The Craft

Wheel of Fortune

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In Andy’s experience, fortune favors the problem-solvers — with some help from the likeminded people who guide them along the way.

I’m very fortunate. In fact, I’d say I’ve always been fortunate. Now, I should clarify that I don’t consider good fortune to be defined by convenient circumstances, sudden windfalls or lucky breaks. As I see it, good fortune has more to do with being able to do the work that overcomes each day’s challenges. Doing the work allows you to continue forward in the direction you want to go. The part that makes this hard is that each day seems to present a new, unknown problem to solve.

As a balance to this, I’ve noticed that the things you need to overcome those challenges usually come around at just the right time. Most often, they come in the form of people who have something to teach you. That’s precisely where I find myself fortunate. As far back as I can recall, people have arrived on the scene with lessons to teach me. Some teach by providing an opportunity for observation, and some by directly investing in your effort. The lessons are as endless as the thoughts we think, but we’re richer by far when we include the input of others and allow ourselves to be shaped in a positive way by their influence. 

One such person is my wife Maaren. She’s about the most wonderful person in the entire world (I confess I’m biased) and full of insight, even when she’s not paying attention to it. I often hear her reiterate to our kids the phrase, “Just do the work that’s in front of you, and it’ll get done.” I can’t think of a better way to express the type of thinking that is needed to creatively overcome the tasks that we face. 

In fact, this seems to be the attitude shared by the all the entrepreneurial folks I’ve been privileged to learn from. They simply get on with the work that is needed. They’re not going to wait for some imagined permission from an outside authority to get to work; they simply go about the business of doing what needs to be done. It reminds me of a distinction I read somewhere that a professional knows what they need to get a job done, but an entrepreneur uses what they have at hand to get the job completed.

Bob and Kurt are two people I’ve been deeply privileged to spend time with and learn from. They’ve spent, and continue to spend, hours, days, years attending to the tasks in front of them, overcoming each challenge in order to stay moving in the direction they want to go, which is building a great guitar company. For decades, they’ve worked side by side, focusing on the diverse jobs in front of each of them in pursuit of one central purpose: to design, build and sell instruments that are fundamentally aligned with the way musicians use instruments, and to do this in a way that provides the most good to our forest resources, suppliers, employees, dealers and musicians. It’s a tall order, broken down into innumerable individual jobs over a lifetime of work. But what great work it is to do! 

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved doing the work of making guitars, whether the mundane chores or working through the novel challenges of each day. For nearly a dozen years now, it’s been a joy to do this work alongside Kurt and Bob and see how their efforts complement each other. It’s as if each task accomplished fills in one more pane in a larger paint-by-numbers picture. They’ve generously included me in their work, and I’m grateful for their effort and teaching. I’ve been thrilled to share in this work and contribute my efforts toward our common goal of making great instruments for musicians to use, while also using those efforts as a means to share with those around us. These are great days at Taylor Guitars, and we’re happy to share them with you all.

The Craft

Maker’s Joy

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The process of crafting beautiful, useful musical tools at Taylor is often accompanied by a profound sense of creative excitement.

I’m very fortunate. In fact, I’d say I’ve always been fortunate. Now, I should clarify that I don’t consider good fortune to be defined by convenient circumstances, sudden windfalls or lucky breaks. As I see it, good fortune has more to do with being able to do the work that overcomes each day’s challenges. Doing the work allows you to continue forward in the direction you want to go. The part that makes this hard is that each day seems to present a new, unknown problem to solve.

Stepping into the first room of active instrument building is a fresh-level sensory experience. Walking through a mill that’s teeming with woods and their aromas from around the world, you’ll enter a wood-holding area, where ready-to-use woods are acclimated and cataloged like volumes in a library. Further on through our factory, you’ll step into worlds of different sounds and sights — the quiet tranquility of a room where braces are attached; the calculated precision of neck shaping; the bustle and whir of finishing, polishing and tuning up strings. Everywhere you look here at Taylor, creative work is bringing guitars to life.

To me, all of this is as it should be. The desire to create something beautiful and useful is a strong impulse — one that is simultaneously primal as well as artful, refined and celebrated. The method of making comes in lots of forms. Some projects are formed with hands alone, or with brushes, tools and instruments, or even a factory full of machines. In an introduction to “The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty,” a collection of Sōetsu Yanagi writings, potter and author Bernard Leach defines craft as “good work proceeding from the whole man, heart, head and hand in proper balance.” Rather than a strict adherence to a specific method, set of tools or even industry, the desire to create something vibrantly wonderful that benefits and enriches the user is an instinct as old as time.

