Fender Vs. Gibson

The ever-raging question, Fender or Gibson? Who is the king of guitars? Which company (or their design) is better?

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The ever-raging question, Fender or Gibson? Who is the king of guitars? Which company (or their design) is better? Whose cuisine reigns supreme? (Wait a minute, that last one's from Iron Chef... sorry). But all FoodTV shows aside, a very significant portion of guitars out there today are based off of one of Fender's or Gibson's designs. So, as we delve into the deeper aspects of this matter, keep an open mind if you are set on one company or another.

One point worth noting before I continue is that Fender and Gibson are not the only companies out there. There are plenty of good guitar makers in existence, like Ernie Ball/Music Man, Paul Reed Smith, Ibanez, ESP, and Gretsch, among the others. The reason why I'm comparing Fender and Gibson here is that they are the two most popular companies, and they vary so much. Also, this is a long-standing debate between the two.

I'm not going to go into the histories of each company (as my history on Gibson is a little foggy at the moment, hope that'll change soon), but basically, to understand and compare the companies, I will take note of all the prominent instruments made by each company, as well as their tonal characteristics.

Let's start with Fender, as they are first alphabetically. Today, the two most prominent guitars are the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, with the bass line consisting mainly of the Precision and Jazz basses. Fender also has classics of older models, like the Jaguar and Jazzmaster. Gibson, on the other hand, offers it's famous Les Paul, SG, Flying V, Explorer, Firebird, Electric Spanish (ES), and the Melody Maker. Both have a custom shop, as well as derivatives and classics of each model. Fender's tone has that famous, treble-y bell tone that is commonly associated with the Stratocaster as well as single coil pickups. Gibson, on the other hand, has a mellower tone highly related to humbucker tone, clearly exemplified in the Les Paul. Various elements go into the differences in timbre, such as the pickups, tone woods, body shape, and other various design differences. Gibsons are known for their warmer, crunchier (especially when distorted) tone whereas Fender has the bright, famous bell-like tone (the now famous Fender tone) achieved by single-coil pickups.

Fender's tonal qualities are mainly dictated by their body woods and the single coil pickup. Fender most commonly uses ash and alder, both of which give a medium, slightly bright tone as it is. Both woods are fairly light, producing Stratocaster bodies of about four to five pounds, adding to its appeal to Fender. Plus, both woods are commonly found in America and fairly inexpensive, making them ideal for production. The single coil pickup has the infamous 60-cycle hum (which oddly enough I've come to love as part of a vintage tone; I don't know why, it's just so cool) yet emphasizes brightness on Fender's guitars. The tone is best described as, once again, bell-like, and is the sound Fender is famous for. Stratocaster bodies were originally designed to compete with the Bigsby vibrato system, as well as add comfort with the body contours. Telecasters were derived from Leo Fender's original Esquire model, which had a single-coil in the bridge slot.

On the other hand, Gibsons are quite different. Gibson uses mainly mahogany for their bodies. Mahogany is a denser wood, offering darker tone and thick, warm, crunchy sound often loved by many guitar players. The Les Paul is quite possibly the epitome of the electric guitar, being the longest-made production model; Gibson began producing the guitar in the '40s. The SG came along in '61, as a custom version of the Les Paul. Because of it's small body, Gibson named it the Spanish Guitar (hence, SG). Gibson at first used the P90 design, which is basically a single-coil pickup, though it's not as bright as a standard single coil. P90s offer a much darker, smoother alternative to the standard single coil. Incidentally, Gibson developed the humbucker at the same time as Gretsch, and implemented said humbucker in 1957 with the Les Paul. Since then, Gibson's name has often been associated with America and classic rock n' roll tone. In fact, Geddy Lee of Rush once told guitarist Alex Lifeson that the only guitar he should ever play is a Les Paul, because it offers the best rock n' roll tone, in his ears. The ES model has made its place in music everywhere, from blues to jazz to classic rock; it offers slightly snappy tone and resonance with a hollow body, along with the mellow Gibson tone. The Explorer, although ahead of its time at first, has become a favorite among metalheads, and the Firebird and it's space age curves were designed by an automobile engineer.

