A Guide to 2019 Gibson Les Pauls: Traditional vs Classic

In this article, we’ll be looking at the differences between the Gibson Les Paul Traditional and the Gibson Les Paul Classic. The names of both these guitars do sound similar and even to look at, there aren’t a great many differences. However, given that there is a few hundred quid difference between the Traditional and the Classic, you would expect that there are features that set them apart. And you’d be right.

Les Paul Traditional

Les Paul Classic
Pickups Burstbuckers 1 & 2 (Alnico #2)
Volume & tone knobs handwired with orange drop capacitors
Burstbucker zebra 61 R & T
Coil tap
Neck Rounded Profile
12″ fingerboard radius
Slim Taper
12″ fingerboard radius
Body No weight relief 9-hole weight relief
Features Vintage keystone style tuners
Grade AA figured maple top
Tektoid nut
Includes hard case
Kidney Grover tuners
Plain maple top
Coil tap pickups
Push pull tone knobs for phase/pure bypass
Includes hard case

What’s The Difference?

Both these guitars are classic (with a small c) Les Pauls in the sense that they both hark back to guitars of days gone by. However, given that they’re fitted with different pickup sets, they do have different tonal characteristics. To put it very simply, the 2019 Les Paul Traditional is inspired those all-hallowed late 50s models, whereas the Classic is inspired more by Gibsons (SGs as we’d know them now) of the 60s.

9-hole weight relief vs no weight relief

Aside from the different pickups, the Les Paul Classic has a Slim Taper neck profile (closer to a 60s profile) which is really comfortable, especially for faster players whereas the Les Paul Traditional has a chunkier, Rounded neck profile – as they were in the late 50s. The Les Paul Classic has kidney Grover machine heads (similar to the ones some players swapped their keystone tuners for in the 60s) – the Traditional has got 50s style, keystone tuners. The Traditional also has no weight relief, whereas the Classic does. This means that the Classic will be a little lighter, which is definitely something to consider. In theory, the Traditional not having any weight relief, will mean that it sustains a little more, though that’s very much up for debate (you could argue that more air within the body of the Classic gives it a little extra resonance). Both guitars also come with a great quality hard case.

The Sound

Probably the biggest factor in an electric guitar’s sound is its pickups, which differ on these two models. The pickups in the Traditional are Burstbuckers 1 & 2, which have been designed to sound very similar to the original PAF humbuckers that helped make the Les Pauls of the late 50s so famous. It has a huge, beefy, full tone, that is rich and articulate. If you’re inspired by some of the great ’59 players, then the Traditional is the one to look at.

PAF-style humbuckers in the Les Paul Traditional

The 2019 Les Paul Classic is fitted with a pair of Burstbucker 61 rhythm and treble pickups. These are modern representations of the later era of the PAF pickup that helped create that iconic Gibson sound we all know and love. They use Alnico V magnets (as opposed to Alnico II on the Traditional), and to my ears, they’re a little more aggressive than the Burstbucker 1 & 2s, as well as being a touch brighter and have a little more attack. Playing through a Vox AC15, the Traditional was a little sweeter sounding, and seemed to have more harmonic overtones ringing out – whether that’s a result of the pickups, the wood, or other factors is subject for debate. Personally, I prefer the sound of lower output pickups, so for me, the Traditional would be what I’d gravitate towards, however, the Classic has everything you’d want in a Les Paul too.

It’s worth talking about the coil tap function on the Les Paul Classic too. If you lift up the volume knobs, you can basically make your humbuckers sound more like single coils. Having the coil tap function on this guitar does mean it’s really versatile – need a different sound for one part of a song during a gig? Just engage the coil tap and you’ve got it right there, without any pedals, or extra guitars. The Les Paul Traditional does not have this feature, though that’s how many purists want it.


Both the Les Paul Traditional and the Les Paul Classic are takes on a legendary guitar and are suitable for a huge range of music. Put crudely, the Traditional is like a late 50s Les Paul, and the classic is inspired by the Les Pauls (SGs) of the 60s. The guitars do sound different, though the difference isn’t huge. I’d say that more differences lie in the features – different neck profiles, weight relief, coil tap pickups etc. The Classic, in terms, of sound, is probably more versatile, but the Traditional is as close as you will get to a ’59 Les Paul without paying extra for a Custom Shop Reissue. It has a fantastic, rich tone, and will certainly please those looking for that hallowed Les Paul sound. Despite the differences between the Traditional and the Classic, both are incredible guitars, and classics in their own right.


  • David Peter Makowski

    I have been playing Gibson Les Paul Standards and Customs over the past 40 years. I have owned a 2002 Gibson Les Paul Classic Tobacco Sunburst and I currently own a very early 2019 Gibson Les Paul Classic Honey Burst. I do own a Gibson Les Paul Standard from 2013 and that one is my favorite. I really like the Classics for the neck shape, the tone of the pickups, and the ABR-1 Bridge and Aluminum Tailpiece. Given a choice between a Traditional and a Classic I would choose the Classic for the above stated reasons.

  • Craig Sanderson

    I have a 2018 Les Paul classic satin tea burst finish
    No weight relief 57 alnico ll pickup and 57 plus in the
    Bridge. The neck is more of a 59 rounded c shape definitely not a slim taper and not a chunky 58. It sounds and plays like a traditional. It should have been called a traditional classic. It does have the push pull volume pots. I have replaced The Nashville Tune-O- Matic with a Faber locking ABR style and 59 tail piece and the original owner replaced the Kluson tuners with locking Hip Shot. Best Les Paul I’ve ever played.