The desire to create something vibrantly wonderful that enriches the user is an instinct as old as time.

This desire to create starts from a young age. With three young kids, my home is seldom tidy, although that’s not for lack of cleaning effort. The creative process tends to be worked out in bursts of energy that typically involve paint spills, drips of glue and cast-off pieces of countless different materials. From somewhere within the disarray of materials emerges what I like to describe as maker’s joy — a curiously profound sense of excitement that accompanies a fresh creation. In our home, this excitement is heard everywhere as shouts followed by, “Come see what I’ve made!”

I suspect this is true for most young kids, but interestingly enough, the same sensation tends to follow most makers engaged in a craft. Songwriters and composers are not immune to it. Musicians and painters know the feeling well. So do machinists, welders, hot rod mechanics, carpenters and guitar makers. We love to do our work and be immersed in the process.

Having oriented a life around this endeavor, I’ve had time and occasion to observe that the process of making can be catalyzed by the simple fact that you have materials something might be made from as much as by a desire to make a specific thing. It was never so clear as with a recent conversation with our seven-year-old daughter when she wandered into the old barn I use as a home shop. The conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I want a piece of wood.”

“Well, what would you like to make?”

“I don’t know yet. What do you have that I can use?”

There it was — the desire to create something was there, even though she hadn’t a clue as to what object was going to emerge from her effort. She would be led into that creative place by whatever material was available. Similarly, a surfboard-making friend recently dropped off a sculpted foam surfboard core ready to be coated in fiberglass at my shop. He returned to his home shop with a wedge from a cedar tree that couldn’t be turned into guitar tops. While the wood’s destiny was still undecided, it was clear the raw material could serve as a catalyst for a project simply for the fact that the wood has a wonderful aroma, which could guide what it turned into.

Musicians are often spurred by a similar scenario. Some songs might be written from a desire to speak about a subject or put an emotion into a musical narrative. Just as often, I’ve watched songs be written for the simple fact that an appealing melody was hummed, or the sound of a certain chord or rhythm had a quality that offered an opportunity. It was in this same spirit that our newly reconceived 700 Series guitars took form. Colleagues began sawing into these Hawaiian koa timbers, which revealed beautiful colors and grain. Swirls and stripes of woods telling stories of growth, seasons, storms and passing years. The wood was practically begging to be turned into something beautiful and deeply musical. Now, a few years since we started sawing into these trees, we’re feeling the excitement of maker’s joy in these new instruments. It’s our hope that whether found in one of these fresh guitar designs or a perennial favorite instrument, you will find some maker’s joy of your own — the inspiration to finger a new melody, strum a fresh rhythm, and savor a harmonious new chord.        

The Craft

Never-ending Pursuit

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Andy reflects on the blissfully open-ended nature of guitar making and the joy of making fresh discoveries.

I’m very fortunate. In fact, I’d say I’ve always been fortunate. Now, I should clarify that I don’t consider good fortune to be defined by convenient circumstances, sudden windfalls or lucky breaks. As I see it, good fortune has more to do with being able to do the work that overcomes each day’s challenges. Doing the work allows you to continue forward in the direction you want to go. The part that makes this hard is that each day seems to present a new, unknown problem to solve.

While that sense of anticipation and arrival is a natural rhythm, making guitars and playing music seem to be steeped in a more extended path of continuity. Sure, there are the anticipation and enjoyment of stringing up a new instrument for the first time after hours at the bench turn into weeks and months, or playing a new song after diligent practice. But rather than a natural end point like a finish line at a race, this is simply the next step on an unending trail to explore.

There is no point where instrument making is truly finished, just like there is no real end point where music has been learned. Creating music, like creating instruments, is a never-ending pursuit of more: more understanding, broadening ability, new ideas to explore, new pieces to build. Along the way, it’s experienced in micro-sized rhythms of work and reward: gluing up a fretboard and appreciating it done well; installing frets and admiring their smooth consistency; or playing a new string of chords and appreciating how one falls into the next in a fresh way.

