tions from the room. There are no fixes or effects
on the recordings we’ve posted online, just the
tracks as they were recorded.
This guitar records beautifully, nothing gets nasal
or muddy and the fantastic live sound reproduces
very faithfully. You can hear how long the thing
rings, too! Particularly in the drop C sample,
the harmonic richness at the end is stunning.
It almost has 12-string characteristics in the
overtones you can hear. But it holds its own in
standard, in DADGAD and with a capo at the 5th
ivoroid buttons which, in concert with the ivoroid
binding, contrast beautifully with the ebony
bridge, fretboard and headstock overlay.
I had a chance to chat with Otis about this guitar,
and the first thing I had to ask was why he wanted the frets to stop at 14. His answer was refreshingly honest and simple: “I never play up there.”
Indeed, the body shape is such that you could
barely reach those frets if your life depended on
it, so it allowed for an easy artistic statement. He
said that was the only thing he really asked for
in the design process. It’s not the first time that’s
been done; some pre-war guitars also featured
fretless bodies. It grabs attention immediately,
and incorporates beauty where functionality is
otherwise irrelevant. I played around a little bit
with the fretlessness, and found some interestingly muted and whimsical sounds by tapping
over the fretboard with my right hand.
lives up to its looks and beyond. It’s rich and
warm, bright enough to give you the details but
smooth enough to sing a baby to sleep. The guitar started singing as soon as I started to talk—
that’s highly responsive. Rarely have I picked up a
guitar that “wanted” so badly to be played.
Otis ventured into the studio with the first Otis
Taylor model and recorded a new CD, Pentatonic
Wars and Love Songs, that will be released in
June 2009. He used the guitar on 11 of 12 cuts,
and he says that the guitar has changed his
writing just a little bit; instead of the customary
darkness there’s more beauty and light. I can
completely understand how this guitar could
influence someone’s songwriting that way. Once
again it’s a melding of opposites—it’s dark yet
hopeful, and slightly anthemic. I’d expect nothing
less from a guitar like this.
I started in standard tuning with a little fingerstyle
blues; there’s snap and punch to burn. Easy to
bend, responsive vibrato, nice balance of bass
and treble strings. With a flatpick there’s enough
clarity and volume to satisfy the hardest core
bluegrass picker, and though it doesn’t pump
bass like a Martin D- 28, it’s not supposed to. The
action is great, there’s no trouble playing fast or
doing ornaments, and it is a killer rhythm guitar. I
would love to hear this guitar behind a great Irish
fiddle player or piper—it’d be pure magic.
you crave a small bodied guitar
with a great big voice, versatile
and endlessly capable.
you want more than 14 frets.
The guitar feels incredibly sturdy and stable, like
it could be a gorgeous workhorse. There’s no
delicacy or fragility about this guitar. It’s tough
and it’s going to hold up to whatever you can
throw at it. I particularly liked the ratio of width to
depth and found it utterly comfortable to hold.
The body is slightly deeper than most OM-style
guitars, 3-7/8” at the neck and 4-7/8” at the end
block; combine that with the elongated upper
bout, you have a recipe for serious volume.
Many guitars, especially the small-bodied ones,
lose a lot of punch when they’re capo’d at
the 5th fret or beyond; this one holds its own,
remaining warm and balanced, with only the
slightest discernable drop in volume. The balance
remains true, with plenty of bass response, especially in DADGAD and other drop-tunings.
Head online to premierguitar.com
to hear sound clips of the guitar
The case that the guitar arrived in is also noteworthy. A deluxe case from Santa Cruz, the
covering feels like real leather, and the hardware
is exceptional, as is the seriously cushy, secure
and form-fitting lining. The clasps are extra wide
and very secure, and the handle is plush and easy
to hold. It feels lighter than most guitar cases
I’ve lugged around for most of my life, which is a
Drop tunings are, in fact, fantastic. I dropped it
into C tuning and it held tension effortlessly and
stayed in perfect tune, never mushing or buzzing once. Here’s where that incredible balance
becomes even more important and impressive:
You never lose any definition, and you can always
hear exactly what you’re playing, no matter if
you’re playing fingerstyle or flatpicking, and no
matter where you choose to tune it. It finally
started to get mushy at B on the 6th string, but
that’s a monumental achievement.
Santa Cruz Guitars
So, you might well be saying at this point, “So
it’s gorgeous, but how does it sound?” The tone
In the recording studio, I chose one of my favorite guitar mics, an SE3, into an Aphex 230 set
flat with compression, through an RME Fireface
to my PC with Samplitude Pro Version 8. I used
the small SE Reflexion filter to mask any reflec-
Our expert has stated her case,
now we want to hear yours.
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