You are currently viewing Les Paul Traditional vs Standard: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Traditional and Standard…aren’t those basically the same thing?! Well not in the world of Gibsons. Let’s find out what’s the difference. Let’s go!

David Slavkovic Profile picture

Author: David Slavkovic

David has been playing guitar since 1998, his main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor.

displays Edward Bond and Gibson Guitar

Editor: Edward Bond

Edward has been playing the guitar since 2002. So Edward has over 20 years of experience as a guitarist, has authored 15 guitar books, has written for renowned music blogs, and spent a decade teaching music. He began merging his passion for writing and music in 2020 and has written for big guitar websites such as Guitar Head Publishing and KillerGuitarRigs.com.

Originally from Seattle, Edward moved to Norway in 2021 for a master’s in music. He’s studied at the Jazz Institute Berlin and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and currently resides in Trondheim. His education includes a European Jazz Master’s, a diploma in Film and Game Scoring from Sofia, and a Bachelor’s in Jazz from University of Oregon.

Edward has played in numerous bands and currently, Edward works on his own project Starship Infinity


Although the Gibson Les Paul seems like a straightforward guitar, things are more complex. Sure, the differences between the different variants are not always that prominent, but if we were to compare Les Paul Traditional vs Standard, there are some essential things to note. The old single-cut guitar has come a long way since its original release in the 1950s.

For the most part, we’re talking about nuances. However, among Gibson and Les Paul fans, nuances can mean a world of difference. In this guide, we’ll help you learn about their main traits, what each of these two variants is good at, and, ultimately, help you choose which one works the best for you.

In 2019, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Standard in two versions, bearing features of the previous Les Paul Traditional, which was effectively discontinued that same year. But we’ll get to all the details below.


Gibson Les Paul Models Explained

Gibson Les Paul Custom. Another classic model/serie.

Before we go any further, we should briefly explain what the different Les Paul variants actually are. Essentially, Les Paul is one model with a bunch of different variations. 

They’re not always super-strictly defined, and the Les Paul Traditional is a little tricky to explain since there’s some variation in basic features.

The Les Paul models that Gibson focuses on today are:

  • Standard
  • Studio
  • Junior
  • Special
  • Modern
  • Tribute
  • Deluxe
  • Supreme
  • Classic
  • Traditional
  • Custom Shop

The Traditional is less common these days. Also, it’s important to note that some of these come in different variations. Juniors and Specials are stripped-down and super-simple, with smaller bodies, although they still retain the same well-known shape

The others bear the same basic LP design that we know of. LP Standard pre-2019 had different traits, now replaced by ’50s and ’60s-style models.

But the differences are often somewhat loosely defined. If Gibson did set any rules, they often broke them. This is especially the case with Traditional models. 

It’s important to point out that the Standard and Traditional models changed over the years. Each run had specifics, including body features, neck profiles, and electronics.

From 2019 onward, Gibson shifted their Traditional models into the new line of Les Paul Standards. The ’50s Standard version resembles old Traditionals more, particularly with the old-school-styled tuning machines. Traditional Pro V was last made in 2020. 


Summary (if you’re in a hurry!)

Key Differences Between Les Paul Traditional and Les Paul Standard

  • Neck profile: Les Paul Traditional models usually come with a thicker neck, inspired by 1950s models.
  • Pickups: There’s some variety with Traditional models. However, they usually came with different Burstbuckers, ’59 Classic, or ’57 Classic humbuckers. Les Paul Standards now come with Burstbucker 1 and 2, Burstbucker ’60s, or P90s. Pro V Traditionals come with Tradbuckers.
  • Electronics: Traditionals came with conventional old-school-style controls, while Standard models had coil-split and coil-tap features. Modern Standards have the same simple controls that Traditionals had some years ago. Traditional Pro V comes with advanced controls.
  • Finish options: Modern Standards come with various finishes, along with their flamed maple tops. These finishes include regular burst options and goldtops. Traditionals had similar finishes.
  • Weight relief: Today, Standards come without any weight relief. Up until 2019, they had modern-style weight relief. Traditionals had old-school-style weight relief or no weight relief at all.

