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A Guide to Taylor Guitars

A Guide to Taylor Guitars

In its 50 years of existence, Taylor Guitars has gone from three young men building guitars by hand in a tiny, 1,500 square foot shop to a renowned international manufacturer known for innovation, quality and commitment to sustainability. The list of Taylor players is long and varied, but they have always relied on the sound and feel of their instruments to be at the forefront, eschewing the use of celebrity-studded ad copy. The guitars, like the spirit that founded the company, speaks honestly and harmoniously to the power of music. But how did they get there?

Table of Contents

The History of Taylor Guitars
Taylor Guitars and Innovation
Taylor Today
A Guide to Taylor Series and Model Names
A Guide to Buying the Right Taylor Guitar
   Baby Taylor
   GS Mini
   Grand Theater
   Grand Concert
   50th Anniversary Grand Auditorium Models
   Grand Auditorium
   Grand Pacific
   Dreadnought
   Grand Symphony
   Grand Orchestra
Circa 74: An Acoustic Amp Worthy of Taylor Guitars
Taylor's 50 Years of Innovation and Evolution

The History of Taylor Guitars

Bob Taylor was only 18 and freshly out of high school when he started working for a small guitar-building shop called American Dream Musical Instrument Manufacturing (a name we'll come back to) in 1972. American Dream is notable in the history of contemporary luthiery as, over its short four years of life, it was a breeding ground and springboard for a number of builders who went on to become eminent in their own rights, including Greg Deering (Deering Banjos) and Larry Breedlove (Breedlove Guitars), as well as Taylor. But this is Bob Taylor's story, and it was at American Dream that he met Kurt Listug. In 1974, Taylor and Listug, along with Taylor's childhood friend and fellow employee Steve Schemmer, bought the business from founder Sam Redding and set out as heads of a new company, Westland Music Company. This name was quickly changed to Taylor Guitars because (a) it was easier to fit on a headstock and, (b) "Bob was the real guitar maker," as Listug said in a 2011 interview, and the new company immediately started shipping guitars with the soon-to-be-familiar Taylor headstock. So, with Taylor sculpting necks and designing instruments, Listug building bodies and going out in the field to sell guitars to dealers, and Schemmer doing the finish work (and, according to Listug, paying a fair number of the bills in the process), the company was born.

Taylor Guitars Headstock

During those early years, Taylor's focus was on producing affordable guitars that were loosely based on the classic Martin-style guitars. But in the small 1,500 square foot shop, Bob Taylor was quietly working on improving playability and refining construction, much of which we'll touch on in the section on Taylor's technological innovations. It took most of a decade of hand-to-mouth existence, with Listug out on the road, pulling into small towns and using the local Yellow Pages to find music stores where he could try and sell a guitar or two, and Taylor working impossible hours building instruments so they would have stock to sell, before players began to discover the advantages of the playability and distinctive tone of Taylor Guitars.

Interestingly, it was electric guitar players who kick-started the growth of Taylor's profile in the mid-1980s, shortly after Schemmer had sold his share of the company to Taylor and Listug. Taylor’s slender, faster necks made them an easier instrument to play if you were more used to electrics, and the brighter tone stood out more in a mix. In one interview, Bob Taylor recalled going to an acoustic guitar event and noticing that, while the bluegrass flatpickers were largely sticking with the traditional Martins, Gibsons and similar guitars, a majority of the players in the fingerpicking competition, most of whom were also electric players, were playing complex fingerstyle arrangements on Taylor guitars. This, Taylor felt, was further proof that his ideas about acoustic guitar construction were coming into their own. After Prince saw Taylor's limited-edition Artist Series guitars at the 1985 NAMM show, he ordered a purple Taylor for Paisley Park Studios, and Taylor's guitars began to be more and more visible on the scene.

Taylor 110ce and 112ce Acoustic-Electric Guitars

After Taylor Guitars began to gain popularity and wider availability in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the new models and innovations came thick and fast. Taylor, from the beginning, had maintained different series that were indicative of wood and trim levels, and they began adding new body styles, which we'll cover in more depth below.