So, finally, which is better? I'm going to say again what I have continuously said in the past. Which one is better is always subject to one's personal tastes. Whatever you like should be the one you should choose. If you like the classic bell-tones of Fender, choose them. Or, if you want that thick rock tone, follow Gibson.

Between the two, though, Fender has my vote. It's not only the tone, which I'll get into later. Whenever I see a Fender, even if it's not mine, something strikes a chord (no pun intended) inside of me; I feel inspired, and go to an intellectual place not attainable with another instrument. Whenever I pick up a Gibson, I don't get the same feel. Inspiration, to me, is key in choosing an instrument; if you don't feel that the guitar will portray what you want it to do, then chances are it's not the right axe. Although, I will admit that I sometimes do crave the Gibson tone, and that the Explorer is one of the most comfortable guitars I've ever played. But that's later in the article.

The Fender tone, to me, is uplifting and amazing; I love the clarity and brightness in a Stratocaster. If you look at any famous guitarist, chances are they either play or own a Fender. Also, my affinity for Fenders may come from my influences; when I first started playing, I was (and still am) into Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and The Edge (of U2).

There is a longing in me, though, that begs for the mellower Gibson tone at times. There has been more than one occasion where I wished I were the owner of an Explorer because of the feel and the classic Gibson PAF-tone. It sounds amazing where necessary, and can truly sing.

Though, there is always a part of me that will always love Fender, no matter what.

So who wins the battle? It's up to you. I say that you should go with what you feel, and for me that is Fender.

