Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gibson Guitars: Explorations in Innovation

By: Peter Lenkefi

The tradition of quality associated with Gibson guitars dates as
far back as the late 1800s when Orville Gibson started the
company with his skill and interest in the guitar. Probably one
of the keys to the success of the company then and now is its
tangent for innovation. This innovation continued through
economic hardship, which saw the introduction of the L-5,
ES-150, electric guitar. While the company originated as a
manufacturer of mandolins and guitars, it was the design of the
ES-150, the company's first electric guitar that hailed them to
the top of the list of guitar manufacturers. The innovation in
the company originated with guitarists such as Lloyd Loar and
Les Paul, whose ideas were used to create some of the company's
most innovative designs.

Reviewing the Original Gibsons

The Les Paul Standard is by far the most popular of all Gibson
guitars. It was way back in the early 1950s that it was
introduced as the company's premier solid body electric guitar.
Today the Les Paul Standard has several variations, including
the Les Paul Standard Faded, Les Paul Standard Double Cut, Les
Paul Standard Limited Edition, and Les Paul Standard Premium.

While many guitar manufacturers find ways to cut corners to
assemble guitars as fast as they can, Gibson continues its
tradition of hand making each guitar it produces. The Gibson
acoustic is the classic tradition of guitars. Gibson continues
to make the classic acoustic guitars in natural wood. It's
probably the case that if you learned how to play the guitar in
elementary school, that your music teacher had an inventory of
Gibson guitars. The value of these guitars has not decreased,
although many musicians probably wish the price would decrease!
Classic Gibson acoustic guitars such as the SJ200 and the
Hummingbird are still as popular as when they were first
introduced, although most people purchase them as collector's

Electric guitars were made to play rock music, right? This
message couldn't get any clearer with Gibson's release of a
replica of the guitar associated with Angus Young of AC/DC.
Usually when makers of guitars reproduce a classic, they tend to
add additional features that actually take away from what was so
great about the original. The Angus Young Signature SG is
basically a mirror image of the classic guitar.

The list of famous individuals who have counted on the
traditional quality and innovation of Gibson guitars is long.
This relationship is probably due in part to the Gibson
company's solicitation of professional guitarists to assist in
designing innovative Gibson guitars. Who else knows more about
what "serious" guitarists want than the professionals who push
them to their limits? Celebrities that have been longtime fans
of Gibson guitars include Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page. Aside
from the outstanding pickups, Gibson guitars for electric guitar
lovers are generally custom-made to order. It is probably the
case that the Gibson electric guitars feature some of the most
unique styles and designs. The Gibson Firebird Studio Electric,
L4 CES Archtop, and the Gibson Zakk Wylde Les Paul electric
guitars prove that there are no limits in the how Gibson is able
to allow a guitarist to explore the creative limits of Gibson

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