Key Specs for Les Paul Traditional vs Standard

Les Paul StandardLes Paul Standard ’50s and ’60sLes Paul TraditionalLes Paul Traditional Pro V
Body specsStandard weight relief, AAA flamed maple topNo weight relief, AAA flamed maple or AA figured maple topNo or little weight relief, AA or AAA maple topsFlamed or plain maple top, little or no weight relief
Neck profileSlimTaperVintage ’50s and SlimTaper’50s-style round neckAsymmetrical neck
Pickups and ElectronicsBurstBuckers with coil-splitting, P90sBurstBuckers, P90sGibson ’59 or ’57 Classic, BurstBuckersGibson TradBuckers
Other traitsCompound radiusPLEK-treated fretsOld-school-style “speed” knobs, pointersAdditional controls and switches

Pros and Cons

Les Paul Traditional

Gibson Les Paul Traditional
ProsCons
Offers a genuine classic old-school feel and tone.They might be too simple for some players.
Great for those who find slightly chunkier necks more comfortable.
They are more affordable than usual Gibsons.

Les Paul Standard

Gibson Les Paul Standard
ProsCons
The usual most widespread Les Paul, great for most genres.They are getting more expensive these days.
Refined neck profile that adds to playability and feel.

Build Quality & Aesthetics

Regarding build and design, the differences between Traditional and Standard models are primarily aesthetic. But as far as structural changes go, the old Les Paul Traditional models came without any weight relief or with the so-called “Traditional” form of weight relief. On top of that, they often had AA-quality maple tops, but some later models come with AAA maple tops.

If you find a Traditional made between 2013 and 2015, it should be without weight relief. But on average, Les Paul Traditional’s weight is usually higher compared to Standards.

Les Paul Standards, on the other hand, came with AAA maple tops, usually flamed maple. The main mahogany part of the body used to have different forms of weight relief. But post-2019 models, now known as ’50s Standard and ’60s Standard, feature no weight relief.

Appearance-wise, the Les Paul Traditional is a more straightforward guitar. They’re very similar to Les Paul Standard guitars. In fact, the Traditional was designed as an instrument that replicates those old-school Standard models. Other than that, it has trapeze fretboard inlays, as well as body and fretboard binding.

These days, the Les Paul Standard also has very similar aesthetic traits to the Traditionals. Mother of pearl inlays in the fretboard are accompanied by binding on the body and fretboard.

Besides that, the materials are business as usual for both Traditionals and Standards. We have the mahogany body with maple on top, as well as a rosewood fingerboard.

Hardware

The Traditional models featured, as you can assume, Kluson-style tuning machines. But other than that, they come with the usual stuff on them. There’s the ABR-1 bridge with the regular stopbar tailpiece.

Today’s versions of the Les Paul Standard come with two hardware options. And, of course, the only difference is with tuning machines. The ’50s-style Standard comes with Vintage Deluxe tuning machines, which are your old-school Kluson-style tuners with pearloid buttons.

The Les Paul Standard ’60s variant has the usual Grover Rotomatic tuning machines. But other than that, both come within ABR-1 bridge, stopbar tailpiece, and GraphTech nuts.

In terms of hardware, Standard vs Traditional Pro V are reasonably similar. 

Playability & Neck Profile

Once again, there’s some variety when it comes to neck profiles. Different versions of LP Traditional and LP Standard models came with different neck shapes, but let’s see what we have.

Today’s Les Paul Standards, the ’50s and ’60s models, have two different neck profiles. The ’50s Standard has a slightly chunkier neck, inspired by the old-school 1950s Gibsons. Meanwhile, the ’60s Standard comes with the SlimTaper neck. Essentially, it’s the profile that Gibson developed in the 1960s, and it’s a slimmer twist on the older fat neck.

