Here’s why I’ve cast my Les Paul aside for a lighter alternative - plus 6 other lightweight guitars to consider

Gibson SG on black background
(Image credit: Future)

For as long as I can remember, I've been collecting electric guitars and playing live in bands - amassing a collection that's fast approaching 30 strong. Now, while some players get obsessed with one style of six-string and collect as many variants as they can, I prefer all my guitars to be different. I wouldn't say I gravitate toward one particular model, neck shape, or style. Instead, I focus on what sound will be produced. However, one factor is increasingly affecting how I select my guitars - the weight! 

I feel more drawn to lighter guitars than ever before, opting to put down the Gibson Les Paul in favour of something a little less backbreaking - and I guess I can't be the only player on the hunt for a more shoulder-friendly instrument. Now, don't get me wrong I love my Les Paul, but I definitely don't feel as agile on stage with it around my neck and most of the time I can achieve a very similar - if not better - sound from a lighter alternative, such as my SG. 

So with that in mind, I thought I'd break down some of the lightest guitars I've found on my travels and also talk a little about how the change in weight can affect the playability and tone of an instrument. 

Below you'll find some commonly asked questions surrounding lightweight guitars, as well as six models that I believe are great sounding and offer fabulous value for money.

Gibson Firebird headstock

(Image credit: Future)

How we define a lightweight guitar

MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

Now, this is a complicated topic to approach as the weight of guitars doesn't just vary from model to model, but two identical instruments can feel entirely different to hold. For example, I have a trio of Gibson Firebirds, and on the surface, they look pretty similar and are constructed using the same materials. Nevertheless, they each feel vastly different from each other. 

My current number one is a Gibson Firebird V. It's lightweight, resonant, and a joy to play on stage for three hours. On the other hand, my Non-Reverse Pelham Blue is a little heavier, but not so much so that it would stop me from playing it at a long show. However, my Non-Reverse Firebird III with a triad of P-90 pickups can feel like Mjollnir on a good day. Yes, the guitar sounds fantastic, and I love playing it, but before packing for a show, I do consider how long I'll have to stand up with this behemoth of a guitar strapped to my shoulder and tend to grab a different member of the flock. So for that reason, I didn't include any Firebirds in my recommendations. That said, if you find a lightweight one, grab it, as you can't go wrong!

So, while it's easy to categorise specific models as "light", in my experience, it doesn't work like that, as there are too many variables to consider. Also, what some players may consider heavy, could be light to someone else. That said, some manufacturers make guitars especially to be lighter or use materials that just mean the guitar will inherently weigh less than a chunky solid body.

Generally, we consider guitars around 6–7 lbs (2.7 - 3.2kg) to be fairly lightweight and comfortable for most people. 

Fender Thinline Telecaster next to Fender valve amp

(Image credit: Future)

Why buy a lighter guitar?

Many factors may make you gravitate towards a lighter axe. If you have back and shoulder problems and simply can't take the weight of your beloved guitar anymore - and the thought of standing up with a Les Paul Custom around your neck is enough to make you give up the instrument altogether - then seeking a lightweight option may reignite your love of the guitar and get you back to making music again. 

Numerous gigging musicians will be seeking a more manageable alternative to their heavy number one - especially those with a trusty Yamaha SG-2000, which starts to resemble the weight of a neutron star after the first couple of songs.

Playing a heavy guitar on stage can be a struggle - I've been there - but a lighter choice could be what you need to start enjoying shows again and even help you give a more energetic performance. Personally, I've experienced neck, back and shoulder pain after long rehearsals and shows, and this was practically eradicated when I switched to a lighter guitar.  

Maybe you prefer the way lighter instruments sound. Lightweight guitars possess a different tonal quality than dense, solid-body guitars, and that may be the type of sound you are drawn to. Whatever the reason, you'll be sure to find a great lightweight option at the end of this article. 

PRS SE Hollowbody Standard

(Image credit: Future)

Do lighter guitars sound different?

In reality, all guitars sound different, and each instrument brings its unique sonic signature to the table. Many factors can change a guitar's timbre, from the pickups, the materials used and, of course, the weight. 

Many players report that lighter guitars can be more resonant and vibrant, with a tone that sounds a little more alive - with some guitarists just preferring the way a more delicate guitar reacts to their playing. 

One player who will always pick a lighter axe is slide master extraordinaire Derek Trucks, saying to Premier Guitar, "I found most of the time, if you go through five or six guitars, the lightest one is probably gonna sound better. I don't know if it's older wood or dryer, but they seem to speak a little bit better".

That said, not all players feel the same. Some guitarists swear blind that a ponderous Les Paul will have more sustain and there for a much better tone. Really, it all comes down to personal taste and the particular guitar you're playing. So try some guitars out and find the model that speaks to you. 

Gretsch guitars against a wooden wall

(Image credit: Future)

Why do some guitars weigh more than others?

The guitar's construction will significantly affect how much the instrument weighs. The principal wood used to create the body - as well as the building method - will determine how heavy it is. While guitarists will argue until the cows come home about whether wood type has any auditory benefit, it can't be denied that it has a consequential impact on the guitar's mass. 

The Les Paul's sandwich of flame maple and dense solid mahogany makes for a perfect pairing if you are looking for a rich and thunderous sound. Still, it will weigh considerably more than a basswood body singlecut from Gretsch or a fully hollow maple ES-330. 

So, if you are looking for clues on how light a guitar is - and you aren't able to get a hold of it - an excellent place to start is the materials used to create it. 

Lightweight guitar recommendations

As we stated above, the weight of a guitar can vary slightly even between two identical models and therefore it's often difficult to get an exact weight of the instrument on the brand's website.  

So, while we can safely say each model below sits comfortably in our light guitar range if you want to be sure, you should aim to get the guitar in your hands before you buy - or at the very least buy from somewhere that has a decent returns policy. 

Alternatively, if you email the store you're planning on purchasing from, they'll be able to weigh the exact guitar you'll be sent. 

Daryl Robertson
Senior Deals Writer

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. My gear reviews have also been published in prominent publications, including Total Guitar and Future Music magazines, as well as Guitar World.

I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, particularly guitars, pianos, and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation and selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems, and ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer who holds a first-class Bachelor's degree in Creative Sound Production from the University of Abertay and I have plenty of experience working in various venues around Scotland.