Compare and Contrast

1961 Stratocaster and

a 1962 Les Paul SG

This 1961 Stratocaster and 1962 Les Paul that we recently setup on are excellent examples and the comparison is easy— both are famous workhorses, in great condition, modified in the 70s and have many of the advantages that you would expect-  great sounding, easy to play, and truly iconic.

But there is plenty to contrast as well—

1961 Stratocaster
The 61 Strat is the epitome of all things ‘Fenderish’- The 25.5 scale length and maple neck provide plenty of snap and brightness- The retrofitted 5 position switch gives nice ‘in between’ tones in the 2 and 4 positions and the noiseless Dimarzio pickups are a significant advantage for avoiding 60hz hum.

As expected, the Strat is chimey and clear on clean tube settings—think Dire Straights. It remains tight and focused when overdriven.

1962 Les Paul Special SG
With a 24.75 scale length, all Mahogany construction and full size Dimarzio PAFs, the Les Paul is considerable warmer. But it retains a lot of cut and bite due to the SG style and weight.

Clean tube sounds are very thick, while the overdrive is punchy, heavy, and compressed- It’s considerable less muddy than Les Paul Standards that came and before and after… but it’s not exactly an SG either. The sound is Who or AC/DCish.

Either guitar would be great for blues, rock, pop or even jazz. The Strat has the advantage for country timbres while the SG has the advantage for sustain and crunch.

So what does this mean to you and why would you pick one over the other?

  • Clean vs crunch- Both are good at covering a lot of ground however:​
    • This Strat has a really fast attack- great for chicken picking and articulating the individual notes in a chord- It  has less sustain and thickness than the Les Paul when overdriven.
    • The Les Paul has more of a ‘bloom’- an explosion of overtones that thickens the tone after attack and sustains distorted sounds very well. The clean is somewhat thicker and less snappy than the Strat.
  • Neck
    • The Strat give you more room ‘within the frets’ due to the longer scale and a broad, almost modern ‘D’ shape
    • The SG Les Paul’s are famous for exceedingly thin and fast necks
    • The Les Paul has a slight advantage with access to upper frets due to a very thin neck joint
  • Vibrato
    • The Strat wins hands down if you use the whammy bar. 
    • Les Paul vibratos from 61-62 were nearly unusable and probably the reason this one was switched to a Badass tail piece.​
  • Weight 
    • The Les Paul is somewhat lighter by design. 
    • However, this Strat is made from relatively light ash and neither are heavy. 
    • So it’s really not a major factor.

So why would you want to look at vintage instead of new construction? Both approaches make sense depending on what you are looking for:

1. Considering CAD designs and CNC computer controlled precision, today there’s more flexibility for extremely tight specifications. And hardware and electronic modifications are easy.

2. However vintage guitars, like these, are still in demand for good reasons:

  • Wood- You won’t find these tone woods anywhere- Modern alternatives work well with modern designs. However, the old growth ash and mahogany that made these guitars what they are simply don’t exist anymore.
  • Longevity- These are durable puppies that proved their ability to live in the real world by simply surviving. And everyone’s ear is different, but there are good arguments that the classics really do sound special or they wouldn’t be in such demand.
  • Mojo- Fess up, there’s something cool about classic guitars from the early years of rock and roll;)

What is most important is that you can do whatever works for you. At Born Again Guitars, we will help you modify your current instrument, restore a classic, or build your custom dream instrument.

Of course, it takes a lot of experience to match the sound and feel that is right for you—after all there are infinite options and you may have a limited budget.

At BornAgainGuitars, we combine the three necessary arts to meets your ergonomic and tonal requirements

  1. Technical knowledge to optimize your current acoustic, electric, or bass
  2. Tone and touch experience to refine, modify and restore your current instrument
  3. Design and artistic experience to build an entirely custom instrument 

Contact us at

Good news sidebar. The Strat owner has all of the original parts! It’s understandable that these rarebirds were modified for better tone and playability in the old days-

At BornAgainGuitars, we’re probably never going to recommend rarebird modification. However, if you’re going to do it (or have already done it) hold on to those original parts!

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