Last update 7/11/2023

Since 1894, Gibson Innovations have been revolutionizing musical instruments. That is to say, from the first archtop guitar to the first fully tuning Guitar.  Here are some of the incredible innovations that Gibson has introduced over the last 125 years.

Gibson Innovations – Introduction

Gibson has been a pioneer in guitar innovation for over 100 years. From the Les Paul to the SG to the ES-335, Gibson guitars have been used by some of the most iconic musicians in history to create some of the most iconic music.

In addition to these iconic guitars, Gibson has also innovated in other areas, such as guitar pickups and electronics. For example, Gibson was one of the first companies to introduce humbucker pickups, which are known for their warm, full sound and feedback resistance. Gibson has also developed a number of innovative electronic systems, such as the Maestro Vibrola tremolo system and the Varitone circuit.

In recent years, Gibson has continued to innovate with new guitar models and features. For example, the Gibson Firebird, which was first released in 1963, has been reintroduced with a number of new features, such as a lightweight mahogany body and a pair of mini-humbucker pickups. Gibson has also developed a number of new acoustic guitar models, such as the J-45 Custom and the Hummingbird Studio.

Gibson’s innovations have had a profound impact on the world of guitar music. Gibson guitars have been used by some of the most iconic musicians in history to create some of the most iconic music.

Gibson Innovations | Design & Construction

The Guitar Body

The solid-body guitar was designed to increase the instrument’s sustain and produce a brilliant sound. Above all, it will also eliminate any feedback caused by the top vibrating. Furthermore, these guitars’ qualities are enhanced by using z type of wood with a high density, such as Maple.

Les Paul, the man, would have preferred that the guitar had a solid maple body. However, density translates to weight, and a solid maple Les Paul Model would have proven much too heavy. However, a compromise was reached using mahogany for its lighter weight on the main body and Maple for the top cap.

Gibson Les Paul Flat Top
Gibson Les Paul Flat Top

Most of the carved top Les Pauls combine maple/mahogany bodies. Furthermore, the ‘slab’ or flat top models have a solid mahogany body. Flying V’s, Explorers, and Firebirds also have a solid mahogany body.

The semi-hollow body guitar was invented to combine the sustain and resistance to the feedback of a solid-body guitar. Furthermore, it has the lightweight and comfortable feel of Gibson’s popular Thinline electrics series.

This was accomplished by building the body around a center block of solid Maple. In addition, the maple block allows the bridge, tailpiece, and pickups to be suitably mounted.

Gibson Les Paul bridge and tailpiece
Gibson Les Paul bridge and tailpiece

The pressed laminated Maple for the top, back, and rims also helped suppress feedback. Furthermore, it provides an even, balanced tone that makes the semi-hollow-body guitar’s reputation as a versatile instrument. Indeed, it’s ideal for playing at home or on stage. It’s perfect for all music genres.

Neck and Headstock

Mahogany and Maple are time-proven materials for guitar necks. Similarly, the necks of most Gibson models are constructed of a single piece of either material.

Mahogany is most commonly used because it produces a warmer tone. Maple-constructed necks are very stable and have a brighter tone.

Fingerboards

Fingerboards (fretboards) can be Richlite, Rosewood, or Paul Fero.

Gibson Richlite fingerboard
Gibson Richlite fingerboard

Humbucker pickups

Humbucking (Double coil) Most Gibson electric guitars have double-coil Humbucking pickups. They were designed to do what their names say, “buck,” the hum. Fluorescent lights, rheostats, and other electrical interference cause the hum. Furthermore, they accomplish this with two wire coils. The coils are wound in opposite directions to cancel any interference.

Humbucking pickups produce a powerful sound that is the foundation of Rock and Roll music. Gibson makes Humbuckers in various subtle variations. They achieved this by using different magnets and different combinations of winding turns.

 
Gibson Humbucking pickup
Gibson Humbucking pickup

In addition, some guitars have Humbuckers without the metal cover pieces, which results in a hotter signal.

P-90 (single coil) Pickups

Some Les Paul Juniors, Les Paul Specials, and Melody makers utilize single-coil P-90 pickups. Some have the original ‘dog-eared’ covers; those without the ‘dog-ears’ are nicknamed ‘soap bars because of the actual cream-colored plastic colors. The pickups on the 1952 Les Paul Model are known to resemble bars of soap.

 
P-90 (single coil) Pickups
P-90 (single coil) Pickups

ES Guitars | Pickups

Several ES models have single-coil P-90 pickups with ‘dog ear ‘ covers. ES guitars with P-90s were used on many classic rock and British invasion recordings. In addition, the P-90s used on Memphis guitars have been designed to enhance the sound of ES model guitars.

