SG: What Is This Iconic Guitar Model & How Was It Invented?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

Always the latest guitar gear & tricks?

Subscribe to THE newsletter for aspiring guitarists

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

hi there I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

The Gibson SG is a solid-body electric guitar model that was introduced in 1961 (as the Gibson Les Paul) by Gibson, and remains in production today with many variations on the initial design available. The SG Standard is Gibson’s best selling model of all time.

What is the SG guitar


The SG (solid guitar) is an iconic electric guitar model that has been in production since the year 1961. It is one of the longest standing and widely used instrument models in music history. Originally created by Gibson, though not marketed by them for a few years, the continuation of this classic design was taken up by Epiphone in 1966 and has since become considerably popular among players from various genres.

Due to its ergonomic design, revolutionary looks, and incredible tonality, the SG became a go-to choice for many well-known artists of various musical backgrounds including George Harrison (Beatles), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Angus Young (AC/DC) and others. A number of variations have also been released over the years to meet different player needs.

This article seeks to give information about how this beloved model came into existence as well as pertinent details that may be useful for prospective buyers or enthusiasts looking to learn more about this classic instrument.

History of the SG

The SG (or “solid guitar”) is an iconic guitar model created by Gibson in 1961. Originally intended to replace the Les Paul, the SG quickly rose to fame and has been associated with a variety of genres and popular musicians throughout the years. To understand the history and impact of the SG, let’s take a look at how it was invented and the legacy it created.

Designers of the SG

The SG was designed in 1961 by Gibson employee Ted McCarty. During this period, Gibson’s previous designs such as the Les Paul and the ES-335 had become too heavy for live performance, and the company decided to create a new type of guitar that was thinner, lighter, and easier to play.

McCarty enlisted several members of Gibson’s design team for help with the project, including Maurice Berlin and Walt Fuller. Berlin designed the distinctive shape of the SG’s body while Fuller developed new technologies such as a vibrato system and pickups that increased sustain and volume.

While McCarty was ultimately credited with creating the SG, others on his team were equally important in developing its unique design features. Maurice Berlin took two years perfecting the double cutaway shape that spoke of modernity, lightness and comfort from an ergonomic point of view. His curved horn at fret 24 allowed guitarists to use all positions across all strings in fewer moves than ever before and produce notes easily reachable on higher frets.

Walt Fuller developed a number of technological advancements for both electric guitar manufacturing as for its sound improvement efficiency since then used by all leading manufacturers worldwide (including Fender). He designed humbucking pickups -more popularly known as HBs- giving an improved output to an electric guitar by eliminating interference from adjacent cords; developed a potentiometer “blend control” to mix several pickups signals allowing different combinations between pickups; invented a vibrato system featuring two adjustable components including two hex screws threaded along separate axes while attached together into one frame thus allowing flexibility in terms amplifying desired string movements according to each player’s individual style; created XLR jacks allowing cables up to 100 feet long without distortion” McGraw Hill Press)

Features of the SG

The SG features a double cutaway design and a distinctive pointy lower horn. It is also known for its lightweight body, making it a popular choice for stage performers. The most common body shape has two humbucker pickups, one near the bridge and another near the neck, giving it an incredibly rich tone compared to other guitars at the time. Other pickup configurations are available, including single coils and three-pickup designs.

The SG also has a unique bridge design which increases the string’s sustain. It can be adjusted for either through-body or top-loading stringing depending on preference. The fretboard is usually made from rosewood or ebony, with 22 frets for access to all of the notes on the guitar neck.

The SG is considered to have “vintage looks” by many players because of its angular shape and rounded edges, which give it a unique style that makes it stand out amongst other guitar models on stage or in recording studios.

Popularity of the SG

The SG has been played by some of music’s greatest legends, including Pete Townshend of The Who, Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, Bob Seger, and Carlos Santana. In the ’90s and 2000s, popular artists like The White Stripes’ Jack White, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, and Metallica’s James Hetfield have all contributed to the ongoing legacy of this iconic instrument. The SG also found its place among the Southern rock genre in bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special.

Whether it was being used for sonic power chords or blues-influenced licks from some of the industry’s greatest tastemakers or simply to achieve a unique style, there’s no denying that the SG has become an invaluable part of guitar history. Its thinline body design has made creating lighter tones on stage easier than ever before — something that undoubtedly attracted so many musical greats to adopt its use over time. Its timeless design is still among the most sought after in both the classic 1960s models as well as modern production renditions today.

How the SG Was Invented

The SG or the solid guitar, was introduced to the world in 1961 by Gibson. It was an attempt to replace the Les Paul, which had become outdated. The SG quickly became a hit with players of all types, from hard rock to jazz. This iconic guitar has been played by some of the world’s most famous musicians and its sound and design remain iconic to this very day. Let’s take a look at the history of the SG and the people responsible for its creation.

Development of the SG

The SG (or “Solid Guitar”) is a classic two-horned, solid-body electric guitar model that was designed and released by Gibson in 1961. It was an evolution of their Les Paul model, which had been a guitar with two sets of horns since 1952.

The design of the SG was heavily influenced by its predecessors but also incorporated several modern innovations, such as a thinner and lighter body, easier upper fret access than other electric guitars at the time, and the double cutaway design that made it so iconic. The SG has been used by renowned guitarists throughout the years in genres such as rock, blues and jazz; Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page are some of the most famous examples.

At its initial release in 1961, the SG featured a mahogany body and neck with an optional vibrato tailpiece tuning system which would later become standard on all versions. Its uses two single-coil pickups on either end of its double-cutaway body for amplification. The history of the for Gibson’s Les Paul model is full of technical improvements that adapted it perfectly to meet new musical needs – including innovations like applying maple pickguards or providing some models with humbucker pickups – while remaining faithful to Gibson’s signature sound; the same principle applied to the development of the SG.

In 1962, Gibson replaced the standard Les Paul Model with what they called “The New Les Paul” or simply “the SG” (as we now know it). In 1969 production halted on The New Les Paul model; after this date only one version – The Standard – remained available until 1978 when fewer than 500 were manufactured before being discontinued again in 1980. Despite this fact, today The Standard remains an incredibly popular guitar due to its classic style and sound capabilities for players everywhere.

Innovations of the SG

The SG was designed to be an evolution of the acclaimed and iconic Les Paul, with Gibson hoping to build on the success of its predecessor. Keeping in line with this ambition, the SG featured a number of innovations that were intended to improve the guitar’s playability and sound. The most distinct of these features were two sharp cutaways in the body shape and a slimmed-down neck profile. This design allowed easier access to higher frets on the fingerboard, improving playability when compared to that of a standard Les Paul — as well as modifying its sonic characteristics. The lighter body also gave players more control over their instrument and reduced playing fatigue for longer performances.

Gibson remarkably managed to reduce weight without sacrificing structural strength by utilizing a mahogany construction, which is extremely light but also very strong and rigid — similar woods are used in large bass guitars today due to their stability and tonal qualities. This material choice is still one of the defining aspects behind why so many people love playing SGs! Speaking specifically about those tonal characteristics — Gibson also introduced powerful humbuckers that have become beloved among guitarists from all styles since they were first introduced in 1961. Both warm and punchy with enough clarity for soloing, these pickups can take you from jazz leads to heavy metal riffs without missing a beat!

Impact of the SG

The impact of the SG on modern-day music is difficult to overstate. This iconic guitar model has been used by everyone from AC/DC’s Angus Young to rocker Chuck Berry and beyond. Its lightweight design and distinguished look have made it a favorite among performers throughout the years and its innovative features have allowed it to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of music.

Part of the reason why the SG has had such a big impact is because it was designed with today’s performer in mind. The SG features an asymmetrical double-cutaway body shape, which not only provides unparalleled access to all frets on the fretboard – something that few guitars before it could do – but also looks completely unique. Additionally, its two humbucker pickups were revolutionary for their time, giving players access to a range of sounds that couldn’t be found in other models at the time.

The SG has gone on to become one of Gibson’s most iconic instruments, and many other companies have started making their own versions as well. Its influence can be heard in countless songs from musicians both past and present, from punk pioneers like Patti Smith to indie-rockers like Jack White or even cutting-edge pop stars like Lady Gaga. It truly is one of the most influential guitars ever designed, and its continued popularity proves just how successful its invention was.


In conclusion, the Gibson SG has become a legendary guitar model that has been used by the likes of Tony Iommi, Angus Young, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and many more. Often seen as a symbol of hard rock, its design is still popular today. Its invention was driven by an energetic team led by Ted McCarty and Les Paul’s passion to come up with something unique. The SG combined superb design aesthetics with modern manufacturing processes and ultimately gave birth to one of the most iconic guitars of all time.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

Microphone gain vs volume Subscribe