Every guitar player has their preference when it comes to the types and brands of guitars they use. For instance, some love the feel and sound of a Fender Stratocaster, while others would much prefer to use a Gibson SG. So, which brand is better anyway, Fender vs Gibson? Well, it isn’t so much of a question about which is the better brand, because they are both great. For most guitar players, it is simply a matter of preference. Today we are going to take a look at both brands. Let’s get started.
Which Guitar Brand is Better?
When it comes to Fender and Gibson guitars, you are looking at two of the best guitar brands on the planet. Both companies have been creating precision instruments for several decades, and they have really honed their skills throughout the years. In addition to making top of the line guitars, they also create lower-end models that are affordable for anyone who wants to have a Fender or Gibson but doesn’t have a large budget.
The answer to which guitar brand is better, Fender or Gibson, is a tricky one. It really depends on the musician. Some will tell you that they only play Fender guitars, while others won’t pick up anything but Gibson guitars. Obviously, this isn’t going to help you very much when it comes to making your own decision.
So, we are going to take a look at the tone, build quality, etc for each brand, and then you will have the information you need to make your decision (obviously, the biggest deciding factors will be how it feels, how it plays, and your budget).
Let’s start by talking about the tone that you can get from both brands. The wood used to create guitars plays a huge role in an instrument’s tone. For instance, Fender began creating guitars using pine and ash in the early 1950’s, and by 1952, the Telecaster was beginning to become a household name (at least in households that include guitar players). This guitar has a tone that is unlike any other, and it has a lot to do with the wood that is used in the build.
Pine is what gives Fender their light tone that so many musicians love. Fender also uses ash, another light wood that produces a nice tone. The company has even used alder wood on occasion.
Now, we come to Gibson, a company that tends to use mainly mahogany for solid body guitars. Mahogany is a dense wood, and allows for tones that are thicker and warmer than the tones from Fender guitars. The tops are often maple, which produces a crisper sound that is light. When you combine the tones from these two types of wood, you get the sound that Gibson is known for.
Both Fender and Gibson guitars have amazing sound quality, although they do have different tones. Again, it will all come down to what each individual guitar player prefers.
Next we come to build quality, and again, it is tough to compare the two brands because they both produce some of the best guitars, with build quality that is second to none. Gibson came along before Fender, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that this company builds better guitars. Both manufacturers are on the same level when it comes to build quality.
There are many things to consider when it comes to build quality. We already talked about the wood used to create Gibson and Fender guitars. Now, let’s take a look pickups, scale length, and fingerboard radius.
Fender and Gibson use different types of pickups. For instance, many Fender guitars have single coil pickups. Gibson guitars tend to have humbucker pickups. When you come right down to it, the pickups are one of the biggest differences between these two brands.
The single coil pickups in Fender guitars give them that “twangy” sound we have come to know and love. The Gibson humbucker pickups are made with two single coils, and they have a warmer, fuller sound that is also a bit louder. These pickups are also less likely to pick up interference, such as that from radio signals.
The type of music will often play a role in the type of guitar you use. Let’s say you want to play music that has a lot of distortion. In this cases, your best option might be a Gibson, because the humbucker pickups give out stronger signal and offer more distortion than the Fender single coil pickups.
On the other hand, you can still get some pretty good distortion out of a Fender Stratocaster. Again, it all comes down to personal preference in the long run. A Stratocaster can sound just as good as an SG when you are plugging them into the right channels, such as distorted channels.
The length between the top nut and the bridge saddles is called scale length, and this is what affects string tension, and the sound your guitar produces. Gibson and Fender guitars have different scale lengths. Most Gibson guitars have a scale length of 24.75”, while Fender guitars have a 25.5” scale length. The harmonics on Gibson guitars are closer together, with a warmer tone than harmonics played on a Fender guitar, which has harmonics that are spaced further apart, and give a tone that is more bell-like.
The next thing we are going to look at is fingerboard radius. This is the curve of the fingerboard, and it is different for both Fender and Gibson guitars. Many Fender guitars have a 7.25” or 9.5” radius, whereas Gibson guitars tend to have a 12” radius. The Fender guitars have more of a curve on the back of the neck, while Gibson guitars are flatter.
For many guitar players, comfort is a huge factor, and while some prefer the long radius of a Gibson, others prefer the shorter radius of Fender guitars. Take lead guitar players for instance. Many prefer to have a guitar with a slim neck and a long radius. This means a Gibson may be their best option, such as the Les Paul Standard.
Another option is a Fender guitar that has a compound fretboard radius. This means that the radius at the bottom end is 9.5”, while the top end radius is 12 inches, which is how the Fender American Elite is made. This way, guitarists get to enjoy both radius on a single guitar. In other words, they get the best of both worlds.
Finally, we are going to talk about the appearance of Fender and Gibson guitars. When it comes to appearance, these two brands are worlds apart. If you know anything about guitars, chances are you can spot either brand a mile away and know exactly which type of guitar it is. Both brands offer different body styles, and Gibson has more hollow-body guitars than Fender offers.
While appearance isn’t nearly as important as performance, it is still important to have a guitar that you love the look of. If you don’t like the way it looks, you will find reasons to not like the way it plays, even if it is the greatest sounding guitar in the world.
Obviously, there are several differences between Fender and Gibson guitars. As we have said several times throughout this article, in the end, it will all come down to personal preference. If you like the look, sound, and feel of a Gibson, that is likely going to be the brand you prefer.
If you have an affinity for Stratocasters, Fender will always be your go-to guitar brand. Whichever brand you choose, know that you will be playing an instrument made by a top manufacturer that is in the business of building amazing guitars that look, feel, and sound awesome.