by Nikhil Deshpande

714 comments sorted by best / new / date

    wbk666
    i dont think there is a simple winner as it depends on what style of music your playing. Both are equal in my opinion. sorry
    soilworker3
    FENDER: Blues GIBSON: Good for just about everything else If I was in a rock band, I would not be caught dead with a Fender. They just can't produce a good, heavy distorted sound for chords and open notes.
    Oli-The-Strange
    Lol, gibson FTW But something funny i noticed in the comments is that loads of people like the fenders more than gibsons but nearly everyone prefers playing a gibson to a fender, even after saying they are poorly made
    jakewynnrocks
    ninjakarl wrote: sg.. the spanish guitar? correct me if i'm wrong but isn't it solid guitar? wikipedia seems to agree with me other than that, your article is very good. not too biased and pointing out pros for each company, good work =)
    wikipedia in NOT a reliable source. its user created, nothing in it is proven. and plus, i will always like gibsons better...
    dimebagsmygod
    Fender win in my opinion. I don't know why it is but I just hate using Gibsons. I'd like to use a Les Paul so I can look cool like slash and zakk wylde but the bridge is just to high making it imposible to do some stuff you can other wise do on fender.
    whitebluesboy
    Well I have them both. Fender Strats have a much nicer clean tone and work excellent for blues or soft rock. For anything else though I would have to say Gibson Les Pauls dominate. You can't play hard ball biting rock and roll on a guitar with a thin body and single coil pickups. It just doesn't work.
    Shaned
    dude isn't SG solidbody guitar? whatever but i know this really doesn't count but i'd go with gibson just because they have more insane guitar shapes. A stratocaster gets old fast but if you have like a Flying V, damn it looks great and it has some appeal to the metal community. And, i'm a metal guy so humbuckers are the way to go unless you hot rod a strat with some seymour duncan hot rails or something. Gibson and Fender both rule their own seperate empires.
    Nickman3000
    When it comes to bass, gibson doesn't come close to fender when it comes to orignality and playability. The two promenent gibson basses (EB and Thunderbird) were carbon copies of their 6-string bothers (SG & Firebird). Same can be said for the Percision, but, that guitar came with the famous split coil were the gibson used bass adapted humbuckers. When it comes to playability fender are just so much better, especially on the fretboard, going from my first bass to a fender improved me exponentially and i improved more in a week with the fender then i had in about a year of playing beforehand. As for gibson playability, i picked up a thunderbird and hated after 5 mins of playing it. As said in the article, it wasn't inspiring picking it up and just didn't feel right. But enough about bass, here's my opinion of the 6-strings. Don't get me wrong, fender is my preferred 6-string, but, i consider it as the beginners guitar. This is mainly thanks to it's amazing playability on the fretboard and ease of bending. I also call it the beginners guitar because of the tone it offers, mentioned above. Coming from a dense rock n' roll background, i've always enjoyed the sound that comes from a gibson over the fender, it's just the grunt and quality of distrotion that comes from the humbuckers. I have also realised that several rock guitarist's more often move from fender to gibson than the vice versa (eg. Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jeff Beck), most likely searching for that gibson rock n' roll tone. So that my opinion, take or leave it, but dispite that above said, my waepons of choice are the Fender Percision and the Fender Stratcastor.
    dimebagsmygod
    Oli-The-Strange wrote: Lol, gibson FTW But something funny i noticed in the comments is that loads of people like the fenders more than gibsons but nearly everyone prefers playing a gibson to a fender, even after saying they are poorly made
    Gibsons look cooler to play but fenders are easier to play!
    guilty
    I'm with Gibson Les Paul. I feel more comfortalbe when I play with it. But usually use Ibanez RGT42BP.
    greenblink5
    Gibson. I honestly hate the sound of the single coil, although I do like the slanted one on the Stratocaster. I do like the Jaguar, but on the other hand I played a telecaster and thought it sounded awful. I really like the sound of the SG, its just awesome, and the Les Paul was pretty good too.
    Fredde_
    I like gibson Les Paul.I like the fealing and the sound. And i realy like the bridge on gobson guitars
    dirtymexican863
    I'm not into single coils, so for the most part, I don't like using fender guitars. As far as gibson, they're SOO overpriced. But if I had to get one, I'd get an SG or an LP. I'd shoot myself before I got a classic 3 coil strat.
    the1leftbehind
    Between the two, I'd have to say that Gibson has my vote. I've played a Fender and a Gibson before on several occasions and the latter always seemed better to me. The 'bell-tone' of a Fender just doesn't have that dark tone that I like in songs from artists like Black Sabbath and Megadeth .
    Cobalt Blue
    comrade_NC wrote: inless you in the band "coldplay" or "rascal flats" do u need a fender telecaster hahaha
