I recently met Bob Taylor when he visited Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto, California. This was an informal mini-show that was very informative and genuinely fun. Bob spoke about his two factories and how he entered the business after purchasing a small shop from a person who was leaving the guitar repair business. The entire meeting was well over two hours long and Bob was very generous with his time and insites. I'll save the information for another post.
Bob did bring some really nice guitars a long with him and several caught my attention. One guitar was a 12 fret short scale guitar without a cut-away, spruce top, and ovangkol body and sides. The tone was not over-bearing and the beauty was astounding. Not one to simply review a guitar based on beauty, I found that the guitar had a decent bass response to finger picking and a nice balance with a pick. The guitars that Bob Taylor brought on tour certainly were meant to provoke some serious GAS! The simplicity of this guitar is an excellent segue to the Taylor Grand Concert series.
The Taylor GC line starts at an affordable $1300 range. The target audience are light strummers and finger pickers. The body is smaller than the x14 series of Taylor instruments. All of these instruments are made in the USA and more importantly - California. My subject model is a GC-8 with Sitka Spruce top and Indian Rosewood back and sides. The inlays are abalone as is the rosette. The spruce shows some light bear claw but is mostly flawless. The neck is mahogany and the fingerboard is ebony with ivoroid binding. This guitar is by no means a cherry-picked guitar and is a random choice in terms of this review. I think the most important part about a review is what input can I give that isn't represented by the manufacturer's website?
I am used to playing Grand Auditorium sized guitars so the first thing I noticed was the smaller rear bout on this guitar. A larger person might find this size guitar to be less desirable due to the lack of arm support while smaller people will welcome the petite body. The fingerboard is a 15 inch radius and the neck size is neither small nor a boat neck. The neck shape is distinctly different than the V style of Martin guitars. I love the Martin necks but this neck is a very comfortable neck and easy to grip. The frets are cut well with no overhang and butted to the edge of the fingerboard. The super cool feature is the slotted headstock. This design affords easy access to the tuning knobs and makes tuning a joy. However, some might complain about string installation with this configuration because one must employ a little more effort when holding the strings and turning the tuning keys. This complaint about the slotted headstock is the same fuss I've heard about 99% of all classical guitars and unless you are changing strings daily, it shouldn't be an issue--hardly a deal breaker for this player. The scale is 24 7/8th which is great for a personal guitar. The size of this model's body makes for sensible volume levels where it will top out if you strum hard. If you employ aggressive strumming then you should seek a different model guitar with a larger body and longer scale as this guitar never had that style of playing in mind as a functional requirement.
Playability is awesome if you love blues or folk finger picking. The short scale affords easier string bends due to reduced string tension per scale. The tone is slightly brighter than a Martin 000-28 which many consider to be an alternative. I tuned the GC-8 guitar down for a little slide playing and found that this style is not a perfect match for this guitar. In contrast, my Taylor 514 CE plays far better in slide style and I attribute this to the 25.5 inch scale. As a side note, I am not sold on the coated strings of any brand (see article) but I think many people will appreciate the coated string's ability to reduce string oxidation. A plectrum user might find this guitar to be an appreciable challenge at first but a little time on the instrument provided me with broad array of tones short on only deep baritone values of which I didn't expect from this size and type of instrument.
Portability of the instrument is excellent especially since it fits most airplane over head compartments. The case fits fine but I don't like the fixed handles which I've found to be subject to premature wear but otherwise the case is rugged and protective.
Most of the Taylor GC models do not come with pickups or the expression system although you can order this guitar to be custom built with the expression system as well as a variety of wood combinations.
I would strongly suggest trying out one of these guitars even if you have decided to purchase a long scale dreadnought guitar. The wonderful playability, portability, pleasing aesthetics and delightful tone might fuel your desire to diversify your guitar quiver.