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I was exceptionally lucky and privileged to spend last week in California at the Taylor Guitar University. An annual event that offers dealers a chance to tour the factory, learn about the guitars from the experts and enjoy the sunshine and sights of San Diego.
Upon our arrival at the El Cajon factory Bob Taylor welcomed us. He is an exceptionally laid back and humble man who despite his casual and stress-free demeanour holds the attention of the room with authority.
He first tells us that If he were to ask the group if Taylor guitars were the best sounding guitars in the world? Some, but certainly not all hands would go up. He then suggests that if he had asked, “Are Taylor guitars the most comfortable and consistently made acoustic guitars money can buy? Most if not all hands would go up”. I look around to see the group of thirty or so dealers nodding in agreement.
We are shown the wood stores and cutting rooms first. Bob briefly touches on the conservation work Taylor is championing. The company is visiting remote tropical regions of the world and providing the locals with education and tools to harvest the trees in a safe, sustainable way. Taylor then purchases the collected wood from the villages offering the communities a consistent income and employment. This method he explains, yields far less than but is a fairer and more sustainable approach than decimating forests, taking all the wood and moving on. Taylor is also experimenting with different climates and has already planted wood in Hawaii to be harvested 85-100 years from now.
‘There are no new woods out there. We simply have to be responsible with what we've got’ -Bob Taylor-
The workshops are a populated with top of the range technology. Laser cutters and computer-automated processes are all primed, supervised and scrutinised by keen-eyed, skilled wood workers.
The tour is fascinating and we are shown the innovative build designs and conservational production methods that have made Taylor the largest and most successful acoustic guitar manufacturer in the world.
The patented NT neck design (New Technology) is demonstrated fully. The unique system allows the neck to be removed, reset and replaced in a matter of minutes. A neck reset is a process that would normally be a damaging and drastic measure on any other guitar. The Taylor NT neck allows the guitar to be returned to factory spec without any problem whatsoever. They demonstrate this by taking a standard setup guitar to the lowest action possible without buzz then to a high action favourable for slide guitarists, all within ten minutes.
Andy Powers, The new master builder shows us his new bracing designs and alludes to some fantastic new ideas he has been working on. Keep an eye out in the future. You won’t be disappointed.
We listen to a Talk by David Hosler on the Expression System 2. The new pickup released at the end of 2013. Listening to him talk with such modesty and with a deep southern sense of humour I almost forget that he has quite literally made history as far as acoustic amplification is concerned.
By calibrating the sensors to amplify the sound waves moving across the guitar’s body opposed to the up and down movement of the top the output is doubled and it sounds immensely clearer. The guitar handles like an acoustic when plugged in and responds naturally to the nuances and dynamic variation present during a live performance.
Bizarrely David announces that during his youth he worked as a circus performer. At night he would position his bed in the centre of the empty circus tent to watch the wind hit the tent covering. The ‘Eureka!’ moment came when working on a guitar many years on. Flummoxed by the under saddle pickup system he had in place he realised that during his nights in the circus tent he had watched the wind hit the tent top and move the tent poles side to side rather than up and down. This was the beginning of the Expression System 2
The trip has really opened my eyes to the quality and forward thinking designs of Taylor guitars. There is a huge demand for vintage instruments these days and many people feel that buying a second hand instrument will give you much more value for money. People talk about guitars having already been ‘played in’ and whilst there is some merit in this I believe that it is important to remember that a guitar ‘played in’ by you, over time will always sound the best to your ear. It will open out across YOUR favoured keys and project YOUR playing style better than anything else. Guitar building technology has made great leaps forward just like any industry and a new guitar will always have merit for that reason alone.
I find there is a crude analogy between analogue and digital music systems. The majority of people prefer a digital music system compared to a vinyl player despite many purists telling us that the sound quality is diminished with CD’s and Mp3’s.
A Taylor guitar sound is by no means diminished but it will never sound like a vintage instrument and guess what? It’s not meant to.
Taylor has certainly set their course towards the horizon in search for better and more sustainable guitar designs. Bob Taylor’s ethos is evident not only in his guitars but in the low carbon emissions of the factory, the environmental awards they have won and Bob’s completely electric Tesla car parked outside his office.
This trip has really opened my eyes to the unique designs, balanced sound and innovative approach of the company but as I already own a Taylor I did not need converting.
If you as a customer are looking for a new guitar then the brand certainly demands consideration. Come down to Rose Morris, try some lovely guitars and speak to our advisors about the sound you are looking for.
The new world is here and you would not want to be left behind.
Until next time