Picking up a Les Paul for the first time, you might find it a tad more challenging to play compared to other guitars. This isn’t a design flaw, but a combination of unique features inherent to these iconic instruments.
Les Paul guitars can feel uncomfortable due to their heavier weight, thicker neck, and specific control layout. The gloss finish on the neck, lack of a middle pickup, and the volume control’s positioning can also contribute to discomfort.
In this article, I’ll dive into why these factors can make a Les Paul uncomfortable to play, and more importantly, how you can make playing a Les Paul more comfortable. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, these insights will help you get the most out of your Les Paul. Let’s get started!
Why Les Pauls Are So Uncomfortable
Unintuitive Control Layout
I’ve found that the control layout of a Les Paul can initially seem less intuitive for some players. It includes two volume controls, which might be a bit confusing if you’re used to a different layout.
There’s no easy fix for this. Just keep playing. Over time, you’ll become familiar with the layout, and it’ll become second nature.
The body shape of a Les Paul can lead to discomfort as it’s not as ergonomic as some other guitar models. This can make it harder to hold and play for extended periods. But don’t let this discourage you. With the right posture and positioning, you can still play a Les Paul comfortably.
Gloss Finish on the Neck
Ever noticed that the neck of your Les Paul gets sticky and tacky after prolonged play? That’s due to the gloss finish. While it looks great, it can become uncomfortable over time. A simple solution is to wipe down the neck with a dry cloth after playing to remove any sweat or oils.
Les Paul guitars typically have a thicker neck, which can be less comfortable for some players, especially those with smaller hands. But don’t worry, your hands will adapt over time.
Lack of a Middle Pickup
If you’re a player who frequently uses the in-between sound of a middle pickup, you might find the absence of a middle pickup on a Les Paul to be an issue. But don’t let this limit your creativity. You can still achieve a wide range of tones with the neck and bridge pickups.
Volume Control Placement
Ever accidentally hit the volume control while playing? The positioning of the volume control on a Les Paul can be problematic for some players.
This can be frustrating, but with practice, you’ll learn to avoid it. And you can always adjust your playing style to accommodate the control layout.
One of the most common complaints I hear about Les Paul guitars is their weight. They are often heavier than other models, which can lead to discomfort, especially when playing standing up for extended periods.
But don’t let this deter you! With the right strap and posture, you can manage the weight effectively.
No Top Horn
The absence of a top horn on the body of a Les Paul can contribute to discomfort, as it affects the balance of the guitar when played standing up. This can be challenging, but with the right strap adjustment, you can achieve a comfortable balance.
Difficult Access to Upper Frets
Lastly, the design of the Les Paul can make it more difficult to access the upper frets compared to other guitars. This can be a real pain when you’re trying to nail that solo! But don’t worry, with practice and the right technique, you can still hit those high notes.
How To Make Playing A Les Paul More Comfortable
Adjust the Strap
One simple solution is to adjust the strap to a more comfortable position. This can help balance the guitar better and reduce strain on your shoulder.
Experiment with different strap lengths to find what works best for you. Remember, comfort is key to enjoying your playing experience.
Use a Wider Strap
Using a wider strap can help distribute the weight of the guitar more evenly, making it more comfortable to hold. This can make a big difference, especially during long practice sessions or performances.
I recommend getting a quality, wide strap. It’s a small investment that can greatly enhance your comfort.
Exercise Your Back and Shoulders
Regular exercise, especially focusing on the back and shoulder muscles, can help mitigate the discomfort caused by the weight of the guitar. So, don’t skip those workouts! Incorporate exercises that strengthen your back and shoulders into your fitness routine. Your body, and your playing, will thank you.
Polish the Frets
Polishing the frets can make bending strings and sliding up and down the fretboard more comfortable. It’s a small adjustment that can make a big difference. You can do this yourself or have it done professionally during a setup. Either way, your fingers will appreciate it.
Make Sure It’s Set Up Properly
Ensuring that the guitar is properly set up can greatly enhance its playability. This includes checking and adjusting the neck relief, checking the nut height, adjusting the action at the 12th fret, and adjusting the pickup height. A properly set up guitar not only plays better, but it also sounds better.
Replace the Original Nut
Replacing the original nut with a bone nut can improve tuning stability and reduce string sticking. This is a bit more involved, but it can really improve your playing experience. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, consider having it done by a professional.
Applying a lubricant like Big Bends Nut Sauce to the nut and saddles can help alleviate friction. This can make playing smoother and more enjoyable. Just a little bit can make a big difference, so give it a try.
Adjust the Stopbar Height
Some players find adjusting the stopbar height can change the string tension and make the guitar more comfortable to play. It’s worth experimenting with to see if it makes a difference for you.
While Les Paul guitars can initially feel uncomfortable due to their unique features and design, there are several strategies to enhance their playability. From understanding the control layout to adjusting the strap and maintaining regular cleaning, you can make your Les Paul more comfortable to play.
Don’t let initial discomfort deter you. Embrace the unique characteristics of your Les Paul, and with a bit of patience and practice, you’ll find it’s not just a guitar, but an extension of your musical expression. Happy playing!
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