By the mid-1990s, Bob Taylor was becoming deeply interested in using alternatives to traditional guitar woods as a reflection of new concerns about the overall sustainability and environmental impact of the use of increasingly rare tropical hardwoods. In 1995, as an experiment in what acceptable tonewoods for acoustic guitars could be, Taylor designed and built what became known as the "Pallet Guitar" with oak back and sides made out of old shipping pallets, and a top made of a sliced up  two-by-four. The experiment was enough of a success that a limited run of 25 were produced in 2000, selling out quickly and fueling Taylor's interest in sustainability, environmental issues and alternatives to traditional woods.

Taylor 722ce Koa Grand Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar

A major shift in Taylor Guitars' dynamic occurred initially in 2011, when Bob Taylor brought a young acoustic guitar designer named Andy Powers into the company as Master Guitar Designer. The two had become acquainted when the teenage Powers had met Taylor at a concert and showed him a ukulele he had built. Taylor was impressed, and told the 15-year-old Powers, “If you ever need a job, come look me up.” After assuming his new role, Powers immediately began to develop new ideas and further innovate, earning Taylor and Listug's admiration and respect for his vision and talents. Powers' ability as a designer also allowed Bob Taylor to concentrate more on sustainability issues, including working toward responsible koa harvesting in Hawaii and ensuring that other tropical woods like ebony were being ethically harvested. These issues were becoming increasingly important to guitar builders everywhere, as more and more woods were being restricted by the CITES treaties. In 2014, Taylor was awarded a U.S. State Department Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE), citing, among other things, their development of a sustainable ebony mill in Africa. Back at the factory, which Taylor still likes to refer to as “his shop,” Powers’ star would rise rapidly, but before we talk about how that has affected the Taylor of today, let's take a closer look at a number of the innovations that have come out of Taylor Guitars over the past 50 years.

Taylor Guitars and Innovation

Even before Taylor Guitars became a company, Bob Taylor had been innovating under the umbrella of American Dream Musical Instruments. From his very earliest builds, he had been experimenting with thinner, faster necks that played more easily, chasing the feel of one of the earliest electric guitars he had owned. Along the way, he found that that type of neck required a different style of attachment than the traditional dovetail neck joint and began the development of a bolt-on neck that would look and feel right for an acoustic guitar. One of the innovations in the current version of this, called the NT (New Technology) neck, involves extending the supported section of the fingerboard from where the neck joined the body (usually the 12th or 14th fret, depending on style) to the 19th fret. This creates a more stable neck and a stronger neck joint. This bolt-on arrangement also makes the occasional readjustment of neck angle, something pretty much all guitars require at some point as they age, much easier and far less time consuming.

Taylor was also one of the earliest adopters of automated manufacturing techniques, going from Bob Taylor designing manufacturing jigs after hours in the early years to bringing in computer-controlled milling as the business grew, wherever it made sense and wouldn't affect quality.

Taylor also developed their unique ES (Expression System) pickups in collaboration with legendary audio engineer Rupert Neve. With a Neve-designed preamp and a pickup system that combined a humbucking induction pickup mounted in the neck with a pair of soundboard-mounted transducers, the current generation ES2 pickups create a far more complex and natural-sounding system than traditional under-saddle acoustic pickup systems.

Taylor 614ce Limited-Edition Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar Aquamarine

The latest of Taylor Guitars' innovations, V-Class bracing, came from the imagination and skills of Andy Powers. Debuting in 2018, V-Class allows for greater flexibility of a guitar's top without reducing its strength, adding volume and sustain. An additional side effect of freeing the top to vibrate more readily is an increase in the ability of the strings to vibrate in tune with each other, improving the guitar's overall intonation. Since its debut, V-Class bracing has become the standard for all U.S.-made Taylors.

