It goes without saying that Taylor Guitars, a global frontrunner in guitar manufacturing, holds itself to a high standard when it comes to making guitars—so the announcement of two new models this past January came with a reasonable level of excitement. The guitars—additions to Taylor’s Grand Theater series that was inaugurated with the GT Urban Ash in the fall of last year—are the acoustic/electric GT 811e and the GT K21e, two compact models with a sound that’s larger than their look.
The portable GT Series guitars are bigger than Taylor’s GS Mini but smaller than their Grand Concert. With a bass response that’s warmer than most guitars in their size range, they’re voiced with Taylor’s new C-Class bracing architecture, an asymmetrical design that combines stiffness and flexibility in a way that helps bring out lower frequencies. The C-Class borrows from and builds on the volume, intonation, and sustain produced by their trademarked V-Class bracing, introduced in 2018.
The GT 811e has solid Indian rosewood back and sides, a solid Sitka spruce top, a Crelicam smoky ebony fretboard, maple binding, rosewood top purfling a gloss-finish body. The GT K21e has solid, figured koa top, back and sides, a shaded edge burst around the entire guitar, maple binding and top purfling, a Spring Vine inlay scheme, and a full-gloss body. Both have a 24-1/8” scale length and 1-23/32” neck width at the nut.
We chatted with Taylor’s Artist and Community Relations Manager Lindsay Love to learn more about the new models. Read on to discover how they bring something new to the Taylor family.
Tell me what makes these new guitars special.
The GTs are probably some of my favorite guitars right now. I say that whenever we have a new model because our master designer Andy Powers just continuously wows us. But the GTs—they’re really special. They’re this fun size for players that want to travel but don’t want to compromise on the full sound that they get from a full-size guitar. They’re solid wood. They have our new C-Class bracing that really kind of mimics the V-Class brace, or I would say at least you get a lot of similar things you get with the V-Class brace with intonation. Great intonation, great volume, great sustain. And so you get this really big impressive sound out of this smaller guitar, and then you combine that with the scale length, the nut width … all these little things add up to make it just a fun guitar to play. The way it’s strung, the tension; it feels very slinky and loose, so electric players really gravitate towards it because it feels really fun and fast. Then you have a fretboard that helps lend itself to that.
Would you say it’s also accommodating to fingerstyle?
Absolutely—fingerstyle players are going to love this. But you’d be surprised; even for strummers that want to dig in and do some rhythm stuff, you’d be surprised at the tone and fast response you’re going to get out of it. But yes [for fingerstyle], the articulation, the clarity, the volume that you get out of it is really impressive.
I know Taylor is known for its innovation. Would you say these guitars fit into that?
Definitely. As you’re aware, we launched the GT at the end of last year roughly, and so it was the first of its kind in our family, as far as this smaller-sized guitar that’s all solid wood. Then this year, we kind of came out the gate with some really exciting stuff with the new models. So we add the GT 811e, which is joining our flagship 800 series, and then you have the GT K21e, which is adding kind of a new voice to our Koa series. I think it screams innovation, and it fits along with what Taylor always does. We love to innovate when it comes to guitar design and things like that.
As you mentioned, the idea behind the guitars is to create compact instruments with a big sound. Would you attribute that mostly to the C-class bracing?
I would say [our master guitar designer] Andy [Powers] would attribute it to the entire guitar, not just the C brace. It is probably the most perfectly structured guitar, so the shape is similar to our orchestra model, but it’s obviously compacted. That shape combined with the C-class bracing really makes for all of what you’re talking about. Tonewoods play a big part in it too.
I know the guitar features a Crelicam ebony fretboard. Can you tell me the difference between Crelicam ebony and regular ebony?
There’s a whole story about the smoky ebony wood. No one in the industry, not just guitars but [the violin industry] and other industries that use ebony wood would touch ebony that wasn’t pure black. And you never know if a tree is pure black or, we call it smoky, but it’s kind of got these blonde streaks through it. If you chop a tree down and you see it’s got these blonde streaks through it, they’re like “worthless,” they leave it on the ground. And a while ago, probably ten years ago now, Bob Taylor was like, “No, we’re not leaving these trees on the ground, that is beautiful ebony wood.” And now it’s very prevalent on a lot of Taylor guitars.
What would you say is offered with these guitars that can’t be found in other lines?
You’re seeing a lot of professional players and nonprofessional players alike that want smaller guitars. And yet, they don’t want to compromise the tone or the full-body experience that you get with these bigger body guitars. And so someone that’s looking for a really high-end smaller body guitar—this is it. It’s so perfect for that. And then when you talk about the models, we launched the GT Urban Ash, which is a really special guitar and a special wood—I love that guitar. Now we’re adding the GT 811e. So now it’s going to have the things you’re really familiar with—the Indian rosewood back and sides, the Sitka spruce, the smoky Crelicam ebony—you have all those appointments from the 800 series. And you’d be surprised how much it sounds like an 800 series guitar even though it’s this small, compact guitar. You get that deep richness that you’re used to with the rosewood. You get that clarity and articulation from the spruce top, and it responds really well with the GT body. And then with the K21e—koa opens up as it ages, but initially, with this guitar, you still get that immediate mid-range focus. It’s really balanced. Then you get that sweetness that koa is really known for, but it also has a really nice smooth rounded attack, so it’s great for fingerstyle, great for strumming. All these guitars are great for recording; man, they shine.
Did the pandemic affect the timing of things?
As far as I’m aware, [when Andy Powers] was designing [the GT], he had always known that he was going to introduce new models. He wanted to do it with the 800 series because he knows this guitar was just too good to keep to just the Urban Ash by itself; he wanted to explore other tonewoods. But I think the pandemic made the product development team think about how we could release guitars this year that would be on the US side that would be more economic friendly. So that’s why you have the GT Urban Ash. It’s priced a little bit different, and it really is a part of our whole innovative process itself with exploring urban forestry and things like that. I think things like that and launching the American Dream [Series]—that was all a big part of the pandemic and adapting to the pandemic.
What are Taylor’s goals for 2021?
We had a successful GT launch, and we want to see that grow. Honestly, in the pandemic, we’re doing surprisingly crazily well. People are home and they’re playing guitars, so guitar sales are through the roof. So we want to be able to continue to build great guitars and get them in the hands of great players.
One of the cool things that we’re really proud of is we were able to team up with over fifty artists on the “I Know What Love Is” project. It’s a single that we put out along with MusiCares and NAMM that we released in January 2021 of this year. That whole project was birthed out of this desire to meet the moment of the pandemic—we knew musicians had been out of work for so long, and people were missing playing together, missing creating together. So we did this collaboration. We released the song, and then we thought, you know, the people that are creating and doing this are the people who are actually really affected by the pandemic. So we partnered with MusiCares, the nonprofit arm of the Grammys. They’ve been really [hands-on] with getting musicians and people that work on tours and anybody a part of that financial support for rent or mental healthcare during this pandemic season. So all of the proceeds of the song go towards MusiCares and what they’re doing for the musician community and artist community. We’re really proud of that, and it just happened in January, so we know the rest of this year is going to be really formative for that. It’s just going to keep growing.