What Is The Most Famous Electric Guitar? Exploring 2 Different Legends

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 03/06/23 •  9 min read

There are so many electric guitars out there these days, but what is the most famous electric guitar? Today we dive into history and look at 2 guitars that changed the world forever.

What Is The Most Famous Electric Guitar?

That can be a tough question to answer, since there are so many famous electric guitars. There are many iconic designs that many legendary guitar players have used over the years. Some people like Eddie Van Halen even made his own guitar, and it became famous all on its own! So what is the most famous electric guitar?

We had to really break it down to a few different reasons that a guitar would be famous. We have to look at the time period that it is made, as well as how long they have been in production. Second, we had to think about how popular certain guitars are and if those guitars still sell today.

So we came up with not one, but two famous electric guitars! How did we come up with these two? They are the most popular guitars now, and they have been popular since the inception of both models. They sold back then, and they still sell really well today.

Without a doubt, the Fender Stratocaster is probably the most “famous” guitar. You can ask people that do not play guitar at all to name one type of guitar, and they could probably name Fender. However the Les Paul is known not just for the guitar itself, but the person it was named after. Les Paul was very innovative in the music business; from recording equipment and composing music, to guitar designs and luthier skills.

So we actually have two answers here, and most guitarists are in one “camp” or the other when it comes to brand loyalty. This can be due to a lot of different reasons, but the two guitar designs are very different from one another.

Today we will go over the features and specs that make each guitar very unique. There are several factors that make a guitarist choose a Fender over a Gibson. Maybe these differences will help you make a decision if you are a beginner guitarist and you were wondering what makes these two icons different.

There are {number} factors that influence a guitarists decision when it comes to Fender and Gibson. So let’s take a quick look at the main differences that actually matter. The Fender Stratocaster may be the most famous guitar of all time, but the Les Paul is almost tied when it comes to popularity. Let’s see why!

#1: Guitar Construction

What is the most famous electric guitar?

Construction is one of the biggest differences between our two famous electric guitar models. Both guitars are made in completely different ways when it comes to the actual construction. So how are they different when it comes to building these two guitars, and why does it matter?

Fender Stratocaster Construction:

Most Fender Stratocaster guitars are famous for their double-cut body style, with a large pickguard that hides the electronics. If you ask someone to draw a guitar, most people would draw this body style! It is very iconic, but also ergonomic when you are holding the guitar due to the “tummy cut” contour.

The Alder body wood makes the guitar lightweight, and the bolt-on Maple neck is very stable. The bolt-on construction was a new thing when Leo Fender designed it, and the idea is that you can replace the neck if it ever breaks, without buying a whole new guitar.

Finally, the tremolo bridge is a huge feature on a Stratocaster. While it takes more maintenance to operate, if gives you the choice of using the “whammy bar”. The other big feature is the three single coil pickups, which gives the player a lot of options when it comes to tones and sounds. The 5 way switch gives the player 5 distinct tones from the 3 pickups.

Gibson Les Paul Construction:

Gibson took a completely different approach to the solid body guitar design. The body is a slab of mahogany with a Maple top/cap. The Maple top is carved, which takes a lot more attention during production compared to the Fender Stratocaster’s flat top. Les Paul guitars usually also have binding around the body and fretboard, as a symbol of luxury.

The neck is glued to the body, with a long wooden tenon keeping it connected. Unfortunately, this means if there are any neck issues, it will need to be repaired since you can’t just switch out the neck. But this also makes the Les Paul a resonant instrument with tons of sustain.

There is no whammy bar on a Les Paul, and the fixed bridge requires much less maintenance compared to the Stratocaster. The dual humbuckers also provide a fatter tone compared to the Stratocaster, but you are limited to three switch positions compared to the 5 that Fender offers.

At the end of the day, the two guitars are very different. They attract totally different players due to their construction and design. The Fender Strat is also a much more lightweight guitar, by a couple of pounds usually! The Les Paul can sometimes be heavy, since they are made of mahogany. However newer les Paul guitars are chambered to relieve weight.

There are some legendary Les Paul guitars out there, like “Greeny” or the Les Paul that Jimmy Page used on stage in the 70’s. But the Les Paul, even in modern form is not to everyone’s taste. Many guitarists complain about the weight, and ergonomics. But there’s another big factor that makes these two popular guitars so different.

#2: Scale Length

what is the most famous electric guitar?

This is probably the biggest factor when it comes to the “feel” of these two famous guitars. We have discussed what scale length is exactly in a separate tutorial. Gibson famously has a shorter scale length of 24.75” and 22 frets on most Les Paul guitars.

Fender took a different direction when it came to this design choice. The now-famous “Fender Scale Length” is 25.5” and it has become very popular with many other brands. Fender Stratocaster guitars also have 22 frets, just more spaced out due to the length.

The scale length really effects how the guitar “feels” to guitarists. Some guitarists find it easier to solo on a Fender Scale guitar, since it is easier to reach the upper frets. Other guitarists seem to think that scale length is arbitrary, and it doesn’t really matter.

At the end of the day, most guitarists prefer one or the other. Many professional guitarists often switch between the two without any problems. The scale length is just “different” and there are advantages and disadvantages to both!

#3: Pickup Choice

This is probably the biggest difference between the two most famous guitars. In the 1970’s there were not as many choices when it came to pickups and guitars. It was rare to actually modify a guitar, as a performer. If you wanted a single coil sound, then you played a Stratocaster. If you wanted a bigger, fatter sound then you probably went with a Les Paul.

Single coil pickups can be pretty noisy when you start adding gain or distortion. They suffer from something called “60 cycle hum” that can heard through your amp. Humbuckers on the other hand get their name from what they do! They “buck” the 60 cycle hum by combining two single coil pickups together.

These days we have so many different choices when it comes to pickups, that work differently than classic pickups. Many humbuckers can coil split, which mimics a single coil sound. But there’s no denying that the classic sounds of both guitars shaped popular music as we know it today!

What Is The Most Famous Electric Guitar? Definitely Fender…

Definitely the Fender Stratocaster, but the Les Paul is hard to ignore when it comes to guitar history. The Fender Stratocaster had a bit of a head start, and Fender was the first mass produced solid body electric guitar. But Gibson and Fender both have remained at the top of the electric guitar totem pole.

The Fender Stratocaster is still sold today, and it is even more popular than when it was first introduced. For many guitarists, the Stratocaster became the basis for their tone, and even became a part of their style as a guitarist. People like Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Stevie Ray Vaughn used the Fender Stratocaster as their weapon of choice.

The Les Paul is just as iconic when it comes to famous players, but the Stratocaster wins “the most famous electric guitar” award by just a smidgen. Both are great guitars that can cover a wide variety of styles and genres. It really comes down to what the player prefers!

What Is The Most famous Electric Guitar?

What is the most famous electric guitar?

It can be tough to say, but the Fender Stratocaster is probably the most famous type of electric guitar in history. Since the Stratocaster was first released and mass produced in 1954, it has never stopped being popular among guitar players. It is also the most “copied” electric guitar model in the world.

Is a Fender Strat Better Than A Les Paul?

They are both great guitars, that have very different sounds. The Les Paul has a fatter sound, and singing sustain. However a Stratocaster has a classic single coil sound that many guitarists prefer. Both are iconic guitars, used by legendary guitarists.

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

Keep Reading

Pin It on Pinterest