Gibson Les Paul Melody Maker 2014

You can’t blame me for being skeptical; after all, the Les Paul Melody Maker is the least expensive Les Paul in the 2014 lineup. But I wanted to check one out to experiment with some alternate guitar wirings (I wasn’t about to blob solder all over a Les Paul Standard), so I borrowed a charcoal gray model, and played it on a track to get a feel for the guitar. But then I played it on another track. And another. I went from being skeptical to impressed in about 30 minutes.

That’s when I thought that this was another good candidate for doing a little myth-busting. So, here are the top five bust-worthy Les Paul Melody Maker myths gleaned from the interwebz.

At that price, they have to be made in China. Nope, they’re made in the USA, in the same Nashville factory that produces everything from the Les Paul Melody Maker to Les Paul Supremes.

It’s a beginner’s guitar. That’s true—if you consider Billy Joe Armstrong, Joan Jett, Mick Jones, Robby Krieger, Joe Perry, Leslie West, Pat Travers, Paul Westerberg, Bill Spooner, Keith Richards and Slash beginners.

They must have put cheap pickups in there. Actually, pickup guru Jim DeCola was tasked with inventing a new set of pickups that emphasized musical versatility. While the design is very similar to the classic P-90, the inductance is a little lower and the magnets a little stronger, thus giving more touch sensitivity while preserving the power. The pickup levels are matched more accurately, too. Check out the audio examples or better yet, play a Les Paul Melody Maker and see what you think.

It comes in only one color. That used to be true, so we’ll give this rumor a pass. But the 2014 models offer Satin Yellow, Charcoal Gray Satin, Manhattan Midnight, or Wine Red Satin. (Incidentally, the new wax satin stain is a big improvement with respect to providing a sleek feel on the neck.)

A Gibson guitar can’t be any good at that price. Many potential Gibson customers asked for an affordable guitar with great sound and playability—and that was taken as a challenge. The production costs went into the two aspects that matter the most: the pickups to deliver the sound, and the neck/body combination for the best feel and tone.

The Les Paul Melody Maker still has a contoured maple top, mahogany back, one-piece rosewood fingerboard with cryogenically treated frets, and maple neck. However you won’t find gold-plated hardware, a super-glossy finish, pickup rings, coil splits or tuned coil taps, an internal preamp, quilted maple top, or even a pickguard. The result is a no-frills guitar that’s nonetheless an extremely playable instrument with great sound—yet is still hand-produced, in the United States, at an affordable price.

Take a listen:

Clean twang from the bridge pickup

Clean jazz from the neck pickup

Clean and funky from the mid setting (both pickups)