Taylor Guitars is a modern success story of the American Dream
In fact, Taylor Guitars was founded when Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug purchased the American Dream guitar company in 1974
Today, Taylor produces hundreds of acoustic and electric guitars every workday at their their factory in El Cajon, California, and at a smaller operation in Tecate, Mexico. With a commitment to great wood, including its long-term sustainability, Taylor has ever been an innovative force in the world of guitar making, introducing trendsetting advances in technology and design.
In the 1970s Taylor became the first company to successfully put what was basically an electric guitar neck on an acoustic guitar, in an era when other acoustics had much thicker necks. They were able to carve low, slender necks thanks to the use of a bolt-on mortise and tenon neck joint that allowed quick and nearly effortless adjustments, much like an electric guitar.
They also revitalized interest in the 12-string guitar, as the new neck joint allowed 12-strings to also have smaller, more comfortable necks, as well as 14-frets free from the body.
The Taylor neck joint was further refined, making adjustments even easier, now patented under the name NT, for New Technology.
Another patented innovation only available on Taylor guitars is the Relief Route, a channel routed around the underside of the top, about 1/3″ of the way into the spruce, set in from the edge, allowing the spruce soundboard to move more freely when activated by energy from the strings, bridge, etc. increasing flexibility and tonal resonance.
Taylor also made groundbreaking strides in amplifying acoustic guitars, most recently redesigning their Expression System pickups to create the ES-2.
Expression System 2
After years of trying work outside of the piezo crystal paradigm, Taylor Guitars has returned to that material for the ES-2. But instead of squashing a long crystal under the saddle with its 60 pounds of pressure, they press three small piezos up against the saddle, from behind, with less than 5 pounds of pressure. This results in a pickup with far greater sensitivity to nuanced dynamics and the percussive effects of guitar playing, and a plugged-in sound that is full of life and three-dimensional tone. The ES-2 comes standard on all Taylors with electronics in the 300 Series on up.
Understanding Taylor Guitar Names
For most Taylor models, like 814ec…
The first number indicates the Series, in this case 800.
The second number, in this case a 1, indicates it is a six string guitar with a softwood top, usually spruce, but sometimes cedar. A 2 indicates and hardwood top such as mahogany or koa, and a 5 indicates it is a 12-string guitar.
The third number is the body size. 0 = Dreadnought, 2 = Grand Concert, 4 = Grand Auditorium, 6 = Grand Symphony, 8 = Grand Orchestra
The e indicates on-board electronics
The c indicates a cutaway on the treble side
So the 814ec is the Grand Auditorium size in the 800 Series with a softwood top, on-board electronics, and a cutaway.
Taylor Guitar Sizes
Taylor and Listug inherited the designs that became the Taylor Jumbo and Dreadnought models, although the Dreadnought was later redesigned. And then they added a Grand Concert model conceived as “a nice lap guitar,” with fingerstyle playing in mind.
But all of the first three models were rooted in designs that had been around since the 1930s. And then, for their twentieth anniversary, Taylor released their first Grand Auditorium, a new shape that has the same 4-5/8″ depth and 16″ width of their modern Dreadnought, but a rounder bottom end and tighter waist, and braced for more versatility.
While some small shop luthiers had been making similar guitars for some years, like the Olson Small Jumbo, it was Taylor’s version that created the mass popularity, making the Grand Auditorium arguably the most influential design since the invention of the 14-fret acoustic guitar. And every size of steel string Taylor since has sprung from this design.
The Grand Symphony is most similar to the Grand Auditorium, but with a slightly wider top and higher waist adding power and volume. And the original Taylor Jumbo has been retired and replaced by the new Grand Orchestra. Inspired in part by Steinway pianos, the Grand Orchestra is a veritable behemoth of a guitar at 5″ deep and 16-3/4″ wide, but it is actually quite easy to play, and since it is braced to work well with fingerpicking, it provides exceptionally even volume all the way up the neck.
Taylor also makes an electric guitar, the T3, and two “hybrid” guitars, the T5 and T5z, which resemble the T3 electric, but have a hollow body and five-way switching between two humbucker pickups and an “acoustic body sensor.”
Taylor Guitar Series – sample specs of the main series
* All Taylor guitars feature ebony fingerboards and bridges, and a solid wood top, Sitka spruce by default*
– Engelmann spruce, cedar, and redwood top options are available, as well as various toners, sunbursts, and colored finishes, etc. –
Builders Reserve – Very special guitars in interesting wood combinations and tasteful appointments, available only through select dealers.
Presentation Series – Highly figured Cocobolo and top shelf Sitka spruce with fancy abalone inlays, and top of the line CV bracing.
Koa Series – Hawaiian koa top, back and sides, with wood inlay accents, special edge burst finish, top of the line CV bracing.
900 Series – Top grade Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce, fanciest and most lavish trim, top of the line CV bracing.
800 Series – Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce series refreshed in 2014 with special features including thinner finish, new Advanced Performance bracing pattern that differs based on body size, animal protein glues, maple binding, Indian rosewood purfling, abalone rosette, mother of pearl Element fret markers.
700 Series – The most affordable Indian rosewood/Sitka spruce with retro styling and design, including Vintage Sunburst tops, grained ivoroid binding, traditional forward-shifted scalloped braces.
600 Series – Newly refreshed for 2015, the 600 Series features America Maple, which gets several special features designed to enhance the maple tone to make it fuller, warmer, and more complex, including torrefied Sitka spruce tops, special bracing, animal protein glues, thinner finish, new inlays, and a new, hand-rubbed dark Brown Sugar stain that evokes classical maple instruments like violins and celli, rosewood pickguard.
500 Series – Tropical mahogany back and sides, with Sitka spruce and tortoise pickguard or mahogany top with black pickguard, grained ivoroid bindings, forward-shifted, scalloped braces.
400 Series – African ovangkol, resembling a lighter version of rosewood in looks and tone, Sitka spruce, white binding, dot fret markers, tortoise pickguard.
300 Series – African sapele, resembling a brighter, drier mahogany, Sitka spruce or mahogany top, satin finish, black pickguard.
200 Series – All-wood laminated body in rosewood, koa, or sapele, Sitka spruce top, white binding, dot markers, tortoise pickguard.
100 Series – All-wood laminated body in sapele, Sitka spruce top, white dot markers, black pickguard.
One Man’s Guitar Heartily Recommends These Taylor Dealers
|L. A. Guitar Sales, Los Angeles
|Willcutt Guitars, Lexington, KY
|Rudy’s Music, New York City
Taylor guitars reviewed at One Man’s Guitar
(More to come)
Taylor Made Memories
While Taylors have always been popular with amateur gigging musicians and home porch pickers, they continue to be heard in concert and on the countless records of some of the biggest names in professional music. Just a small sampling includes singer-songwriters like Jewel, Jason Mraz, and Taylor Swift; rock n roll icons like Prince, Dave Mathews, and Richie Sambora; country music stars like Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Steve Earle; and masters of acoustic fingerstyle guitar like Doyle Dykes, Laurence Juber, and Leo Kottke.
A favorite Taylor memory for me is the evening Leo Kottke handed me his 510 mahogany dreadnought to check out. This was back before Taylor had come out with a six-string version of his famous signature model. In fact, I do not think the finalized version of the 12-string had yet been realized. I can still remember how comfortable that neck felt, but I certainly didn’t attempt the sort of high wire act that Leo exhibited so well later that evening.
I do not know if this is the same 510, which he said he had just picked off the rack in a guitar shop, but it may very well be.