'Taylor day' - with my girlfriend | Part Two
This post is about my first Taylor Road Show, on October 19th at Max Guitar in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
It wasn’t very crowded yet when we set foot into the shop. I hesitated a bit, but took a front row seat with my girlfriend. What’s great is, that some girl from behind the counter came up to us and asked if we wanted a drink. You don’t find that everywhere. Looking at the guitars before us, there were some really stunning guitars there. On our seats we found a copy of Wood & Steel, a card to fill out to have a chance to win something. And a card listing discounts for various lines of Taylor guitars if you purchased one that night. I wish I could!
We didn’t know what to expect, but eager to find out. According to Taylor in Amsterdam, there have been more Road Shows in The Netherlands in the past, but never really heard or read about them. I had always hoped to visit a Taylor Road Show somehow so this was my chance to find out how they are.
They were supposed to start at 19:00 but that didn’t happen. By the time they started, it was a bit more filled with people, about 15-20 people. But there still were some empty seats. Anyhow, they started with a quick introduction. There were two hosts, one from the UK and one local. They were joking around already, so that would be entertaining to watch.
The Road Show
They started out with some basic information, and then set off to play some guitars. This was to showcase the difference between the body styles. They took Sitka spruce-topped and Indian rosewood-bodied models with different body shapes and let us hear them and their differences. While they were doing that, I learned that the Grand Concert was the first new body style that Bob Taylor designed, and how the Grand Symphony was designed opposed to the Grand Auditorium.
Firstly, I was amazed at how rich the GS was in the bottom end. Compared to a dreadnought, it had more bass, while the dread had a little more mid-range. Whilst the lower bout of the GS was wider, it looked more comfortable than the dread. I was also quite amazed at how the GC model handled strumming. One of the hosts (the one that was playing the guitars) said that because of the smaller body it would be great for studio work. The issue one could run into though, was that it would ‘overdrive’ quicker than a bigger bodied guitar. That means that it wouldn’t get louder and that it would start to sound ugly. I could see that guitar working out well in a studio and even more so once I got to try it out later.
Next up were the different wood types. The other host (who wasn’t playing) explained how the response was with different wood types. Starting with rosewood, it reached out to deep lows and up into the highs, but had a slight dip in it’s mid-range. This was the reason why apparently a lot of singer-songwriters favor a rosewood-bodied guitar as the mid-range is where the voice is. So with a slight dip there, it’s easier to sing over it. Mahogany didn’t reach up or down as far as rosewood did, but it had a slight rise in it’s mid-range. Maple reached up just as much or even further in the highs than rosewood did, but didn’t have the mid-range dip, and didn’t reach quite as far into the lows. Lastly there was koa. Koa was said to have most everything that the tonewoods mentioned before had. But without the dip or rise. And it may take some time for koa to play in and reach down into that low end it was capable of. The koa was, of course, striking to look at. Apparently it was a very expensive (over €10k) BTO, with an armrest which apparently cost about €1500 by itself to make.
They also showed a jumbo, and that it needs a lot more energy to sound good as it’s such a large surface area that needs to move. And that they also need to be played in, in order to have the volume you would expect from a jumbo style guitar.
Top woods were also briefly discussed. That most of them had spruce tops, but also that (Western Red) cedar had a warmer tone. Redwood was also shown on another amazing BTO model, combined with Macassar ebony. This particular top was made of so-called ‘sinker’ redwood, and we learned that this was due to logs being transported over water a couple of centuries ago. But some logs wouldn’t float because they were heavier then water and then sunk. Once rivers were cleaned, these logs were found and Bob Taylor purchased some logs. Due to the amount of time they’ve been down there, minerals have seeped into the wood and show as beautiful coloration on a guitar’s top. Tone-wise it was a bit warmer than Sitka.
Apparently, there were also some baritones among these guitars. They demonstrated them first acoustically, and then plugged the 8-string model into the Bose PA they had set-up. As if it didn’t sound amazing acoustically already, it was earth-shatteringly awesome. Like really, it was nothing short of being able to cause an earthquake. The lows were AMAZING. So deep, so rich, so nice! I had to have a go at one later!
They gave a little history lesson on Taylor Guitars and how it was formed. I knew Bob bought a comapny called ‘American Dream’, together with Kurt. But I didn’t know (or remember) that they went home to ask if they could borrow money to buy the company because the owner wanted to sell it. And that they said Kurt was a good businessman but not a good guitar builder, while they told Bob the exact opposite. And that they got it together and bought the company. Great story!
The Petting Zoo
Yes, the petting zoo, something I looked forward to experience. It wasn’t long before I reached for the really expensive BTO. And my goodness was it worth it! It sounded really warm, with a lot of bottom-end and sweet highs. It wasn’t very loud but it seemed louder than I remember koa to be. Although it did have a lot of bottom-end, it still sounded somewhat tight. It had an armrest and I was amazed at just how comfortable it was. There was no right angles cutting into my arm anymore. I don’t have problems with it usually, but this did add some extra bit of comfort.
I played a 512ce which was really sweet. Amazingly comfortable for me to play. I tried strumming it, and it worked fine. Took a lot less effort to get decent volume than with my own 110ce. It sounded somewhat ‘smaller’ but still bigger than it actually was. Playability was sweet, probably due to the shorter scale - lower string tension.
