Some people seem to have it all. The looks, talent, ability, popularity, etc. We all knew people like this back in high school. Everyone around them would stare in awe, thinking to themselves “why can’t I be more like they are?”. Well, today we are feature the electric guitar equivalent of that person: the Gibson SG “Les Paul” Custom Korina. It’s difficult to describe what exactly makes this guitar so perfect. It’s deceptively….simple. There’s little flash, no secret ingredient that sets it above the competition. Instead this guitar is a testament to what can be accomplished by taking a simple, elegant design, choosing the perfect materials, and nailing the execution.
In 1960, Gibson watched in horror as sales of the Les Paul slowed well below the numbers reached in previous years. Believing that the Les Paul as it was might be on its way out (hah), Gibson developed a new solid body electric guitar that addressed many of the complaints that had been aimed at their flagship model. A single piece slab mahogany body made the guitar far more streamlined than the original Les Paul. Shifting the neck joint down a few frets and adding a double cutaway allowed players much easier access to the upper register. Foregoing the maple cap and body binding of the original Les Paul also brought the cost down considerably.
With the designs finalized, Gibson was ready to release their new animal into the wild. In 1961 Gibson released their all new Les Paul Custom to great sales and positive feedback from musicians. There was only one problem: Les Paul himself still preferred the original Les Paul design, and asked Gibson not to put his name on their new guitar. Gibson decided on SG (short for Solid Guitar), but had so many “Les Paul” plates already built that SG guitars were sold for another 2 years with the “Les Paul” name on them!
The Gibson SG “Les Paul” Custom Korina featured here today is a faithful recreation of the original 1961 SG/Les Paul, but with one important difference…. the wood!
Since the SG design is so simple, the choice of tone wood is absolutely critical to the overall sound of the guitar. Gibson has traditionally used Mahogany as their main tone wood because of it’s warmth, depth, and sustain. Over the years, Gibson has also developed an affinity towards another tone wood: Korina. While never used as commonly as Mahogany (mostly due to its greater cost), Korina has become a sort of “holy grail” of tone for Gibson enthusiasts. While this Korina SG has many elements in common with its Mahogany brothers and sisters, there are some notable sonic differences that set it head and shoulders above its peers.
To my ears, most of what makes Korina sound special is happening in the upper midrange. A standard Mahogany SG has a great amount of warmth in the low end, and then a rather drastic spike to the treble frequencies. This leads to a rather binary guitar: the neck pickup is the warm sound, while bridge pickup is the sharp twangy sound. Korina on the other hand seems to have a more detailed bass response, with the majority of its articulation coming from the upper midrange rather than the ultra high end. This helps round out the sound of the guitar, regardless of which pickup you are using. The neck pickup has tons of depth, but still cuts through enough for lead work; even with the tone control down. Moving to the bridge pickup produces a more raw, cutting attack, yet never loses the sweetness or body of the lower end.
Having a beautiful sounding piece of wood for your guitar is half the battle, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t choose the right electronics to capture your tone. For the SG Les Paul Custom Korina, Gibson has chosen non other than the Classic ’57 Humbucker. Regular readers already know that this is my favorite Humbucking pickup, period. No other humbucker breaths quite like the ’57 Classic. They capture and articulate the subtlety of your slightest movements. I feel more contact with the guitar than other pickups allow.
Rounding out this fantastic instrument is a great set of details: an ebony fingerboard with block mother-of-pearl inlays, gold hardware, and split diamond headstock inlays. It’s a real head turner, no doubt about it.
There is something special about a guitar that achieves such simple perfection. If you like SG guitars, than take a serious look; there’s a very good chance that this is the nicest one you will ever play. Even if you haven’t been a fan of SGs in the past, this Korina Custom might just change your mind.
- Nevin Douglas
* 1 piece solid Korina body
* 1 21/32″ wide nut
* bound ebony fingerboard
* mother-of-pearl block fingerboard markers
* bound peghead with split diamond inlay
* slim elliptical neck profile
* gold plated Gibson Deluxe vintage style tuners
* three Gibson ’57 Classic humbucking pickups
* Faded Cherry nitro lacquer finish
* hardshell case