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Go Ahead and Ask: Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars

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Go Ahead and Ask: Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars

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.

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