Gibson SG is a solid-body electric guitar model that was
introduced in 1961 (as the
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul SG) by Gibson, and
remains in production today with many variations on the initial design
available. The SG Standard is Gibson's best-selling model of all
3 Models and variations
4 Unique SGs
5 SG versus the Les Paul
6 Notable SG users
7 See also
9 External links
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul sales were significantly lower than in
previous years. The following year, the
Les Paul was
given a thinner, flat-topped mahogany body, a double cutaway which
made the upper frets more accessible, and a contoured body. The neck
joint was moved by three frets to further ease access to the upper
frets. The simpler body construction significantly reduced production
costs, and the new Les Paul, with its slender neck profile and small
heel was advertised as having the "fastest neck in the world".
However, the redesign was done without knowledge of
Les Paul himself
(who had nothing to do with it). Although the new guitar was popular,
Les Paul was unhappy with the new design, and requested the removal of
his name from the new model. He remained under contract to Gibson, and
was photographed with the new model several times.
Gibson honored Les Paul's request, and the new model was renamed "SG",
which stood for "Solid Guitar". Les Paul's name was officially deleted
in 1963, but the SG continued to feature
Les Paul nameplates and truss
rod covers until the end of 1963.
In the early-to-mid 1960s Gibson's parent corporation, Chicago Musical
Instruments, also revived the "Kalamazoo" brand name for a short time.
Later models of the Kalamazoo KG-1 and KG-2 featured a body style
similar to the Gibson SG, effectively creating a budget-line model
until the brand was dropped in the late 1960s. Gibson currently
releases lower-cost, internationally sourced versions of the SG
through their subsidiary, Epiphone.
Because of its ease of play, holding comfort, popularity and vintage
heritage, the body style of the SG is often copied by other
manufacturers, although much less frequently than the
Les Paul and the
The SG generally has a solid mahogany body, with a black pickguard.
The 24.75" scale mahogany neck joins the body at the 22nd fret. The
SG's set neck is shallower than the Gibson Les Pauls. The SG features
the traditional Gibson combination of two or three humbucker pickups
or P90 pickups and a
Tune-o-matic bridge assembly, wraparound bridge,
(or vibrato tailpiece, depending on the model).
The SG Standard features pearloid trapezoid fretboard inlays, as well
as fretboard binding and inlaid pearl "Gibson" logo and crown; the SG
Special features pearloid dot inlays and an inlaid pearl "Gibson"
logo, no crown. The Standard has a volume and a tone control for each
individual pickup, and a three-way switch that allows the player to
select either the bridge pickup, the neck pickup, or both together.
The SG does not include switching to coil split the humbuckers in
Some models use body woods other than mahogany; examples include the
swamp ash SG
Special SG Zoot Suit made using multiple birch wood
laminate and SG Voodoo, the 2009 Raw Power, and some walnut bodied
1970s models. High-end models, including the Diablo, occasionally
sport decorative maple caps, carved tops, and gold hardware.
Models and variations
1962 Les Paul Standard (SG Standard)
2007 SG '61 reissue
1963 SG Custom
Les Paul Custom '63 reissue
SG Pro (1971–72)
At the launch of the SG in 1961, Gibson offered four variants of the
SG; the SG Junior (a stripped-down version of the standard, analogous
Les Paul Junior), the SG Special, the SG Standard, and the
top-of-the-line SG Custom.
Special (batwing pickguard)
SG Supreme ⇒
However, Gibson's current core variants as of 2010 are the SG Standard
and the SG Special. Over the years, Gibson has offered many variations
of the SG, and continues to manufacture special editions, including
models such as the
Special and Faded Special, Supreme, Artist
Signature SGs, Menace, and Gothic, as well as the premium-priced VOS
reissues of the sixties SG Standard and Custom.
Models produced between 1961 and 1965 have the original small
pickguard; in 1966 the guitar was redesigned slightly with a different
neck joint, and the modern larger semi-symmetrical "batwing" pickguard
first appeared in 1966. This design continued until 1971, when
variations of the SG were sold with a raised
Les Paul style pickguard
and a front-mounted control plate. The low-end SG-100 and the P-90
equipped SG-200 appeared during this time, as well as the luxurious SG
Pro and SG Deluxe guitars.
Vibrato (tremolo arm) tailpieces were also
introduced as options.
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 seventies, the SG
models returned to the original sixties styling, and modern
(1991–present) standard and special models have mostly returned to
the 1967–1969 styling and construction, with a few exceptions;
various reissues and other models of the SG still retain the original
In 1979, a low-cost SG made of walnut wood was introduced called "The
SG." It had a clear finish and an ebony fingerboard and was
accompanied by low-cost "Les Paul" and "ES 335" type guitars. "The
Paul" was also made from walnut, but "The ES" was made out of solid
mahogany (rather than the semi-solid body they usually produced). All
three guitars were discontinued after about a year, replaced by the
"firebrand" series, again made of mahogany. Also in 1979 a limited
edition model, the SG Exclusive was produced. Visually similar to the
SG Standard of the time, the special features included an ebony
fretboard, two Dirty Fingers humbucker pickups, and a master volume,
two tone controls, and rotary coil tap that gradually eliminated one
coil from each humbucker. The finish was black with cream color
plastics and the truss rod cover read "Exclusive".
Gibson SG with a Peavey amplifier.
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 SG-R1 was renamed the "SG Artist" in 1981, and was discontinued
shortly afterwards. Approximately 200 active SGs were produced.
In 2008, Gibson introduced the Robot SG, which feature a motorized
tuning system developed by Tronical. Limited-edition variants include
the SG Robot
Special and the limited-edition Robot SG LTD. 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; however, they also carry a significant price
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. The year 2009
also brought the
Guitar Center-exclusive SG Standard with Coil Taps
available in both 50s and 60s style necks.