When I was growing up, my dad, a carpenter, often told me to learn to love working, because life was full of working. While these words could easily be mistaken for a dour resignation, the sentiment was sage advice and always laced with optimism and opportunity. The real message was one of encouragement: to appreciate and celebrate the myriad of small tasks performed in pursuit of some beautiful, larger project. It makes perfect sense. In my dad’s case, his effort as a carpenter was to create a beautiful home. That’s a big project, but one that can be broken down into thousands of small jobs, each of which can be enjoyed, nail by nail, board by board.

Building a guitar is also a big project, but likewise can be broken down into small actions, each with a joy of its own, just like learning and playing music.

Perhaps even more than building houses or guitars, playing music is a trail with no ultimate destination. I’ve been privileged to share music with musicians of fantastic ability, and one common lesson I’ve learned is they are never done. There is no point where they stop playing after having learned all they need to know and played all the songs that needed playing. Far from it — musicians continue onward, refining their ability, delving into new styles and influences, broadening the sounds they can contribute to their art. While I was in college, one music professor summed it up by asking rhetorically, “How many times can you practice a C major scale, the simplest of all scales? Not enough.”

I’ve been privileged to share music with musicians of fantastic ability, and one common lesson I’ve learned is they are never done.

With this idea of continuously evolving work in mind, it’s easy to picture a world of projects that are continuously reinvented, as if only those things that already exist can be used as a platform for new work. In some cases, this is a great approach. I love to hear a favorite song or melody refreshed with a new feel or instrumentation. As guitar makers, we love to draw from our body of work and freshen up a favorite piece with new inspiration and a different look or sound. But alongside those existing pieces, we love the vibrancy of new additions into our portfolio of work. A new creation doesn’t diminish or make obsolete an older one, just as a newly penned song doesn’t detract from a perennial favorite in a setlist. They simply add to the catalog of choices.

In perusing our latest lineup of instruments, I’m confronted by the surprising number of choices. Realizing just how many different versions of guitars we’re making is nearly overwhelming and for a fleeting moment leaves me wondering just how we arrived where we are. Considering each guitar in turn serves to remind us that they all have a purpose and are the result of our continuous work as guitar makers. Tending to each fretboard, fret, soundboard, neck or string was a small task to enjoy in our guitar-making life. Some of these models are the favorites we return to time and again. Others, like our new Grand Theater guitars made from walnut or mahogany, are additions with fresh sounds for our enjoyment. Our new flametop Grand Pacific wears its maple top and steps forward as a newcomer in our repertoire of hardwood-top guitars, revealing a character all its own.

Whether a new instrument or an enduring favorite in our catalog, here at Taylor, we are privileged to savor all the steps that go into the creation of each one of our guitars. And we love hearing the songs musicians bring from the ones they choose for their music.

The Craft

Lasting Value

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One way to embrace sustainability is to make guitars that will inspire and endure for generations.

I’m very fortunate. In fact, I’d say I’ve always been fortunate. Now, I should clarify that I don’t consider good fortune to be defined by convenient circumstances, sudden windfalls or lucky breaks. As I see it, good fortune has more to do with being able to do the work that overcomes each day’s challenges. Doing the work allows you to continue forward in the direction you want to go. The part that makes this hard is that each day seems to present a new, unknown problem to solve.

In recent months, few days have passed without my either experiencing or hearing of a challenge that leaves me shaking my head. Music tours canceled, a failed and lost crop, a material that didn’t arrive and the ensuing difficulty, the tragedy of a loved one lost. Yet despite these challenges and heartbreaks, I feel a profound sense of gratitude to be building guitars. Despite all that can and does go wrong, there is so much good that can be done. When we take a moment to think of all that can go right, our difficulties seem to float up and disperse against the backdrop of a night sky. 

When I first began building instruments, my focus was solely on the instrument and the musician. This was as big a picture as I could focus on; workshop life was a daily pursuit to find the outermost limit of an ever-expanding question of how good an instrument could be made.  For those who want to know, it seems the practical answer remains: a little better each day. In the time since, that focus began growing ever wider here at Taylor to include creating a wonderful environment for employees of all backgrounds to contribute their efforts and enjoy the rewards of their work. And to the expansion and stewardship of forest operations. All while keeping the guitar and the musician positioned as the center of our attention.

The lifespan of a guitar doesn’t necessarily end with the first owner.

