Some of us make gear, some of us play it,
and, in our case, some of us work at a media
company that aims to keep everyone informed.
That’s why we facilitate this discussion every
month. There are certain conversations that
need to take place just between us gearheads.
This month we wanted to give Premier Guitar
readers a chance to ask acoustic (and now solidbody)
innovator Bob Taylor a few questions.
Not content just to develop new instruments
out of wood and wire, Bob Taylor and his company,
Taylor Guitars, are constantly pushing the
boundaries of manufacturing processes and
building techniques, exploring different methods
and materials, and even creating custom
tools to aid in the work. Taylor’s sometimes
unorthodox approach to a very traditional art—
which is evident in such choices as the use of
bolt-on necks and non-traditional tonewoods—
has earned him some scoffing from more
conservative and conventional builders, but
time and perseverance have proven more than
effective at turning those tables. Bob Taylor has
become one of the most highly respected and
admired guitar makers in the industry, and his
company has grown from its humble beginnings
as a small San Diego guitar shop to become a
major instrument manufacturer with worldwide
distribution, an ever-increasing popularity, and a
growing list of accolades and accomplishments.
Following are the questions you submitted
(selected by our editors from a pool of online
submissions) and the answers from Bob Taylor. For next month’s “Go Ahead and Ask,” let us know what questions you’d like to ask Joe Bonamassa.
1. What is the process you go through
when you buy new wood? What things do
you look for?
Well, first I look to see if the wood excites
me on a visual level, and then on a structural
level. Guitar wood has to have small-scaled
grain patterns that fit into the sides and
backs of a guitar. The next question is whether
or not I can actually get the wood. Often
a sample presents itself, but there is no way
to get it in large enough quantities. If only a
small quantity is available, I may offer a run of
limited editions just to check out the whole
scene. If I can’t get the wood, then it’s all a
moot point, so that is as much a concern as
whether the wood is good or not.
2. My 1996 Taylor 815 has a mustache
bridge. Why did you change the bridge
design and what are the advantages or disadvantages
to each design?
That was a design that I inherited from The
American Dream, which was the small shop
my partner and I worked for and later purchased
to start Taylor Guitars. In the days
when we did everything by hand, that bridge
was just too hard to make, so we designed
our current bridge. Your guitar is actually a
reissue of the original, and we made it on
some guitars here and there. Its advantage
and disadvantage only relate to its ability to
be manufactured, rather than its sound quality.
3. How close are you to unveiling a new
Taylor bass—acoustic or otherwise?
We are not close at all. Right now, the bass
is just one of many ideas floating around in
our heads—fairly firm ideas, but it would take
a year’s worth of tooling effort to bring it to
market. Plus, lots of new and exciting guitars
keep getting in the way.
4. It seems like your generation of builders
cut their teeth in an era of open information
exchange. There was competition, but
also a sense of camaraderie. Do you think
that “golden age” of individual or smallshop
luthiery is behind us?
No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I just got
together with two young luthiers with whom
I’ve formed a friendship to get an exchange
of ideas going. Groups such as The Guild
of American Luthiers and the Association of
Stringed Instrument Artisans are still going
strong. It’s true that some of us have grown
since those days, and we have to be careful
simply because of antitrust laws and perhaps
even competition, but we still are friendly and
love to brag… oh, I mean share ideas.