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Gibson SG
SG LPbody3.jpg
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1961 – present
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set, Bolt-on on some entry-level versions.
Scale 24.75"
Body Mahogany, Mahogany and Maple, Birch Laminate, Maple
Neck Mahogany, Birch Laminate, Maple
Fretboard Rosewood, Ebony, or Maple
Bridge Fixed ,Gibson Vibrato, or Tune-o-matic[1]
Pickup(s) 1, 2 or 3 Humbuckers; 1 or 2 P-90s; certain entry-level versions had smaller single coil pickups.
Colors available
Cherry, natural, walnut, mahogany, white, black and various specialty colors and bursts.

The Gibson SG is a popular model of solid-bodied electric guitar that was introduced in the early 1960s.



In 1960, Gibson Les Paul sales were significantly lower than they had been in previous years, so in 1961 the model was given a completely new body style that was thinner and had two sharp cutaway horns that made the upper frets more accessible. The neck joint was also moved up about three frets. It was felt the new design could compete with the popular Fender Stratocaster, another benefit being lower production costs than that of the previous model due to the one piece body and flat top. The guitar was advertised as having the "fastest neck in the world", due to its slender neck profile and virtually non-existent heel. The new Les Paul was popular, but Les Paul himself did not care for it and claims to have asked to have his name removed from it although he was photographed with the new model several times. Gibson renamed the model the "SG" which was short for "solid guitar", although many enthusiasts are convinced the 'SG' stands for 'Standard Gibson'. Even though Les Paul's name was officially removed from the model in 1961, the plastic Les Paul nameplates (positioned between the rhythm pickup and fingerboard) were in abundance in the Gibson factory and SG models having these nameplates were built and sold by Gibson up to the end of 1963.[1]

Models and variations

Since its initial introduction in 1961, there have been numerous models and variants that carry the "SG" name, for example Satan's Guitar. In addition to a "Standard" and "Jr" model, there was the top of the line "Custom". The 1961-1963 Custom models did not say 'SG', but they did, however, have a Les Paul signature between the neck pickup and the edge of the fingerboard where it joined the body. The "Standard" had a Les Paul engraved truss rod cover from 1961 to early 1963. Models produced between 1961 and 1965 have the original small pickguard; in 1966 the guitar was redesigned slightly with a different neck joint and a larger, semi-symmetrical "batwing" pickguard appearing on 1967 models. This design held until roughly 1970. In 1971 Gibson released a version with a floating "Les Paul" style pickguard and a front-mounted control plate, no doubt as a cost-cutting measure. "Maestro", "Lyre Vibrola" and Bigsby vibrato (tremolo arm) tailpieces appeared as options and several new models were introduced with this design, such as the low-end SG-100 and the fat single coil dual pickup gibson SG-200 guitars, and the more luxurious SG Pro and SG Deluxe guitars. In 1972 the design went back to the original style pickguard and rear-mounted controls but with the neck now set further into the body, joining roughly at the 20th fret. By the end of the 1970s, however, the SG models returned to the old design style for the most part, and current versions have returned to the 1967-1969 styling and construction with the large pickguard, which wraps around the pickups on the guitar body (though re-issues and variants of the small pickguard SG are still available). These guitars, unlike those from the 1960s they resemble, come standard with a stop-tailpiece with the exception of some custom shop models and limited production SG models.

The SG Junior model was a budget, entry level, guitar and was similar to the Les Paul Junior before it. This model had a single "dogear" P-90 pickup with either a stoptail bridge or an optional tremolo arm.[2] The transition from the Les Paul model to the SG model happened in 1963.

Derek Trucks has played on his Gibson SG since he began touring at age nine

The SG Special was between the Junior and Standard model and was introduced concurrent with the Junior. It featured two P-90 pickups with either a stoptail bridge or an optional tremolo arm. On this mid-level SG model, Gibson kept the neck binding but used dot inlays in place of the trapezoid position markers of the standard model and did not use the crown inlay on the headstock. With various minor changes, this model was produced through 1990.[3] This model resurrected in 1995 as the SG Classic. The current SG Special now has two uncovered humbucking pickups. Recent models of the Gibson SG Special represent a value oriented model in their product line-up. Typically, it does not include the stylized neck binding of other models, or mother-of-pearl, trapezoid fret inlays. The wraparound stoptail bridge has been replaced with Gibson's standard Tune-O-Matic arrangement on the Classic and Special reissues, while the reissue of the Junior retains the original one-piece bridge.