When the P-90s were introduced in 1946, it was the most potent pickup of its kind; they still are now. Some of the many examples of the P-90 sound are Carlos Santanas Les Paul’s Special on Santanas classic recordings. Furthermore, Leslies Wests Les Paul Junior with the group Mountain and the Who’s Pete Townsend with an SG Special on Live at Leeds and Woodstock.

Pickup Adjustments

Although the pickups on each Gibson electric guitar are set to Gibson standards at the factory, they can be adjusted. Two screws can be found at either end of the pickup in the mounting ring, which allows you to adjust the pickup height.

 
Gibson guitars pickup adjustments
Gibson guitar pickup adjustments

Individual string volume can be set by turning the polepiece screws as required. Also, adjusting the pickup or pole screw closer to the strings makes the signal stronger or ‘hotter.’

Gibson electric guitar controls

Standard Gibson electric guitar configuration is typically two pickups, four knobs, and a switch for the pickups. Also, the four knobs provide individual tone and volume control for each pickup.

 
Gibson Les Paul guitar controls
Gibson Les Paul guitar controls

Models with only three knobs provide separate volume and master tone control. Furthermore, single-pickup models have only two knobs for volume and tone control. In this case, there is no pickup selector at all.

Volume Controls

The two knobs found closest to the fingerboard control the volume levels for the pickups. Also, the volume knob nearest the bridge controls the Rhythm or neck pickup. The knob nearest the guitar’s edge controls the treble or the bridge pickup.

Tone Controls

  • The knobs farthest away from the fingerboard control the tone. The knob nearest the bridge controls the Rythmn/neck pickup.
  • The knob seen nearest the guitar’s edge controls the treble or bridge pickup.
  • The tone controls the treble roll-off or cut variety. The instrument’s tonal quality is darkened by reducing treble rather than bass.
  • The tone control turned counterclockwise, reducing the maximum treble and the darkest sound.
  • The tone control turned clockwise to its full position allows the pickup’s total harmonic frequencies to pass through, making the guitar’s brightest sound.

Pickup Selector Switch (Push-Pull Pots)

 
Gibson Push Pull Pot knobs
Gibson Push Pull Pot knobs
  • The selector switch has three positions.
  • The up position selects only the Rythmn or neck pickup.
  • The down position selects only the treble or bridge pickup.
  • The middle position selects both.
  • The tone and volume controls will be active only while the corresponding pickup is selected.
  • On the models with three pickups, it is the selector switch that activates the front pickup (front position)

Note that the middle and back pickup together (middle position) and the back pickup.

Gibson guitars bridges

ABR-1 Bridge – ABR-1 stands for adjustable bridge 1. It was the original Tune-o-Matic bridge first introduced by Gibson in 1943.

It differed from the version of the bridge introduced in 1975 in that the body was narrower. Furthermore, the thumbwheels turned on bridge posts threaded into the body. The saddles could be easily removed and reversed to set the intonation precisely.

The thumbwheels and the string length adjust the height by moving the saddle back and forth by turning the adjustment screw with a flathead screwdriver.

Nashville Tune- O-Matic Bridge

The Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge adjusts overall bridge height and individual string length. Also, the height is adjustable up and down. This is achieved by utilizing thumbwheels found under the bridge at both ends. Each string saddle can be adjusted forward and back with a small screwdriver.

 
Nashville Tune- O-Matic Bridge
Nashville Tune- O-Matic Bridge


Adjustments are made at the factory for the action. The action is set to the correct height for playing comfort and buzz-free sound.

Note: Raising the bridge will result in stiffer action. Lowing the bridge will result in faster action. However, it may result in fret buzz also. Climate, humidity, and any changes in the string gauge may necessitate a bridge adjustment.

Any shift in bridge height, string gauge, or climate can affect intonation. It might cause the guitar to become out of tune in some of the fret positions.

When this happens, the string length will need to be adjusted. This can be accomplished by moving the individual saddles towards the neck or the tailpiece.

Note: the screw heads are on the pickup side of the bridge. However, there are many Gibsons that have screw heads facing the tailpiece.

To check the intonation, compare the pitch of a string fretted at the 12th fret against the Hamonic. This can be done by touching the string lightly with the left hand without pressing down on the fret.

The string must be lengthened if the note-fretted sounds higher than the harmonic sound. This can be done by moving the saddle toward the tailpiece until both notes sound identical. The string length should be decreased if the fretted note sounds lower than the harmonic.

Adjustable Stopbar Tailpiece

The stop bar tailpiece may be adjusted either up or down to alter the downward pressure over the bridge. The stop bar shouldn’t be adjusted unless the strings move out of the saddles. In this case, the stop bar should be lowered.