Taylor Today

In 2019, Andy Powers became a third ownership partner, along with Taylor and Listug, but there was a surprise in store. Just two years later, in 2021, citing a desire to keep Taylor Guitars' unique creative culture and family vibe intact, Taylor Guitars transitioned to being a wholly employee-owned company, ensuring all 1,200 of Taylor's employees a share in the company's continued growth and success. Recently, in a nod to the company's origin, Taylor has created the American Dream Series (see, we told you we'd be coming back to that), a series of builds that hark back to the early guitars that were aimed at providing exceptional value in a more affordable package. 

One thing that Taylor's unique corporate culture has enabled over the years is the creation of numerous custom and limited-edition builds of spectacular instruments that range from the use of unique or rare materials to some truly special finished and build touches. These are always in demand and are never available for long. Some recent examples are this "sinker" redwood and Indian rosewood guitar, this stunning torrefied spruce and rosewood instrument and a lovely 214ce DLX Ziricote model with a warm, glowing sunburst finish.

A Guide to Taylor Series and Model Names

From very early on, Taylor has had a wide range of series and body styles in a variety of woods. Individual series have default tonewoods that are used in their construction, though that can vary. When it does, it's called out in the model name. So, each model name can indicate a lot about what features an individual guitar has. Here is a quick decoder key to help you recognize what features and construction go along with each model.

The typical Taylor model name looks something like this: 314ce. The first digit indicates the particular series a guitar is in, in this case a 300 series. The second digit indicates whether it's a softwood (spruce or cedar) or hardwood (mahogany or koa) top. This will be a 1 for softwood or a 2 for hardwood. For 12-strings, it's 5 for softwood and 6 for hardwood. The third digit indicates body style, for which see the table below. Next, a lowercase "c" indicates a cutaway. If there's no "c," there is none. After that is a lowercase "e" to indicate whether there's a pickup system on the guitar. Once again, if it's not there, then it’s a purely acoustic instrument. Sometimes there may be a prefix to indicate some special feature in the instrument, like "K" for a Koa Series or "PS" for Presentation Series. There are also suffixes separated by a hyphen to indicate some variations. "N" says it's a nylon string. If there is an alternate wood to the usual for the series used for the back and sides, it's called here, for example "K" for koa or "M" for mahogany. If there's a special finish, it will be in the suffix (see table below).  Speaking of which, here are a few tables to get you oriented.

Taylor 314ce-K Special Edition Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar Shaded Edge Burst

Taylor Series Cheat Sheet

Series

Body Wood

Top Wood

100 Series

Layered Walnut

Solid Sitka Spruce

200 Series

Layered Rosewood or Koa

Solid Spruce

300 Series

Solid Sapele or Blackwood

Solid Spruce or Mahogany

400 Series

Solid Indian Rosewood

Solid Spruce

500 Series

Solid Urban Ironbark

Solid Spruce

600 Series

Solid Maple

Solid Spruce

700 Series

Solid Indian Rosewood

Lutz Spruce

800 Series

Solid Indian Rosewood

Solid Spruce

900 Series

Solid Indian Rosewood

Solid Spruce

Baby Taylor (BT1)

Layered Walnut

Solid Sitka Spruce

Big Baby Taylor (BBT1)

Layered Walnut

Walnut

GS Mini (GSM)

Layered Rosewood

Solid Sitka Spruce

Koa Series (K)

Solid Koa

Solid Koa

Presentation Series (PS)

Various Premium Solid Woods

Various Premium Solid Woods

American Dream Series (AD)

Various Solid Woods

Various Solid Woods

Academy Series

Layered Walnut

Solid Walnut or Solid Spruce

Taylor Body Style Cheat Sheet

Body Style

Number

Grand Theater

1

Grand Concert

2

Grand Auditorium

4

Grand Pacific

7

Grand Symphony

6

Dreadnought

0

Grand Orchestra

8

Taylor Suffix Cheat Sheet

Suffix Examples

Meaning

N

Nylon String

K

Koa Body

M

Mahogany Body

R

Rosewood Body

SB

Sunburst Finish

WHB

Wild Honey Burst Finish

BLK

Black Finish

A Guide to Buying the Right Taylor Guitar

While we gave you the numbers that indicate body styles above, in this section, we're going to dig down on what each body style is, and what makes each one unique. From the tiny Baby to the classic large-body dreadnought, we'll also give you examples of current production guitars in each style.