Standards today come with the usual 12-inch fretboard radius. However, models up until 2019 had compound radius, making these guitars more “shred-friendly,” if you will.

Les Paul Traditional’s neck is more similar to what the current version of the ’50s Standard has. They all come with a 12-inch fingerboard radius. The Traditional Pro V is a different story. These guitars have asymmetrical neck profiles, as well as compound radiuses, going from 10 inches in lower frets to flatter 16 inches higher up the neck.

While it’s somewhat subjective, we’d say that the Traditional Pro V is the most “shred-friendly” of the bunch.

Pickups

Things get tricky here. To make things easier, we’ll separate current Standard models from the pre-2020 ones. And we’ll compare their pickups and electronics to the usual Traditional models.

The current Standard ’50s and ’60s models come with Gibson’s PAF-inspired Burstbuckers. The ’50s model has Burstbucker 1 and 2 in neck and bridge, respectively. The ’60s one features what Gibson calls the ’60s Burstbucker. In practice, there’s very little, if any, difference between these. They all replicate the classic PAF tone.

There are also ’50s Standard models with a pair of P90 pickups. They come with Goldtop and Tobacco Burst models.

Other than that, we have the usual controls. Apart from two volume knobs, two tone knobs, and a 3-way selector switch, there’s nothing else. From 2019 onward, the models come without any coil-tap and coil-split features.

The older LP Standards were a little different. As far as pickups go, there were variations. The more recent ones came with Burstbuckers and, occasionally, P90s. For a long time, Standards with humbuckers had coil-split or coil-tap options, giving more diversity to your tone.

The Traditionals came with different pickups depending on the year of production and the exact series. For the most part, you’ll find them with different Burstbucker humbuckers. However, there were also versions with Gibson’s ’59 Classic and ’57 Classic humbuckers.

Pro V Traditionals, for the most part, have Gibson’s Tradbucker pickups. They’re similar to Gibson’s usual PAF-inspired options. But other than that, the Pro V versions have advanced switching features. All four pots have push-pull action for coil-tapping, coil-splitting, and even an out-of-phase mode.

The Pro V also has internal dip switches for some advanced tone-shaping features.

Sound Comparison

If we’re talking about using regular straightforward modes, most of these Les Pauls sound relatively similar, with only minor differences. As we mentioned, these humbuckers imitate old Gibson PAF pickups. 

You’ll get a regular dark and smooth humbucker tone with sparkling high-ends that work incredibly well with tube-driven amps.

All the models with P90 pickups have their own twist. Although single-coils, they sound much thicker than your usual Fender and are the perfect blues rock, hard rock, and even classic metal option.

When it comes to the tone, the versions that stand out are those with additional controls. Les Paul Standard pre-2019 is incredibly versatile. The Traditional Pro V offers many combinations with its internal DIP switches. In other words, you can get some Strat-like and Tele-like tones with old Standards and Traditional Pro V models.

But other than that, it’s business as usual. The current Les Paul Standard model is as good as any Traditional tone-wise.


Famous Gibson Les Paul Traditional Players

The Les Paul Traditional is less common than the Standard or other Les Paul variants. You can sometimes see it in the hands of big names, and some of them have included:

  • Mike Campbell
  • Lenny Kravitz
  • Adrian Smith
  • Chris Shiflett
  • Lee Malia
  • Luke Hemmings

Interestingly enough, there’s also a handful of photos of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing a Les Paul Traditional. However, we can’t confidently say whether this was his guitar or not.