Andy Powers

We talk a lot about sustainability here at Taylor — about the responsible use of resources, of leaving forests in better condition than the way we found them, and of ways to improve our work while making improvements on our impact. There’s a feeling here that the word “sustainable” has been used so much it’s been worn down, diminished, so we try to be careful about our use of that word. Another way to say this is that we’re committed to finding better ways to keep up the work we do, and at ever higher levels of achievement. As a guitar maker, it occurs to me that one of most fundamental actions we can take is to make something that has intrinsic and enduring value, so that a player will want to use it for a great long while. I think of it this way: The lifespan of a great guitar is long — far longer than most things we could invest in. It can outlive a car, a computer and most other things we might possess. It can and should be crafted in a way that offers great utility to a musician for decades before being passed on to the next musician to accompany their songs. The lifespan of a guitar doesn’t necessarily end with the first owner. The best way to preserve the precious resources and efforts that go into a guitar is to turn them into an instrument that musicians will want to continue to use across several generations.

Many players ask how modern technologies might be integrated into an acoustic instrument. While there certainly are interesting possibilities, the reality is an acoustic guitar doesn’t necessarily occupy the same timeline as a product built with digital technology. We all know the digital wonders of a modern world arrive and are replaced at a pace that is hard to keep up with. An acoustic guitar, on the other hand, offers the musician a voice for songs that remains viable today, tomorrow and a century from now. In fact, we celebrate the virtues of an older instrument that, like many of us, has had time to become seasoned by its experiences and offer a deeper and fuller perspective. Knowing that, it seems our modern technologies are best working to serve the longevity of a great instrument and the musician, rather than using materials of decades or centuries of growth to accommodate the latest passing technology.

This scenario reminds me of a few old tools I use in the shop. When first purchased, they represented a significant investment for my great-great-granddad. Over the past century, they were kept in perfect working order as they were made well, were found useful and valuable, and therefore were carefully kept up. All this time later, they’re as accurate and useful as ever. I often wonder about the unknown craftsmen who worked at the Starrett company all that time ago, and if they knew the tools they made would endure and offer such lasting enjoyment.

A great guitar is lasting, and offers a musician lasting enjoyment. That seems like a solid place to start when laying out a plan to create the most good with what we’ve been entrusted with. It’s a privilege to work alongside other employee owners to make Taylor Guitars a more sustainable company — sustaining our culture, our forests, our guitars and the music of all the musicians we serve. Whether you are playing a few songs for many, or many songs for a few, I hope you enjoy every note of them as they drift to the ears of those listeners before disappearing into the night sky.

The Craft

Finding Our Home Base

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Andy explores the different ways a guitar — or a guitar community — can soothe our soul.

I love the games children play. In our house, little time passes between games of hide-and-seek or tag. In counterpoint to the excitement of the chase portion of these games, there is usually some designated spot of refuge known as home base, where all players are safe from would-be assailants. It seems to me a primitive game like this is a reflection of what goes on all around us. After all, a desire for a refuge seems universal. A snug harbor for ships, the promise of a steady glowing light on a front porch, or the familiar scenery of a beloved hometown all conjure a sense of arrival that puts us at ease. This is equally true in the world of music.

For many of us, playing music is more than the mere pastime it might appear from a distance. With a guitar in hand, we can be temporarily transported into a space insulated from the friction and frenzy of the outside world. In this musical space, even thoughts of events past and present can be safely sorted out. This idea of a home base even permeates musical structures themselves. I remember learning in music school about a classic sonata form, where a melody starts from a home space, is developed over the course of time away from its main melody and key area, building in tension to a climactic breaking point, finally to resolve with an enormous sense of relief as the melody arrives home to its original tonality and thematic structure.

A home base can also provide the foundation for building a community. Community is a word we often hear in an ever-widening range of scenarios, with a broad range of definitions. Recently, I heard a community described as a place where a person continues to show up. This definition seems right in most respects. As a community of musicians, we love to show up and share in our safe musical spaces with our fellow music makers. Beyond merely showing up, however, there are times when a community is based on both a shared place and a shared purpose. Taylor Guitars is such a community. On the surface, our factories and service centers are locations where we all show up. These locations house our workshops, tools, wood and materials. Everyone arrives to accomplish our individual tasks, but we are united in the shared purpose of crafting the most expressive instruments we can, which encourage musicians to make their music.

