Lately, I’ve become enamored of Taylor Guitars. Bob Taylor and his crew really make a beautiful instrument, and I’ve been really taken with the quality, sound and feel of them. The GS Mini I have is a terrific instrument, and the other Taylor instruments I’ve played at Fazio’s have been tremendous.
Cruising the Acoustic Guitar Forum one day, I found someone selling a 2008 Taylor 426ce Limited Edition at a reasonable price, and in great condition. Money sent, guitar received, and all was well in the world! I took it to Fazio’s, and had Bryan set it up, adjusting the neck and truss rod, making it play like brand new.
This thing is gorgeous. It’s top, sides, and back are solid Tasmanian blackwood, sporting a gorgeous shimmer. And the tone… well, the tone is out of this world. It’s thick sounding, complex, with lots of body, and compares nicely to my Carvin mahogany. I really love playing it.
It’s been with me now for about two-and-a-half weeks, and has been my “first picked up” guitar when I look to play. I’ve been comparing it with my Takamine and Carvin, and while they each have their own voices, I really like the feel of the neck on the Taylor, and find that I can play this guitar for hours at a time, without getting tired.
Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring the world of guitar picks. There are ga-zillions of picks out there, and by no means, have I looked at even the smallest fraction of ’em. However, here’s a few that I’ve tried over the last few months during my quest for sound.
Chris, from Gravity Picks, put a deal on the Acoustic Guitar Forum a while back, offering a free pick to evaluate. Chris makes a boatload of picks, and I suggested what kind of playing I did, and what sound I was looking for. He sent a Classic XL. Most of what I’d used up to that point was Dunlop Tortex yellow (0.73mm) and red (0.50mm) picks, and this pick is pretty comparable in size and weight as the Dunlops, at least to my fingers. Playing-wise, it’s a thin, sorta “slappy” sound on the strings. There’s a time and place for that, but as I’ve discovered during my pick vision quest, I’m finding that I don’t care for that sound as much as I thought I did. Chris has some other kinds of picks, and I suspect I’ll be trying some of them out at some point. Picks, like strings, are pretty cheap ways to experiment with the sound coming out of the instrument.
Vinny, from V-Picks also put up a freebie deal on the AGF. Unfortunately, I missed out on the deal, and ended up just buying a set of picks from him. I ordered the Acoustic Premium Pack, which included the five picks in the image. Four of them were acrylic, similar to the Gravity Pick sample I’d received, but that white beauty in the middle, the “Screamer”, was gold. I really like that pick. It’s thick, which I’m learning I like, and it has a very, very crisp sound on the strings, without the slap of a thinner pick. Definitely a pick to keep playing around with.
I’d been hearing about BlueChip Picks for a while. Bryan, at Fazio’s, demoed a few picks for me, and the one that really grabbed my attention was the BlueChip. These aren’t exactly cheap picks, with the pick I chose — the TP40 — running $35. Frankly, I was skeptical that there was that much of a difference with this pick, but, oh was I wrong. This pick is a jewel. I love the different voices I can generate on the strings with it, spanning a tinny, treble sound to a thick, luscious womb of sound. Really, really great product, and I’m finding that it’s a go-to pick for me.
Last week, the Mike at StoneWorks Picks sent out a deal for 25% off. That’s a good deal, but along with that they’d throw in a “Plain Jane”. Mike creates picks from stone… cool looking stones. And there’s loads of different kinds of stones he uses, making every pick unique. I ended up with a couple of picks in the 2.7mm area, with the Plain Jane being a little bit thicker — maybe 3.0mm or so. Mike also included a couple of nylon-like picks. This collection of picks is just cool. It oozes the organic nature that I attribute to my acoustic guitar playing, and there’s just something cool about dragging a rock across a piece of metal, stretched across a bunch of wood. Much like the BlueChip, the stone picks really can generate a lot of different tones. I was absolutely blown away with the range of “bright” to “dark” that a single stone pick could generate. Now, I don’t know if there’s any sonic difference from stone to stone, much less material to material, but I really do dig these picks and their sound.
So, what did I discover?
Well, I found that I didn’t like the thinner picks as much as I thought I did. The sound and feel of the thicker picks has really grown on me. I also discovered that I’m not as big a fan of the nylon and acrylic picks as I thought I would be. In fact, it seems like the picks that either are — or emulate — natural materials are where I’m turning my attention when I’m playing. There are still some types of picks out there to try, and I’m sure I will, but the first part of my pick quest seems to have netted some real results, and helped me figure out what kind of sounds I like.
First, let me say that I’m loving my Taylor GS Mini. It’s just a neat guitar, compact and full of punch. Amazing little instrument.
