What is an SG?
Alongside the Les Paul, Stratocaster and Telecaster, the SG is widely considered one of the all-time great guitar designs. Many will agree that its most recognisable form is a curved double-cut Mahogany body, featuring dual-humbuckers, a Cherry Red finish and a black pickguard.
Originally introduced in the 1960s as a variety of Les Paul, it soon adopted its own name (‘SG’ standing for Solid Guitar) and went on to become a true legend of the guitar world. It’s since taken many forms, but remains one of the most popular guitars in the world.
Gibson SG vs Epiphone SG
As mentioned above, the SG was originally released by Gibson in 1961, designed as a variation on the Les Paul design. It featured a thinner flat-top body, a double-cutaway with contours, and a shifted neck joint for improved upper fret access.
Over the years, Gibson have released many SG iterations, with a variety of features. Epiphone, under license from Gibson, also produce a great range of affordable SG options. So what’s the difference between the ranges? Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer…
Epiphone’s SG selection combines original designs with classics inspired by Gibson themselves. Options like the SG Special VE offer great looks, lightweight playability and affordability.
At the other end of the spectrum, the G400 ticks a few more boxes for an even more authentic SG experience; Mahogany body, 4 x control knobs, Alnico pickups – you get the picture!Shop All Epiphone SG Guitars
The Gibson SG Range
Gibson’s SG offerings are a little more varied, but that’s not to say they don’t pay homage to their roots. They’ve struck the perfect balance between modern variation and old-school mojo.
The flagship, the benchmark – the Standard. Gibson have have injected the Standard model with a new lease of life to keep it rocking for years to come. Versatile specs including a Mahogany double-bill, plus Gibson’s 490 pickups for added bite compared to PAF-style pickups.
The Tribute series is the most affordable and accessible SG model Gibson offer. It boasts legendary rock ‘n’ roll sound in a raw, stripped back form. Maple Neck, unbound fretboard, acrylic dot inlays, simple finishes – rock on.
Echoing the instantly-recognisable Les Paul Junior design, the SG Junior offers a similar no-frills rock ‘n’ roll experience. A Mahogany body/neck in Vintage Cherry with a single handwired P90 Dog-Ear pickup – plug in and bring the house down.
The SG Special is one of the more unique SG models on offer, combining snarling P90 pickups with eye-catching finishes and a wraparound bridge. The result is a less-is-more spin on the SG blueprint, perfect for players looking for something a little different.
As the name suggests, this is the one with the bells and whistles. If you want the SG shape but armed to the teeth with versatile features, this is your game. Burstbucker Pro pickups with coil-tap, AA Flamed Maple tops for extra top-end, Asymmetrical Slim Taper neck.Shop All Gibson SG Guitars
As mentioned above, SGs feature a huge variety of pickup options to choose from. So what’s the difference between them? Here are some of the most common:
- Burstbucker 61 – sizzling PAF-style pickups with Alnico II magnets. Mellow by nature but when pushed, they’ll snarl.
- Burstbucker Pro – substitute the Alnico II for the hotter Alnico V. Burstbucker Pros are, at the time of writing, Gibson’s hottest pickups.
- Gibson 490R/T – voiced similar to PAF-style pickups, but with a sweeter midrange. Perfect for overdrive due to their controlled top-end.
- Gibson P90 – before the humbucker showed up, the P90 was Gibson’s standard pickup. Dynamics of a single-coil with the fatness of a humbucker.
- Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro – based on Epiphone’s take on the Burstbucker, but with Alnico V magnets (like the Burstbucker Pro).
- Epiphone 650/700 – hot modern-sounding pickups found in many of Epiphone’s SG models.
- Mahogany – the Holy Grail of Gibson tonewoods. Known for its hefty low-end, rich sustain and subtle but recognisable grain. Some SGs use Mahogany for both the body and the neck.
- Maple – much brighter sounding with a lighter grain, known for its snappy treble response and attack. Occasionally used as the neck wood of choice.
- Flamed Maple – identical to the above, but with an eye-catching tiger-stripe grain. Sometimes used for tops for extra treble and fancy aesthetics.
- Poplar – occasionally used for affordable Epiphone SG models, embellished with a Mahogan veneer. Pronouncd midrange but otherwise balanced tone.
Famous SG Players
The SG was a head-turner when it was first released. But one of the main reasons it's considered so iconic is the prestigious list of guitarists who brandished it over the years. Here's just a handful of players who are known for brandishing the SG:
- Angus Young
- Tony Iommi
- Derek Trucks
- Frank Zappa
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Bret Hinds
- Jimmy Page
What are the best SG guitars?
Now you know a bit more about the different types of SG guitars on the market, you need to figure out which one would work best for your needs. Whether you’re looking to practice at home, or head out on a lengthy tour schedule, there’s an SG for everyone. Here are a few recommendations:
We hope you’ve found this guide useful. You should be one step (or two, perhaps three steps) closer to finding the ultimate SG for your collection. Rock ‘n’ roll awaits!
While you’re here, you might want to check out the rest of our buyer’s guides, or perhaps our blog for some gear-related bedtime reading. Thanks for stopping by!