With a guitar in hand, we can be temporarily transported into a space insulated from the friction and frenzy of the outside world.

In my mind, there’s a parallel to the guitar itself. As an instrument, the guitar is made of parts that all show up in the same place. A back, a top, sides, a bridge, neck and fingerboard all share a space and make an interactive community of components. Each has its individual role and contributes to the overall success and functionality of the guitar. Each is shaped in a unique way, made with an appropriate material, and occupies its unique spot in the whole like pieces of a complex puzzle. Yet together, these components form a unique community with the purpose of providing a voice and a sense of inspired refreshment to a musician. This small microcosm of a community has provided an outcome — a purpose — far beyond the simple assembly of parts. It creates a sense of home for a guitar player.

Another implied aspect of a home is a sense of permanence. Wrapped up in our collective understanding of a home space is a place that always welcomes and remains consistent. I think this is why it feels disconcerting to revisit one’s childhood home and find the color different than you remembered, or the fence where your height had been marked as you grew taller replaced.

Yet we can acknowledge that home is more than a physical location; it’s an environment that is slowly, continuously adapting to the needs and actions of its family in the same way a favorite song takes on a new dimension with each live performance as it reflects new state of mind. This slow metamorphosis is what allows a home to remain permanent; it becomes sustainable so as to never fall into a state of disrepair. Left alone and unchanged, the ravages of existence would erode all that make a home or a community good, until a complete overhaul is needed to restore fresh vitality.

A back, a top, sides, a bridge, neck and fingerboard all share a space and make an interactive community.

A friend of mine owns a favorite elderly guitar, which has undergone so many repairs, maintenance and evolution over the course of a century that there is little left of the original guitar except the form originally established by its maker. Despite being comprised almost entirely of replaced and restored components, this instrument is as vitally relevant in a musical context as when it was first made. I’d venture to say it is because of this instrument’s gradual metamorphosis over years that it can remain a beautifully useful, inspiring musical voice. Left to itself, it would have fallen into a state of shabby disuse decades ago.

Similarly, the long-term sustainability of this community we call Taylor Guitars can only come in the form of a slow, deliberate metamorphosis. As a result of years of planning, we’ve recently transitioned into an employee-owned company structure. We all love this place and the work we do here. It feels like home to walk through the doors, smell the familiar aromas, and hear the sounds of guitar making. Through this structure, the community we enjoy as Taylor has found a home that can have a lifespan beyond that of Kurt, Bob and myself, which can evolve and respond to the needs of the family of employee-owners who dwell there, and the musicians who enjoy these instruments we love to create. While we will continue to love the work we contribute each day, these guitars we make feel more meaningful than the day before, as we build them knowing they provide a home base for the musician and craftsman alike.

The Craft

Instruments of Change

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From musical instruments to the songs we play on them, we are constantly evolving in response to changing times.

Dad!  You’ve got to come see this!”
I could tell by the tone of the young voice that something extraordinary was occurring in the yard beyond the shop door. A quick glance through the window revealed little had changed since my last glance out the window.  “No, dad, you’ve got to come here to see this. You won’t see it from there.”

I reluctantly pulled away from the project I was elbow deep in to find one of our kids halfway under a bush, having chased some little creature as it fled from inquiring young hands. “You’ve got to crawl under here to see it. It’s important!”  

While the timing may not have been ideal for a change in perspective, I suppose the timing of a change rarely seems ideal in the moment. This past year has presented so many shifts in perspective that the perception of passing time seemed to have been dismantled altogether. Accompanying these changing seasons, it’s remarkable to hear how music and its makers respond to, and set the tone for, each shift in the wind of a society.  

It’s easy to reminisce about the good old days, and the guitar-making world is no exception.

I recently read an essay by the British writer G.K. Chesterton wherein he comments on the commonly used phrase, “History repeats itself.” While I’m sure I’ve used that phrase a thousand times without giving it so much as a passing thought, Chesterton correctly points out that, in reality, history is one of the few things that does not repeat itself. The rules of arithmetic, the laws of physics, the motion of planets in astronomy, and the mechanisms in most other fields of study do, in fact, repeat themselves. A column of numbers added together will give exactly the same result each time. In contrast, the sums of history and events might take on familiar trends, but never work out in exactly the same way.   

