Ease the strain on your back with these five lightweight alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul

Vintage Gibson Les Paul in a case on a wooden floor
(Image credit: Future)

The hulking presence of Gibson's renowned single cut cannot be denied. The Les Paul has been turning heads and melting faces since its release back in the late '50s, with a who's who of rock's most celebrated ambassadors relying on the flame-topped beauty to deliver their signature riffs. However, while some players instantly fall for the Les Paul's handsome good looks and endless sustain, others simply can't see past its burdensome weight. Luckily, Guitar World is here with five lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul to ensure you can still achieve this legendary tone without breaking your back! 

Of course, there are many guitars out there that come in considerably lighter than the Les Paul, but for this feature, we're only concerned with guitars that give us the essence of the LP, just in a lighter format. We've hand-selected five fabulous guitars from Gibson, ESP, Gretsch, PRS and Duesenberg that all channel a little of that Les Paul spirit but in their own unique way. We've also been careful to cover a variety of price points as well, so regardless of your budget, you should find your LP substitute here – alternatively, if a LP is the guitar for you, check out our guide to the best Gibson Les Pauls

Why is the Les Paul so heavy?

Gibson Les Paul in case next to Marshall amp

(Image credit: Future)

Unfortunately, the key to the Les Paul's tonal success is also the thing that makes it problematic in the weight department. A sandwich of flame maple and mahogany make for a perfect pairing if you are looking for a rich and thunderous sound, but not so much if you have a fear of chiropractors. 

Mahogany is a dense and hefty wood that many guitar makers favor for its rich, warm tone and exemplary sustain. However, as the Les Paul opts for a solid body design with a relatively chunky body and the addition of a thick maple top, this tone does come at a price.   

All of these factors combined make the Gibson Les Paul a relatively heavy guitar when compared to other models in the Gibson catalog. 

Pros and cons of a lighter guitar

Close up of vintage Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Future)

Apart from the obvious benefit of being a lot more comfortable to hold and play for extended periods of time, as well as easier to throw around the stage, a lighter guitar may also have tonal advantages. 

Some players gravitate towards the lighter – and more specifically, chambered – guitars due to their increased resonance. Channeling some of the feel and tone of a hollow body guitar, such as an ES-335, these lightweight guitars can bring a new sonic presence to the table. 

That said, a chambered guitar may also have some disadvantages. For example, it may be more prone to feedback when playing at high volumes or with excessive distortion. Additionally, they may not share the same sustain as their heavier stablemates. 

As you'd expect, the differences in construction can affect the overall sound and tone of the guitar, making it less suitable for certain types of music.

Lighter Les Paul models from Gibson

Gibson Les Paul headstock

(Image credit: Future)

Okay, before we get into our actual list. We have to mention that the legendary guitar maker does, in fact, produce a few lightweight Gibson Les Paul models themselves. Gibson has a long history of trying to make the LP more spine-friendly, pioneering advancements in chambering to get the weight of this single-cut beaut to a more manageable level. 

Currently, Gibson offers three main guitars that are ideal for those seeking the LP tonal characteristics in a featherweight design. First of which is the aptly named Les Paul Modern (opens in new tab), which takes advantage of the Nashville guitar giant's "ultra-modern weight relief". This technique utilizes strategically placed chambers that not only aid in the comfort of the guitar but also in its sound. Of course, as the name suggests, you also gain access to other contemporary features such as an asymmetrical neck profile, high-output pickups and a recessed heel for better fret access. 

Next is the Gibson Les Paul Studio, which again, employs the same ultra-modern weight relief. The Les Paul Studio also strips the LP of all its bling, resulting in a bare-bones guitar that's straight-up ready to rock. Lastly, we have to mention the Les Paul Special Tribute - Humbucker (opens in new tab). Now, while this simplified LP doesn't incorporate any weight relief per se, but as it doesn't feature the traditional maple top of the Standard, it comes in a fair bit lighter than its classic counterpart. 

Lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul

5 lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul: ESP LTD EC1000

(Image credit: ESP)

1. ESP LTD EC-1000

A slimline single cut that looks as good as it sounds

Specifications

Body: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany, set-thru
Scale: 24.75"
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 24
Pickups: Many options depending on the finish

Reasons to buy

+
Thin and easy-to-play neck 
+
Lots of finish options
+
Stellar build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
It definitely leans towards metal and hard rock playing styles

The ESP Eclipse has long been a go-to alternative to the Les Paul for many players not only seeking a lighter option but a more contemporary variation on the traditional singlecut design. 

While we could have chosen any number of Eclipse models for this list, we've opted for the LTD EC-1000, as we believe it offers the most bang for your buck. This stylish and sleek axe delivers a powerhouse of tone, with more than enough finish and pickup options to satisfy any style or genre. 

The thin body of the EC-1000 makes this model incredibly comfortable, while the slender neck profile allows you to glide from one end to the other with ease.