Having read a bunch of real nice things about the improvements to be gained by replacing the saddle and bridge pins with bone, I contacted Bob Colosi to order a saddle and set of bridge pins for the Mini (nicknamed “Peanut” BTW). Bob is really considered to be “the source” for replacement saddles, pins and nuts, made of all kinds of crazy natural materials. I elected to get mine fashioned from bone, dyed and aged to look like they’d had a few miles on ’em.
I also decided to get the ES-Go pickup for the Mini. Bryan at Fazio’s had one in stock, and offered to install it for me. Win! Bryan had also suggested some Curt Mangan strings to warm the tone of the Mini beyond what the stock Elixir PB’s were giving me, so in the process of installing the pickup, he also installed the new saddle, strings and pins. That’s why I keep going back there — great customer service.
And after the work was done, the Mini sang! I mean, really sang. The depth of tone and the sustain in the instrument were way, way enhanced with these changes. It’s a much, much warmer sound than a guitar of that size should have.
Between the strings and the bone products from Bob Colosi, I invested about $80, and those eighty bucks have made this already incredible guitar an incredible sounding instrument.
(Wait… vehicles? I thought you said “Guitar Strings.” Yeah, I did. Just wait.)
I drive my vehicles long — big road trips — and trade ’em quickly, usually before the tires need to be changed. In fact, I can only think of two sets of tires I’ve bought in the last ten years or so. One of those is a set on my Jeep, which I’m beginning to think will be buried with me. I just have no itch to trade that one off.
What’s that gotta do with guitar strings? Great question!
Since I started learning the guitar about ten months ago, I’ve left a swath of guitars in my wake. Currently, I have two guitars — my Carvin Cobalt C350 and my Takamine EF740SGN… and that one’s for sale right now. 🙂 I’ve tended to trade my guitars like I’ve traded my vehicles … before they needed maintenance.
Yesterday was the first time I’d changed the strings on a guitar, and my victim was my Cobalt, which I play so very frequently. You see, I’d come into a set of Elixir Nanoweb mediums via an R. Taylor event at Fazio’s a week or so ago, and I’d been reading that the mediums would really bring out the boom in the mahogany-based Cobalt. And given that I’d been beating the stuffings out of the strings it shipped with (D’Addario EXP16’s, I think), it seemed the timing was right.
Frankly, it went pretty well. The only complaint I had was the bridge pins. Getting them out wasn’t a big deal, but getting them back in … and evenly inserted … was pretty dang impossible. It probably means that something’s wrong, but I didn’t dare shove them in farther, for fear of wrecking the top. I’ll live with high pins on the low E and A strings until the next string change.
And yes, there’ll be a “next time”. The Cobalt has really become my go-to guitar, and I expect to wear out this set of strings too. Now, I do believe there’s another guitar or two yet to arrive in the “permanent collection” at the Deauxmayne, but the Cobalt is special, and is definitely a guitar I don’t mind traveling with.
Hmm…. maybe the there’ll be room in the Jeep for the Cobalt when they put me in the ground. Probably a good thing I bought a four door!
I couldn’t stand it. I brought the new Tak home Monday night.
This thing is gorgeous, and it plays exceptionally well. There is a little buzzing in the strings that I’m working on getting corrected — a little wrench action against the truss rod last night — but that’s small spuds in the big scheme of things. I’m still blown away that I’m beginning to feel differences in various guitars. Totally cool.
I love the bearclaw spruce on the top. Some of the folks on the Takamine forums have said that the “bearclaws” look like stretch marks. Well, maybe, but I think it gives the wood a ton of character.
So, the real test is… how does it sound? Beauteous. It’s got a deeper voice than my EF740SGN, likely due to the somewhat larger body. Great for Cash’s stuff!
Now, normally, I wouldn’t brag about having gas, but in this particular instance, I’m ok with trumpeting it. (Pardon the pun.) You see, I have Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).
I think I’ve known this for quite some time. Look at my Canon and Apple exploits. They’ve got GAS written all over them. The gearlust begins when Canon announces new hardware, or when Uncle Steve steps on a stage. Usually those events are the precursor to my wallet and some of my cash soon parting ways.
Lately, it’s been guitars.
I’m loving the heck out of playing my guitars, and have one in my hands at least an hour every day. Becky says that I’m enjoying it because it’s so different than what I do the rest of my day — it’s not computer-techy, and exercises the other side of my brain. She’s probably right; she usually is. All I know is that I find such relaxation when one of my guitars is hung around my neck, whether I’m tethered to the amp and practicing hard, or just strumming quietly while I’m watching TV.