So it is in the world of music and instruments. The history of music is a study in dynamism, progression and development. Like other arts, at no point has music ever completely repeated itself or remained in a state of perfect redundancy. It’s an outpouring of creativity that cannot readily maintain a fixed perspective of time and place. Until the invention of recorded music and mechanical sound reproduction devices, it was impossible for two performances of the same piece of music to be exactly alike, no matter how much a musician practiced. Each repetition of a favorite piece would take on the perspective of a unique day in a unique season, flavored with the subtle or dramatic events of each changing moment.  

This same forward development can be seen in instruments themselves. While each individual guitar remains quite like itself, save for the welcomed seasoning of its own voice forged through steady playing, I have been privileged to see the progressive creation of many instruments and can easily witness the further evolution a traditional guitar. Each era, even each day, faces its own unique set of occurrences, which can influence the guitar made at that moment. The availability (or lack) of certain materials, the tools and methods used to create each individual guitar shift throughout the years, to say nothing of the concept, understanding and aesthetic that directs each design. During some eras, these shifts are dramatic and easy to point out. During others, the shifts are as subtle as the angle of the sunlight pouring through a shop window. Whether the shift is minuscule or dramatic, instruments are never the same, nor is the music they’ll play. 

As in other areas of life, it’s easy to reminisce about the good old days, and the guitar-making world is no exception. I’m often surrounded with the seemingly ancient tools of a trade far older than myself, soaking up the pearls of hard-earned wisdom from those who have come before me. It’s inspiring to see the effort of a maker in an instrument built decades prior, to think of all the melodies drawn from its voice over years and be reminded of the joy those songs brought. To see the beauty and be reminded of the comfort an instrument brought to its player is both a recollection and an encouragement to take up the tools with renewed energy and continue forward. While a detour down memory lane is always a welcome and worthwhile diversion, it remains a street on which there is no place for permanent residence.   

What remains constant is the purpose behind these instruments. They’re created to inspire and serve the dynamic expression of each musician whose hands cradle them. It’s clear that music is continuously growing, changing, diversifying and uniting with each shared story, beat, melody and chorus, like a tree that grows visibly taller and wider, supported by an unshakable but unseen foundation of roots embedded in the soil of society. In response, it becomes a profound privilege to create instruments that seek to serve this inspiring creative force.   

It has been immensely rewarding to watch as the most recent inclusions into our library of instruments — the GT and American Dream guitars — have found their way into songs being played. Whether an old favorite or a newly penned offering, it’s a treasure to hear the music a player will serve up when their perspective is changed. The nexus of a fresh voice, a new feel, and the perspective of a new time and place supplies a rich setting for a musical renaissance as players chase a creative spark that darts ahead like a living creature that can never be contained.  

While a change in perspective might arrive at what feels like an inconvenient moment, or one that finds us longing for the way we remember things to be, it also gives us a thrillingly bright opportunity to grow as we step forward into each new day, with every chord and song we play. 

Andy Powers is Taylor’s Master Guitar Designer. 

The Craft

Music: The Currency of Emotion

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During challenging times, making music can feel as essential as food and shelter.

“If these trees could talk, what would they say?”

The question made me pause and consider what exactly I was looking at. Before me was a beautiful bench made from a single slab cut from a redwood tree. The man who asked this playfully unanswerable question, a friend nearly 70 years my senior, had seen more in his lifetime than most would be fortunate to see in two. He had built this bench — “a simple place to sit awhile,” as he humbly described it — from an ancient tree that had fallen in a storm some 30 years prior. Here was a man who had lived through so much, created a profoundly prolific body of work, yet was fully aware of how short a span of time a lifetime represents. When faced with a tree, centuries old, I suppose the timeframe of human events does seem to shrink.

I’ve thought about that question throughout the construction of nearly every instrument I’ve made since I first heard it asked. What would this tree, this guitar, have to say if it could speak? I commonly hear questions about certain species of woods: where exactly a tree grew, or what differences there are between trees of the same type that grew in different countries. It’s fun to imagine two spruce trees growing in neighboring countries and speaking different languages at each other, all because a surveyor decided to draw a line on a map, dividing the landscape. The reality is that many trees have a lifespan so vastly different from our own, they seem unconcerned about where we draw our lines. Yet, each of these trees does in fact have a unique story to tell, revealed across each grain line and colorful swirl of figure, all coming together in the guitar we so love. The fact that each guitar is made from so many different trees, with so many backgrounds, is amusingly apparent. Within one instrument, we can expect to see woods from the tropics, the northern climates, from Europe, Asia, Oceania and here in the Americas. It’s as if the guitar is built as a mirror to the varied backgrounds of its players.