Baby Taylor

Taylor's smallest body size—3/4 dreadnought, to be precise—may look tiny, but it sounds surprisingly big. If you're looking for a guitar that's easy to travel with, a quality starter guitar for young players, have smaller hands or just like smaller guitars, a Baby, like this one may just be your baby. If you like the dreadnought body profile, and want it just a little bit larger, but not quite full-size, don't be a big baby, get a Taylor Big Baby, like this acoustic-electric choice.

Taylor Big Baby Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

Pictured: Taylor Big Baby Natural

GS Mini

This scaled-down take on Taylor's Grand Symphony body style provides a unique look and big sound in a guitar that's only slightly larger than the Baby. The GS Mini is available in a variety of wood choices, like this mahogany version, or this koa acoustic-electric one.

Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Acoustic Guitar Natural

Pictured: Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Natural

Grand Theater

The next step up in body size is the Grand Theater. Sized in between the GS Mini and the Big Baby, this is a beautiful short-scale parlor-size instrument that's voiced to sound bigger than its size would show. It's an incredibly comfortable guitar to play, and great for sensitive fingerstyle playing. These are the first of Taylor's body sizes to be graced with the ES2 pickup system. The Grand Theater is also the first of the body sizes that's available across multiple Taylor series, like this spectacular Koa Series version and this premium 800 Series guitar.

Taylor GT 811e Grand Theater Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

Pictured: Taylor GT 811e Grand Theater Acoustic-Electric Natural

Grand Concert

The Grand Concert is a superlative guitar for fingerstyle playing and a lighter touch, thanks to its articulate response and sensitivity to the player's touch. It's available with the neck joint at the 12th or 14th fret, and also in a 12-string version. This version, from Taylor's Academy line, is a great introduction to Taylor for players on a budget, and this American Dream Series version ups the ante on looks, and moves up from the Academy's ESB pickup system to the Rupert Neve codesigned ES2 system.

Taylor Academy 12e Grand Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

Pictured: Taylor Academy 12e Grand Concert Acoustic-Electric Natural

50th Anniversary Grand Auditorium Models

Taylor celebrated its 50th anniversary (1974–2024) with gifts for us—four magnificent, limited-edition Grand Auditorium guitars. The 50th Anniversary 314ce offers a torrefied Sitka spruce top, sapele back and sides, V-Class bracing, ES2 preamp and a Shaded Edgeburst finish.

The 50th Anniversary 814ce is absolutely radiant in its Kona Edgeburst finish. It also features V-Class bracing and ES2 electronics, but varies the tonewoods with a sinker redwood top, and Indian rosewood back and sides. Lush appointments include a radius armrest, Indian rosewood pickguard, mother-of-pearl inlays and ebony bridge pins.

The 50th Anniversary AD14ce sports a lovely tobacco sunburst finish over a solid Sitka spruce top. The V-Class bracing and ES2 electronics are onboard, and other features include a neo-tropical mahogany neck with a West African ebony fingerboard, a smoked eucalyptus bridge and a TUSQ saddle and nut.

If you’re in the mood to treat yourself to an epic beauty, check out the 50th Anniversary PS14ce LTD in our Guitar Center Platinum Gear collection. From the Byzantine abalone inlay on the fingerboard, to the burgundy hued Shaded Edgeburst finish, this opulent acoustic demands to be adored.

Premium Taylor PS14ce LTD 50th Anniversary Redwood Top Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar Shaded Edge Burst

Pictured: Taylor PS14ce Limited-Edition 50th Anniversary

Grand Auditorium

One of Taylor's original body styles, and their most popular, the Grand Auditorium has developed a reputation as a guitar that can do pretty much anything. Super comfortable to play, and with a well-balanced tonal response and clear, sweet voice—especially with V-Class bracing—it's no wonder that it's a perennial best-seller for Taylor. Check out this Special-Edition version or this well-appointed 800 Series take.

