What Les Paul would you recommend?

Hey folks. I think it’s time I got myself a Les Paul for work purposes (pickup reviews and demos, pics for my Gibson.com articles and Mixdown magazine column, stuff like that). And I thought I might throw it open to see if you can recommend a particular model to me. I can’t afford a super-mega expensive top shelf model right now (unless someone buys a whole bunch of ads), but I think that for my particular requirements I need a traditional-sounding mahogany body/maple top Les Paul with two full-sized humbuckers and traditional Les Paul ‘two volumes, two tones and a toggle switch’ wiring. Although I play a lot of Ibanez guitars with very thin necks, I quite like thick guitar necks too.

Here are a few I’m thinking of, each of which meets my requirements in terms of body woods and electronics configurations. Can you suggest any others or offer your opinion? Leave a comment below or here on the I Heart Guitar Facebook page.

Les Paul Studio 50s Tribute Humbucker

I’ve really liked the other Tribute models I’ve played, and Satin Honeybust looks pretty tasty.

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Van Halen ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’ tab book now available

Great news for fans of the new Van Halen album A Different Kind Of Truth: the guitar tablature book is now available! Order it here from Amazon.com.

Here’s the press release:

Alfred Music Publishing, the official print music publisher of thousands of popular artists, songwriters, and composers, has released “A Different Kind Of Truth”, the album-matching songbook to Van Halen’s first studio album since 1998, and the first since 1984 with lead vocalist David Lee Roth.

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REVIEW: Epiphone Les Paul Standard Ultra-II

Aah, the Les Paul. Is there anything cooler than slinging one down around your knees, slumping over like Slash and reeling off sleazy rock riff after sleazy rock riff? Well, yeah. Not having to put down your beloved axe to pick up a wimpy acoustic to play the ballad is cooler. Not being tied to one of those acoustic guitar stands for the songs when you need to play acoustic and electric parts is cooler. Now, Gibson and Epiphone are well aware of how to make a cool thing cooler – just witness the Gibson Tony Iommi SG or the Epiphone Goth 1958 Explorer for proof. So it should be no surprise that they’ve figured out the least obtrusive way yet to cram acoustic sounds (via a Shadow NanoMag pickup) into an otherwise all-electric Les Paul in the form of the Les Paul Standard Ultra-II.

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REVIEW: Fernandes Ravelle Bass Deluxe

As a Fernandes bass owner myself I was looking forward to checking out the Ravelle Bass Deluxe, although it’s much more of a modern instrument than my vintage-style J-type bass. My beloved four-stringer is great for old-school R&B, Led Zeppelin riffs and the occasional Audioslave moment, and its modern equivalent is the Retrospect 4 X, an alder-bodied, maple necked bolt-on with single coil pickups.

In contrast the Ravelle is a much harder-edged beast, both physically and in musical intention. Shaped like its six-string guitar brother (also called the Ravelle), this bass has a sleek single-cutaway body with subtle bevelling and a few aggressive points that just scream ‘metal!’ The neck is of the bolt-on maple variety. It has a rosewood fretboard with a relatively flat 16″ radius, 22 jumbo frets and distinctively Fernandes pearl split trapezoid inlays, which will help you find your way while also linking the Ravelle thematically to other unique Fernandes designs like the Vertigo. The headstock features a hardy Graphtech Trem nut at 1 3/4″ spacing, and die cast tuning gears with buttons that kinda remind me of knee bones for some reason. Brutal.

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REVIEW: Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo bass

The Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 4 bass is weird. If you’re used to more vintage-style basses, or even the legendary EBMM StingRay and Sterling models, the Bongo probably looks like it’s from outer space. It has an odd shape, unusual bevelling, a rather unique headstock… but as we’ve seen amply demonstrated time and again, Ernie Ball Music Man doesn’t make bad instruments, and they don’t make derivative instruments – everything they do has a purpose and a philosophy. And while the Bongo may have to fight extra-hard to win over some players due to the sheer force of its originality, you know before you even open the case that you’re in for something pretty interesting whenever you pick up an EBMM.

The Bongo 4 starts with a basswood body. Often used in hard rock and metal guitars, basswood has a relatively even tone with tight bass, and it tends to smooth over the edges of playing dynamics to a degree, which makes it especially prized by shredders who need even volume from note to note when playing at a bazillion miles an hour. The body is finished in high-gloss polyester, which will further even out the corners of the tone and dynamics if my limited understanding of physics is anything to go by.

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Seymour Duncan: Wolf Tones, plus Jimmy Page wiring!

So here’s something I’m really proud of: Seymour Duncan has just made me their Assistant Social Media Coordinator. As part of the job, I get to write cool blog posts like this one about the problem of ‘wolf tones.’ You might also dig this Tone Fiend article by Joe Gore about the versatile and mysterious Jimmy Page-style Les Paul wiring. If you’ve got a Les Paul or similar, give it a try! I know I will when I eventually buy a Les Paul (like this Les Paul Traditional in Iced Tea).

By the way, the pickups in the photo above are the Gus G FIRE Blackouts in my battered old Ibanez RG370. I really dig how these pickups have given the guitar a new lease on life (along with a killer fret job from Soxy Music). See my review of them here.

LESSON: Free yourself from painful barre chords

Y’know what’s always kinda baffled me? The emphasis placed on barre chords for beginners. They hurt, they’re hard and the majority of pro players only use partial versions anyway – letting other instruments share part of the chord – so players who learn those songs with full barre chords could be playing them wrong! I’m not saying they’re not important, because duh, but I think they needlessly stress out a lot of beginners.

So what can you do if you’re struggling with barre chords but you really, really want to play a particular song? Well here’s a helpful method which will:

a) Get you playing the song in a recognisable, listenable fashion;

b) Increase your confidence and finger strength so that when you actually do want to play a full six-string barre chord, you’ll be in better shape to do so; and

c) Make you really cool.

To start with, here are four common barre chord shapes, presented here in the key of A.

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