An example of the incredibly beautiful mother of pearl inlay designs Andy Powers employs on the necks and other parts of his guitars. Photo courtesy West Kennerly
had brought a ukulele he had made to show Reid, and ended up showing it to Bob, too. Over the years they had crossed paths through mutual friends and trade shows. Eventually they became close friends. “As a guitar maker, there aren’t a whole
lot of other people to relate to on that lev- el,” Andy says. “Naturally, we are similar in some regards in guitar making. Where we’re different is in my goal to build the best gui- tar I can possibly build, at any cost. Bob’s goal is to build thousands of high quality production guitars and putting them in the hands of more players.” Combining the career objectives of both
Andy Powers and Bob Taylor is where these two major designers in the world of guitar building have merged today at Taylor Gui- tars.
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Q & A: On location with Andy Powers at his custom workshop inside the Taylor Guitars research and development building.
Tell us about your purpose, your daily activi- ties here at Taylor Guitars.
Most of what happens here in the R & D
guitar workshop is first addressed by ask- ing ourselves, “What will be the next move Taylor makes or improves upon? What is it that our guitar playing customers desire?” Tis may range from the refinement of an existing guitar to an entirely new concept, or new guitar model. We are always in a con- stant state of flux, forever asking ourselves, “How can we make this model guitar better than it already is, better than the one we just shipped out today? Even more important, what are we in the mood to do? What are we feeling creatively? What sound do we want to hear? Is there a current trend in musical style?” Tere are many variables in keeping our company on the cutting edge. For ex- ample, in the process of refining an existing guitar or building a new model, I will be- gin by hand-building one or two guitars to compare to the one in question or building a guitar prototype we feel meets the musi- cal needs of our customers, our team of engineers, designers, and sales people, etc. I’ll pass the prototype around and see what
other guitar players think of it…. “Hey, this is a good one!” Good response, we move forward dialing in the critical specifications in and getting the guitar exactly the way we want it to be. Ten we’ll then sit down with our engineers and figure out ways to make each component of the design consistently, a process for assembling the pieces into an
enough to have Elvis Costello, Taylor Swiſt, Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), among other well-known touring recording artists play- ing my custom ukes. In the spirit of Hawaii, the place that cultivated the modern uku- lele (it originally came from Portugal in the form of a slightly different instrument), we decided at Taylor to build a limited edition, tandem koa wood guitar/ukulele
age honoring the tra- ditions, heritage and music of Hawaii. Tese are tenor uku- leles we’re currently building, the first non-guitar instru- ments Taylor has ever built. Instead of tool- ing up for a full pro- duction run, we de- cided that the first 30 ukes we would build by hand and pair with a koa wood guitar; this special pairing would represent our new year product of- fering out of what we call our “Builders Re- serve”.
Early days: Andy in his shop. Photo courtesy Andy Powers
instrument, then finally writing programs to guide the machines and craſtsmen that will mass-produce the guitar. It
this precise manufacturing environment that insures every single one of our guitars, throughout any given production run, will be of the highest, most consistent quality.
Do you have any one specific project currently in the works?
I have been building ukuleles for twenty
years now. I built my very first one at age 10. (I think) Since then I’ve been fortunate
One of the most beau- tiful visual elements is your personal style of inlay design on the neck and other parts of the guitar. Tell us a little about this.
I design the original art and tool all the
inlay designs by hand, but in a production run of 30 ukuleles such as the ones I’ve been showing you, I’ll tool the first one by hand then write a program for our laser machine that cuts the other 29 designs. Obviously, this saves an incredible amount of time and labor-intensive work.
I notice you have a couple of classical guitars hanging in your office. Taylor is known for building steel stringed guitars. Do you have
any plans for developing and producing a ny- lon stringed classical guitar?
Yes. Someday we want to produce a legiti-
mate, appropriate, proper classical guitar. Today, there is a big difference between our nylon string guitars we build and what we consider a legitimate, classical guitar, in the purest sense.
Andy picks up one of his personal, hand-built classical guitars and begins playing a beauti- ful melody…..While he plays, I notice the an- gle of the guitar neck in relation to the body of his guitar triggering me to ask him: What about the relationship between the neck and body of your guitar? Does this angle affect the performance and sound of your instrument?
Absolutely. I can make this guitar sound
like an entirely different guitar just by changing the angle of the neck, which in turn, changes the stress factor on the strings and top. Trough different angles and vibra- tions of the strings, the wooden top of the guitar is set in different motion patterns, in turn forcing the air inside the guitar’s body in different motion patterns, creating the beautiful sound you hear. Taylor guitars are designed specifically for this variable adjust- ment of the neck through the insertion of a combination of perfectly fitting, variable thickness wood shims.
In your studies at UCSD, what style of guitar playing were you most absorbed with?
Although I did play classical music while
attending UCSD, I tend to bend my style of playing in the direction of jazz guitar.
How does it feel to hear great musicians play the guitars and ukuleles you have made?
It’s really wonderful. Sometimes it’s very
humbling to hear someone make it sound so beautiful. Aſter I have gotten to know each instrument so well in the process of making it, I think “Wow, this instrument took on a life of its own”. By the time an instrument gets closer to
being done, it’s less of me and more of the person who it’s for. An instrument is actu- ally completed by the person who’s play-
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