Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

Gibson vs. Fender: Which Brand Do Pro Guitar Players Prefer?

Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

In the Gibson vs. Fender debate, where do you stand? Here, professional musician Michael L. shares his thoughts on the two brands…  

 

There’s nothing like being a guitar player, am I right?

You’ve got your pick of genres to explore, from jazz to country to metal. You have amazing guitarists to look up to and learn from. And when it comes to gear, you have your pick of some of the coolest innovations to make your sound rock.

If you’re like most guitarists,  you like to talk about your gear, too. You’ll find heated debates online about the best guitar amps, strings, pedals, and more. And if you’re in the market for your first guitar, you’ll likely get a lot of (unsolicited) advice about the best guitar brands and models.

One of the biggest rivalries in the world of electric guitars is Gibson vs. Fender. Many guitar players have allegiances to their favorite company, although both produce professional-grade guitars.

So, which brand is better? To start, let’s review the history of both companies, as well as a general breakdown of the types of guitars offered. Then, I’ll share my personal preference between the guitar manufacturers.

All About Gibson Guitars

Gibson dates back to the late 1800s, when Orville Gibson patented a mandolin design that was much more durable than other instruments at that time. He sold these instruments out of a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo, MI, until his death in 1918. The designs lived on, however, as the company hired designer Lloyd Lear to continue creating new instruments.

In 1936, the company invented the first commercially successful Spanish-style electric guitar, the ES 150 (ES stands for Electric Spanish). Next came the P-90 pickup in 1946 and the Les Paul in 1952.

The Les Paul, perhaps the most iconic model from the company, was Gibson’s first solid body electric guitar. In 1958 Gibson also introduced semi-hollow body guitars with the ES-335. Afterward came the Gibson SG and Firebird in the 1960s.

Since then Gibson has stayed on top of the list of premier instrument manufacturers.

All About Fender Guitars

Leo Fender started Fender Guitars in 1946, and his first innovation was the production of solid body guitars. Up until then, electric guitars were made with hollow bodies, meaning that they were somewhat fragile and somewhat complicated in design. Leo Fender’s guitars offered a more straightforward design; the were bodies made from one solid block of wood and the bridges were simply attached to the body, removing the need for extra calibration of elevated bridges.

The first commercially available guitar from Fender was the Telecaster, originally called the Tele, in 1951. That same year Leo Fender also invented the electric bass. Until then, bassists had to use an upright bass, making it difficult to hear the bass while electric guitars and drums were being played.

Next, the Stratocaster hit the market in 1954, introducing a tremolo bridge (or whammy bar) to the world. Fender kept the amazing innovations coming, introducing the Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, and Twin Reverb amp over the next decade.

Gibson vs. Fender: Style & Adaptability

When choosing between Fender or Gibson, there are many factors to consider. The main factor for me is style adaptability. Both Fender and Gibson have different models for different musical styles and tastes.

Gibson vs Fender

The Gibson Style

Gibson’s electric guitars generally sport humbucker pickups, known for their thicker, rounder tone. You also get less feedback, which limits the types of delay and overdrive tones you can experiment with, but ensures a cleaner and more consistent sound. Gibson mainly uses mahogany for their guitar bodies, which is what gives it that slightly darker sound.

Another feature that affects a Gibson guitar’s sound is the scale length. Gibson typically uses a 24.75″ scale length, producing warmer, muddy overtones.

Outside of the sound created, Gibson guitars also feel different to players. Gibsons typically have a longer fingerboard radius, at 12″, which means a fatter neck. With a fatter neck, the strings are at a more even height, which may help you play faster.

Gibson Guitars

Gibson Les Paul

Les Paul guitars in particular boast a full tone that can serve as an entire rhythm section if need be. With a switch of pickups, you can also find a lead tone that cuts through, while still maintaining low-end frequencies. Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and Zakk Wylde are known for playing Les Pauls.

A Gibson SG, another example, is a straight rock-n-roll or punk rocker guitar. It’s shrill with big low frequencies, which is great for blues. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Angus Young, and Tony Iommi favor the SG.

