GEAR 511 • Taylor Nylon Series Guitars

This video gives an overview of Taylor’s nylon stringed guitars, along with some sound samples of my 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides). Taylor’s nylon string guitars are not true classical guitars, but rather cross-over nylon models good for a variety of uses. A Taylor nylon guitar would be a good fit if you like the playability of steel string Taylor guitars but want the sound of nylon.
Similar to their steel string models, Taylor nylon guitars are very playable, they work well with alternate and open tunings, and they have a good pick up system (most feature the excellent ES-N pickup) which makes them adaptable for live performance. While you can play some classical pieces on these, they are probably used more for jazz, Latin, Bossa nova, folk, slack key, and anything else you might want try with a nylon flavor.
Playability, versatility, and stage readiness make these guitars great for players looking for a nylon crossover guitar, as well as steel string players looking to add a nylon sound to their palette.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

GEAR 512 • Taylor 414ce-NR Review

This video gives an overview of my Taylor 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides), along with some sound samples. Taylor makes nylon string guitars in a variety of wood combinations, but just two sizes: Grand Concert (smallest body size) and Grand Auditorium (the next size up from Grand Concert, and their most popular body style in general). Though I often prefer Grand Concert Taylors for steel string work, I chose this Grand Auditorium size model as my nylon string guitar for a couple of reasons. First, the larger GA size worked well with the rosewood back/sides to give a nice, rich bass sound. Second, I do like to use notes on the upper frets, and Taylor’s nylon Grand Auditoriums feature 14 fret necks. With the cutaway, that gives ample access to the upper frets. By comparison, the GC nylon strings are only offered in 12 fret configuration; while they usually come with a cutaway, you also lose a few of the upper frets with that design. Overall, I have found the 414ce-NR to be a practical, playable, and enjoyable way to add a nylon sound to my palette.
Note – the song featured at the beginning/end of the video is an adaptation of Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of Silver Threads Among the Gold, which was also quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, another beloved song in Hawaii.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

GEAR 510 • Armrests on Taylor Guitars

For extended playing sessions on the guitar, especially when wearing a short sleeve shirt, you can develop a set of creases on your picking arm where it lies over the lower bout of the guitar. Taylor has alleviated this problem by offering armrests on some of its guitars at both low and high price points. Their Academy series offers armrests in a budget priced guitar, while more aesthetically refined versions can be found on some of Taylor’s higher end guitars such as their 900 series. Overall, I figured having an armrest would be an improvement, but I am really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. It does make the playing experience more comfortable, especially on longer sessions.

LIVE 056 • Sunday Slack Key (steel string guitar)

I originally wrote Sunday Slack Key as a single string melody, using fretted notes on only one string (and the other strings only open). Playing the melody on only one string is a concept I picked up at a jazz guitar clinic – I seem to remember Tal Farlow or Jim Hall proposing the idea as a means for chord melody – and the idea can be useful when arranging a fingerstyle song. Eventually I added a few fretted notes on some other strings, mostly to fill out the bass, yet the fretted notes of the melody remain mainly on one string. The name for the song came to me on a simple, relaxed Sunday, and seemed appropriate. This version of the song was recorded about five years after I wrote it and reflects a few modifications to earlier incarnations. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded at Goldsmith Studios in October, 2011, with a Taylor 310 (Elixir Polyweb medium gauge set) and a pair of Rode NT-5 microphones.

LIVE 055 • Sunday Slack Key (early version, nylon string guitar)

I originally wrote Sunday Slack Key as a single string melody, using fretted notes on only one string (and the other strings only open). Playing the melody on only one string is a concept I picked up at a jazz guitar clinic – I seem to remember Tal Farlow or Jim Hall proposing the idea as a means for chord melody – and the idea can be useful when arranging a fingerstyle song. Eventually I added a few fretted notes on some other strings, mostly to fill out the bass, yet the fretted notes of the melody remain mainly on one string. The name for the song came to me on a simple, relaxed Sunday, and seemed appropriate. This is an early version of the song recorded not long after I wrote it. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a nylon string guitar in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 6/01/06.

LIVE 049 • Long Mountain Rag

Long Mountain Rag was named in honor of Mauna Loa (Hawaiian for “Long Mountain”), the Big Island of Hawaii’s largest mountain and also the largest active (though not erupting as of this post) volcano on Earth. Measured from its base on the ocean floor, Mauna Loa is the second tallest mountain in the world, topped only by neighboring Mauna Kea (whose peak is 120 feet higher). Long Mountain Rag was influenced by both Bluegrass and Slack Key musical styles. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphone.

LIVE 054 • Jonquils of Spring

An improvised portrait, Jonquils of Spring features a melody outlined with harmonics and played with a slightly wobbly tempo. A cool sunny spring day helped bring out the mood, and relatively fresh set of strings helped bring out the chimes. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 912ce (Rosewood/Spruce, with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 052 • Kona Snow

Kona Snow is another improvisatory piece recorded for my “Awake Again” project, which included a handful of songs that were connected by mostly shorter and improvisatory ‘transitions’ such as this. This song is named for the early spring blooming of the coffee trees on the slopes of Hualalai. People merrily dubbed the effect of white blossoms covering row after row of coffee trees “Kona Snow.” At the time I recorded this song, I was living next to a coffee orchard in Holualoa, Hawaii, just mauka of Kailua Kona. The setting amidst a wonderful agricultural tradition over a century old inspired me probably more than I knew at the time. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 6/20/09.

LIVE 051 • Hand Dancing

Hand Dancing started out as an introductory fingerpicking study I wrote for students back when I was teaching guitar full time at a music store. I kept the song in my set for a number of years, playing it on both nylon and steel string. This version was recorded as a demo for my “Awake Again” project. The wallpaper shows me with my old Taylor 310ce that I used to record this song. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 6/20/09.