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How do I soften my Taylor? Too bright! Need warmth!


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  • How do I soften my Taylor? Too bright! Need warmth!

    My recently purchased, 6 year old, US made Taylor 214e is starting to irritate. I love the feel and I love the sound, UNTIL I use a flat pick. Way too bright. I would even say tinny sounding. I heard phosphor bronze would help. I just put on some black diamond PBs and its even worse. When fingerpicking its fine.

    Any solutions? Different strings? Replace the saddle? Buy a Martin? Oops...can't do that.

    Thanks for any suggestions

  • #2
    Have you tried thicker picks? Like something in the 1mm range? Makes a big difference.
    Three Dreads......2 Martins and 1 YamahaA fiddle, a mando, a uke, eight harmonicas, a Zoom H2, a Panasonic recorder, coupla penny whistles, an Italian made Titano accordion, three handguns, at least a dozen chess sets, more power tools than Bob Vila, and one old Westclox "Big Ben" wind-up alarm clock that still works! Oh, BTW, I forgot to mention my ocarina and maracas.


    • #3
      As OJ said, try thicker picks... and try different picks. Some produce a different sound... or pick further up the string, like directly over the sound hole... or get used to it. After all, it is a Taylor, and a GA at that.

      Yep. Buying a Martin would help... if it's the right Martin.
      __________________________________________________ _________
      Proud reject from the HCAG Civil Posters Society.


      • Jon Chappell
        Jon Chappell commented
        Editing a comment

        It's definitely yhe choice of "all of the above." Certain guitars wil  just be more inherently bright than others, but you can mitigate those qualities through your choice of dtrings, picks, attack and EQ. No need to ditch the wholeguitar just because you want a slightly different response. Experiment!

    • #4
      Phosphor bronze would certainly be worth a try...it has a reputation for a softer, "fatter" sound. Of course, it also has a reputation for going dead a lot quicker than others...

      EDIT: If the Black Diamonds didn't do it, give a set of John Pearse a try.
      Sometimes the only compensation for doing the right thing is knowing that you did.
      - John Gorka
      It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
      - Marshall Chapman
      Shut up 'n play yer guitar.
      - Frank Zappa

      Adjunct member, IK(H?)FC III
      Steering Committee, Psalm 19 Society (IKFC IV)
      Yamaha G-120 wabi-sabi classical: Just another good ol' Yammie Lammie


      • #5
        Trade it for a better guitar !

        AKA "SuperChunk"


        • #6
          Flat wounds? I've never tried them myself, but I love tomastik infeld for electric strings, and I know they make acoustic flat wounds.

          Technique-wise, as FretFiend mentions, the sweet spot is 12 frets above the fretted note. If you're playing open chords, pick above the 12-15th fret and not near the bridge.
          This here is my music what I make with my mouth and instruments and such


          • #7
            I have a 2004 214 The 214 ships from the factory with Elixir 80/20 bronze with Nanoweb Coating. I love the sound but there are many that say they don't.


            • #8
              D'Addario Flat Tops (semi flat phosphor bronze wound) and a thicker pick will do wonders for warming up a bright guitar.


              • #9
                Trade for Hummingbird. Beautifully dark. Life's too short to have the wrong guit as your main squeeze. My mando player just bought a Taylor (he's also a guitarist) and I like playing it but it's way too bright for me.
                She's the lady of the light
                Yellow incandescent night
                Tiger eyes burning bright
                In the understory
                I can't see the forest
                For the branches and the leaves
                But I believe
                I do believe
                by me:


                "Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."
                Charlie Parker


                • #10

                  Quote Originally Posted by Opa John
                  View Post

                  Have you tried thicker picks? Like something in the 1mm range? Makes a big difference.

                  Nailed it! Try a 1 or 2mm pick and the shrill should go.


                  • #11
                    Play finger style without nails...


                    • #12
                      Buy a Martin.
                      "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
                      Sam Adams: terrorist, patriot, and public enemy #1.


                      • #13
                        Several questions come to mind:

                        1: Describe "bright." Does it have to do with the initial attack, i.e. the "clack" of the pick against the strings? Does it have to do with a lack of sustain, especially in the bass register?

                        2: What strings and picks are you using? Are they ultra light or light gauge? Are you using a hard plasticky pick or a softer nylon-type pick?

                        3: What type of flatpicking technique do you use? Do you prefer to anchor the heel of your palm on the saddle and pick more toward the bridge than directly over the sound hole? Are you holding your pick firmly and perpendicular to the soundboard or are you just letting it brush the strings at an angle?

                        4: How is the guitar set up? Is the action low or high? Is there any buzzing when played aggressively?

                        In my experience, the Taylor GA can sound nearly as full as a dread but I've heard complaints that they are on the "bright" side. Some people like that because they can articulate individual notes with a flat pick but then when strumming moderately to aggressively the guitar seems to "break up." I've found that with any guitar, a certain amount of "tweaking" to several of the issues I've described above are required:

                        1: Use a thicker string, either light-mediums or medium gauge (.013-.054) This will drive the top harder. Coated strings will take the edge off the attack but they pretty much sound like a played-in set of uncoated strings IME.

                        2: Use a thicker pick (at least .88mm, 1mm an above is ideal) but if there's a lot of "click" to your attack, either try a nylon material and "choke" the pick by exposing a smaller amount of the pick from between your fingers.

                        3: alter your technique. Hold the pick firmly between your fingers and try to keep the pick perpendicular to the soundboard, but don't move the pick itself with your fingers. Instead, use your wrist when flatpicking and your elbow when strumming. If you relax your fingers too much the pick will get floppy and almost mute the strings so what you'll hear is more of the pick brushing against the strings than the actual plucking action. where you pick is also important. IME above the soundhole is ideal. Too close to the bridge and you trade sustain for articulation. Closer to the neck and it's the opposite: more sustain, less articulation.

                        4: get your guitar set up. A guitar set up for fingerstyle will have lower action which will make fingerpicking and fretting seem easier and allow your fingers to dictate the clarity of attack, but if you try to play it more aggressively with a pick the strings will literally slap against the frets. Lower action with also decrease sustain because of lower tension and a shallower break angle across the surface of the saddle and between the pins and the saddle. IME, having the holes for the bridge pins slotted will increase that angle and a higher saddle will give the strings more freedom to vibrate. Raising the action (either by installing a new and higher saddle or using some sort of shim) will also add to the break angle. Your choice of saddle material also comes into play. I prefer bone to tusq or corian because it gives a "warmer" tone that's less "brittle". At the very least, you should check to see that the underside of the saddle is completely flush with the bottom of the saddle slot. If not then vibration is not being efficiently transferred to the bridge plate beneath and thus on to the top as a whole. Also, if there's an undersaddle pickup element directly beneath the saddle that too could interfere with the transmission of acoustic energy as well. Personally, I prefer pickups like the K&K Pure Western or JJB which operate under a different premise, namely the elements themselves are glued to the underside of the bridge plate or at points on the underside of the soundboard itself.

                        Also, if you try all of these things and you find that the guitar still sounds "tight" or "tinny" then that's due to the inherent structure of the guitar itself, namely the bracing. At some point Taylor "revoiced" their acoustic guitars so that the tops vibrated more freely. While I'm not sure how they did this exactly, I suspect that they may have reduced the mass of the bracing and the top. This is something you could potentially do to your own guitar by reaching inside the soundhole with some sandpaper or a mini plane but I wouldn't advise it as this will void the warranty and without experience in doing such things you could cause the guitar - or yourself - harm. It's common for luthiers to do this with their own creations even after the guitar is "finished" because it takes time for the materials to adjust to vibration, i.e. "open up." In your case though, it would just void any warranty you might have, though IIRC a lifetime warranty is not tranferrable on used guitars.

                        Sorry for rambling but you asked. I've been playing for 30 years and things didn't really take off for me until I learned the value of a good setup and good technique, though shopping for gear is fun too. It's really hit home since I tried my hand at actually buidling my own guitar so I've gotten to see a lot of these theories put to work through tutorials and hands-on (in)experience.

                        Anyway, there's a LOT you can do that would be cheap to do. Certainly cheaper than GASing for a whole new guitar. HTH.
                        2013 Official Luthier's Forum Medium Jumbo (Western red cedar/mahogany)
                        2012 McKnight McUke (soprano ukulele, redwood/mahogany)
                        2010 Martin D-16GT
                        2006 Larrivee OM-03R
                        1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster (natural ash finish)
                        1989 Kramer Stryker
                        197? Epiphone Texan FT-160N


                        • #14
                          The best advice anyone can give is NEVER buy a guitar that doesn't have the sound or feel you want, with the intention of "improving" it. Minor changes will possibly produce minor improvement but for the most part any given guitar is what it is and always will be what it is. If you are happy with minor improvements or with changing your playing style to produce a less bright sound, then you are conforming to the guitar - which is okay if that makes you happy.

                          I don't know your level of experience, but I have found that the newer a player is, the more critical they are of perceived weaknesses in the instrument. Example - I know a 35 year old player who has been playing off and on for a couple years. She has a great guitar, but she always seems to find buzzes or she says it won't stay in tune etc.. The buzzes are mainly coming from her finger placement and the tuning problem is because she never really gets it in tune to begin with. The more experienced a player becomes, the less they seem to blame the instrument for it's sound and playability.

                          That said, I do not know your circumstance and I am not trying to project anything onto you personally. I can say that those Taylor models have always been known as relatively bright sounding. No surprise there.


                          • #15
                            Thanks to all. I've been playing off and on for years also banjo and bass. Been a bluegrasser at one time and I guess I still hear the Martin sound in my head but I bought this to learn some fingerpicking techniques. I will give some of these ideas a shot. Thanks again!