Les Paul vs SG: What are the Differences?

The Gibson SG and Les Paul models are two of the most iconic electric guitars produced by the American brand. Since, their release, Epiphone have also come out with a range of Les Paul and SG guitars which are inspired by the classic Gibson designs. In this article, I’ll compare the tone, design, look, feel and models available of both guitars, so you can decide if an SG, or a Les Paul, is the best guitar for you.

The Quick Answer

The Les Paul has a heavier, single cutaway body, compared to the SG which has a thin double cutaway body. The Les Paul sounds warmer and fuller than the SG which has a more pronounced mid-range. Both guitars have a 24.75″ scale length, 22 frets, fixed bridges and usually have humbuckers pickups.

Comparing Models

Before we jump into any more detail, I wanted to show you the features and specifications of both guitars so you can quickly identify the differences.

I’ve chosen the Gibson Les Paul Standard and Gibson SG Standard for comparison, and the Epiphone Standard versions of both models. Epiphone are owned by Gibson, so although they make much more affordable models, they are still “real” versions. There are other models in both Gibson and Epiphone’s ranges which have slightly different features, so I’ll highlight those later in this article.

Gibson Les Paul vs SG

FeatureGibson Les PaulGibson SG
Body ShapeSingle CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodMahoganyMahogany
Maple Cap/ TopYesNo
PickupsTwo HumbuckersTwo Humbuckers
Neck ShapeRounded CRounded
Neck WoodMahoganyMahogany
Neck ConstructionSet-NeckSet-Neck
Neck StabilityFixedFlexible
Fretboard WoodRosewoodRosewood
Scale Length24.75”24.75”
Controls2 vol, 2 tone2 vol, 2 tone
Pickup Selector3-way3-way
Pickup Selector LocationUpper HornLower Horn
Weight9 pounds (4.1 kg)6 pounds (2.7 kg)
Body Thickness2.38 (6 cm)1.34” (3.4 cm)
Gibson Les Paul vs SG

Epiphone Les Paul vs SG

FeatureEpiphone Les Paul Standard ‘60sEpiphone SG Standard
Body ShapeSingle CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodMahoganyMahogany
Maple Cap/ TopYesNo
PickupsTwo HumbuckersTwo Humbuckers
Neck ShapeRounded CRounded
Neck WoodMahoganyMahogany
Neck ConstructionSet-NeckSet-Neck
Neck StabilityFixedFlexible
Fretboard WoodIndian LaurelIndian Laurel
Scale Length24.75”24.75”
Controls2 vol, 2 tone2 vol, 2 tone
Pickup Selector3-way3-way
Pickup Selector LocationUpper HornLower Horn
Weight8 pounds (3.6 kg)6.3 pounds (2.9 kg)
Body Thickness2” (5 cm)1.34” (3.4 cm)
Epiphone Les Paul vs SG

Tone Differences

Despite having a lot of similarities e.g. pickups, tone wood, scale length etc., the Les Paul and SG do sound different. It’s important to note that each model may sound slightly different, the main cause is due to the pickups, so if you’re ever comparing the tone of these two guitars, that’s something to look for to make sure you’re comparing like-for-like. However if you take the variables out of the equation, here’s the difference.

The Les Paul has a fuller and warmer sound with more bass and low-mid range frequency emphasis than the SG. The SG has more mid-range emphasis in comparison to the SG. The Les Paul is usually more resonant and has better sustain compared to the SG, due to the thicker body.

The differences are mainly caused by the following:

  • The Les Paul has a much thicker body than the SG, giving it more sustain and resonance capabilities.
  • The Les Paul has a maple cap which contributes to some of its brightness and almost “scooped” mid-range compared to the SG. The Les Paul still sounds fuller, due to it’s heavier body. The SG does not sound overly bright, as it has a mahogany body without a maple cap.
  • Arguably, the Les Paul has the potential to sound a bit “muddy” due to the emphasis on the low-end frequencies, compared to the SG, although amp settings will play a huge factor in this.