In 2013 Gibson released the new
Gibson SG Baritone. This SG comes in
Alpine white and has 24 frets. It comes tuned down two and a half
steps to B-E-A-D-F#-B. It is made with a full mahogany body, Richlite
fretboard 496R (Ceramic) Bridge Position 500T (Ceramic) pickups and a
Gibson's EB-3, EB-0, EDS-1275, and later model of Melody Maker and
Kalamazoo also shared or once shared SG-shaped bodies, but these are
not the members of the SG family.
Epiphone also offers a range of value-priced models, including a model
with 1960s styling, sold as the G-400. These models often feature
simpler construction than their Gibson counterparts, although they
also often implement a number of features missing from production
Gibson models; examples include the period-correct 1961 SG Special's
wraparound bridge (unavailable on any
Gibson SG Special
Gibson SG Special production
model as of 2013), the 22" scale SG Express, the metal-oriented
Prophecy line (equipped with high-output humbuckers and unique
inlays), and a replica of the Gibson EDS-1275, popularized by Jimmy
Eric Clapton's The Fool (replica)
Tony Iommi's SG
Angus Young SG model
Angus Young of
AC/DC has been popularly known to use the SG. He
occasionally uses a custom-made SG with lightning-bolt inlays, however
the original was made by Jaydee guitars. Since then, Young has
collaborated with Gibson to make the
Angus Young SG which features a
Humbucker in the bridge position, a '57 Classic in the
neck position and the lightning-bolt inlays.
Robby Krieger of
The Doors used a
Gibson SG Standard starting in 1965.
Gibson produced a limited run of 150 Inspired By SG's which
incorporate many of Krieger's favorite components of various SG's.
Eric Clapton used a 1964
Gibson SG Standard 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, an associate 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.
Tony Iommi of
Black Sabbath owns several custom-made black left-handed
Gibson SGs with white cross-shaped fretboard inlays.
a similar guitar as the
Tony Iommi G-400. Iommi's original SG (used
on the early Sabbath albums) was a cherry red, left-handed 1965 SG
John Cipollina of
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Quicksilver Messenger Service used a custom Gibson
SG with custom pickguards in the shape of bat-like figures, as well as
the fret board being customized with unique patterns.
Music Machine made a limited run of 20 Stinger SG's in 2003. Ten were
standards and ten were customs.
Mike Ness of
Social Distortion played a black SG in the late 70s and
early 80s, with the
Social Distortion logo on it, as well as a white
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts bumper sticker. It can be seen on the
cover of the compilation album Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past.
Mike Oldfield used a modified 1963 SG with a guitar synthesizer pickup
to control a Roland GR300 Module for some of his guitar sounds on his
1980s albums such as 1983's Crises (including "Shadow on the Wall"),
1984's Discovery (including the title track) and 1987's Islands
(including "The Wind Chimes") as well as single-only tracks from this
period such as 1984's "In The Pool" and 1986's "Shine".
In 1992, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced a "premium plus" reissue of
the '67 SG. There was an estimated run of 100 of these instruments. It
included three '57 humbuckers, ABR-1 bridge, ebony fingerboard, slim
tapered neck and a mother-of-pearl block. There were no certificates
issued from Gibson on this particular run.
In 1998 Gibson introduced a rarer, higher-specification version of the
SG Special—The SG
Special Limited Edition. It came with an ebony
fingerboard, factory gold hardware, and two gold array Humbuckers, and
included a Gibson gigbag.
SG versus the Les Paul
The SG has a thinner, and more contoured body than the Les Paul,
making it much lighter and more comfortable. The lighter, thinner,
one-layer body means the SG, unlike the Les Paul, is particularly
applicable for harmonic feedback playing techniques. The SG's neck
profile is typically shallower than that of the Les Paul, though this
varies between production years and individual guitars. The SG also
lacks the carved maple top and body binding of the Les Paul. Unlike
the Les Paul's neck, which joins the body at the 16th fret, the SG's
neck joins the body at the 22nd fret, which allows easier access to
higher frets. This also makes the neck joint somewhat flexible, and
players have exploited this factor in extended techniques by shaking
the guitar to induce a vibrato effect as
Pete Townshend at the 1970
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight festival. Despite the differences in body design, the SG
Les Paul models share similar electronics and controls. The sound
of the SG is often described as having more "bite" (midrange emphasis)
than a Les Paul.
Notable SG users
Main article: List of Gibson players
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul Special—the first model named "
Gibson SG Special"
Gibson SG Special
Gibson SG Junior
^ Hunter, Dave (2017-06-30). "Classic Gear: The 1962 Gibson Les
Paul/SG". Retrieved 2017-10-11. Although it still carried the Les Paul
Standard model name in Gibson’s 1961 catalog, the guitar that would
soon be known simply as the SG was an entirely different beast.
^ "The Best-Selling Gibson of All Time: The SG Standard". .gibson.com.
2009-04-14. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
^ Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter. Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars: An
Identification Guide for American Fretted
Instruments. [page needed]
Note: although 22nd fret joint is seen on early models (1961–1966)
and current models (1986–), historically 17th, 18th, and 19th fret
joint models were manufactured during 1967–1985.
Guitar History Volume 2, Gibson SG, P. 28
Epiphone SG G-400". Epiphone.com.
Epiphone SG Express". Epiphone.com.
Epiphone G-1275 Custom". Epiphone.com.
^ Gibson website article Archived October 8, 2011, at the Wayback
Tony Iommi G-400". Epiphone.com.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gibson SG.
Details on SGs used by Pete Townshend
BBC News item regarding George Harrison's Gibson SG
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