The Fender Style

Fender guitars have a bit of a different sound, again because of the way they’re made. Fenders are usually made with alder and ash, producing a brighter tone and offering a lighter feel.

Fender typically uses a 25.5″ scale length, which provides a rich, almost bell-like tone.

And for its fingerboard, Fender typically uses a shorter radius (7.25-9.5″), offering a thinner, curved neck. Beginners and players with small hands might find these thinner necks more comfortable.

Fender Guitars

Fender Stratocaster

The single coil pickups of a Stratocaster, in particular, may be your preference if you like lots of treble in your tone and want to make lead lines pop.

Some famous Stratocaster players are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and Jeff Beck.

Telecaster tone, on the other hand, has a bit of a flat thud to it. The notes generally don’t have a full sustain and the lipstick pickup promotes more mid to low frequencies.

Players like Joe Strummer, Keith Richards, and Prince favor telecasters.

Who Wins?

For me, it’s difficult to take a personal side in the Fender vs. Gibson debate. Both companies have produced legendary instruments that have shaped music around the world. Both have helped define electric guitar tone.

However, I will have to side with Fender in this arena. I love the feel of Fender instruments, particularly Jazzmaster and Telecasters. Both have broad, flat necks that fit my fingers and a tone that sounds divine. The Telecaster has an honest thud to its sound and the Jazzmaster gives you a full range of tonal experimental possibilities.

What Other Opinions Are Out There?

Search through any guitar forum or blog, and you’ll find tons of information about Fender, Gibson, and other guitar brands. If you’d like to research some more before casting your vote, here are some articles and posts to check out:

Your Turn

Which guitar brand is best? Cast your vote here:

 

Which guitar brand is better?

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Don’t have an opinion yet? If you’re trying to decide which guitar to buy, don’t just trust the poll results. Try out different guitar brands, models, and styles, and you’ll find what you like best.

And once you have that perfect guitar, it’s time to improve your skills! Search for guitar teachers in your area and get help with playing chords, songs, and much more. Good luck!

Photo by Larry Ziffle

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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15 replies
  1. Chrissy Schulte
    Chrissy Schulte says:

    I voted for Fender, but as you said it really depends on the style. I’ve never played on a Gibson (which I’d love to try for a fun experiment), but I’ve heard musicians use it for awesome blues pieces!
    Right now I’m gonna stick with my acoustic guitar which has been good to me for almost 2 years! My students love it too (though I’m not a guitar teacher I just sometimes use it to play children’s songs on it…)

    Reply
    • bruce vanzant
      bruce vanzant says:

      i have played fender most of my life .Fast neck and comfortable .However when my musical interest changed to southern rock i decided to buy a gibson . The mahogony body sounds different as does the string thru design of my firebird .Now i play both .Out of the box i prefer gibson and dont need to change a thing .I see many fender players always looking for “that sound” changing pickups pots etc.and using many boxws to change the tone.All i use with my gibson is a wa wa and overdrive

      Reply
  2. Jamie Clark
    Jamie Clark says:

    Most of the time, you can get a fender to sound like a gibson, but not the other way around.

    btw, telecaster has often more sustain than any other guitar, particularly if it has the real brass saddles on a proper ashtray bridge. Saying it has a thud makes it seem like you don’t really know much about the topic…

    As a teacher I use a strat because it’s relatable, comfortable, and clean/clear tones. The gibson doesn’t have warmer overtones. That’s not a thing. It has weaker overtones, so a stronger fundamental. That’s why it sounds warmer/duller, and the fender sounds more lively/brighter, because the fender (longer scale) have more overtones to ring louder. That lets you hear mistakes more easily, and is helpful to improve more quickly.

    If you can’t hear your mistakes, you don’t know what to practice!

    If you don’t care, and want to play distorted metal, then don’t bother with lessons.

    Reply
  3. Korte
    Korte says:

    I am not sure which guitar to vote but I like fenders because of sound and style of the guitars, same goes for Gibson guitars.