    clearly your unaware that Page used a tele on the first Zeppelin album... thats one of the factors that turned me to want a tele (don't have one yet though) i'm a fan of Gibson, just like the design and sustain... but i've never really played a great strat in my experience.. mostly lower end ones.
    HLrocker
    I've had both a strat, and a LP....I personaly like the LP better, I love the tone, and just the feel of the guitar, not to mention it's looks....fenders a great brand, it's just not for me.
    -heartbreaker-
    this is not a good article and not a very good topic to choose the write on.....spanish guitar? what the ****? anyways, I'm a Gibson Man, but I love a lot of Fenders (P+Jazz Basses, Jaguars, Teles, Mustangs) but I think Gibsons are way better. c'mon, dont tell me Gibsons are too pricey and by default Fender wins. Fenders dont have a massive one piece mahogany body ($), a flamed maple cap ($), big pearl inlays ($), nickel/gold plated pickups ($), and big metal bridges+tailpieces their designs are totally different and in no way comparable. both have highs, both have lows
    nikeskater1991
    fender= blues and classic rock gibson= metal and classic rock i have a strat and a lespaul and the les paul kicks the fenders ass
    linkinwayne
    Agree with Greg Harper. And 'If you look at any famous guitarist, chances are they either play or own a Fender' That's exactly what I would say about Gibson.
    martell.luis.a
    I thought I was a Fender guy... I got some nice Fender guitars but I recently bought a Gibson Les Paul... BOOM! it changed my whole idea of what a guitar can sound like... Truly, no question, GIBSON IS KING!
    Zapfire
    I have a Strat and a Les Paul and personally I think I can get better distortion from the LP and better clean from the Strat. Also the strat sounds much better in drop d.
    ninjakarl
    sg.. the spanish guitar? correct me if i'm wrong but isn't it solid guitar? wikipedia seems to agree with me other than that, your article is very good. not too biased and pointing out pros for each company, good work =)
    bass1991guitar
    wbk666 wrote: i dont think there is a simple winner as it depends on what style of music your playing. Both are equal in my opinion. sorry
    Idiot, that's the point! Both are the most versatile brands in music yet poele still say this. It's a chiche used by people who think they know but don't. My opinion? Gibson. Why? Gibsons are much more reliable due to personal experience.
    hartagram
    I love older Gibsons but there newer stuff is not as good anymore. Fenders are decent but lack the harshness of a Paul tone. Heres a simple equasion to end this debate.... Take 1 Les Paul and add one Fender Strat and you get a PRS which by far, is the best non handmade custom guitar you can buy!
    ham-of-god
    flipdirtman wrote: okay obviousolly this is a question of opinion and the winner varies among different people and different styles however i like the gibson because i find too often on fenders that eather the bridge isnt high enough or the pickups are too close i dont know? but that makes it very hard to do palm muting or for guitarists like me i rest my hand on the back of the strings most of the time which while plugged in causes the strings to touch the pickup which creates a very strange computery sounding noise. and also fender makes good looking older style guitars however gibson has keptinnovating and creating new styled guitars (but that only goes for looks which dont realy mean much, especially in rock and roll).as far as basses go however fender has done a very good job at inovating and keeping up with new looks and myself not being a bass player dont know about tone. My opinion though is IBANEZ they have wicked sounding electric guitars awesome low sounding hollowbodies and as far as acoustic goes i find it very easy to play
    take a screwdriver and lower your pickups.....simple as that
    HandofBlood10
    fender clearly got it's ass kicked, ripped off, and then beaten with it.... gibson is the obvious winner in this contest. Fender doesnt even come close to being a "good" guitar brand
    ham-of-god
    johann wrote: the_next_jesus wrote: Fenders arent all that good...and they are for nubs. Gibsons are pricy guitars...but thats why theirs epiphones..sound almost the same and look...just took out some pickups..and gibsons are harder too play..i personally like other guitars better...esp is probablly my favorite guitar line..they have cheap guitars...have an incredible tone..and a good everything..but between the battle gibson should win..theirs alot of people that use them...Zakk wylde randy rhoads Dethklok jimmy page slash angus young tony iommi...but esp's are going to murder them in a few years wtf..keep dreaming..the only notable guitar legend that plays esp is Kirk hammet and James hethfield..yet, they play gibson too..
    actually hetfield, hammet, george lynch, alexi liaho, mark morton, wayne static, the two posers from atreyu and so many more are switching to esp i agree i had a esp kh 200 and they are exelent guitars they will eventualy own the market
    ham-of-god
    EVERYONE ARGUES ABOUT TONE YET MOST GUITAR PLAYERS KNOW MOST OF YOUR TONE COME FROM YOUR FINGERS AND HOW YOU PLAY SO STOP ARGUEING ABOUT TONE
    Pony_Rocker
    personally i dont care about either of these brands. EVERYONE owns a fender so why follow the crowd. Gibsons are just overpriced American junk. Give me an Epiphone any day. Yes I know that Gibson own Epiphone, but I like Epiphones from 1957, which is the same year Gibson bought it, so from 1957 BACK, its not american trash (I figure it takes more than a month to get a new guitar out). I own a Epiphone Wildkat, first designed in 1957. Not American Trash thankfully.