5 lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul: Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT

(Image credit: Gretsch)

2. Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT

That famous Gretsch sound, in a singlecut format

Specifications

Body: Chambered Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 24.6"
Fingerboard: Laurel
Frets: 22
Pickups: Black Top Broad’Tron

Reasons to buy

+
Chambered body 
+
Ultra cool finish options 
+
Stunningly bright tone

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't really sound like a Les Paul 

When most people think of this legendary retro brand, they tend to picture their beloved Country Gentleman or Chet Atkins models, but we strongly believe more love should be shown to the humble Jet. 

Arguably delivering a more versatile tone when compared to their oversized and hollow counterparts, the Jet is a sophisticatedly simple guitar that furnishes players with the bright and dynamic sound Gretsch is known for. Just like the ESP above, Gretsch offers guitarists a plethora of Jet models and various price points and specs. We've chosen to highlight the Electromatic model, as for the price, it can't be beaten. 

The Jet sticks to the original recipe of mahogany and maple, which Les Paul fans favor, while adding a little Gretsch flair by chambering the body. This results in an accentuated low-end and rounded mid-range that simply sings. 

5 lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul: PRS SE Zach Myers

(Image credit: PRS)

3. PRS SE Zach Myers

A singlecut with a semi-hollow twist

Specifications

Body: Mahogany Semi-Hollow
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 24.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 245 "S"

Reasons to buy

+
Satin neck is very comfortable
+
Impressive spec sheet 

Reasons to avoid

-
No other finish options

It was inevitable that a PRS guitar would make this list, but the signature model of alternative metal outfit Shinedown's main axeman probably wasn't the one you were thinking of. Now, while we certainly considered the S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut, SE 254 and even a Core model Custom 24, the SE Zach Myers sig just offered everything we wanted in a lightweight singlecut and more. 

Sticking to the winning formula of a mahogany body with maple cap and flame veneer, at first glance, this SE sits comfortably within the LP spectrum. However, this striking guitar strays from convention by opting for a semi-hallow construction that incorporates a single f-hole into its design. 

As you can imagine, the removal of material to integrate the f-hole aids in making the SE Zach Myers incredibly lightweight and also has the added benefit of carving out a unique voice for this beautiful guitar. 

5 lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul: Duesenberg The Senior

(Image credit: Duesenberg)

4. Duesenberg The Senior

Sophistication meets pure raw power

Specifications

Body: Solid Mahogany with sound chambers
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: Duesenberg SplitKing Humbucker

Reasons to buy

+
Oozing class and style
+
Innovate Split/King pickup

Reasons to avoid

-
Single-pickup guitars aren't for everyone

It would appear that this Duesenberg instrument is made purely of contradictions. On the face of it, this guitar is dripping with vintage class, with a clean and uncluttered look that perfectly harkens back to the guitars of yesteryear. However, plug it into an amplifier and you'll be faced with punk rock fury, with a sound so sharp it could take your eye out if you're not careful. 

Not too dissimilar to the other guitars on this list, the Duesenberg employs the use of large sound chambers to deliver a lighter and more resonant instrument. This body construction pairs beautifully with its Split/King pickup, which despite looking rather basic, houses some pretty clever tech. 

Giving you the option to select either a true single-coil, true humbucker or a combination of both, this might just be the most versatile guitar on the market that uses a solitary pickup.

5 lighter alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul: Gibson SG Standard

(Image credit: Gibson)

5. Gibson SG Standard

The devil-horned classic

Specifications

Body: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 24.75”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: Gibson 490T/490R

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely lightweight
+
Amazing upper fret access
+
An iconic sound in its own right

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as much low-end as the Les Paul

We can't have a feature discussing lighter alternatives to the Les Paul and not include Gibson's other legendary solid-body electric guitar, the SG Standard. While this devilishly pointy six-string may live in the shadow of its singlecut big brother, it's actually Gibson's most popular model to date. 

Ditching the weighty maple top in favor of a slender, contoured mahogany body, the SG brings a distinctive level of comfort that's simply not possible with other Gibson guitars. Pair this lightweight construction with its near-perfect fret access and aggressive mid-range bark, and the end result is a guitar that was born to rock. 

Gibson offers many flavors of SG model, from budget-friendly Epiphones to authentic vintage reissues and hi-tech contemporary variations, so regardless of your playing style and dream tone, you'll find an SG to do the job. 

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First and foremost, I'm a guitar enthusiast – a fanatic, some might say. I'm a firm believer that most of the world's problems can be solved with a Gibson SG and a catastrophically loud amp. As Senior Deals Writer on Guitar World, I write about guitars for a living, but in a past life, I worked in music retail for 7 years, advising customers on the right guitars, basses, drums, pianos, and PA systems for their needs. I also have a passion for live sound; I'm a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland, where I live with my wife and dog.