Gibson Adjustable Stopbar Tailpiece
Gibson Adjustable Stopbar Tailpiece

Special Features / Options

Push / Pull Pot

If your guitar features the push/pull pot on either the volume or tone pot if you pull the pot up and it clicks. This feature is designed to turn one pickup coil off in most cases.

This will result in a single coil sound, which may be desirable for specific songs or achieve different tones. Please note that it might be more susceptible to outside noise interference in this mode.

Floyd Rose Tremolo

This is the ultimate divebomb tremolos and is used for many different styles. Restringing your guitar, it is best to cut the ball end off, loosen the string clamp, insert it into the clamp, and retighten.

 
Gibson Explorer Floyd Rose Tremolo
Gibson Explorer Floyd Rose


This unit also features a locking nut at the headstock to eliminate any slippage of the tuning machines. You will have to lock this after you have it tunes to pitch.

Tone Pro Locking Ridge

Suppose your Gibson is equipped with a Tone Pro Bridge. You will notice a small Allen screw in the side of the bridge base that allows you to lock it to the thumbwheel. This will result in a tighter fit and better tonal transfer. Loosen these Allen keys if you want to raise or lower the action.

 
Gibson Tone Pro Bridge
Gibson Tone Pro Bridge

Locking Tuning key

If your Gibson has this feature when changing strings. First, loosen the wheel on the back of the headstock, insert the string, and pull it as tight as possible. Then, retighten the wheel. This tuner does not require you to tie the string up and should only need one wrap around the post at most.

Locking Stopbar Tailpiece Studs

Some ES model guitars have tailpiece studs that lock the stop bar for better tonal transfer and tuning stability. They have a unique cap with a hole in the middle for a 1/8′ Allen wrench.

To raise or lower the tailpiece, you must unlock the cap using a stop bar adjustment tool or flat-blade screwdriver. Furthermore, when the cap is loosened, you can increase or reduce the tailpiece studs using the Allen wrench. When the correct height is achieved, lock the cap back down.

Gibson Innovations| Timeline

Archtops

1894Gibson builds the first-ever archtop guitar, using techniques previously used on only violins. In addition, the archtop design changed the music industry. It was critical to the eventual development of the electric guitar.

Gibson Innovations – Adjustable Truss rods

1921 – Gibson invents the adjustable truss rod and the height-adjustable bridge. Furthermore, these features facilitate more effortless playability.

Additionally, the company continues developing the modern single-note guitar playing style.

In addition, today, virtually all electric guitars have an adjustable truss rod. What is more, most have adjustable height bridges.

 

Gibson adjustable truss rod
Gibson Innovations – adjustable truss rod

The L-5 Guitar

1922 – Gibson introduces the L-5 guitar. In fact, the L-5 is the first-ever archtop constructed with f-holes. Taking further cues from the violin, Also, Gibson pioneered the style still seen on most ES-style and archtop guitars today.

The ES-150 Guitar

1935 – Gibson produces the first professional quality electric guitar, the ES-150. Furthermore, the company had previously experimented with various electric designs on lap steel guitars. As a matter of fact, the ES-150 created the electric guitar industry.

 

Gibson ES-150
Gibson ES-150

The P-90 single-coil pickup

1946 – Gibson introduces the P-90 single-coil pickup. It is renowned for its power and clarity. Furthermore, the P90 is still the prevailing single-coil pickup on many iconic Gibson models today.

 

Electric Guitar Pickups
Gibson Innovations – Electric Guitar Pickups

The first dual-pickup guitar

1948 – Gibson creates the first dual-pickup guitar when a treble pickup is added to the ES-300. Furthermore, having two pickups revolutionizes the industry by giving guitarists three distinct options for playing.

 

Gibson ES-300
Gibson ES-300

The ES-5 guitar

1949 – Gibson introduces the first guitar to feature three pickups, the ES-5. They are predating any other three-pickup guitars. In addition, the ES-5 provided an unprecedented choice in tone.

 

Gibson ES-5
Gibson ES-5

Gibson Innovations – The first Gibson Les Paul

1952 – Gibson introduces the Les Paul guitar. Furthermore, the original solid body carved-top guitar is now synonymous with Gibson. Consequently, this legendary instrument has defined many genres of music and the sound of many prominent artists since its launch.

 

Gibson Les Paul Flat Top
Gibson Les Paul Flat Top

Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Junior

1954 – Gibson introduces the Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Junior. Also, Gibson expanded the Les Paul line with two unique models and allowed even more players to fall in love with a Les Paul.