The guitar has been regarded as a universal instrument, and I think that has to do with the fact that we as people have some shared experience, and a curious need for art and music. I say curious because, at first glance, music doesn’t seem all that necessary. Food, shelter and protection all seem like elementary necessities, and rightly so. These are essential services, to use a now-common phrase. For that reason, much of our day-to-day experience is in pursuit of these, or the improvement of these needs. But when life’s experiences overtake the need for mere physical sustenance, where can we turn? There is little comfort to be found in efficiency or productivity when we are trying to make sense of what we see going on around us. Words alone can’t adequately express the loss we feel when coping with a friend’s untimely departure. In the same way, they are utterly insufficient when trying to express a complete and expansive joy. For this, the human-experience aspect of living, art and music are no longer luxuries; they become sustenance, the currency of emotion.

“If anything, history will show us how, during the most uncertain of days, people turn to the realism of self-made music to connect with their family, their friends, their communities, and their own thoughts.”

As an instrument goes, the acoustic guitar offers everything we need to serve as the perfect companion through which to share our narratives: portability, accessibility, simple honesty that allows direct, unhindered expression of the human spirit. It’s an antithesis of the detachment of virtual reality. The guitar can serve as a ballast to stabilize our thoughts and our connection in an age of seeming existential crisis. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that an unprecedented number of people are taking up playing the guitar for themselves during these past weeks and months as, collectively all around the world, we grapple with the uncertainty we face. 

So much has changed, and so quickly, it seems we haven’t even had enough time to become astonished yet. Even the way we take in music through live performances has changed. Sitting around a backyard campfire late one clear April night, a close friend who has made a profession from playing music remarked that since large crowds of people are his line of work, he wasn’t sure how things were going to work out from there. But despite the change in musical setting, there we were again, using songs to sing what couldn’t adequately be said. If anything, history will show us how, during the most uncertain of days, people turn to the realism of self-made music to connect with their family, their friends, their communities, and their own thoughts, and these days seem to reflect a broad and fresh renaissance of artistic creativity.

While we couldn’t have predicted these current circumstances, some time ago we set in motion a project to bring to light a fresh instrument to play, which now seems more appropriate than we could have imagined when it was first created. Our new Grand Theater, or GT as we call it, was intended to be a “just right” guitar: an instrument that is easy to hold, easy to play, easy to express yourself through. It’s designed to be an inclusive guitar—having a voice that welcomes an experienced player, a new player and all players in between. It’s intended to be a universal guitar to make music for yourself, your family, your friends, the few, the many, for strangers who are strangers only because they are not yet known. It’s a guitar on which to share your songs, because they are needed now more than ever, whether on a stage or around a campfire. It’s made of solid woods — some trees young, some old. When we look at each of those pieces of wood and ask ourselves what they would say if they could talk, we know they can’t speak a word. But together, they can surely sing. We hope you enjoy these instruments as much as we do.

Andy Powers is Taylor’s Master Guitar Designer.

The Craft

Reconnecting

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Andy reflects on the community spirit that inspired him to play and make instruments, and how, even in a time of physical separation, music finds new ways to bring people together.

The question made me pause and consider what exactly I was looking at. Before me was a beautiful bench made from a single slab cut from a redwood tree. The man who asked this playfully unanswerable question, a friend nearly 70 years my senior, had seen more in his lifetime than most would be fortunate to see in two. He had built this bench — “a simple place to sit awhile,” as he humbly described it — from an ancient tree that had fallen in a storm some 30 years prior. Here was a man who had lived through so much, created a profoundly prolific body of work, yet was fully aware of how short a span of time a lifetime represents. When faced with a tree, centuries old, I suppose the timeframe of human events does seem to shrink.