Famous Gibson Les Paul Standard Players

If you’re wondering who plays Les Paul Standards, a better question would be, “Who doesn’t?” Some names include:

  • Billy Gibbons
  • Kirk Hammett
  • Peter Green
  • Gary Moore
  • Ace Frehley
  • Joe Walsh
  • Mark Knopfler
  • Paul Kossoff
  • Paul McCartney
  • Mick Jones
  • Duane Allman
  • Martin Barre
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • Mick Ralphs
  • Warren Haynes
  • Jeff Beck
  • Marc Bolan

Alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul Standard and Traditional

These days, there are plenty of dual-humbucker guitars that could replicate that classic old-school Gibson tone. Many of them even come with additional controls, like coil-tapping or coil-splitting. If you want to keep it within the Gibson family, any SG is always an option.

Epiphone would be the next best thing for any Gibson model. If you want the classic single-cutaway body, they also have ’50s and ’60s Standard variants that are much cheaper. But you can also get an LP Custom by Epiphone, which is, in all honesty, one of the best bargains on the market. 

Epiphone’s Les Paul Modern guitars have incredible features for the price as well. This also includes coil-splitting, which can get you some Traditional Pro V tones.

But outside of Gibson and Epiphone, you could always get a PRS. Their SE Singlecuts are nothing but pure awesomeness, and they even come with better ergonomic traits. If you want a higher-end option, look at their CE line.

If you want to keep things budget-friendly, go with Harley Benton. In fact, I can’t recommend them enough. Their entire SC single-cut line is superb. And I could say the same for their DC series, which has some LP double-cut and SG-inspired bodies.


Conclusion

What’s important to note is that, from 2020 onward, the Gibson Les Paul Standard is, for the most part, what Traditional was in the past. There are some differences, but they’re now selling them under this same “Standard” model name with ’50s and ’60s variants, giving some diversity to the line.

If we’re looking at guitars up to 2019, there were some noticeable differences. Standards are lighter, and Traditionals, for the most part, can be a little weighty. Neck profiles and fretboard radiuses are the most significant differences, as they impact the feel. I’d recommend a Standard to anyone looking for a more versatile all-around guitar, while Traditional works the best for lovers of the old-school stuff and chunky necks.


FAQ

Why is Les Paul Traditional Cheaper than Standard?

For the most part, Les Paul Traditional models are slightly cheaper than Standards. This mainly comes down to these guitars having stripped-down features. The price differences, however, are slight.

Why Did Gibson Stop Making the Les Paul Traditional?

Like many of their Les Paul series, Traditionals come and go. Until 2019, the Les Paul Traditional was a simplified version of the Les Paul Standard without any coil-split or coil-tap controls and a chunkier neck.

Why are Les Paul Standards So Expensive?

Gibson guitars, in general, are relatively expensive. The same goes for the Les Paul Standard. What affects their prices the most is that they’re manufactured in the USA and are, for the most part, made by hand.

What is the Best Alternative to the Les Paul Standard?

There are plenty of great alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul Standard on the market. Which one is the “best” one comes down to your preferences. Some brands and models to consider include:

  • Epiphone Les Paul Modern
  • PRS SE and CE series
  • Harley Benton SC and DC
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard
  • Epiphone Les Paul Custom
  • ESP LTD EC-1000

Does the Traditional or Standard Model Offer the Classic Les Paul Sound?

Yes. Les Paul Traditional was a stripped-down alternative to the Les Paul Standard. For the most part, they sound almost identical. Both of the models are replicas of what Gibson did back in the 1950s and the 1960s, so they offer a relatively consistent classic LP sound.

Is the Les Paul Traditional or Standard Weight Relieved?

Most Les Pauls have weight relief. However, from 2019 onward, the Standard is without weight relief. Before 2019, Standards came with modern-style weight relief, while Traditional had old-school-style weight relief or no weight relief at all.

Which is Heavier, Les Paul Traditional or Standard?

In most cases, Traditional is slightly heavier than Standard. However, Standards made starting in 2019 and onward are without weight relief.

David Slavkovic

David has been playing guitar since 1998, David’s main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor. Expertise: electric guitars, guitar amplifiers, music theory, the guitar industry, metal, and rock. You can connect with David on LinkedIn or just email him.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments