Gibson Firebird – 2020 Review

Vlad
| Last Updated: March 12, 2021

If you’re into weird looking guitars you have probably heard of Flying V guitar.

But, there is another that is usually mixed with the Explorer model, so let’s see what’s so special about the Gibson Firebird guitar and why it’s being called “Gibson’s Telecaster”.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 9-ply Mahogany neck design for improved sustain
  • Original neck through body firebird design
  • Slim taper neck with bound rosewood fingerboard
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PROS

  • Neck-through design
  • Hardshell case included
  • Unique model on the market
  • Original Alnico V pickups installed

CONS

  • Heavy and bulky design
  • Coil splitting option would be nice

Gibson Firebird Specs 

  • Type of Guitar: Electric Guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Double cutaway solid body, Firebird Reverse body type

  • Number of Strings: 6-string model

  • Tonewood: All Mahogany with Gloss finish

  • Orientation: Available only for right-hand players

  • Neck Profile: 9-ply Mahogany & Walnut Slim Taper neck-through profile with 43mm wide GraphTech NuBone nut

  • Fretboard: Rosewood with Acrylic Trapezoid inlay and 22 Medium jumbo frets

  • Scale Length: 24.75 inches

  • Bridge: Fixed Aluminum Nashville Tune-O-Matic and stopbar tailpiece

  • Color: Cherry Red and Tobacco Burst

  • Pickup Type: Dual HH setup with Firebird Alnico V Rhythm and Lead pickups

  • Weight: 9 lbs

Pros

Below are the primary pros:

Neck-Through Design

Firebird is not just a modified Explorer with a reverse headstock and you can tell that by just looking at the neck profile. It is something you won’t see so often in solid body design. 

Its neck profile means that it will generate incredible sustain and resonance and also allow you much lower action. This may lead into faster playing as the strings will resonate through the whole tonewood and deliver better sound to your amp. The guys who are lead guitar players will praise such specifications.

Original Alnico V Pickups Installed

Gibson's idea to make things just how they were before results in this Firebird having an original Alnico V humbuckers. Those pickups have a certain reputation of being ideal for this guitar in specific so you can be sure that the new model is as close to the ‘60s standard as it can get. 

Unique Model On the Market

By simply looking at this guitar, you can tell that it's different from anything you have seen before. It’s a real eye catcher that will make an impression on your audience. And there are two beautiful Gloss vintage finishes available to pick from.

Hardshell Case Included

It's a nice add-on to include a great hard-shell case for this model specifically as it won’t fit just any case or a gig bag you find. The case Gibson provides is heavy duty and it secures the instrument well with the lock mechanism at the center shell.

Cons

However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Heavy and Bulky Design

While it may look cool, Gibson Firebird is not so comfortable to play and will require some adapting time. If you sit while playing you may struggle to reach the first fret as the whole neck seems to be moved to the left a little bit.

And, while standing, you may have trouble with the balance as the neck tends to dive as the headstock seems to be a bit heavier. This goes especially for the Reverse model as the upper horn is also the longest one so it may stick to you as well.

Coil Splitting Option Would Be Nice

Yes, we are aware that the original Firebird didn’t have such an option, but we’re pretty sure they would have if it was frequent in the 1960s. We believe this option would radically improve the overall tone versatility and make this model even more popular.

What Recent Buyers Report

Based on the users’ reports we can tell that this guitar has managed to move people around with its design because they are either in love or hate the experience they had with it. There are a lot of blues-oriented players who could easily start a fanbase club based on their positive comments.

Those who love it feel like they are actually playing a “neck with the wings” and that it sounds wonderful. The neck is described as wide but thin and pretty close to the ‘60s layout. The sustain they were able to produce seems to be even better than Les Paul one. 

Stock pickup sound seems to be brighter and therefore it will create a feel of louder output in general, so it’s safe to say its sound could be placed between typical Gibson and Fender.

However, they also report that the neck position may be awkward for you at first. It’s often commented to be moved to the left a bit more and if you play without looking you may end up playing two frets higher than you would like to. Also, if you’re looking for that typical Gibson humbucker sound, they won’t recommend it.

What Are the Components of the Gibson Firebird? 

Gibson Firebird guitar has a unique neck-through-body with the 9-ply Mahogany and Walnut Slim Taper neck profile. It also houses the Aluminum Nashville Tune-o-Matic fixed bridge with stopbar tailpiece in Chrome finish. 

The rest of the tonewood is made from laminated Mahogany and it comes with a white 3-ply pickguard on the bottom. 

The neck has a Rosewood fingerboard with acrylic trapezoid inlay and 22 Medium Jumbo frets on a regular 24.75” scale. The nut is 43mm wide at the headstock and it’s made from GraphTech NuBone material. The neck is 54.4mm wide at the end of the board and the headstock is reversed equipped with Grover Mini Rotomatics tuning machines.

How Thick is a Gibson Firebird?

The middle section is about 1.5 inches thick and it’s worth mentioning that the upper and lower third has a step back of 5/64” lower on front and 7/64” at the back side. That leaves the tonewood side parts around 1.3 inches thick tapering down to the ends up to 1.1 inches. Such tapering is applied only on the front part.

Gibson Firebird Measurements, How Wide is the Center?

The “center”, or the neck part that goes straight through the body should be approximately 4 1/16  inches wide.

What is the Finish On a Gibson Firebird?

All Gibson Firebirds come with the Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish. Currently, it comes in two color options.

What Pickups Come With the Gibson Firebird?

The pickup configuration for the latest Gibson Firebird consists of a dual humbucker setup equipped with the Alnico V Rhythm on the bridge and Alnico V Lead on the neck position. Both pickups come with the individual tone and volume pots with black top hats with silver reflector along with the 3-way toggle switch pickup selector.

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Gibson Firebird Suitable For?

This guitar aims towards more experienced players first. It’s body shape won’t fit newbies so well and those with smaller hands may have serious problems reaching all the frets at certain playing positions. Needless to say, because of its weight it won’t be suitable for kids at all.

But, because of its neck-through profile, all those shredders may enjoy playing this guitar as the string action can be set lower than on set-on or bolt-on neck types. Combined with the humbuckers and guitars general brighter tone it will make your guitar screaming loud and clear in every situation.

Where is the Gibson Firebird Made?

Gibson Firebird is being made in Gibson Custom Shop facilities in Memphis, USA.

Gibson Firebird History

The Gibson Firebird Was Introduced in What Year?

Gibson Firebird was introduced in 1963 and it has been on the production line ever since.

Who Designed the Gibson Firebird?

As Gibson’s guitar popularity started to drop off in the 1960s, they wanted to bring it back by making a popular appeal. That’s why they assigned a car designer Ray Dietrich to make a unique model. While it was unique, it didn’t get the attention they wanted and a few years later, the non-reverse model was added to the production line.

The Gibson Firebird Three-Pickup Was Made in What Year?

The Gibson Firebird VII, also known as the three-pickup model, was made in 1963. Two years later, Gibson made another three-pickup model, non-reverse Firebird this time.

What Years Were Gibson Firebird Zeros Made?

Firebird Zero was Gibson's attempt to create a lightweight entry-level version of their famous under their brand instead of placing it under the Epiphone sub-brand. It was announced in 2016 and entered standard production in 2017.

When Did Gibson Start Using Ceramic Pickups On the Firebird?

Ceramic pickups were installed on the Gibson Firebird since the 90’s reissue models. Nowadays, Gibson reverted the decision and Firebirds once again have Alnico pickup models.

What Makes the Gibson Firebird Stand Out From the Competition?

Gibson has decided to go back to the roots in recent years and that’s why Firebird guitar should make you interested once again as it has never reached its full potential because of Les Paul fame.

Besides sounding like you would expect from a Gibson electric guitar, appearance is the Firebird's biggest trait. The neck-through profile design makes this guitar unique regarding sustain tone and the reversed headstock and body shape gives it a bit of character.

There are not so many guitars out there that look like Firebird and it can definitely make a difference on your stage visuals.

Gibson Firebird Tips

Here are some tips that may come in handy for Firebird playing:

Control Your Treble Level

Gibson Firebird pickups have a treble high output in general, so initially, you may want to drop down a bit of these parameters from your amp as it may generate a too bright sound profile for this guitar specific. 

On the other hand, this will come in very handy for playing clean guitar tracks. It’s always welcomed to have that type of sound for such recordings as it can be dulled down later during the mixing process, but not vice versa.

Reduce Noise

If you’re getting a bit of noise from your guitar, check the pedals chain setup with any other guitar and see how it behaves. You may need to re-order the pedal setup to get less noise.

Also, pots might have a loose connection or have been poorly soldered. Luckily, these fixes are not expensive at all.

Comparison Overview 

Let’s compare this guitar with several Gibson solid body instruments and see what’s the difference between them in general:

Gibson Firebird Reverse vs Non Reverse

Soundwise these two guitars shouldn’t have any difference at all as they use the same material, hardware, and pickups. But Reverse models are more valuable. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the first Firebirds ever made were the Reverse models. So what’s all this Reverse thing about it? 

It’s all about tonewood shape. When you say Firebird guitar, one would imagine exactly the Reverse model which has a front bottom horn longer than others. The non-reverse model has the opposite orientation, so it may look a bit more regular, especially with the regular headstock orientation. 

The Reverse model had that through-neck design that makes the whole line so special. The non-reverse model shared the neck design with the other solid body models.

When compared, both guitars are large and heavy, but the Reverse model is a bit heavier and therefore more impractical for any kind of longer live performance. 

Gibson Firebird vs Explorer

It’s not so rare to see that people have a love-hate relationship between those two guitars and that they rather pick one or another.

It seems a bit strange as Firebird was designed based on the look of the Explorer. But, unlike most Gibson guitars, Firebird has a neck through design and the whole design is significantly bigger and heavier than Explorer, so if the comfort is relevant to you, pick Explorer.

Tonewise, Explorer will be more suitable toward rock (or should we say metal) sound and Firebird is more about rhythm and blues related vibe. Also, if you’re not such an experienced player, Explorer may suit you much better in terms of ergonomy and portability.

Gibson Firebird vs Les Paul

It’s quite hard to compare those two guitars as they don’t have so much in common.

Les Paul is the flagship Gibson guitar, the one that made Gibson huge. We could only say that probably every guitarist should have at least one Les Paul in their collection. It will also have the design that most people instantly relate to the electric guitar.

But, if you need something different, Firebird is your guitar unless you have short arms. The Firebird body is so much bigger than Les Paul, so the whole guitar may look awkward on you.

Conclusion 

This guitar won’t be the one that you will use the most. It won’t probably be the one that sounds the best either. But, it may be the one that will create the most visibility for you and at certain career milestones, it may exactly be what you just need.

People Also Ask

Gibson Firebird is a guitar that has created a lot of buzz in recent years. Let see what’s the reason behind that hideous guitar mass-destruction event and cover additional trivia, resolve some model classification mysteries and remind you what famous players have used Gibson Firebird:

What is a Neck-Through Guitar?

If the neck of your guitar goes all the way across the tonewood part and hoses the pickups and the bridge, you have a neck-through guitar. With such a design the rest of the tonewood is split in the top and bottom thirds and these parts are usually called “wings”.

Who Plays Gibson Firebirds?

Here’s the list of the most successful artists known for playing Gibson Firebird:

  • Eric Clapton
  • Gary Moore

  • Paul McCartney

  • Johnny Winter

  • Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones)

  • Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band)

  • Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)

  • Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music)

  • Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

  • Scott Holiday (Rival Sons)

Why Did Gibson Destroy Firebird Guitars?

Because of the poor sales, Gibson has decided to destroy a complete batch of Firebird X guitars. It couldn’t be sold and storing them would make much more costs.

Why couldn't they give them away then? Apparently, they say those were faulty beyond repair models.

What Does a Gibson Firebird Sound Like?

If you’re familiar with the sound of Fender Telecaster try to imagine thickening that type of sound or something like Les Paul but a bit brighter and with less low-end. If you would like an audio example, check Johnny Winters as Firebird is a key ingredient for his trademark sound. 

How To Make a Gibson Firebird Hang Better With a Strap

Because of its design, Firebird may not fit you as other guitars would. It’s a heavy guitar, so investing in a good leather strap could bring you just enough extra comfort you may need to carry this guitar around. 

And as the Firebirds neck tends to dive, wider straps are welcomed.

Why Are Firebird Guitars So Expensive?

Firebirds are made by Gibson and Gibson is well known for its exceptional craftsmanship that leaves no flaws in their build quality. Also, a bit of price goes on including the hardshell Gibson case which may be quite important as Firebird can’t simply fit into a basic guitar case.

How to Properly String a Gibson Firebird

Grease the saddle first and then put the strings over the top of the stopbar and put the strings through the peg hole. Make sure to leave at least the palm length of the string on the other side and to stress the strings manually upon installing a little bit.

What Does the T in Gibson Firebird T Mean?

The suffix T represents the word Traditional. It simply means that this model shares the standard or the original model features such as hardware, tonewood material, or neck profile. 

It will be ideal for all those who want Gibson Firebird based on the specs they are expecting it to have.

When Is the Last Year Gibson Made a True Firebird Pickup?

Soon after initial success, the Firebird production went down by the end of the 1960s. There have been several reissues meanwhile, but without Firebird standard pickup until the 2019 model came up.

Luckily, if you have any reissue model, there are several third-party brands such as Cavalier, Barncaster, and MojoTone nowadays that make those pickups.

What Types of Music is the Gibson Firebird Best For?

Gibson Firebird is an ideal guitar for all rock-oriented genres. Sure, it can also work for other genres such as vintage-oriented rock or even pop, but it’s the blues where it feels “at home”. Its clean sound can find its way into funk and reggae music as well.

Vlad

I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.