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This article was originally published in issue #6
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Since becoming a musician I have always looked forward to touring around the world, playing for different audiences of different backgrounds, getting to know places far away, with their different cultural heritages and musical traditions. This is got to be one of the most exciting parts of being a musician.
Late this summer, I was lucky enough to go on tour in the USA with the wonderful singer-songwriter Basia, with whom I have been performing for the last few years. I love touring the US and visiting all of those towns, where hundreds of movies have been filmed, and where many iconic bands have recorded their live performances. The US has always been a reference point for modern guitarists, and, of course, it's the home of many of the finest guitars ever made.
With five weeks' touring from the East to the West coast ahead of me, Guitar Interactive's editor introduced me to Chalise Zolezzi, who manages PR for Taylor Guitars. It was Chalise who kindly made me 'an offer I couldn't refuse'! "Is there any of our guitars you would like to experiment with while touring the US?, she asked"
It must have taken me all of two seconds hard thinking, before I said YES!
Taylor guitars have long been synonymous with excellence in the acoustic guitar realm but as well as being excited by the prospect of borrowing one of their beautiful guitars I was feeling ambivalent as to which model to choose, simply because I like them all. However, after considering that on this tour I already had an acoustic guitar, I decided to try one of the recent electric additions to the Taylor's family and after perusing their website, my attention and imagination were immediately grabbed - for its looks, its specifications and its tonal potential - by the Taylor T3, which comes in two models: with a Bigsby tailpiece (T3/B) or a roller bridge stop-centred tailpiece. I went for the latter.
Taylor's factory is in San Diego, and luckily I was just about to go there a few days later, to play with Basia at the legendary Humphrey's By The Bay. Chalise invited me to visit the Taylor factory, but unfortunately due to time constraints, I was only able to meet her for lunch in the stunning bay, where Basia was due to perform that night. That's a visit for the future to be sure! After lunch, clutching my loan guitar, I returned to the venue to the sound-check and… I must confess, I haven't looked forward so eagerly to sound checking in a long time. I couldn't wait to try the T3!
Straight from the elegant and robust deluxe hardshell case, the T3 looked stunning. How could it not with its quilted maple top, two stylish'f 'holes, sapele back and neck, chrome roller bridge, stoptail, machine heads and control knobs, white bindings, ebony fret board and headstock with the logo inlayed in mother-of-pearl? The Taylor's fresh and stylish looks, with an elegant silhouette, make it reminiscent of the classic American arch-top guitars that shaped the history of the contemporary guitar repertoire, from Jazz to Rock, but cleverly, somehow, it also manages to have a contemporary looks and feel.
The T3 is a semi-hollow bodied electric guitar, because while the outer parts of its bouts are hollowed, it features a solid centre block strip, in line with the fretboard, making this guitar very resonant. The guitar is well balanced in terms of weight as well as sound. Its sapele 'C' shaped profile neck (1 11/16" wide at nut), and its wide and precise frets, make this model a very easy one to play, as you would expect from any Taylor guitar - it's part of how Bob Taylor made his reputation, of course, designing wonderful-sounding acoustic guitars that were easier to play than those of many other makers. This general ease of playing is also supported by the T3's Venetian cutaway, which makes it easy to navigate all 21 frets.
This guitar features a single-bolt T-Lock neck joint, whereby the neck is screwed to the guitar body via an Allen key. While this is a bolt-on neck, it feels and looks like a set-neck. The design results in a very low action straight from its case, and it's an action that is not likely to drift. If it does, it will be an easy thing to rectify, thanks to its two-way truss rod. The owner of this guitar will also benefit from the Taylor lifetime manufacturer's warranty. The fact that Taylor offers this warranty highlights their confidence in the quality of their products.
The T3 features its very own 2 HD (high definition) humbucking pickups, which can be selected by a three-way switch, similar in operation to a Les Paul's, as well as the push/pull control knobs, which can split the coils or boost the mid range, for an extended palette of tonal colours. From a warm Jazzy tone using the neck pick up and rolling-off the tone knob, to a funky rhythm guitar tone by using both pickups and splitting the coils by lifting the volume knob, to all the various in between tonal permutations, this is a hugely versatile instrument.
The T3, like all Taylor's electric models, also features a unique tone circuit, which can boost the mid-range when rolled off, generating a tone similar to a wah wah pedal set to the halfway mark. I noticed this straight away in my first sound check, as I went straight to the PA via an Avalon pre-amp that I was using for my acoustic, as recommended by our renowned sound engineer, Chris Morrison. This setting (without an amp) works on an arch-top guitar for a warm jazzy tone and, in fact, the sound was amazing! I was able to get a wide range of tonal possibilities, simply by tweaking the pickup switch and the control knobs. The sound engineer and the MD were so impressed that we decided to use the T3 to play 'From Newport To London', (title track of Basia's latest CD), which I had originally recorded on an arch-top guitar.
The looks of this guitar are as versatile as its sound, as it would look and sound just as great at a Rock concert as a Jazz gig, due to the clever combination of modern looks and technology, tinged with classy 'old school' nuances. That make the T3 ideal for guitarists who, like me, play both electric and acoustic guitar in a variety of styles, as with a flick of a switch this axe can sing with a screaming Rock tone, or produce a sweet, mellow and rich Jazz tone. Its natural acoustic sound is quite unique too.
I should mention that the intonation and tuning are brilliant too, thanks to the use of fine quality machine heads.
Travelling day in day out, as you do on tour, a musical instrument can easily be affected by the changes in temperature and humidity. This can be a real issue at times, particularly when you are flying from one location to another in a country as big and as diverse as the USA, each place you visit having a different climate and humidity levels. Indeed, the ability to handle this sort of use is one of the qualities that separates an instrument suited to a professional from one that will be satisfactory for an amateur. Naturally, if you can afford a professional class instrument, even if you are an amateur or semi-pro, that extra reassurance you get from playing an instrument built to professional standards is very welcome!
On tour, the T3 soon became my thoroughly reliable companion. Everything works just as it should. Those high quality machine heads, the Tusq nut with Teflon coating, the Taylor bridge - all the features I've mentioned - reveal the enormous attention to detail that went in the design and construction of this guitar. In my opinion it is destined to become a classic model.
In conclusion, I was really impressed by the Taylor T3 guitar, for its refined quality, its versatility, innovative design and sounds, its looks, playability and for its quintessential Taylor originality, which makes this model a very competitive one, strengthening even more Taylor's reputation worldwide for quality and for continuously pushing the envelope in the design and manufacture of guitars. The Taylor T3 isn't a cheap guitar but it is a unique and thoroughly professional one that I have no hesitation in awarding our joint highest ever rating! =