Gibson Les Paul vs ES-335: What’s the Difference?


The Les Paul and ES-335 are two of the most iconic guitars produced by the guitar manufacturing giant, Gibson. But what’s the difference between them? Do they sound and feel different? 

In this article, I’ll be going through a complete comparison between the two guitars in terms of their anatomy, sound, feel, looks and specs. So let’s get started!

A Quick Comparison

The Les Paul has a solid body design, whereas the ES-335 is a semi-hollow body guitar. This means the Les Paul is more versatile, suffers less from feedback and has better sustain. The ES-335 has a warmer tone which is more resonant. Les Paul are used for pretty much any genre of music, whereas ES-335 guitars are mainly used for blues and jazz. 

If you’re just interested in the specs, then check out the table below to compare all the key features between the standard versions of the Gibson Les Paul and ES-335. 

FeatureLes Paul ES-335
Body TypeSolid BodySemi-Hollow Body
Body WoodMahoganyMaple
PickupsTwo HumbuckersTwo Humbuckers
Neck ShapeRounded C-ShapeRounded C-Shape
Neck WoodMahoganyMahogany
Neck ConstructionSet NeckSet Neck
Frets2222
Fretboard WoodRosewoodRosewood
Scale Length24.75″24.75″
BridgeFixedFixed
Number of Tone Knobs22
Weight9-12 pounds (4.1-5.4 kg)8 pounds (3.6 kg)

Sound

The Gibson Les Paul and ES-335 models sound  different from one another due to the differences in body type. The Les Paul has a solid body design, whereas the ES-335 is a semi-hollow body electric guitar. 

This means the Les Paul has better sustain, and less feedback when you’re using distortion or high volume amplifiers. It’s very versatile and can play pretty much anything from metal to jazz.

The ES-335 has a warmer tone that focuses more on bass frequencies. You’ll get less sustain, and more noticeable feedback at high volumes and gain. The ES-335 is less versatile, and generally suits clean or overdriven tones compared to distorted one. It tends to be used more for jazz and blues than rock and metal. 

Feel 

The ES-335 and Les Paul are very different shapes. The Les Paul is much smaller than the ES-335 so will feel less bulky. The LP is heavier though. 

Both guitars have pretty thick and rounded necks which suit some players very well. However, it does mean they aren’t that quick to play on, so shredding can be an issue for some players. They also aren’t usually the best option for players with smaller hands. 

Look

The Gibson ES-335 has a much larger body than the Les Paul. The ES-335 has a semi-hollow design so you’ll notice that small sections called “f-holes” are cut out of the front of the body. The Les Paul has a solid body design instead. 

semi-hollow electric guitar
Here you can see the "f-holes" commonly seen on hollow and semi-hollow electric guitars.

Key Differences

Now we’ve been through an overview of the specs, and the differences in terms of sound, look and feel, I’ll move onto the more specific differences and similarities in terms of the anatomy of each electric guitar. 

Body

The main difference between the Les Paul and ES-335 is the body type. The Les Paul has a solid body design, whereas the ES-335 has a semi-hollow body. 

Of course, this means that the ES-335 is more closely related to an acoustic model than a Les Paul is. The result, is that the ES-335 has a warmer and more bassy tone. This is well suited to clean amp settings, or ones with a touch of grit, and makes it a great option for jazz and blues.

The Les Paul has better sustain and a more versatile and balanced tone. It also doesn’t suffer from feedback issues like the ES-335 does, making the LP a better option if you play hard rock or heavy metal. 

Check out this post I’ve written that addresses the difference between semi-hollow and solid body guitars for some more information. 

Tone Wood

Another pretty big difference between the Les Paul and ES-335, is in the tone wood. 

The Les Paul has a mahogany body, whereas the ES-335 has a maple body. Mahogany tends to give you better sustain and a warmer thicker sound. Maple on the other hand, is very heavy and dense, meaning it produces a brighter sound.

This tends not to have a great impact on the tone though, because it’s used to balance the effect of the body type (solid and semi-hollow).

The maple body on the ES-335 makes it sound a bit brighter to balance out how warm the semi-hollow design makes the guitar sound. 

Check out this post on how the tone wood affects the sound of an electric guitar to learn more about this topic. 

Price and Options

There are also the different models to consider when comparing these two guitars.

Both guitars are produced by Gibson and Epiphone. 

The Les Paul comes in 7 main variations:

  • Modern 
  • Classic
  • Studio
  • Slash 
  • Junior
  • Tribute
  • Standard ’50s
  • Standard ’60s

The ES-335 comes in several main variations as well:

  • Standard ’50s
  • Standard ’60s
  • Dot
  • Reissue
  • Pro 
  • Riviera 

Epiphone Les Paul guitars start from around $150 and go up to around $800. Gibson Les Paul’s start from around $900 and go up to several thousand for a custom shop guitar.

Epiphone ES-335 models start from around $400 and go up to around $700.  Gibson ES-335 models start from around $1600 and go up to several thousands for a custom shop. 

If you’re looking for a great price, then check out Guitar Center. When purchasing my electric guitar, I tried it in store but then ordered it online because the price and colour options were better. Don’t be afraid to purchase a guitar online, as long as you pick a well-renowned shop like Guitar Center, then you’ll be completely fine. 

Key Similarities

Although the ES-335 and Les Paul are very different in sound, look and feel, there are several key similarities. Here’s a quick guide.

  • Both guitars have two humbucker pickups
  • A rounded C-shape neck is seen on most models
  • The neck wood is mahogany on both guitars and the fretboard is made of rosewood
  • Both guitars have 22 frets and a 24.75″ scale length
  • A fixed bridge is seen on both guitars
  • You’ll get 2 tone and 2 volume controls (one for each pickup) on both the ES-335 and LP

Frequently Asked Questions

Now you know all about the anatomy of each guitar, here are some FAQs that you may still have.

Which is best for a beginner?

Generally, the Les Paul is a better guitar for a beginner compared to an ES-335. This is because the Les Paul is more versatile, and starts at a lower price point. Most players will also find the design of the LP easier to learn on. However, if you’re more into jazz, then you may prefer the ES-335 even if you’re a complete beginner.

 

Which is more versatile?

The Les Paul is more versatile than the ES-335. This is because the Les Paul has a solid body design, with a balanced tone that doesn’t suffer from feedback issues. This makes it great for anything from jazz to metal. The ES-335 has a hollow body design, making it more suited to cleaner tones so works better for rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and blues better than it does for heavier genres. 

Which is Best for metal or hard rock?

The Les Paul is a better option for metal than the ES-335, because it suffers much less from feedback issues. The semi-hollow design of the ES-335 makes it susceptible to feedback at high gain and volumes, so it’s not the best option for metal. 

Which is best for blues?

The Les Paul and ES-335 are both great guitars for blues. If you prefer a warmer tone, then you may prefer the ES-335.  But if you need something with more sustain and a more balanced tone, then the Les Paul will be a better option. 

 

Rounding Things Off

So hopefully now you feel like an expert when it comes to the differences and similarities between the Gibson Les Paul and Gibson ES-335. If you’re still torn between the two, then go and try them both at a guitar store and see which one you lean towards. Check out this ultimate guide to testing a guitar to make the most of your trip!

Like I mentioned earlier though, don’t be afraid to purchase a guitar online. It’s what I tend to do as you can often get a better price. Check out Guitar Center to find some great deals. 

 

So there you go! That’s an in-depth comparison between the Gibson Les Paul and ES-335. I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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