Gibson has launched the Les Paul Studio Modern, a bold new take on the Les Paul that transforms the storied singlecut into a lightweight high-performance electric guitar, with contoured neck heels and compound radius fingerboards, and a variety of core sounds to play with.
The Les Paul Modern Studio comes in four colour finishes. There’s Smokehouse Satin, Wine Red Satin, Worn White, and a Manhattan Midnight dark blue/black burst that’s available exclusively from Gibson.
Whether you prefer to think of it as a stripped-down Les Paul Modern, or a pimped up Les Paul Studio (both takes are equally valid), it looks very much like Gibson is swinging for the fences with this one, courting a demographic who may otherwise not have considered a Les Paul.
Firstly, there are those who might find a Les Paul Standard a bit steep. It has always been an aspirational instrument. For them, much of the Les Paul Studio Modern’s appeal will be the price.
The more muted aesthetics – i.e. satin finishes, black binding, black nickel hardware – are reflected in a price tag that is 800 bucks cheaper than the Les Paul Standard. That’s very much in keeping with the Les Paul Studio we have known and loved over the years.
Others might traditionally baulk at the Les Paul weight, which hitherto often necessitates a thick leather guitar strap. That’s not an issue here, with Ultra Modern weight relief on the maple-topped mahogany body making this a lot more merciful on the lower back.
There’s less bulk around the top-end of the fingerboard, too, with that contoured neck heel allowing unfettered access to the 22 fret, should that be the sort of fretboard territory you aspire to.
And there are more tone options here, with the 490R/498T humbucker pairing controlled by the dual volume and dual tone controls with push-pull functions that allow you to split the coils, access out-of-phase sounds, and a very cool third option of bypassing the tone control in the circuit altogether.
This looks and will certainly feel different. Here we have a compound radius ebony fingerboard. Though for any purists worrying that we’ve strayed too far from home on this, there are acrylic trapezoid inlays for a reassuringly familiar touch, and those full humbucker voicings on the pickups are going to sound quintessentially like a Les Paul; there might be all kinds of toppings on this pizza but it still has the base, sauce and cheese of humbuckers, mahogany and maple top.
The scale length is still 24.75”. The hardware might have a black nickel finish but we have a familiar set of Grover Rotomatic tuners with keystone-style buttons, an aluminium Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop-bar tailpiece, and yes, the truss rod cover plate is bell-shaped and has the name of the model engraved on it. Some things you don’t change.