As I’ve been taking my musical journey, I’ve really hung my hat on the Takamine line. For my budget, they make a mean guitar, and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like. They’re not as flashy (well, in their pro line anyway; the G’s and Jasmines have some flashy looks) as the Carvins with which Kevin is so enamored, but for my style — both lifestyle and playing style — they are exactly the right answer for me. I still think there’s a Carvin in my future one day, though. Something about a custom-built guitar that is entirely unique to my tastes appeals to me. Pricing it out, that’s about a $2500 instrument, and I’m just not quite ready for that… yet!
After playing so many guitars last Wednesday at the Mozingo launch party, I really cemented my opinion of the Takamine line, and couldn’t get that crazy bearclaw instrument out of my noggin… so much so that I actually dreamt about the guitar! Now that’s some weirdness, eh?
After all that, how could I resist? Today, I completed a deal to put the ETN10BC that I mentioned here on Wednesday in my rotation. This means the Yamaha would be traded away, but I don’t have a problem with that. The Yamaha’s a beautiful instrument, and plays well, but the Taks play circles around it (to my fingers, anyway). By the time I left the shop today after my guitar lesson, I had the ETN10BC on layaway, reserved for me.
The cool thing was that Mozingo had two to choose from. That meant that I had a choice between one that had just a bit of “clawing” on the top, and another that was very well marked, and quite symmetrical along the long axis of the instrument. I love symmetry, so it was an easy visual choice for me. I played ’em both, just to make sure there wasn’t anything weird about one of them. Looking at the serial numbers, they were manufactured about a month apart (mine was made in September of 2009), and as expected, there really wasn’t a difference I could sense between the two of them.
I’ve had a real tough time finding much info about this particular model, so I posted a question about it on the Takamine Forums. Mike Markure (product manager for Takamine) indicated in response to my question that this was a “SPIKE” run — a short run of instruments run as a limited edition due to availability of a particular kind of wood, in this case, bearclaw spruce. From what I’ve been able to gather around the ‘net, there were only about 120 of these made. Mozingo Matt told me that at one time, they had three of them in the store, which is pretty surprising. Out of a run of 120, Mozingo had (at one time) 1/40th of the total made? That’s pretty cool, and tells me that Mozingo’s relationship with Takamine is pretty solid. That probably means bad things for me in the future. 🙂
Watch for a “birth announcement” sometime after we get back from vacation!
I went to Mozingo Music’s Insider Connection launch party tonight. Mozingo has had a customer loyalty program for a while, but with a revamp of the program, they decided to throw a little send off for the IC.
Since my office is near the store in O’Fallon, I just hung around, got some dinner, and went over to the shop as they were reopening for the event. Frankly, it was kinda sparsely attended. I don’t know exactly why that was, but there was nothing nearing the “crowd” status I was expecting. However, with the smaller crowds, Chris, Matt and Eric were able to spend some real quiality time with me.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking two hours of their collective time just kicking the tires on guitars I’m not likely to buy, but with nothing much going on at the store, they were more than happy to put guitar after guitar in my hands. I played A/E’s, hollowtop electrics, solidbody electrics… probably a dozen six stringed beauties. This also gave me the chance to play several brands — some new guitars, some old (the oldest I played was a 1967 Gibson) — but I kept coming back to the Takamines.
Among others, Mozingo had a ETN10BC bearclaw spruce limited edition (Natural line) and a TAN15C with a Cool Tube preamp in it (Supernatural line). Man, the TAN15C really sounded good, but the feel of the ETN10BC in my hands was glorious! It’s definitely a step up from my EF740SGN, and really played well. I was making music easily with it, and could feel differences between it and my ‘740. Unfortunately, it’s just not the right time to be putting another guitar in the rotation — vacation is impending!
As I talked with Matt about vacation coming in a couple of weeks, I told him that I was looking to find some kind of “campfire” guitar that could go to Branson with me for the fiddle convention, or go roadtripping with me. Ideally, it’d be something inexpensive, that would play “well enough” for me to continue practicing daily without carrying my more expensive guitars with me. Matt showed me a couple of Yamahas as food for thought, but again, the timing just wasn’t right to put another pony in the corral.
The night wound on with Eric showing me more about the Cool Tube preamp in the TAN15C — man, that’s a cool toy! — and then he realized it was time to draw a ticket for the grand prize for the night. There couldn’t have been more than a dozen-and-a-half tickets in the fishbowl. Even with those odds, I didn’t figure to have my ticket pulled, but sure ’nuff, it was! And what was the grand prize?
A new guitar!
Now, it isn’t anything extraordinary — an Ibanez “Jam Pack” with an IJV50 acoustic guitar, gig bag, and tuner. This is really designed for someone just starting out — but it is exactly what I need for taking on roadtrips and to Branson. I’m absolultely floored, and can’t hardly believe the fortuitous timing.
Watch out desert — I’m coming, packing a six-string!!!
(BTW, you can see a photo of me with my major award here!)