First Look: Taylor 417e-R
The newest gem in the Grand Pacific line opens up the tone possibilities of a round shouldered dreadnought.
The 417e-R Is a Grand Pacific acoustic-electric crated with solid Indian rosewood back and sides, a solid Sitka spruce top and V-Class bracing. The round-shoulder dreadnought design pairs beautifully with the classic rosewood/spruce tonewood configuration, yielding a vintage-inspired, blended sound with clear low-end power and notes that overlap into a seamless whole. A warm bass range and crisp trebles resonate around a slightly scooped midrange, while the innovative bracing design coaxes out more power, longer sustain and near-perfect harmony across the fretboard. Like its siblings, the 417e-R is detailed white binding, black and white top purfling, a single-ring agoya shell rosette, Finial fretboard inlays in Italian acrylic, a gloss-finish body with a Tobacco Sunburst top, nickel tuners and a faux tortoiseshell pickguard. It includes ES2 electronics for warm and dynamic amplified sound and a deluxe hardshell case for storage and protection.
Taylor GTe Urban Ash Review
Inventive bracing, uncommon tonewoods, and a shorter scale make this small-bodied flattop both big voiced and super playable.
Loud for its size. Ringing, detailed top-end. Punchy, defined bass. Super playability. High quality.
Hard picking can generate harsh, compressed overtones.
$1,399 street; $1,599 street as tested with Expression System 2 electronics and included AeroCase
Taylor GTe Urban Ash
Taylor’s new GT Urban Ash breaks a lot of ground for one guitar. It marks the introduction of another specialized Andy Powers-devised bracing pattern. It introduces a new-for-Taylor 24 1/8" scale length. It also underscores Taylor’s recent adoption of, and commitment to, shamel ash—a beautiful wood harvested from Los Angeles street trees.
But the GT, or Grand Theater, is also evolutionary—an extension of a concept for a compact, portable, sweet-playing flattop that was born with the Baby Taylor and evolved into the GS Mini. Unlike those guitars, the GT is a U.S.A.-built, all-solid-wood guitar. And with dimensions similar to a 00 Martin, it isn’t exactly a travel guitar anymore. But its design enhancements make it a more complex and forceful sounding instrument than the smaller GS Mini.
Taylor design maestro Andy Powers has a pretty restless engineering mind. His V-Class bracing, now just a few years old, grabbed the attention of an acoustic world that rolls with change reluctantly. In very general terms, V-Class bracing was designed to deliver even resonance and greater projection. Powers adapted some of the lessons from the V-Class design process to the asymmetric, cantilevered C-Class bracing on the GT. And if you’re even vaguely accustomed to peeking at a flattop’s innards, the deviations from the norm are plain to see. The bracing sections are arrayed irregularly. Even the back bracing is, unconventionally, slanted aft on the bass side. The build quality inside and out is, no surprise, near immaculate. Setup and intonation are perfect, too.
Though shamel ash appears elsewhere in the Taylor catalog, Taylor made it a featured option in the GT line. It’s beautiful wood, with lots of cool figuring and walnut-like dark, deep grain that make it fun to look at and hold. The satin finish enhances its rustic qualities to lovely effect.
Tonally, it’s probably more akin to mahogany than anything else. But it also seems to emphasize fundamentals and sounds more responsive and full of reflective energy than mahogany. Combined with the C-Class bracing and the Sitka spruce top, the shamel ash enhances the snappier, more detailed facets of the GT’s personality. For players that want to chase more familiar tone recipes and explore the way they interact with the GT’s dimensions and bracing, there are also rosewood (GT 811e) and koa (GT K21e) versions.
Big, Bright Little Buddy
One of the striking things about the GTe Urban Ash is its occasionally forceful personality. Pick hard and it can be downright brash. But in general, the sum of the GTe’s wood recipe, bracing, and scale is a harmonic profile that’s punchy in the low end and full of energized, ringing treble tones.
When you use light-to-moderately-intense touch, the pronounced bass and trebles co-exist harmoniously with the body’s natural midrange. Not coincidentally, fingerpicking, hybrid picking, and strumming with a thin pick bring out the most balanced version of the guitar’s voice. Using these gentler approaches also mean you can utilize the instrument’s ample headroom to very dynamic ends.
Playing hard activates a very different personality—emphasizing the fast, punchy bass and the high-power treble at the expense of some midrange presence. If you play or record a lot of rhythm-driven rock songs acoustic style, you may well dig this aspect of the GTe’s makeup. The GTe is flat-out loud. And thanks to the low action and the beautifully shaped neck (which has more than a few echoes of a shallow, vintage-Fender U shape), it feels incredibly fast.
While there is no denying the GTe’s overachieving loudness, heavy pick attack tends to compress into a very punchy but washed out whole. That said, if you love Pete Townshend’s most aggressive rhythm playing, or Peter Buck’s and Johnny Marr’s flurries of arpeggios, you might find this sound an asset, and it’s easy to hear how the GTe would excel at layering extra-exciting rhythm parts in the studio.