Tonal Versatility

Both the SG and Les Paul are very versatile due to their controls, and humbucker pickups. They are often best suited to rock ‘n’ roll, but can play anything from metal to blues.

What’s interesting about the SG, is that it has a “flexible” neck in comparison to the Les Paul. You can essentially push and pull the SG neck backwards and forwards slightly, to create a vibrato effect, similar to what you’d experience when using a tremolo arm on something like a Stratocaster, but far less dramatic. The neck on the Les Paul is a lot more rigid, so this isn’t really a possibility.

Here is a video comparing the tone of the Les Paul and SG using various amp settings and pedals back-to-back. I’ve set the video to start at the correct moment so you won’t need to scrub around for the right section.

Look and Feel

Although the tones of a Les Paul and SG are not dramatically different, the playability definitely is. Both guitars have a very different feel to them, and will feel a lot more comfortable to some players than others.

The SG is a much lighter guitar than the Les Paul and it is easier to access the upper frets on the SG compared to the Les Paul, due to its double cutaway design. However, the SG can be a bit “neck heavy”, causing it to tilt down more at the headstock than the Les Paul when playing stood up.

Main Differences:

  • The strap-button on the SG is located on the back of the body, close to the neck of the guitar. On the Les Paul, the strap-button is located on the upper horn of the guitar on the side. This causes the Les Paul to tilt upwards slightly at the headstock when playing stood up, which makes it easier for a lot of players to handle.
  • The strap-lock positioning, causes the SG to feel more offset towards the neck, when playing stood up, and even when sat down, it can feel like this depending on where the guitar is sitting on the leg. This suits players with long arms more, but may feel a bit more of a reach for shorter arms.
  • The SG neck feels a lot of flexible than the Les Paul. The “built-in whammy bar” on the SG’s neck feels more bendy, compared to the rigid feel of the Les Paul.
  • Both the Les Paul and SG usually have rounded C-shape necks, but the SG neck can feel a bit closer to a D-shape on some models. In terms of thickness, it really depends on the exact model in question, as some Les Paul’s have thicker and thinner necks in comparison.
  • The SG has better upper fret access due to its double-cutaway design and the fact the neck and body join at the 22nd fret. The Les Paul has a single cutaway design which restricts upper fret access, as the upper horn meets the neck at the 16th fret, and the lower horn meets the neck at the 18th fret.
  • The Les Paul is around 3 pounds (1.4 kg) heavier than the SG on average. This is due to the Les Paul’s body, which is nearly twice as thick as the SG.

Main Similarities:

  • Set-neck construction.
  • 22 fret neck and 24.75″ scale length.
  • Similar tone woods, except the Les Paul also has a maple cap/ top.
  • Fixed bridge.
  • Two volume and two tone controls, and a 3-way pickup selector.
  • 3+3 headstock configuration

Here is a diagram comparing the two guitars. The differences are in black text on the outside of the image, and the similarities are in green text in the centre.

In the market for a new guitar? I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

The Full Range

I wanted to take an in-depth look at both ranges of the SG and Les Paul by Epiphone and Gibson to show you what is currently on offer. I’ve made these tables comparing pretty much every model currently available for both guitar types, and the Guitar Center price at the time of writing.

Note that the mid-range and high-end tables don’t include the wood type or construction, as for every model in these price brackets, the body wood is mahogany and they all have set-necks. The tables are all ordered from the lowest to the highest price in each bracket.

Guitar Center are always the first place I look at when I’m interested in a new electric guitar because have a huge range of models for sale and always have some excellent deals on. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s electric guitar range so you can see all the offers available at the moment. 

