As many classic designs and groundbreaking innovations as Gibson can already lay claim to, the company is never happy to just rest on its laurels. While plenty of players enjoy our legendary guitars in their seminal forms, Gibson USA knows that even an iconic model like the Les Paul can sometimes be better adapted to the needs of 21st century guitarists, and we never stop working to deliver the kinds of performance-based options that will make your own Gibson the very best it can be for you.

Gibson Les Paul

The advent of Ultra-Modern Weight Relief marks one such major step toward making our Gibson USA offerings for 2017 more appealing in every way. Gibson has honed the art of weight-relieving over the course of several years, and many of our past models have already benefited from the creative use of this manufacturing technique. Ultra-Modern Weight Relief takes it to the next level, and helps Gibson USA to produce a range of Les Pauls with optimum resonance and sustain, enabling a more comfortable playing experience without sacrificing any of the desirable traditional characteristics of classic Les Paul tone.

Sweet Relief

Once upon a time, hefting a 12-pound guitar on stage was seen as “the mark of a real man.” Today, most players realize that that kind of agony just isn’t necessary, and that weight does not necessarily equate to sustain or a “heavier”, meatier sound. Weight-relieving provides a solution to the ache of strapping on a heavy guitar, and the vast majority of guitarists who experience this boon are extremely glad to have the manufacturing technique in use.

“In my heart of hearts I really think that weight relieving is the right thing to do,” says Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola. “It’s just a good thing. It costs us extra time and effort to do it, so we’re not saving anything. It’s an expense on our part, but we feel good about doing it.”

The Benefits of Ultra-Modern

Ultra-Modern Weight Relief differs from the other techniques Gibson USA has used, and occasionally continues to use (which are detailed below), in that it is the ultimate refinement of the drive to reduce weight while retaining and enhancing the traditional sonic characteristics of one of the world’s most desirable electric guitars.

According to DeCola, Ultra-Modern Weight Relief was developed as an advancement of our already successful Modern Weight Relief through a slight yet carefully calculated offsetting of the chambers around the perimeters of the guitar’s body to lighten the load further, without impeding resonant characteristics. “Like the Modern Weight relief,” says DeCola, “it’s engineered to provide a solid core through the center of the guitar to retain the classic Les Paul sound. Unlike a full chambered design, this will be less prone to feedback or effecting the tonality and resonance of the guitar.”

Who will benefit from this innovative new construction technique? Plenty of players, no doubt, given Ultra-Modern Weight Relief’s considerable advantages, and negligible downsides. “It was designed in response from players who are looking for the classic Les Paul feel and sound,” says DeCola, “but who desire a lighter weight guitar. It’s ideally suited for live playing situations, when weight is an issue.”

Chambered Guitars

One means of “lightening the load,” as practiced by Gibson and other makers, involves full-on chambering of the body. Achieved by routing large, oval chambers either side of the central core where the bridge and pickups are mounted, chambering has resulted in the lightest Les Pauls made. “This is the most dramatic technique,” says DeCola, “and results in a guitar that almost has more of an acoustic resonance to it.”

In some cases, this type of weight relief is still desirable—where players are looking for a “semi-solid” sound and response, which is essentially the next step up on the solidity scale from a semi-hollow guitar like an ES-335. Fully chambered guitars, however, are more prone to feedback in high-volume, high-gain situations, and therefore aren’t best suited to such playing, unless you’re able to kerb those tendencies on stage.

Traditional Weight Relief

The longest standing of such techniques, Traditional Weight Relief (as still used on the 2017 Les Paul Classic and Les Paul Tribute, for example) involves routing nine round holes in a Les Paul’s mahogany body before the maple top is attached. The holes are strategically placed around the body, with the majority in the lower and upper bouts on the bass-side of the guitar, along with a hole on the treble side of the pickups. The result, DeCola says, “is a guitar that’s lighter than a non-weight-relieved guitar, but which still has some weight to it and feels solid.”

Modern Weight Relief

The predecessor to Ultra-Modern, Modern Weight Relief—as used on the 2012 Les Paul Standard, for example, and others available at that time—was introduced as a means of achieving significant weight relief while maintaining a body rigidity that combats feedback at any volume. In this process, Gibson routes multiple smaller elliptical sound-chambers inside the mahogany body, while leaving it more solid around the business area of the guitar: the pickups and bridge area.

Which is Best for You?

All of these techniques have their benefits, and their fans. But Gibson USA views the new Ultra-Modern Weight Relief as the top of the heap for achieving the peak ratio of playing-comfort to sonic-veracity. For that reason, we’re proud to employ it on many of our flagship models, including as the Les Paul Standard T and HP, and the Les Paul Studio T and HP. Ultimately, building a guitar with any form of weight relief involves more work than building without, and it certainly isn’t a cost-saving technique—quite the opposite, in fact. But as Jim DeCola says, “we feel good about doing it.” We’re confident you’ll feel good about playing a great 2017 Gibson USA guitar with our new Ultra-Modern Weight Relief.