The Taylor GTe Urban Ash tackles many tricky feats with aplomb. It almost manages the feel and speed of a well-set-up electric—even with .012 strings. It achieves head-turning volume and projection for a guitar of its size. Its bright-with-punchy-bass voice is unique, too, allowing opportunities for creative arrangement of acoustic rhythm and melody parts in performance and the studio.
But by growing in price and size, the GTe enters the ring with many formidable, top-quality small-guitar challengers, with more traditional tone palettes. If you like an acoustic with a lot of high-end definition, crave a small-bodied guitar with more detailed bottom end, or want to get the most possible projection from a smaller-bodied instrument, the GTe can deliver in spades. For players of such proclivities, the GTe’s fast, comfortable playability could awaken many creative possibilities.
Be sure to watch our First Look demo of the Taylor GTe Urban Ash:
Rig Rundown: Molly Miller
Whether backing Jason Mraz or fronting her trio, she just needs a 335, a Princeton Reverb, and a plane-ready pedalboard to make the world a groovier place.
Facing a mandatory shelter-in-place ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 39th video in that format.
The doctor is in! Dr. Molly Miller has been backing up Jason Mraz for years (she has been featured on Know. and Look for the Good), worked with the Black-Eyed Peas, Donna Missal, and Morgxn, fronts her own trio, and is part of ABC’s house band for The Bachelor’s Listen To Your Heart. Oh yeah, and that doctor thing, she earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Southern California in 2016 and soon after she became the chair of the Guitar Department at Los Angeles College of Music.
In between recording projects, livestreaming performances, and producing gear demos (she’s clearly not letting the pandemic slow her down), Miller virtually welcomed PG’s Chris Kies into her home jam space in Los Angeles, CA. In this Rig Rundown, Miller details her “soulmate” semi-hollow and the dependable Fender Tele (with a brand new neck) that have taken her around the world. Then the self-proclaimed stomp simpleton shows off her favorite pedal pairings that range from subtle, spacy pulsing to a spicy, snarky punch. And she explains why guitar diarrhea isn’t ok.
Molly Miller has a forthcoming trio album entitled St. George, which will be released on GSI records on June 4. The album’s first single “Spry” is out now. Or check out a live version.
“This is kinda my baby—it’s sorta my soulmate of guitars. There’s a lot of attachment here and it’s become a limb,” swoons Molly Miller when introducing her 1978 Gibson ES-335 finished in the subdued walnut. She’s been with this semi-hollowbody since Miller was 17 and scooped it up at her home base guitar store, Rhythm & Notes, in Redondo Beach.
The last gig before quarantine earned the 335 a battle scar (replacement G-string tuner) after she dropped it onstage. She’s had a refret done to it, but other than that it’s like the day she bought it. For strings, Miller rocks .011s from either Ernie Ball (Slinkys) or Gabriel Tenorio and she uses Copperpeace leather straps.
Originally sourced as a road dog fill-in for the 335, this run-of-the-mill Fender Tele has become a reliable ally for Miller. Her bond with the flexible workhorse has appreciated because it keeps her out of more boxes or redundant traps than the 335.
Just before filming the Rundown, the Tele returned with a new neck made by L.A. tech Mike Cornwall. She describes it in the video as “the top part is angular and the bottom half is rounded, but it plays like butter and is silk [laughs].”
Here is Miller’s Taylor Grand Auditorium Builder's Edition 614ce.
Another semi-hollow sweetie is this Taylor T3 that offers Molly a smaller-bodied option to her beefier 335.
Always on the hunt to find a road replacement for her ’78 ES, she scored one from where the 335s were originally built in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She says the newer Heritage H535 (loaded with Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers) is a bit brighter than her main semi-hollow, but it certainly could see stage time when touring resumes (hopefully in 2021).
[Editor’s note: Gibson HQ was founded by Orville Gibson in Kalamazoo in the late 1800s. He eventually moved production to 225 Parsons Street in 1917 and produced instruments until 1984 when Gibson moved to Nashville. A few former Gibson employees banded together and started Heritage in 1985 on those same hallowed grounds.]
While Molly waits for her own semi-hollow Ashbord to be built by luthier Kevin Equitz, she's taking good care of her friend's lovely 6-string.
If she’s amplified, she’s probably plugging into this modern reissue Fender Princeton Reverb combo that was modded at some point to make its narrow midrange voice a “wider” sound.
As you see here, Molly Miller is one for maximizing space. Not a wasted inch on this A3 Stompbox-built board that is home to a Chase Bliss Dark World, a couple of Keeleys (Mag Echo and Oxblood), a pair of EarthQuaker Devices (Dunes and Dispatch Master), A3 Stompbox Awesome overdrive, and Voodoo Lab Tremolo. Her two foot-controlled pedals are a A3 Stompbox custom volume pedal (left) and Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah (right). Molly’s guitars are kept in check with a TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Mini and she added the brand new EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny for some freaky tones during the Rundown.