Entry-Level and Affordable Models (under $500)

GuitarBody WoodPickupsConstructionNeck ShapePrice
Epiphone Les Paul Special IBasswood700T/ 650R HumbuckersBolt-OnD-shape$170
Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90BasswoodP-90R/ P90TBolt-OnSlimTaper D$170
Epiphone SG Special Satin E1Poplar700T/ 650R HumbuckersBolt-On60s SlimTaper D$180
Epiphone Les Paul Special II Plus TopMahogany700T/ 650R HumbuckersBolt-OnSlimTaper D$230
Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1MahoganyZebra Coil Ceramic HumbuckersBolt-On60s SlimTaper$250
Epiphone Les Paul JuniorMahoganyDog Ear Pro P90Set-NeckVintage 50s$380
Epiphone SG Classic Worn P90’sMahoganySoap Bar Pro P90Set-Neck60s SlimTaper$380
Epiphone Les Paul SpecialMahoganySoap Bar Pro P90Set-NeckVintage 50s$400
Epiphone SG Special P-90MahoganySoap Bar Pro P90Set-Neck60s SlimTaper$400
Epiphone Les Paul Classic WornMahoganyProprietary HumbuckerSet-NeckSlimTaper$450
Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro IVMahoganyProprietary HumbuckerSet-NeckSlimTaper C$450
Epiphone Les Paul StudioMahoganyProprietary HumbuckerSet-NeckSlimTaper$450
Epiphone SG Traditional ProMahoganyProprietary HumbuckerSet-NeckSlimTaper$450
Epiphone SG StandardMahoganyAlnico Classic PROSet-Neck60s SlimTaper$450
Epiphone SG Standard 60sMahoganyProBucker-2/ Pro-Bucker-3Set-NeckSlimTaper$450
Epiphone Les Paul ClassicMahoganyAlnico Classic PROSet-Neck60s SlimTaper$500
Les Paul vs SG under $500

Mid-Range Guitars ($500-$1200)

GuitarPickupsNeck ShapePrice
Epiphone SG ModernProBucker-2/ ProBucker-3Asymmetrical SlimTaper$550
Epiphone SG CustomAlnico Classic PROSlimTaper$580
Epiphone Les Paul Standard 60sProBucker-2/ Pro-Bucker-360s Slim Taper C$600
Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50sProprietary HumbuckerRounded C$600
Epiphone Les Paul ModernProprietary HumbuckerAsymmetric Slim$650
Epiphone Les Paul CustomProBucker-2/ Pro-Bucker-3Slim Taper$680
Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro-III’57 Classic Zebra/ Super ’57 Zebra60S SlimTaper$700
Epiphone 1959 Les Paul StandardProprietary HumbuckerRounded C$800
Epiphone SG ProphecyFishman HumbuckerAsymmetric$900
Epiphone Slash Les Paul StandardProprietary HumbuckerC-shape$900
Epiphone Les Paul ProphecyFishman HumbuckerAsymmetric$900
Epiphone Les Paul Special Tribute HumbuckerProprietary HumbuckerRounded$1000
Epiphone Les Paul Special Tribute P-90Proprietary P90Rounded$1000
Gibson SG Tribute490R/ 490TRounded$1100
Gibson Les Paul Tribute490R/ 490TRounded$1200
Gibson Les Paul Special P-90P-9050s Rounded$1200
Les Paul vs SG between $500 and $1200

High-End Guitars (over $1200)

Gibson SG Junior P90P-90SlimTaper$1400
Gibson Les Paul Studio490R/ 498TSlimTaper$1500
Gibson Les Paul JuniorP9050s Vintage$1500
Gibson SG SpecialP-90SlimTaper$1500
Gibson SG Standard490R/ 490TRounded$1500
Gibson Les Paul SpecialP-9050s Vintage$1600
Gibson SG Standard ‘61BurstBucker 61R/ 61TSlimTaper$1800
Gibson Les Paul ClassicBurstBucker 61R/ 61TSlimTaper$2000
Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro VProprietary HumbuckerAsymmetric$2000
Gibson SG ModernBurstBucker ProSlimTaper Asymmetric$2000
Gibson Les Paul Standard 50sBurstBucker 1/250s Vintage$2500
Gibson Les Paul Standard 60sBurstBucker 61R/ 61TSlimTaper$2500
Gibson Les Paul Deluxe 70sProprietary HumbuckerRounded C$2500
Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro VVintage alnico VAsymmetric$2800
Gibson Les Paul ModernBurstBucker ProSlimTaper Asymmetric$2800
Gibson Slash Les Paul StandardSlashBucker Pro50s Vintage$3000
Les Paul vs SG over $1200