 

Gibson Les Paul Junior
Gibson Les Paul Junior

The first Humbucking pickup

1957 – Gibson introduces the legendary Humbucking pickup. The pickup was first featured on the ES=175. This iconic pickup eliminates “hum” and interference from single-coil designs and creates a “fatter” sound. Furthermore, The revolutionary original and its descendant’s tones can be heard across all genres of music since its release.

 

Gibson Humbucking pickup
Gibson Humbucking pickup

The ES-335 guitar

1958 – Gibson introduces the world’s first semi-hollow body guitar (the ES-335. The Flying V, the Explorer, and the modern double-neck guitar. Furthermore, the company debuts the iconic Cherry Burst finish on the first Les Paul Standard.

 

Gibson Flying V
Gibson Flying V

Stereo varitone circuit introduced

1959 – Gibson introduced the “stereo varitone circuit. It offered players six additional preset tonal options. It also added the ability to run each pickup into a separate channel or amplifier.

 

Gibson stereo varitone circuit
Gibson stereo varitone circuit

The SG solid body

 

1961 – Gibson introduces a new version of the Les Paul with bold, sharply pointed double cutaways. Furthermore, it eventually became what’s known today as the SG (or Solid Guitar).

Gibson introduces the Firebird.

Gibson SG1963 – Gibson introduces the Firebird guitar and Thunderbird bass. It is a challenging convention with neck-through construction and a treble-side horn longer than the bass horn. It is also known as the ‘reverse’ style.

Chet Atkins CE solid body acoustic

1982 – Gibson introduced the first solid-body acoustic guitar, the Chet Atkins CE. It provides the sound of an acoustic combined with the comfort of a solid body electric. This model created a new genre of guitars.

 

Gibson Chet Atkins CE
Gibson Chet Atkins CE

1983 – Gibson introduced the Les Paul Studio. As a matter of fact, the Studio has become one of the best-selling Gibsons ever.

 

Les Paul Studio Platinum LE
Les Paul Studio Platinum LE

HD 6X-Pro Digital Guitar

2002 – Gibson introduced the HD 6X-Pro Digital Guitar using technologies never before used in guitars. Furthermore, technologies like the audio-over-ethernet MaGIC system and new hex pickup. As a result, it allows unparalleled control over your sound via a direct computer interface.

The Robot Guitar

2007 – Gibson introduced the “Robot Guitar.” This is the first-ever completely self-tuning guitar. Furthermore, the robot guitar allowed players access to seven unique tunings in seconds. This is done with a quick adjustment of the Master Control Knob.

The Dark Fire guitar

2009 – Gibson introduced the ‘Dark Fire guitar.’ It incorporates the automatic tuning of the ‘Robot Guitar’ and the digital elements of the HD 6X Pro into a Les Paul Body. In consequence, it created the world’s most powerful digital analog guitar. This technology combination would be used in the Dusk Tiger and Firebird X models in the following years.  

The ‘Min-ETune’ tuning unit

2012 – Gibson introduced the ‘Min-ETune’ tuning unit. Secondly, it automatically tunes the ‘Robot guitar on select production run models.

 

Gibson Min-ETune
Gibson Min-ETune

Memphis Historic Spec pickups

2014 – Gibson introduced the ‘Memphis Historic Spec’ (MHS) range of pickups. Furthermore, these pickups were explicitly designed for hollow and semi-hollow body ES guitars. 

 

Gibson Memphis Historic pickups
Gibson Memphis Historic pickups

HP-4 DIP Switch Circuit

2016 – Gibson introduced the ‘HP-4 DIP Switch Circuit.’. Consequently, It yielded over 500 possible pickup and coil selections. Furthermore, the system offers volume control, high pass filters, and transient suppression limiting. Additionally, all without batteries looks ultimately like a classic stock-era Les Paul.

 

Gibson HP-4 DIP Switch Circuit
Gibson HP-4 DIP Switch Circuit

Conclusion

Gibson Innovations has had a profound impact on the world of guitar music. Gibson guitars have been used by some of the most iconic musicians in history to create some of the most iconic music. And Gibson continues to innovate today with new guitar models and features that are inspiring musicians of all levels.

From the Les Paul to the SG to the ES-335, Gibson Innovations have shaped the sound of modern music. Gibson has also pioneered innovations in guitar pickups and electronics, such as the humbucker pickup and the Tune-o-matic bridge.

Gibson’s commitment to innovation is what makes it one of the most respected guitar brands in the world. Gibson guitars are known for their quality construction, excellent sound quality, and innovative features. Gibson Innovations is still building great guitars and guitar-related products.

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See Gibson Les Paul Glossary

SAM ASH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS LES PAUL

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson
Gibson Innovations