Category Archives: Gear

GEAR 513 • TC Electronic UniTune

Most of you know I have been a fan of TC Electronic’s Polytune Clip for a while now (review linked below). The Polytune Clip does really well with alternate and open-tunings on acoustic guitar; it latches on to notes quickly, has good tracking, and even does well reading the lower bass notes we sometimes tune our sixth strings to which other clip-on tuners can have trouble with. So I still love the PolyTune Clip even though I spend most of my time in open tunings and hardly ever use the PolyTune function. Recently, I learned that TC Electronic had partnered with music retailer Sweetwater to produce the Uni-Tune, which is just like the PolyTune Clip in every respect but without the PolyTune mode. (Also it is about $15 less expensive.)

As with the Polytune Clip, I found that TC Electronic’s Uni-Tune clip-on tuner latches on to notes quickly and accurately, has excellent tracking, and picks up the low 6th string bass notes well (even down as low as Bb). So if you use mostly open / altered tunings, or can otherwise live without the PolyTune function and want to save $15, you might consider the almost identical UniTune clip-on tuner from TC Electronic.

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.

GEAR 509 • Taylor Grand Concert Guitars (feat. 912ce)

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.

GEAR 507 • My Taylor 412ce-LTD (Rosewood / Spruce)

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.

GEAR 508 • Elixir HD Light Strings Review

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.

Other notes:

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.

GEAR 705 • Neumann TLM 102 Review

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.

GEAR 702 • Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Review

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.

You may also like:

Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Unboxing

“Banks of the Ohio,” recorded using both the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina and the Neumann TLM 102

GEAR 506 • Taylor Guitar Nut/Saddle Material

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.

You may also like:

“Banks of the Ohio,” recorded using the Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina & Neumann TLM 102

Polytune Clip – clip-on tuner demo / review