Design Comparisons

Let’s take a look at the classic designs of the SG and Les Paul, so we can pin-point some more similarities and differences, and how this affects the tone, appearance and feel of the guitars.


Both the SG and Les Paul have mahogany bodies. However, the Les Paul’s body is almost twice as thick as the SG, and it also has a maple cap/ top, unlike the SG. Another huge difference, is that the Les Paul has a single cutaway design, and the SG has a double cutaway design which assists upper fret access.


You will have seen in the tables above, the different Les Paul and SG models have different neck profiles. You can definitely find thin and thick necks on both guitar types. As a general rule, SG guitars have a slimmer neck profile, and although still considered C-shape, they lean slightly towards a D-shape. Les Paul’s usually have a more rounded C-shape by comparison.


On pretty much every Les Paul and SG model, you’ll find passive humbucker or P90 pickups made by either Epiphone or Gibson. Humbuckers are the most common, and provide that warm and full tone, whilst P90 pickups sound a bit brighter and thinner. It is rare to find pickups by any other brands on these guitars, but the most notable example is the Epiphone Prophecy version of the SG and Les Paul, which have Fishman humbuckers instead of Epiphone ones.

Although some guitars have humbucker or P90 pickups, they aren’t all the same. They have different voicing and outputs, so it’s something to look out for when choosing a guitar. You can see the different types in the tables above.


Both the SG and Les Paul have the same controls. They each have two pickups, so feature a 3-way pickup selector allowing you to active each pickup in isolation, or both together. They also have independent tone and volume controls for each pickup. The only difference, is that the pickup selector is located on the upper horn on the Les Paul, and the lower horn on the SG.

It’s a personal preference, but I prefer the SG’s pickup selector location, as I often knock the Les Paul one out of place when strumming. However, like I said, you may find the Les Paul one miles better and more accessible when playing.

Check out these articles you learn more about the controls on each guitar:

Which Should You Choose?

So this brings us to the ultimate question, which is better, a Les Paul or an SG. Look on any guitar forum and you’ll see this debate raging on, and it’s because there’s really no clear answer. You need to think about the following questions to make the right decision:

  • Which models in my budget?
  • Which guitar feels most comfortable for my playing style?
  • Which guitar’s tone suits the styles of music I want to play?
  • Which guitar looks best to me?

To me, I’d always associate the Les Paul more with rhythm playing due to its warm and full tone with plenty of low-mids, whereas the SG seems more suited to lead playing, due to it’s pronounced mid-range which cuts through the mix more, and the improved upper fret access.

In terms of playability, I prefer the SG, however the looks don’t really do it for me, so I wouldn’t jump to them in the store. Les Paul’s on the other hand look great to me, and I like using them for rhythm, so the limited upper fret access doesn’t bother me. For me personally, I prefer the Les Paul, but there’s plenty that an SG would be better for.

The best thing to do, is to figure out which models are in your price range (you can use the tables above to help with this), and try them in your local guitar store if at all possible. That way, you’ll know 100% that you’re making the right decision for you.

For Beginners?

Both the Les Paul and SG are suitable for beginners. The entry-level models have slim necks, and are very affordable. The mai difference, is that the Les Paul usually comes in more colours and a lot of new players like that a lot of famous players use Les Pauls, making them a popular choice for beginners.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:


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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