In 1980, the first SG manufactured with "active" factory pickups was introduced. Gibson experimented with an SG that included the same Moog active electronics that had previously been used in another Gibson model, the RD Artist. The resulting SG had a slightly thicker body to accommodate the extra circuitry, and was dubbed the “Gibson SG-R1.” The Gibson SG-R1 was solid mahogany, sported a gloss black finish, no pick guard, dot neck inlays instead of trapezoid, see-through barrel knobs for treble and bass pots that went from zero to plus or minus five instead of tone pots going from one to ten, and an extra switch to turn on the active boost on the treble pickup. The bridge was fixed and included no tremolo/whammy bar. The Gibson SG-R1 was renamed the “Gibson SG Artist” in 1981, and then manufacture of this model was discontinued. Only about 200 active SG’s were ever produced.

In 2008, Gibson introduced limited editions of the Robot SG, which feature a motorized tuning system developed by Tronical. These included the SG Robot Special and the limited-edition Robot SG LTD, the latter which included a bound ebony fretboard with trapezoid inlays, headstock with binding and inset logo, a Neutrik locking jack, and special metallic finishes. The Robot system was designed to be convenient for players who need to frequently change tunings, without requiring them to manually tune or carry several guitars.

In 2009, Gibson introduced the Raw Power line of SGs, which have an all-maple body, unbound maple neck and fretboard, and unique colors not previously seen in SGs. These models are priced between the entry-level Specials and the more expensive Standards.

Gibson's Melody Maker was not an original member of the SG family (it was derived from the Les Paul) but it used the basic SG body shape from 1966 to 1971.


The Gibson SG is used by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington on the classic Free Bird, where Rossington uses a slide. Gibson has offered many variations and finishes on the basic SG body style and continues to manufacture special editions, including models such as the Special and Faded Special, Supreme, Tony Iommi Signature SG (model discontinued), Angus Young Signature SG, 1961 Re-issue, Menace, and Gothic, as well as the premium-priced VOS replicas of the sixties SG Standard and Custom. Epiphone, a company owned by Gibson, produces a less expensive replica known as the G-400 and also produced an "Elitist" model, a high quality '61 SG reissue made in Japan starting in 2003 up until the end of 2005. Some of these Epiphone models include the Les Paul signature plate featured on original SG's between the rhythm pick-up and the fretboard. The guitar has a bridge that will not usually work with a whammy bar, but there are some rare variations that have a compatible bridge.

Unique SGs

  • Eric Clapton used a 1964 Gibson SG Standard[4] starting in 1967 while in Cream. This guitar was known as the "Fool" guitar, as it was painted by the Dutch artists, known collectively as The Fool. In spring 1968, the SG was loaned to Jackie Lomax, a companion of George Harrison. The "Fool" was later sold to Todd Rundgren for $500 before eventually being sold to a private collector for about $500,000.[5]
  • Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath owns multiple custom-made black left-handed Gibson SGs that have multiple white crosses across the frets.

SG versus the Les Paul

Physically, the SG has a shallower body than the Gibson Les Paul, and thus is much lighter; the neck profile is also typically shallower, although this varies from year to year and guitar to guitar. The body is usually made entirely of mahogany (notable exceptions are the Swamp Ash SG Special, the Swamp Ash bodied SG Voodoo[6], the 2009 Raw Power, and some walnut bodied 1970s models), and does not have the carved, maple top section of the earlier design (with the exception of the aforementioned diablo SG and some new models, which have maple and mahogany bodies with a carved body); neither does it have the accompanying body binding. Perhaps the most striking visual difference is that the SG is a double-cutaway guitar. The standard SG shares the basic pickup and control layout (twin humbuckers with dedicated tone and volume controls, three position selector switch) with the standard Les Paul. The three main variations on the basic Les Paul design (Standard, Jr., Custom) also had equivalent SG models. The neck is joined on the 19th fret just like a Gibson ES 335 whereas the Les Paul is joined at the 15th fret like an early Gibson ES 330 thus making the SG much easier to access the upper register of the fretboard. The SG has a tendency to be "top heavy" meaning that the head feels heavy compared to the relatively light body. There are also some 24-fret editions of the SG, such as the Diablo limited edition, while all Les Pauls have 22 frets with the exception of the 2009 Epiphone prophecy series where all guitars have 24 frets including the SG and the Les Paul. The Buckethead signature Les Paul also features 24 frets, making it the only Les Paul model produced by Gibson with 24 frets.

Notable SG users

See also


External links

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