The Les Paul is one of the most popular and iconic electric guitars of all time. It’s used by countless famous guitarists, sounds incredible and looks stunning, so it’s no wonder that many beginner guitarists select a Les Paul as their first guitar.
The only problem, is that there are so many different versions of the LP by Epiphone and Gibson, that it can be hard to decide which model to choose. In this article I’ll highlight the best Les Paul models for beginners to help you narrow down your search.
Best Les Paul Guitars for Beginners:
- Epiphone Les Paul Special-II E1
- Epiphone Les Paul Junior
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio
- Epiphone Les Paul ’60s Standard
- Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute
- Gibson Les Paul Tribute
Epiphone Les Paul Special-II E1
First up on the list is the very affordable Epiphone Les Paul Special II E1. This is actually Epiphone’s best selling guitar and for good reason. The low price-point makes it excellent for beginner players to get started.
It’s not just the affordability that makes this guitar a good choice though. It also has a nice SlimTaper C shape neck which is pretty universally comfortable, and the Epiphone 650R/ 700T pickups sound really nice for such an inexpensive model.
There are a couple of features that get sacrificed here compared to some of the more expensive models on this list, the most notable being that you only get a master tone and volume control (rather than a tone and volume control for each pickup).
There’s no maple cap on the mahogany body either which gives the guitar a pretty basic looking finish. You’ll also find that it has a bolt-on neck (rather than a glued-in set neck) which means the guitar doesn’t sound as resonant.
- Affordable option
- Comfortable slim C-shape neck
- Good pickups for the price
- No maple cap
- Bolt-on neck
- Fewer tone/ volume controls
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II E1.
Epiphone Les Paul Junior
Next up is the Epiphone Les Paul Junior which is the more affordable version of the Gibson LP Junior at around 1/3 of the price.
The Junior has a single P-90 pickup in the bridge position instead of two humbuckers which sounds bright and punchy. With it just having one pickup and a single tone and volume control, it’s nice and easy for beginners to operate, but does limit the tonal options.
Again on this guitar you get a nice SlimTaper neck profile which most players get on well with. You also get some nice upgraded features compared to the Special II, including a set-neck, translucent finish and better tuning machines.
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Epiphone Les Paul Junior.
- Easy to use
- Set-neck construction
- SlimTaper neck
- Limited tonal options
- Only one color option
Epiphone Les Paul Studio
Now we’re getting onto what I would consider the best value Epiphone Les Paul in the range, the Studio model.
The ’60s SlimTaper neck feels super comfortable and the ultra-modern weight relief makes this guitar more manageable for longer periods of time.
In terms of the tone, the Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers sound exactly as you’d expect, giving you those warm, full LP tones.
You also get independent volume and tone controls for each pickup and a push/ pull coil split option to get single-coil type tones from the humbuckers, which makes this super versatile so new players can really figure out what kinds of tones they enjoy.
Other upgrades that you’ll find on the studio are Grover Rotomatic tuners (seen on Gibson LP model), and a nice maple cap.
You don’t get any of the super iconic color options here (e.g. Heritage Cherry Sunburst), but you do get quite a few more modern looking options such as Wine Red and Alpine White as shown below.
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Epiphone Les Paul Studio.
- SlimTaper neck
- Ultra-Modern weight relief
- Coil split option
- Modern styling may not be to everyone’s taste
- Not the cheapest Epiphone model
Epiphone Les Paul ’60s Standard
If you want the iconic Les Paul look, tone and features, but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on your first guitar, then the Epiphone Les Paul ’60s Standard is your best option.
You get an AA Flame Maple top which looks beautiful, gold inserts on the controls, as well as cream binding on the body and neck. This is in my opinion, the best looking Epiphone guitar available.
This Les Paul comes loaded with ProBucker 2 and 3 pickups which have that iconic vintage PAF tone, but are slightly hotter meaning you can get plenty of dirt and grit out of them, perfect for blues and rock tones.
You can also go for the similar ’50s Standard version, but most beginners will find the slimmer feeling neck on the ’60s version a bit more comfortable, unless you have huge hands.
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Epiphone Les Paul ’60s Standard.
- AA Flame Maple top
- Great sounding pickups
- Comfortable neck profile
- Expensive for an Epiphone
- Made in China (not in the USA like a true Gibson Les Paul)
Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute
The least expensive Gibson Les Paul available is the Special Tribute, and the only one that comes in at less than $1000.
What you get with a Gibson LP over an Epiphone is a guitar that is made in Nashville, Tennessee rather than in China. Guitars made in the USA use more premium materials and are crafted with more attention to detail giving you a higher quality instrument.
Given the price point, this is a real stripped back Les Paul without the fancy maple cap or unique burst finishes. The tone is incredible though, as you get Gibson’s 490R/T combination for those smooth, vintage PAF humbucker tones.
This guitar does have a “rounded” neck profile that is considerably thicker than the “Slim Taper” profile used on most of the other LP models on this list. If you have smaller hands then you might find this profile to be a bit uncomfortable, but for larger hands it’s a great option.
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute.
- Made in the USA
- A true Gibson Les Paul
- Vintage PAF humbucker tone
- Rounded neck isn’t ideal for small hands
- Stripped back appearance
Gibson Les Paul Tribute
This is the most expensive guitar on the list and for a lot of beginners, it will be way out of budget. However, if you have over $1000 to play with, this is one of the best value Gibson Les Paul guitars available.
This guitar comes with all the iconic color choices including Cherry Sunburst and Iced Tea, so it’s instantly recognisable as a true Gibson LP. The differences between the Tribute and more expensive Standard models, is that the finish is satin (rather than gloss) and it has a flat maple top (rather than a flame maple cap), so it doesn’t look as flashy. However, it does cost about $1000 less.
The “rounded” neck profile may not be the best for beginners with smaller hands, but it does give you that true chunky neck that you’d typically associate with a Les Paul.
Like the Special Tribute, this LP comes loaded with a set of 490R/T pickups which are ideal for rock ‘n’ roll and blues.
Here’s a link to Amazon so you can check the current price of the Gibson Les Paul Tribute.
- Iconic color options
- Vintage PAF humbucker tones
- Good value for a Gibson
- Expensive for a beginner
- Rounded neck isn’t ideal for small hands
- No flame maple cap
Is a Les Paul Good for Beginners?
Les Paul guitars are a great choice for beginners because they are well-made, sound great and have that iconic look that makes you want to keep picking the guitar up to play it.
Epiphone have so many options available for beginners who are looking for an affordable Les Paul to start with, and they offer very good value for money. If you are a beginner with a bigger budget, there is nothing wrong with paying for a Gibson Les Paul as your first guitar because they sound and look incredible and are very well-built.
They also have an excellent resale value, so if you just can’t get into it then you can recuperate a lot of the money you spent on the instrument.
I know a player who purchased a Gibson Les Paul Standard as his very first guitar 15 years ago and doesn’t regret the decision one bit. He wanted a guitar that he didn’t feel like he’d want to get rid of after a year of playing.
Moral of the story, if you have the money to spend, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t buy an expensive guitar as a beginner.
Check out my in-depth comparison between Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls