I've known Rory Dowling of Taran Guitars for several years and it was great to get the chance to catch up at this year's Holy Grail Guitar Show (Berlin) where I played some of his latest instruments. I was very impressed indeed! Taran Guitars was set up over a decade ago and while it's a well known and respected brand in Europe, Rory's work is still somewhat under the radar outside the continent and he asked if I might consider filming some demo videos of his guitars. Obviously I was very happy to agree. So I flew up to Scotland and spent a beautiful and inspiring couple of days at the Taran Guitars workshop near Fife.
As it happens we ended up filming a full interview about what goes into the creation of a Taran Guitar, as well as recording a podcast about the history of the company and Rory's ethos, as well as demos of three absolutely stunning guitars! I'd suggest you kick off with the interview which is right here.
The guitars themselves are here in all their glory. First up is this Tirga Beag (pronounced Chigra Begg) which is a "large OM" with a 16" lower bout and an impressive potential for nuance to go with all that power. This guitar is made from Malaysian blackwood and moon-harvested Swiss spruce with a wengé neck. As with previous guitar recordings of mine that you may have seen, these videos were recorded using a matched pair of Gefell M300 small capsule condenser microphones. No EQ, reverb or effects were added. You are hearing as close to the natural sound of the guitar as I was capable of reproducing.
"The Taran" is Rory Dowling's take on a OO model. It's a smaller body, very comfortable to hold and play, and extremely lively. In this case we have a Madagascar rosewood and moon-harvested Swiss spruce instrument. This guitar is extremely responsive with a gorgeous voice perfectly suited to a more traditional approach. So much so in fact that we strung it with non-coated D'Addario strings (as opposed to Elixirs) to bring out all the steel and "snap" typical of that wood combo. I was particularly impressed with the way the instrument handled a capo (an Elliot Elite of course) at the 4th fret.
Finally here is an instrument close to my own heart. An exquisite presentation version of The Taran in flamed maple and moon spruce. Built for exhibition at the Holy Grail Guitar Show 2018, this is a lightly-built fingerstyle guitar with an immediate response and the same depth and "pizzicato cello" tone that I love in good maple guitars. The cutaway gives you access all along the neck and all in all it's a stunner. I know my friend John Thomas of the Fretboard Journal was particularly taken with this instrument describing it as one of his highlights of this year's HGGS.
Finally, I hope you'll enjoy this podcast interview with Rory. This was recorded in the wood room of his workshop, a very special place indeed full of some of the finest tone woods available including some rare British varieties.
I had a fantastic time at the Taran Guitars workshop, many thanks to Rory for the invitation and hospitality. It was my first time in that particular part of Scotland and the countryside is stunning. As Rory himself says, the gorgeous natural surroundings in which he works play an important role in inspiring the creation of his guitars, and it shows.
I should add that I have found luthier's workshops around the world to be a source of wonder, delight and inspiration for years now and I have decided that what started out as a couple of mates catching up in Berlin has laid the foundations of a new "Luthier Stories" series on my YouTube channel. I look forward to sharing the next episodes with you in the not too distant future!