1990 ’76 Reissue Gibson Explorer

I bought this guitar right before Christmas in 1990. Guitar Center had Gibson Explorers and Flying V’s for $350.00. They were also selling Les Paul Studios for $400.00. It was a huge sale! I was surprised the prices were so low for brand new Gibson guitars. The sales manager said they had to blow them out before the New Year. With that in mind I was happy to see if I could find a guitar in their inventory that I liked.

I played a Flying V and it didn’t tickle my fancy. I tried a Les Paul Studio, and thought let’s try an Explorer. I tried three or four Explorers until I hit on one that I really liked. I decided to buy the Explorer with the hardshell case for an extra $100.00. I had the guitar set up by a guitar tech that worked at Guitar Center as an independent contractor, and I was ready to rock!


  • One-piece solid Mahogany body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • 22-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Dot inlaid Position Markers
  • 496R neck and 500T bridge pickups
  • Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar
  • Chrome Mini-Grover tuners

The Gibson Explorer just screams Rock ‘n Roll! That is the bottom line on this guitar, and I love it!

The stock pickups are high-output ceramic pickups. Perfect for Heavy Metal, but wait I love to play hard rock, classic rock, and some heavy metal but not exactly what people today consider to be “metal” music. The Gibson 496R pickup in the neck position is a great pickup and sounds really good in this guitar. I tried other pickups in the neck position, and I kept going back to the 496R. The 496R is that good, and definitely a keeper.

The 500T in the bridge position was not working nearly so well for me. The reason is that I like a pickup that cleans up when I roll back the volume on the guitar. The 500T didn’t really do this, because it is super hot at around 15k d.c. resistance. This pickup kept everything way too distorted for my tastes. I searched a long time and tried several different bridge pickups including a Dimarzio Super II, the bridge pickup from my ’76 SG (which sounded pretty good in this guitar), and a couple others. It wasn’t until I acquired my Les Paul Studio with the 498T in the bridge that I knew I probably found the right pickup for the bridge slot in my Explorer. The 498T is a fairly hot Alnico 5 pickup with a d.c. resistance around 13k, but it does clean up when you roll back the guitar volume. With the guitar volume on 10, the 498T will melt your face when playing into an overdriven amp or into a cranked up distortion pedal feeding a clean amp.

The Gibson 498T sells for around $130 new. I decided that was too much money. I knew there was a used guitar shop not too far away, so I went there to find a used 498T. The manager of the store pulls out a couple boxes full of Gibson used pickups. Now to find a 498T… one of the store’s clerks pulls out a multimeter and we start measuring the d.c resistance of each pickup. It took a while but we finally found one that had a d.c. resistance a tad over 12k and was most likely a 498T. I paid the store clerk $50 for the pickup, and I was on my way.

I dropped my “new” used Gibson pickup in the bridge position of my Explorer after removing the chrome cover from the pickup to show the black bobbins like the uncovered 496R that was already in the guitar. I could not be happier. This pickup sounds perfect in the Explorer. Nice and powerful with the guitar volume on 10 and when you roll the volume back it cleans up nicely.

The Gibson Explorer has two volumes and one tone control with a three way pickup selector switch. This allows you to be able to do the pickup selector switch stutter/kill switch trick when you have one of the pickup volume controls turned all the way down.

The scale length is the typical Gibson 24.75 scale length. The neck is a fast 60’s slim taper style neck with a rosewood fretboard. The fretboard has 22 nice medium sized frets. Not too big, not too small.

The paint job was done in Classic White, which has yellowed over the years. Quite typical for white Gibson guitars from my experience.

This particular Gibson Explorer is a blast to play and sounds quite nice. It sits very nice in the mix when recording rhythm parts. Leads sound great with this guitar too. There isn’t much not to like about this guitar except maybe the weight. It is a tad on the heavy side.