    Reply
  4. Rob the Quiet
    Rob the Quiet says:

    Fender vs. Gibson is really not the issue. It has more to do with the weight factor as well as hard-tail vs. vibrato bar. A Telecaster will probably give you the same tuning stability and basic tonal range as an SG, but you might just as well consider an Ibanez or Charvel and get the result you want. A good guitarist can play ANY guitar and get a good result. A bad guitar, conversely, will sound awful no matter how well it’s played if the intonation, electronics, and tuning stability are bad. A Telecaster can be a large guitar. A Les Paul will generally seem lighter, maybe be more comfortable with a shorter scale length, but cost more. A Stratocaster will sound lovely to Strat fans, but then you have a lot of tuning and quirky pickup issues you won’t get with a hard-tail. You may find the Ibanez with a Floyd Rose vibrato bar may give you the best of both worlds, stability and dive bombs. The guitar I recommend for beginners is the Gibson SG, because it is comfortable in size and scale length, achieves both bright and thick tones, and is generally affordable. For prospective Whammy-bar shredders, I would lean towards a Charvel or Jackson at first, and maybe consider a MusicMan. The premium Strat or Les Paul is very desirable and very playable for anyone who has the fingers to bring out the sounds, but if you don’t have the fingers, imo, wait until you do.

    Reply
    • ole charlie
      ole charlie says:

      as an old school country picker i prefer the fender tele for the crisp twangy sound and also the feel of the fingerboard. I find a strat to be poorly designed with the volume control badly in the way to say nothing about the clumsy tremelo arm. I have modified some strats and made them playable for my slyle.A humbucker in the neck position on a tele is rite sharp for the blues.As for gibson they make a fine instrument,just not my style.

      Reply
  5. Don E Talbert
    Don E Talbert says:

    Both are best , depending on what you are playing , when you need the sound of the one that fits best to the song .

    Reply
  6. Victor from Guitar Graph
    Victor from Guitar Graph says:

    As a guitar player we always have that feeling which guitar will have the best fit and sound according to our taste. Some songs are better with Fenders likewise with Gibson guitars. If you know how to play you don’t need to get confuse which guitar best suits you.

    Reply
  7. Ben
    Ben says:

    I’ve played both brands and for the rock industrial music, the Gibson LP fits me better. Did not like the Fender at all. But I need short scale guitars which Gibson are compared to Fender plus imho the Gibson looks classier.

    Reply
  8. jack murphy
    jack murphy says:

    Like picking between miss america and first runner up….both are beautiful, but which one would pick you?..

    Reply
  9. wylie
    wylie says:

    tbh i have a fender strat copy (not the real thing im 16 with no job judge if u want but i like it plus im lefty and they are expensive a hell) it sounds nice i love it but a buddy of mine has a less Paul (im getting on form him the real thing) i like it better i think the design is sexy allot like an ltd

    Reply
  10. Ben
    Ben says:

    Both are great guitars but it really depends on the music you play and how it fits you. I love the Flying V Gibson and high end Fender Stratocasters for hard rock and pychedelic rock the Fender Strat is famous played by David Gilmour and Hendrix.

    Reply
  11. Carl (6 String Fan)
    Carl (6 String Fan) says:

    It’s like comparing blondes, redheads, and brunettes!
    I love ’em all!
    My personal favorite guitar is my Telecaster because of it’s simplicity and sounds great.
    I love the shape of a Stratocaster though and I think they just fit a human body perfectly.
    I would be a bigger fan of a Les Paul if they weren’t so danged heavy on my shoulder but you can’t argue with the sound from one!

    Reply
  12. S. E. Nesbit
    S. E. Nesbit says:

    I own both, and I have to admit the most expensive guitar (a Gibson Les Paul Classic ’60) spends most of its time in the case. It’s a beautiful guitar that sounds great, but the Strats and Teles are more comfortable to hold and play, and I find them much more versatile.

    To be fair, I swap out the Strat bridge pickups for Seymour Duncan humbuckers. Also, I play lots of Fender amps; if I played Marshalls, I may have a different opinion.

    One thing I have not read above: The different scale length makes Fender guitar’s strings harder to bend, which I believe adds more “tension” to the tone. To my ear, Gibson bends don’t have that same edge.

    But I’ll never sell my Les Paul.

    Reply

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