I’ve thought about that question throughout the construction of nearly every instrument I’ve made since I first heard it asked. What would this tree, this guitar, have to say if it could speak? I commonly hear questions about certain species of woods: where exactly a tree grew, or what differences there are between trees of the same type that grew in different countries. It’s fun to imagine two spruce trees growing in neighboring countries and speaking different languages at each other, all because a surveyor decided to draw a line on a map, dividing the landscape. The reality is that many trees have a lifespan so vastly different from our own, they seem unconcerned about where we draw our lines. Yet, each of these trees does in fact have a unique story to tell, revealed across each grain line and colorful swirl of figure, all coming together in the guitar we so love. The fact that each guitar is made from so many different trees, with so many backgrounds, is amusingly apparent. Within one instrument, we can expect to see woods from the tropics, the northern climates, from Europe, Asia, Oceania and here in the Americas. It’s as if the guitar is built as a mirror to the varied backgrounds of its players.

The guitar has been regarded as a universal instrument, and I think that has to do with the fact that we as people have some shared experience, and a curious need for art and music. I say curious because, at first glance, music doesn’t seem all that necessary. Food, shelter and protection all seem like elementary necessities, and rightly so. These are essential services, to use a now-common phrase. For that reason, much of our day-to-day experience is in pursuit of these, or the improvement of these needs. But when life’s experiences overtake the need for mere physical sustenance, where can we turn? There is little comfort to be found in efficiency or productivity when we are trying to make sense of what we see going on around us. Words alone can’t adequately express the loss we feel when coping with a friend’s untimely departure. In the same way, they are utterly insufficient when trying to express a complete and expansive joy. For this, the human-experience aspect of living, art and music are no longer luxuries; they become sustenance, the currency of emotion.

“As swiftly as direct communities are forced to separate, the creative spirit of musicians finds new channels to flow through.”

“As swiftly as direct communities are forced to separate, the creative spirit of musicians finds new channels to flow through.”

Making New Musical Connections  

Having created a life within these communities, the disruption forced by a pandemic seems particularly jarring. The solitary work in workshops can continue, but for musical gatherings to be abruptly terminated, however necessary such actions may be, leaves a palpable sense of loss. It feels like some mysterious vacuum has swallowed up the purpose that drives a guitar maker.

Yet as swiftly as direct communities are forced to separate, the creative spirit of musicians finds new channels to flow through. Throughout the world, musicians of every style and background have brought their art from concert stages back into their own living rooms and back patios, where it continues to be shared as an offering with a renewed sense of purpose. It seems fitting that the great tide of musical connection can’t even be constrained by physical distance. Just like an ocean’s tide, the interrupting blockade only serves to redirect the flow around the obstacle as it seeks new avenues to advance. 

“We need the community of musicians more now than ever as we try to make sense of the world around us.”

Such is the narrative of music and musicians. Throughout history, music has been used to share our stories, hopes, dreams, sorrows and fears. We sing of reality and the way we wish it to be. As Gertrude Stein wrote, “The subject matter of art is life, life as it actually is; but the function of art is to make life better.” 

We need the community of musicians more now than ever as we try to make sense of the world around us, just as we have throughout every age, war and pandemic that has come before. A glance into past eras reminds us that musicians have always managed to share through whatever forum or medium was available. We may not be able to gather together in person to listen, sing and play, but we can connect through the latest digital communication tools. While we eagerly look forward to times when we once again gather around a fire, a microphone or a stage in person, we can use these modern platforms to share our stories and songs, as these treasured gifts are the wind that fills our sail and emboldens us to press onward. 

In fact, I’ve started to welcome (virtually) a new community into the little workshop behind my home via Instagram (@andytaylorpowers). This space is where I work through the ideas, designs and methods that eventually become the instruments that we as Taylor Guitars craft. While I see no replacement for the tangible experience of walking through the door into a craftsman’s creative workspace, hopefully some of the musings I share in my new “Andy’s Workshop” video series will provide a window into some of my creative thought processes. 

During this unusual time, we at Taylor been harvesting the rush of inventive ideas that form in times of adversity. The shock of a disruptive event can offer a silver lining by stripping away established customs and preconceived ideas, allowing wide open space for fresh thought. I have no doubt the guitars we’ll make in the coming months will be among our greatest efforts ever as we focus on our purpose with renewed vigor. We’ll apply every bit of creative instrument-building knowledge and effort into crafting instruments that offer a broad and expansive voice to musicians everywhere, so they can share their much-needed songs with us all.   

Andy Powers 
Master Guitar Designer