While most of the conversation about ebony tends to involve fretboards, bridges and other instrument parts, we recently procured wood from a sapwood-rich ebony tree that was big enough to be cut into back and side sets. The exotic blend of caramel-hued sapwood and dark chocolate heartwood translates into visually inspiring abstract art. Of the 300 sets that were available, each is beautifully unique.
Compared to the Macassar ebony we’ve used in the past, this species — the same African ebony we use for fretboards and bridges — has a higher density, which translates into subtle tonal differences. “Tonally, it shares a little of Macassar’s low-end damping factor,” says Taylor master luthier Andy Powers. “Macassar has a pretty clear sound, while also being fairly overtone-heavy. This African ebony has a really rich, ringing character with a linear quality across the tonal spectrum.”
To match the ebony’s sonic characteristics, Taylor’s design team chose European spruce tops with Adirondack spruce bracing. “European spruce has a strong attack with big headroom, but also with rich overtones,” Andy says. “It produces thick, wide notes. Paired with the ebony, which also generates essentially the same effect, you’ll hear really rich, saturated notes.”
Someone who plays more slowly or softly will likely appreciate the way the response wraps the fundamental in a whole layer of overtones. These sonic attributes helped guide the choice of two guitar shapes for this series: Grand Auditorium and Grand Symphony. “We enjoy the warm low-end response from the middle class shapes,” Andy explains. “And we definitely felt like this wood pairing would be a favorite with fingerstyle players because of that note-wrapping effect. It might better complement someone who likes to play full fingerstyle arrangements or even some classical music, rather than a machine gun country picker. It can be great for that, too, but it won’t have the snappiness of a bright wood. This is a sipping wood. You play the notes, and you savor how they fade away.”
Given the dramatic color contrast of the ebony, Taylor’s design team wanted to keep the other visual elements relatively clean. A progressive Spiked Ovals fretboard inlay features engraved koa bookended by arrowhead-like triangles of ivoroid. The koa/ivoroid pairing continues on the body with ivoroid binding and curly koa top edge trim, along with an ivoroid/curly koa rosette. Gold Gotoh 510 tuners add a premium touch to match the elevated aesthetic. Both models feature full-body gloss finish, a Venetian cutaway, and Expression System® electronics.
The star ingredient of this series is granadillo, a Central American tonewood that boasts a rich musical heritage. Historically sourced from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula region, it’s considered a type of rosewood, although the species we procured technically doesn’t bear rosewood’s Dalbergia family name. The wood has been the object of our desire for some time, but it hadn’t been available in any quantity with proper legal documentation until fate dropped a batch into the lap of our wood buyer, Chris Cosgrove. A reasonable price allowed us to offer it in our 400 Series price range. There’s no telling when we’ll have this opportunity again.
Sonically, granadillo is comparable to Indian rosewood, but it’s harder and denser, yielding an additional bell-like ring and long-sustaining notes. The wood traditionally has been used for marimba bars because of its clear, chimey tone. Classical guitar makers later borrowed it and have been using it for at least 50 years.
Visually, this granadillo exhibits hues that vary from set to set, ranging from pomegranate reds to copper browns, in some cases with more variegation and wilder grain than Indian rosewood. For this series, we also chose to bring the granadillo to the front of the guitar, using it for the bridge (with rosewood bridge pins) and headstock overlay.
The appointment package also borrows from the wood-centric design aesthetic of the classical world, featuring rock maple for the binding, rosette and progressive dot fretboard inlays. Four body styles are available, and all models feature satin-finish back and sides with a gloss finish top, a Venetian cutaway, and Expression System electronics.
Taylor Guitars is a leading manufacturer of acoustic, acoustic/electric, and electric guitars, and offers an extensive Build to Order custom guitar program. Taylor guitars are renowned for their playability and great tone, and the company’s full-service outreach includes helpful customer service, informative online guitar videos, and its TaylorWare line of clothing, gear and guitar accessories. Many leading music artists play a Taylor guitar, including Dave Matthews, Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz, Zac Brown, Steven Curtis Chapman, among many others. The company’s headquarters are in El Cajon, California, with a European distribution center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.