In 1984, Taylor Guitars created a boon for modern fingerstyle players with its first Grand Concert: a small-bodied guitar that negated the boom and muddiness sometimes associated with dreadnoughts and other larger guitars, while also providing player comfort. This winning design has been a mainstay in Taylor’s offerings ever since.
The 712e 12-fret, a member of the newly refreshed 700 Series, is Taylor’s most recent variation on the Grand Concert platform. And it’s one sweet guitar. True to form, it’s got a brilliant and balanced voice, with the lushness characteristic of Indian rosewood back and sides. The instrument has impressive clarity as well, with just the right amount of harmonic content.
Taylor consistently hits the high-water mark in terms of playability. As expected, the 712e 12-Fret, with its streamlined, C-shaped neck and short-scale length, feels silky smooth. The action is low and speedy runs that are difficult to pull off on other steel-strings are made possible on the 712e. It’s almost too easy to play.
Taylor consistently hits the high-water mark in terms of playability.
The 712e 12-Fret might boast modern playability, but it takes its aesthetic cues from vintage instruments. The guitar’s slotted headstock houses open-geared tuners with ivoroid buttons, while the abalone “Reflections” inlay recalls the ornamental work found on fancy prewar instruments. The warm Western Sunburst finish on our review model is similarly old school. (The guitar is also available in Natural.)
Then there are design flourishes unique to Taylor. The pickguard, made from wood fiber, looks a lot like old leather. Wooden binding might be common these days, but Taylor applies its own treatment with a Douglas fir-and-maple rosette, echoed in the top purfling, as well as koa binding.
This handsome and smartly designed instrument is flawlessly realized. The body’s gloss finish is completely free from imperfections, the frets are meticulously dressed, and the Tusq nut and Micarta saddle are perfectly notched. Things are just as clean inside the guitar, and the instrument left the factory with an excellent setup.
A Versatile Performer
The first things I notice about the 712e are its warmth and power, likely owing to its 12th-fret neck junction, which shifts the bridge from where it’s located on a 14-fret model to a sweet spot in the middle of the lower bout. The Lutz spruce soundboard (a new addition to the company’s 700 Series), which is known to have a similar velocity of sound as Adirondack spruce, no doubt adds to the robustness of the voice.
I test the 712e 12-Fret using some selections I recently transcribed. When I play through David Bromberg’s interpretation of the Elizabeth Cotten classic “Shake Sugaree,” (Learn to play on p. 66) in drop-D tuning, I’m as impressed by the tightness of the bass notes as I am by the fullness of the trebles. The guitar has an immediate response and a highly detailed sound, making it ideal for fingerpicking. When I play Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” in standard tuning, the guitar has good punch and presence. It works quite well for playing this tune with its percussive, stripped-down chord work.
In a different mode, working through the lesson that Adam Levy penned for the December 2016 issue on Bob Dylan’s acoustic-guitar style reveals the 712e 12-Fret to be just as good for strumming as it is for fingerpicking. The guitar is loud and projective. And whether in the style of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “Desolation Row” (which is in drop-C tuning, with a capo at fret 4), or “One Too Many Mornings” (in open A, with a capo at fret 3), the guitar has a clear and uncluttered sound that will blend well with other instruments or sit nicely in a mix.
Taylor’s Expression System 2 comes standard with the 712e. So, the pickup’s elements are placed behind the saddle rather than underneath it. The idea is that the Expression System 2’s elements will respond more naturally to the string’s vibrations than those found in a traditional undersaddle pickup. I wasn’t able to test this claim, but I did notice that the pickup—which is paired with an onboard preamp and tone/volume controls—sounded exceptionally rich and lifelike when plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp.
With the newly revoiced 712e 12-Fret, Taylor Guitars has unveiled yet another small-bodied winner, with one of the company’s most satisfying cosmetic treatments to date.
Any modern guitarist looking for a smart new companion should definitely give this one a spin.
At a Glance: Taylor 712e 12-Fret
12-fret Grand Concert size
Lutz spruce top
Indian rosewood back and sides
Gloss western sunburst or natural finish
24 7/8-inch scale length
1 3/4-inch nut
Taylor slot-head tuners
Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings (.012–.053)
Expression System 2 electronics
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$4,098 list; $2,949 street
Made in the USA
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.