Taylor 414ce V-Class Special-Edition Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar Shaded Burst Edge

Pictured: Taylor 414ce V-Class Special-Edition Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Shaded Edge Burst

Grand Pacific

The first of two dreadnought body styles from Taylor, the round-shouldered Grand Pacific is another "Swiss Army knife" guitar that's at home in almost any style. With a big, warm voice and a powerful sound, its clarity and punch get heard without overwhelming other instruments. This 400 Series version carries one of Taylor's stylish tobacco sunburst finishes, and this Builder's Edition 700 Series has a stunning Wild Honey Burst on its resonant Lutz spruce top.

Taylor 417e Grand Pacific Acoustic-Electric Guitar Tobacco Sunburst

Pictured: Taylor 417e Grand Pacific Acoustic-Electric Tobacco Burst

Dreadnought

Taylor's square-shouldered dreadnought style broadens the guitar's waist to bring out that robust tone dreadnoughts are sought for. Big, beefy lows, punchy mids and a snappy, clear treble are beautifully balanced, making this a great flatpicking guitar, as well as a great choice for powerful strumming. Whether you're going simple, like with this walnut/Sitka spruce 100 Series version, or opting for the brighter edge of the Indian rosewood back and sides of the 200 Series cutaway version, you'll be getting a classic dreadnought that's amazingly easy to play.

Taylor 110e Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

Pictured: Taylor 110e Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Natural

Grand Symphony

Another of Taylor's forward-thinking original body styles, the Grand Symphony scales up from the Grand Auditorium and adds a unique soundport in the cutaway for a richer, more high-fidelity voice, a more immersive sound and impressive sustain. Whether you choose the Builder's Edition 800 Series or the absolutely stunning Koa Series version, you'll get a room-filling tone that's satisfyingly huge.

Taylor K26ce Grand Symphony Acoustic-Electric Guitar Shaded Edge Burst

Pictured: Taylor K26ce Grand Symphony Acoustic-Electric Shaded Edge Burst

Grand Orchestra

Taylor's largest, deepest body shape takes the classic jumbo guitar to new territory. Yes, it delivers the powerful sound you expect from a jumbo, with the full-range sound that Taylors are known for, but it also is amazingly responsive to the full dynamics of a player's touch, capable of going from a whisper to a full-throated shout while remaining articulate and clear across the full dynamic range. Whether you like the warmth of traditional rosewood and spruce or the added brightness and punch of solid maple back and sides, a Grand Orchestra will raise your voice above the crowd.

Taylor 618e Grand Orchestra Acoustic-Electric Guitar Antique Blonde

Pictured: Taylor 618e Grand Orchestra Acoustic-Electric Antique Blonde

Circa 74: An Acoustic Amp Worthy of Taylor Guitars

The Taylor Guitars Circa 74 AV150-10 acoustic guitar and vocal amplifier, and its included stand are crafted from solid mahogany, evoking a retro-futuristic cabinet you’d find in a mid-century modern showplace. Its ’50s space-age looks aside, the two-channel Circa 74 delivers 150 watts of power through a 10" full-range speaker. One channel includes a combo XLR and 1/4" input, and the other a 1/4" input—perfect for singer-songwriters and instrumental duos—and Bluetooth connectivity lets you play along with backing tracks wirelessly from a mobile device.

Taylor Circa 74 AV150-10 Acoustic Guitar and Vocal Amplifier with Amp Stand Mahogany

Pictured: Taylor Circa 74 AV150-10 Acoustic Guitar and Vocal Amplifier

Taylor’s 50 Years of Innovation and Evolution

From the start, Taylor Guitars has been one of the builders who've worked hard to advance the state of the art of luthiery. The ideas about what a modern acoustic guitar could be that Bob Taylor started playing with in 1972 have spread across the entire industry. Taylor Guitars' ongoing commitment to finding new and sustainable building practices, applying technology where it does the most good—while remaining committed to the vision of great-sounding acoustic guitars that deliver unprecedented playability—ultimately drove three teenagers to take their American Dream and make it a reality.

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