neck pickup, turned down low. The chorus is played on either middle or bridge position. Then he gets to the solo and starts off with the first two phrases on the neck pickup. Then he switches to the middle for the next bit, and goes to the bridge flat out for the really raucous part played over the chorus part of the rhythm. It's a great example of three presets giving him just about everything he needs for the whole song.

:D
 

Gtarzan81

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That's a cool setting that I notice Jimmy Page using a lot, eg, 'What is and What Should Never Be' from Led Zep 2. The soft 9 & 7 chords of the verse are played on the neck pickup, turned down low. The chorus is played on either middle or bridge position. Then he gets to the solo and starts off with the first two phrases on the neck pickup. Then he switches to the middle for the next bit, and goes to the bridge flat out for the really raucous part played over the chorus part of the rhythm. It's a great example of three presets giving him just about everything he needs for the whole song.

:D
This clip sealed it for me. Neck on about 7, bridge on 10.
 


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