Today, we explore the essentials and benefits of Taylor’s smallest full size guitar, the Grand Concert (GC for short). Grand Concert guitars have a model number that ends in “2” such as the 912ce featured here, and are offered in a variety of styles.
The advantages of Grand Concert guitars is that they are super comfortable, super playable, and super easy to EQ alone or in a mix. These are short scale guitars, which means easier reaches because the frets are slightly closer together and an easier playing feel because of slightly lower string tension. Soundwise, the Grand Concert has a wonderfully balanced EQ and controlled overtones that make it perfect for fingerstyle and recording applications. Grand Concerts sound great on their own and also sit well in a mix with other instruments. Also note, this is Taylor’s featured size for 12 fret models, where the neck joins the body at the 12th rather than the 14th fret. The 12 fret models have a punchier sound that is perfect for roots music.
Overall, Grand Concerts are perfect for fingerstyle and light strumming. They are comfortable to play, and their focused and articulate sound make them great guitars for recording and stage use. Of course they’re also very nice to play at home.
After doing several tangential videos on the acoustic guitar I’ve been using for performances, lessons, etc. on this channel (see links below), I thought it would be fun to do an overview of the guitar and its features for those who are curious. The guitar is a Taylor 412ce, a Fall Limited Edition with what was then a non-standard wood combination of Rosewood/Spruce (400 series typically used Ovangkol/Spruce) that also featured notch diamond inlays not normally used on 400 series guitars. In addition to the grand concert size body and short scale length, I also touch on how the top has aged, the addition of Gotoh 510 tuners, and replacing the nut / saddle with another Tusq set.
Elixir HD Light strings are made the same as other elixirs, but the gauge of the set is unique. Basically they married medium gauge treble strings with light gauge bass strings to find the optimal string gauge for small bodied Taylor guitars (GA/xx4 and GC/xx2).
The idea behind HD Lights is that both string tension and EQ would be more balanced across the strings, resulting in better playability and better tone.
On the high end, the thicker gauge treble strings give you more body, better definition, and improved action. The lighter bass strings keep the bass clear – it’s not muddy even when you tune down. Along with the balanced EQ and improved playability, you also get a more even volume resulting in easier to control dynamics.
Andy Powers at Taylor came up with the idea for these after redeveloping the 800 series, and these strings are indeed great with the revoiced 600, 800, and 900 series GC and GA guitars. The revoiced models have a stronger, more focused bass in particular, so using lighter bass strings helps keep the low end form being overpowering or becoming muddy. The revoiced models also have a livelier top – so the lighter bass strings still have enough presence without being boomy, and the thicker trebles still have snap, but without being too thin.
Overall, their more balanced EQ coupled with more balanced string tension make HD Lights especially conducive to alternate tunings and ideal for fingerstyle guitar.
Phosphor Bronze vs 80/20 Bronze:
⁃ 80/20 Bronze will be brighter with more zing.
⁃ Phosphor Bronze will be a little warmer with more heft or body. I prefer them for fingerstyle because of their combination of warmth, clarity, and detail.
Nanoweb vs Polyweb: HD Lights are only available in Nanoweb (as of now), which works fine for me, but prior to using this gauge I used Elixir’s Polyweb strings. Though they have slightly different characteristics, I have found both Nanoweb and Polyweb coatings to produce good sounding strings.
Here is my review of the TLM 102 large diaphragm condenser microphone from Neumann. In short, this mic is smooth and velvety throughout the frequency range with an overall balanced sound. It adds a nice body and presence to the bass, while smoothing out the highs at the same time – perfect for my Taylor 412ce, which is a bright, focused guitar. The microphone’s small size makes it easy to work with and the large sweet spot makes it easy to place. This would be a good mic for someone who wants to experiment with a lot of different mic positions, or just someone who wants an unfinicky mic that is easy to work with.
Here are some of my thoughts on the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina after recording with it for a couple of months. For what I do (acoustic guitar instrumentals) – the Edwina is a great mic. On steel string I think it would pair a little better with a Martin than a Taylor, however I really enjoy it on my nylon string Taylor. The mike is crisp and clear with a high end bump that has a little body (not too thin). The bass is there, but it’s not boomy and you can get up close to the mic without too much bass from proximity effect (at least on my Taylors – maybe not with other guitars). I haven’t used it live, but it has a narrow / close pattern that along with its other characteristics would probably make it suitable for live use. Other pluses include: boutique mic made in Portland Oregon, not super pricey, and last (but not least) it looks cool.
Several people have asked me lately about upgrading to a bone nut/saddle, and specifically in relation to Taylor guitars. A drop in saddle can be an easy experiment, but if you’re looking at a nut/saddle replacement and set-up, I would say first (if your action / playability are ok) to try some different makes of strings and different alloys. Next, be advised that bone saddles often make a guitar sound brighter and more clear; Taylors already sound bright and clear so adding a bone nut/saddle may be “too much.” If your guitar is 5-7 years old a Tusq nut/saddle (or Tusq/Micarta) will probably do the job. That’s just my opinion; milage may vary.
While I find unboxing videos a little bit silly, I thought it would be fun to record my unboxing of the Edwina microphone I ordered from Ear Trumpet Labs. Their customer service, packaging, and presentation are part of the selling points of the company, on top of the fact that they offer quality boutique mics made in their Portland Oregon shop at reasonable prices.
In addition to its distinctive looks, the Edwina is a good sounding and useful mic that offers clarity with a slight top end boost (though not too hyped). I look forward to recording some music with it and thank the fine people at Ear Trumpet Labs who answered my questions along the way.
Here is my Clarence White inspired arrangement of the Bluegrass classic, “Banks of the Ohio,” played fingerstyle with a thumbpick (rather than flatpicked or cross-picked). I’ve uploaded two versions of this song: one was recorded with the Neumann TLM 102 microphone that I have been using for a while; the other features my new Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina mic. So if you’re interested in how these two mics sound, this provides a comparison. The Neumann is a little bit smoother to my ear, while the Edwina has a little more clarity with a slight top end boost (though not too hyped). Both are fine microphones and I look forward to continuing to record with them both.
Using the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphone:
Using the Neumann TLM 102 microphone:
Both recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Fred Kelly thumbpick.
While working on some other stuff, I thought it would be fun to shoot a video about the things I currently have in my guitar case – mostly strings / string changing tools, batteries, and picks… but maybe it’ll give you an idea or two.
This video is meant to explore the features of the Fishman Loudbox Artist, a great affordable acoustic combo amp. The amp has an EQ section well tuned for acoustic guitar and some great effects as well. Features like master volume, mute button, and both “mix” and individual channel direct outs make it a practical companion for gigs both large and small. This amp is a great choice for acoustic guitar players (and players of other instruments) doing fingerstyle, jazz, blues, or any type of singer-songwriter stuff.