There she was, her ebony black body almost glistening. Those sweet curves, that beautiful neck, I knew I had to have her. I picked her up to get a feel for her. She felt just right in my hands, light, easy to handle, smooth. As I put my left hand lightly against her neck, my right hand against her body, I knew we would make great music together.
Of course I am talking about my new Gibson SG Standard. The store my son I take our guitar lessons at each week is primarily a Fender dealer. We both love our Fenders, me with my Telecaster and he with his Strat and Parlor Acoustic. Nevertheless, you know how it is when you are with one guitar, you want to try others too. Most Gibsons that we see are quite expensive and frankly out of my price range. I've seen Les Pauls, SGs and even Thunderbirds that looked sweet but were always upwards of two grand. I also find the Les Pauls and Thunderbirds a bit on the heavy side, but the SGs have always felt just right. Well a while ago, this Gibson SG came in to the store on a trade, and I was able to go home with it.
What is the Gibson SG?
SG actually stands for Solid Guitar. In the early 60's this guitar was called a Les Paul, but he didn't want his name associated with this body style, so Gibson called it the SG. (thanks to Chris a.k.a. "The Swede" at Crossroads, he has more info in his head on guitars than most books).
The body is thin, made of solid mahogany, and my particular guitar has a high gloss black finish and black pick guard. The SG is available in many finishes, but aside from black, the most popular is probably cherry red, also a high gloss finish. I had resolved long ago that if I got an SG it would be in black or red. The body features double cutaways that remind me of a devils horns.
The mahogany neck is even with the body, not bolted on. The fretboard is rosewood with trapezoid shaped mother of pearl inlays on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th 19th and 21st frets. The neck is a standard 22 fret neck. The action is pure bliss, the neck on this guitar is easy to hold, and the strings are easy to play. The double cutaways guarantee easy access to the upper frets.
Twin humbuckers give the Gibson its fat sound; a 490R Alnico magnet humbucker for the neck pick up and a 498T Alnico magnet humbucker for the bridge pickup. (Alright, I looked that up on the Gibson site, I had no clue except that they were humbuckers) The array of four knobs are on the bottom of the body, just as the Les Paul model. There are four knobs two for tone, and two for volume (one for each pickup). The cord input is on the face of the body, not the side, and the pickup switch is located next to the knobs. The switch is a standard 3 position switch for neck pickup, both pickups and bridge pickup. I like the pickup switch on the SG, unlike Fender switches, the Gibson pickup is a toggle type switch that you can easily flip up and down. I got a kick out of listening to chords punch in and out as I flipped the switch back and forth. You can hear famous Gibson user, Pete Townshend use this effect on many songs.
The headstock is slanted backwards slightly and has 3 tuning pegs on each side. Embossed in white on the headstock is the word Gibson, and a crown.
Gibson SG v. Epiphone G-310
An Epiphone in the same black finish, looking almost identical was also in, at 1/5th the price. Why not grab the Epiphone and save money? Well, since the top of the body looks to me like a set of devil horns, let's just say "the devil is in the details". The finish on the Gibson was shinier and just had a more polished look to it. The Epiphone had a bit of a duller gloss to its finish. The Epiphone featured regular dots on the fret board, while the Gibson had mother of pearl trapezoid inlays on a rosewood fretboard. The Epiphone had a bolt on neck, and you could literally see the way the neck looked on the Epiphone compared to the real deal. The Gibson neck was a part of the guitar, it went right into the body seamlessly. The Epiphone neck has about a quarter inch rise where it is bolted onto the body. The look isn't as smooth, it doesn't seem as solid. Granted, when I held these two guitars in my hand, the weight seemed about the same, I could detect no difference in weight. The pickups on the Epiphone were open coil double humbuckers, the SG sported aluminum covered humbucker pickups.
Picking up the guitars, throwing the strap over my shoulder and running my fingers up and down the fret board was the real deal maker. I had no complaints with the Epiphone, the action was good, chords were easy to form and slide along the frets, but the SG! I felt like Angus Young as I wrapped my left hand around the neck. It just felt so right, I knew I wanted it.
The "Feel" of an SG
I love Les Pauls, have since I first knew who Jimmy Page was. However, picking up one of these heavy beasts, and looking at the hefty price tag, I knew it wasn't for me, not yet anyway. The SG on the other hand, especially if you can find one used in good condition was in the realm of affordability. Of more importance to me though was how right it felt in my hand. This is a light guitar! Not chintzy light, just easy to handle light. I mean sitting, that groove in the body fit right in my lap. Standing, it just rested right against my body with ease. The SG is a very comfortable guitar to play. Even my son, who I can't seem to get to let go of this guitar loves the way it feels and plays. I can't get him to put it down! He owns a Fender Standard Stratocaster, which I have also played many times. He said the action on the Gibson was as good as my Telecaster (An American made Tele), and he felt the action was easier for hammer ons and slides. One reason I love my Tele is the action. I can say the same about the Gibson SG, the neck is smooth, fast and has great action.
The Sound of the Gibson SG
I played the SG and the Epiphone on a Fender Blues Deluxe amplifier in both clean and distortion mode when I was deciding which I wanted. I didn't really notice a lot of difference between the two, they both produced a fat sound, and I didn't get any dropout or problematic sounds. Keep in mind, I am a beginner, so I wasn't exactly shredding the fret boards of either of these guitars. The guitar gave me a nice full sound that I was happy with. I also like the sound you can get by flipping the switch from rhythm to lead. I was quite pleased when I brought the SG home and plugged it into my Line 6 Spider III amplifier, it still sounded great.
Okay, as the title says, the Gibson SG comes with its own hard shell case. It is a muddy brown color and in the classic guitar shaped case. The words Gibson USA are printed on the case. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found the most flamboyant bright hot pink shag interior with a hot pink satin cover. Who designed the interior of this case, Liberace? Every case for the SG line is described on the Gibson site as having a plush gray interior, so I don't know if my case is an original case, but it seems to be. Doing some reading, I understand that this is a classic style Gibson guitar case. The case says Gibson USA on it, and it is form fit to the SG. The SG lays comfortably in its furry pink lined enclosure, and the satin lays over the top protecting the glossy black finish of the SG. The case also features a useless combination lock. The top part of the lock is secured to the guitar case with two small screws. Any one looking to steal your Gibson will either simply steal the guitar case and all, or remove the two screws with a screw driver and open the case. Moreover, I hate locking guitar cases. I never lock my Fender case, and I have no plans of locking the Gibson case. In fact, except for bringing guitars to lessons, I usually keep them out in my living room or bedroom on a stand, so I can just pick it up and play. In fact, I usually have the cord already plugged into the guitar and amplifier, and only have to switch on the amp to start practicing.
Some famous SG players
Aside from being the guitar style chosen for the Guitar Hero games, the Gibson SG is the guitar of choice for AC/DC guitar player Angus Young, and famous leftie Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Pete Townshend of The Who has also used Gibson SGs quite often. Alex Lifeson of Rush has played SGs, as has Nancy Wilson of Heart, and the list goes on.
I've always wanted a Gibson, so has my son. The Gibson SG is a beautiful guitar, easy to hold, and easy to play. It is a five star guitar.
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Amount Paid ($US): 999.00
I Bought It: Used
Weight: Just right; not too heavy, not too light
Sound Quality: Rich and Full