I played a 655ce (I think it was) which I remember trying before. I’d love to own one of these some day. Loved that tone so much. It was a large guitar but I didn’t have any problems with it at all. It was quite loud, loved the jangly tone and how big it sounded.
Then I hunted down one of the baritones. I took the GT-8 as it was the easiest to spot with it’s 8 strings among all the six-stringers. I sat down with it and played things I normally play on a normal guitar. The scale length didn’t feel much longer than a normal 25.5” scale. Apparently it’s 27”. That’s not very long for a baritone that’s tuned B to B, is it? Anyhow, some things I played worked, and sounded amazing. Other things? Well, less so. I talked to somebody about this phenomenon and we agreed it was a great instrument to experiment on, find a new sound in something we already knew how to play. Just for fun I tried some simple power chords on it, and it sounded great. I think I’d prefer that to power chords on a normal guitar. The octave strings on the 3rd and 4th string added a really interesting flavor to the sound.
The last one I tried must have been that other BTO - the sinker redwood/macassar ebony one. It was really nice. Liked the sound, the responsiveness and the feel of it. The looks were stunning also. The redwood indeed sounded warmer than spruce but it wasn’t as touch-responsive as cedar. It seemed more like a combination of the dynamics of spruce and the warmth of cedar. I’d love to have one, that’s for sure!
More about Taylor
Once playtime was over, there was some more information about Taylor. This time it was on the innovations that Taylor has done over the years. These included the NT neck (standing for New Technology), that I had studied in-depth when I was researching it when I discovered my neck angle on my 110ce was incorrect. It’s a laser precision-cut neck and body joint that is bolted on the guitar. In between the neck and the body there’s a specially made wood shim that can alter the engle of the neck to the body. And this goes in increments of 1/400s of a degree. Now that’s some precision! They had a guitar neck with this system go around the crowd, but we already saw it earlier that day.
Next up was the Taylor Expression System or ES. Because of this new neck-body joint, they had space to put a magnetic pick-up in there. The other part of the pick-up is a body sensor. At some point, the ES had two body sensors, but currently they have only one. The body sensors are very intriguing. Apparently it consists of a can of ferro-fluid, with a magnet suspended in it and a coil around it. I never knew it was inspired on sensors that were used for sensing seismic activity, at a location where they’re expecting a big earthquake. The precise location has slipped my mind, though. The ES system is also grounded and has a fuse in it which makes it safer for the user when there are electrical issues with amps and microphones. When something like that occurs, the fuse pops first and it might save your life, or at least a painful shock (they call it the ‘blue spark of death’). There are laws for this in The Netherlands, but mistakes can be made. Anyhow, they had a guitar body without back, so you could see inside and how the ES system was laid out inside.
One of the hosts then busted out a T5, that had both the ES system built into it, as well as a stacked humbucker at the bridge position. I have to say that I never really got along well with the T5, but I have to admit that it sounded nice and was a very versatile and seemingly convenient for live use. It sounded great through both the electric and acoustic amp, but it doesn’t stop there - you can also switch on both and apply different effects to them. That was quite interesting and awesome. But I wouldn’t be able to do it because I don’t have that many pedals!
Some random guy in the crowd wanted to hear a black SolidBody Classic, and the host kinda kept on pulling his leg because he wanted to hear it and had very specific requests as per to what he should play. He explained a little bit how the pick-ups were wired to a 5-way switch and how some switchings involved coil-splitting. It looked a lot like my own SolidBody Classic, except for the fact that it was black (mine is white).
The host moved on and picked up another SolidBody. I think it was a Custom, but it may have been a Standard. He was talking about how he changed from the Alnico Vs - that had too much chrome on it to his liking, to the HD humbuckers. Contrary to the SolidBody Classic, this instrument had push-pull knobs so you can decide for yourself how you want to split the coils and/or phase invert them. The Classic has pre-set switchings on it’s 5-way switch. I wish I could do that on my Classic, because the possibilities seem endless. I love my SolidBody Classic though.
A while ago, I found a topic at the Acoustic Guitar Forum (www.acousticguitarforum.com) talking about Taylor Road Shows. They said you never left with empty hands. They collected the cards that were filled in and put them in a box. That was actually the box they took the prizes out of. The hosts called out a random person from the crowd to take out random cards out of the box. Prizes were a set of Elixir strings (which cost like €15 a set) and a Taylor Road Show t-shirt. I wish I could get one of the t-shirts but at some point they ran out of the right size. So I went with a set of Elixir strings. Always nice to have a set of them handy.
Once every card was out and the prizes were taken, one of the hosts took some other goodies and went around with them. My girlfriend got two really nice-looking coasters. I got a set of heavy picks - which I haven’t tried yet, but I picked (ha-ha) up a heavy Taylor pick somewhere at some point and it sounded great. I think they’re made of celluloid. Girlfriend asked if she could also have some picks and she got those. And both of us got a stack of Taylor stickers. I wouldn’t even know what to do with them! Probably gonna stick another one on my SolidBody’s case, but that’s it!
The Road Show didn’t only start later than expected, but also ended late. Like, an hour later! But we greatly enjoyed it and I would love to visit another one. It’s said that if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to ‘em all, but maybe they have different guitars and maybe I’ll gain a new bit of information. Who knows.
It was a great first Road Show for me, and my girlfriend as well.