    davebooska
    no "VS" threads lololol just kidding. GIBSON ALL THE WAY! Jackson's > Gibson's though, sorry.
    Hart_Attack
    everytime i hear a strat or a tele play i think of a tin can being shoved up you fender lovers butt screaming in a high "bell-like" voice. but you know what I Play Rock n Roll and I love the Rock N Roll sound from a gibson flying V or Explorer and a marshall, best mix ever!
    Peacemaker551
    One thing i would like to point out about most of these comments are the lack of something good to say. Oh yeah, since you can't think of something witty to say, why not make fun of a simple error? SG, Spanish Guitar it says, so you all get angry about it? Well, we're human, we make mistakes, and it will be something completely new to me to find out that some of you haven't ever made any. By the way, my personal opinion on the two guitars is that Fenders have a much better sound quality and are much easier to play. Gibsons on the other hand have a different sound quality, which i am not saying is bad, but i prefer the Fender's over Gibson. Playability on the Gibson is also a little bit different, but i would much rather pick up a Fender than a Gibson.
    janc
    i go for gibson because all the legends play a gibson eg jimmy page, tony iommi, ace frehley, zakk wylde, dave mustaine, marty friedman. and they are sexier like all fender guitars are based on the same design whereas gibson differ which makes them betta
    Vulture1
    originality? what the fck? yeah lets praise les paul for putting a single cut into an acoustic style body. SMART...
    lsw444
    Got one of each. Always wanted a Les Paul, looks great, I love the sound they produce on record, probably prefer the sound they produce when I amplify them both, but really its a strat for me. Just really because when I pick it up unplugged for a quick tinkle it just feels so great with my hand wrapped around it, the LP needs to be amplified. So its strat to play but LP to look at and listen to.
    steelfingers
    i dont have either : ( oh well im only 13 so i guess i don't really need one... for now. anyway i reckon they're both good. i likes a lot of dif types of rock. if i HAD a gibson, i would use it for heavier stuff and the fender for softer stuff and ISW444 you bastard. got one of each. lucky. i wish i had one.
    Korzack
    Personally, the less than can go wrong, the less that WILL go wrong. Erego, I'll go with Gibson. Saying thatm I quite like the less well-known Fenders - Mustangs, Jafuars etc., although I'll end out buying a tele and a strat one of these days, just for the use of them.
    troykeenan
    yeah your gibson history is a bit fuzzy. i thought it was spansh guitar for ages until i just found out recently that it was solid guitar
    bolbi6
    it all depends on if you like classic rock or metal if i play a classic rock,pop or any other soft music i pick up my strat and if any heavier songs i pick up my les paul but both so close if you like tone go with fender gibsons have ok tone but i like fenders better.so i have to go with fender,but i do like les pauls for thier look but still fender
    ham-of-god
    well the first guitar i owned was a fender strat and i gotta say it has great distorted capabilities i would play pantera stuf live with it cause it had great crunch and you cant beat the sound on the neck pickup its so warm. a few years ago i traded my strat for a gibson xplorer and i was disapointed at first for one the neck is so heavy if you take your hand off it it hits the floor two it doesnt have the crisp crunch of a strat but really i found that a digitech hothead pedal or deathaetal pedal does wonders on both guitars you can make a fender sound like a gibson and vise versa but all bets aside i prefer fender gear to anything cause in the end it is a very expensive piece of shit (talk about pickup hum) so you can beat on it and not feal bad about it lol
    flipdirtman
    okay obviousolly this is a question of opinion and the winner varies among different people and different styles however i like the gibson because i find too often on fenders that eather the bridge isnt high enough or the pickups are too close i dont know? but that makes it very hard to do palm muting or for guitarists like me i rest my hand on the back of the strings most of the time which while plugged in causes the strings to touch the pickup which creates a very strange computery sounding noise. and also fender makes good looking older style guitars however gibson has keptinnovating and creating new styled guitars (but that only goes for looks which dont realy mean much, especially in rock and roll).as far as basses go however fender has done a very good job at inovating and keeping up with new looks and myself not being a bass player dont know about tone. My opinion though is IBANEZ they have wicked sounding electric guitars awesome low sounding hollowbodies and as far as acoustic goes i find it very easy to play
    rockinbassist17
    slash is right, SG means Solid Guitar and it was put out because Les Paul ended his endorsment with Gibson which meant for the moment they could no longer put his name on the guitars.
    rockinbassist17
    O and I think Fender is better, I mean If it was good enough for Jimi Hendrix its definately good enough for Me.