How to Customize Les Paul Guitars

By Richard Kalinowski
Les Paul guitar with custom, colorful pickguard

Gibson's Les Paul line of guitars has long been a symbol of excellence in the music world. Right alongside the equally venerable Fender Stratocaster line, the Les Paul is one of the world's most popular models. An Associated Press article even touts Les Paul, the man behind this design, as "the father of the electric guitar" because of his impressive development of the solid-body electric guitar. However, with the Les Paul style's endurance also comes a desire to shake things up. Many contemporary musicians love the classic sound but are looking to change up the look. Luckily, you can customize your Les Paul with just a few quick mods, bringing this legendary instrument into the 21st century.

Add decals (see Resources) to the headstock or portions of the body for a graphical pop of color and visual interest. Vinyl decals attach to the guitar body via static cling, meaning they do not leave sticky adhesives that will ruin the guitar's finish---this is especially good news if you change your mind and don't like the decal later on.

Replace the Les Paul pickguard (see Resources) with a colored plastic or wooden pickguard for a custom look. Pickguards are held in by just two Philips screws, making them easy to change. Check the pickguard's packaging or online description to make sure it is recommended for your specific Les Paul model.

Change the tone knobs (see Resources) to reflect a personalized, custom style. Most tone knobs simply pop off, and the new ones can be pushed onto the exposed tone "pot."

Change the hardware on the guitar. This is a slightly more time-consuming custom modification, but it can be achieved without much prior guitar modification background. Basic guitar hardware, such as the tuning pegs and the guitar's output jack, is typically just held in place with screws and a hex nut. Changing these elements from a standard chrome to a boutique-style gold or contemporary black can make your guitar stand out.

Add new pickups (see Resources) if you're looking to achieve a custom sound alongside your custom look. If you do not have experience wiring a guitar, many guitar shops will install pickups for you if you pay a small additional fee. The tricky part of getting new pickups is knowing whether or not you're truly upgrading. Depending on your Les Paul model, the standard pickups included with the guitar may simply be average or they may already be top-of-the-line and not need upgrading. The safest bet is asking a guitar store employee for advice or checking the stock specs online for your specific model.

Warning

In some instances, customization can void your guitar's warranty. Check your warranty conditions ahead of time.

About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.