Here is a guitar solo I recorded on my iPad using the Explorer into Positive Grid’s JamUp Pro. Post production was done in Logic Studio 8 on my Mac. All of the parts were played with the Explorer if I recall correctly. I know the lead part was for sure the Explorer.

Keep pickin’!


2003 Gibson Les Paul Studio

This guitar comes with a story. In the early ’80s I purchased a used 1976 Gibson SG Standard from a friend of a friend for $375.00. This SG was a much better guitar than the crappy imported starter guitars I was trying to play rock music with. The SG was a good guitar, but I had a love hate relationship with it. At the time I couldn’t afford to switch to anything different, so I put my differences aside with the guitar, and got on with making music with the instrument. Flash forward to 2007. I did some research on the internet, and figured out that the 1976 SG collecting dust in the closet was worth about $1,200.00. If it would have been a 1974 model it would have been worth somewhere around $2,000.00. Shoot!

Most of my favorite guitarists I looked up to played Les Paul guitars. Namely the Les Paul Custom. I had previously met the owner of the Music Gallery in Highland Park, IL through a client of mine. The Music Gallery specialized in new and vintage stringed instruments at the time. I always wanted a Les Paul since I was a teenager, but could not afford one. I got the bright idea to take my old Gibson SG to the Music Gallery to see how much they would give me for the guitar. They did a little research on the internet, and quoted me $1,200.00. I told the owner of the store I was interested in a new Les Paul. He showed me his wall of Les Paul guitars, and said I could have any of the Les Paul Studios as an even trade. If I were to throw down an extra grand I could have a Les Paul Standard. At that moment I wished I had an extra thousand dollars, but I didn’t, so I started playing one of the the three Les Paul Studios they had on the rack. I had brought my own amp in to test the guitars. This way I was only evaluating the sound quality from the guitar, and not the amp. After I had tested a couple of the Les Paul Studios the sales person who was helping me suggested I try the white Les Paul Studio that was hanging on the wall. This white Les Paul Studio sounded head and shoulders better than the other two Studios in the store. There is a reason for this. This guitar had a feature the other two didn’t. This guitar had an ebony fretboard (I really like the sound of ebony fingerboards) where the other two had rosewood fingerboards, plus the wood in the white Les Paul Studio just sang better than the other two guitars. This guitar had the sound of a Les Paul Paul Custom without the Les Paul Custom price. I was sold on the guitar. The sales clerk put the guitar into its new hard shell case, and I was on my merry way out the door. I never looked back. To this day I do not regret trading my 1976 SG Standard for this Les Paul Studio.

Here’s a quick rundown of the features of this particular 2003 Les Paul Studio. Mahogany neck and body. Carved maple cap on the body for extra snap. Klusen style tuners on the headstock. The neck profile is the thicker 50’s style neck. Ebony fingerboard with trapezoid position markers. Bone nut. Chrome hardware throughout. Gibson 490R pickup in the neck position and a Gibson 498T pickup in the bridge position. Three position pickup switch, and two volume and two tone speed knob controls to shape your tone. The guitar has an Alpine White paint job to boot.

Out of all of the guitars I own the Les Paul Studio is the guitar I play most often. This Les Paul has the guitar sound I always had in my head. Yeah sure some of my other guitars come close, but when you want that big, fat Les Paul sound the real deal is the way to go. This guitar is definitely the real deal. It has the sound you could easily pay thousands more for, and still be happy as a clam with the price of entry.

It is a good idea when shopping for a specific guitar model to play several of them one after another. You will notice they will all sound different due to the variation in the wood the guitars are built with. Pick the one that sounds the best. If you don’t like any of them. Go to a different store and play some more until you find one you really like. Especially with Gibson guitars the sound quality of guitars of the same model can vary widely. From sounding, not so great, to stellar. I advise to take your time when selecting a Gibson. You tend to pay a premium price for Gibson guitars make sure you actually get a premium instrument. Use your ears, don’t rush the selection process, and you will be fine.