The Guitar Magazine feature!

Such a pleasure to be featured in the December 2018 issue of The Guitar Magazine! This article focused particularly on the first electric I’ve built of my own design, ‘The Lecky’. It was a real pleasure to talk through the process with Mark. Many thanks to Mark Alexander for the great article and photographs.

Also thanks to Ben and Tim from Bare Knuckle Pickups. They were super helpful and the system we designed sounded amazing and worked perfectly for Lecky.

And not least, thanks to ‘The Guitar Magazine’ for the generous 7 page spread!

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Rory Dowling The Guitar Magazine 04

Michael Watts Visit

I had the pleasure of welcoming Michael Watts to the workshop last month. He stayed for 3 days as we discussed the finer points of guitar making and my theories behind what I do for clients all over the world. 

Here is his Blog post and videos about the visit. 


Luthier Workshop Visit - Taran Guitars (Scotland)

Mr Michael Watts and Taran Guitars


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. 



Reclaimed Belizean Rosewood

News from 2009

"I was joined by Stefan Sobell a few weeks ago to look at some boards of reclaimed Honduras Rosewood that were brought to Edinburgh in 1979 from Belize. I bought 5 boards of rosewood and 2 boards of Belizean Mahogany which I may consider using for necks. This was the first rosewood board deep cut into back and side sets. I thought the wood was beautiful before I saw the water marks and the spider webbing. Both rare in Honduras Rosewood. I will be offering these sets as 3 piece backs to utilize this beautiful wood. The sets have a strong ring when tapped, similar to good Rio Rosewood."

Move on 8 years.....

So, I've had this wood on on the shelves for 8 years and wow it did not disappoint!! Here is the first guitar I built with it, an Ulladale and Adirondack cannon. Can you believe this was made from wood used for packing crates?!

  • What is Belizean Rosewood? Isn't it Honduras Rosewood?

Perhaps this is Honduras Rosewood... However, it doesn't look like it and I know it came from Belize so I'm choosing to call it Belizean Rosewood.

14th fret Ulladale in Belizean Rosewood and Adirondack

I built this guitar on spec and was keen to hear what Martin Simpson thought of it. I sent it down to him and then visited a few months later. It's so amazing to sit and listen to him play, I can hear parts of the guitar I would never be able to get out of it. He can push a guitar through all of its capabilities in 10 bars. We both agreed that we liked the low mids and bottom end, loved the thick trebles but it was the 'spit' or fast attack that Martin was really excited about!  

Having a brew and news with Martin 

Our ongoing discussions have prompted me to design and build a new model.

The Tirga Mhor MKII.....



Bridge building

There’s been a lot of bridge building and carving of late. 

The completed ebony bridge on a Taran.

The completed ebony bridge on a Taran.


The process of carving the bridge is an interesting one and there have been some major developments at Taran Guitars over the years. The outline shape of the bridge is the same on all models, apart from the Tenor, but over time the shapes and contours of the bridge have moved on.



I use ebony for my bridges as I feel it transfers energy more efficiently than rosewoods. I look for a bridge that is strong but light. In the slideshow, you can see the process I use to create the bridge...


Ebony isn't the lightest material but by removing lots of material behind the saddle, I get an increased break angle of the strings over the saddle which gives a better transfer of energy to the soundboard and makes it light. I need the saddle slot area to be strong and I need the strain of the string pull to be transferred directly to the braces inside. The ridges that you can see on each side of the saddle do both of these things brilliantly. Form follows function, a great design philosophy!


One of the most important areas of guitar design in terms of tone and attack is the physical height of the string above the soundboard. 


  • Higher = more brash/louder


  • Lower = more mellow/quieter


With this in mind, I change the neck angles on my bespoke instruments to get the best string height and thus sound for my client’s taste and playing style. In terms of playability, the action (strings from fretboard) is important but not as much as the response of the soundboard. The more responsive the board, the less energy it takes to vibrate it, so the less work the strings have to do and therefore less work for the player, making a supple dynamic action.


Bridge design is a key element of soundboard response and I think about the bridge as being the last brace to go on. In effect, it has to be tuned like all the other braces to get the most out of the guitar.

Taran Guitars 100th instrument

I’m very proud to present my 100th Instrument! A real mile stone for me and not far away from my 100th Guitar either…

This is the classic 'Taran'. A smaller than Om guitar, perfect for evenings by the fire although equally at home on stage or in the recording studio with excellent balance across a hugely dynamic range. The Master Grade Cocobolo delivers power and clarity with the depth of tone you would expect to find from any exceptional Rosewood.

The Neck is Old reclaimed Brazilian Mahogany and has carbon fibre reinforcement rods as well as a 2 way truss-rod making this Slim C profile neck sing all the way up to the ‘dusty end’ with no wolf notes and no loss of power in the high notes. The polished Rocklite fret board is an incredibly stable and sustainable Ebony like material that is so easy to maintain, with a 44.5mm nut width giving a great balance between comfort and room. The Mitred cutaway gives easy access to those high frets and is visually striking with the grain of the Cocobolo continuing around the cutaway unbroken by bindings.

This guitar's side unit is double sided. Made up of Cocobolo and Scottish Sycamore, the increased stiffness in the sides allows for a thinner and more responsive soundboard getting the most out of the Master Grade Swiss Alpine Spruce top and its bracing of Sitka Spruce. The Taran has its own unique bracing pattern using a mixture of hand carved parabolic and scalloped bracing to balance the guitar's powerful full bass, with thick singing trebles and everything in between.

The rosette of Mosaic Cocobolo is partly ringed with Olive wood from the Greek Island of Crete which I hand selected a number of years ago. This beautifully figured Olive wood is also used for the player's bevel making for a wonderfully comfortable playing experience.

The bridge is solid Ebony from Cameroon and is hand carved to maximise strength and reduce weight. A string spacing for light to medium strings of 59mm break over the careful intonated bone saddle with an increased break angle, heightening even further the response and clarity of this guitar.

With matching Cocobolo veneers for the headstock face and back, the scarfed head of this guitar is virtually indestructible and has Gotoh 510z’s in chrome for the most accurate and stable tuning around. The timeless t. logo is hand cut from solid Sterling silver and then hand inlaid into the Cocobolo. Sterling silver also features in the fret markers with circular 12th fret markers inlayed with Cocobolo centres and with polished Sterling silver dots for all the other major frets. Fret Wire is the highest quality Jesscar wire, hard wearing nickel silver.

The whole guitar is finished in Melamine Lacquer polished to a high gloss. This incredibly durable finish, applied in extremely thin coats, gives a protective finish that doesn’t hinder the guitar's wonderfully responsive soundboard.


100 instruements and counting


The 100th is now in the very capable hands of Rod Burrough in France. I get regular updates from Rod about the guitar and how it's developing. Rod's playing is sublime and he has been good enough to share it here in a video. More of Rod's playing is available on his Soundcloud page.

Composed by John Renbourn in 1990; inspired by the run of a peacock colony along the tree-lined approach to the French commune of Arc et Senans. In 'Dropped D' tuning from 'John Renbourn - Guitar Works' by Marco Rossetti, where it is described as "processional". Played on my 'Taran'.

Binaural recordings with Matheu and Paul


Mr Paul McConville myself and Matheu Watson.

An amazing day last weekend with Matheu Watson and Paul McConville, 2 wonderful clients I have had the pleasure of working with for over 7 years now. There's a couple of instruments between them...

Left to right: 
African Blackwood Tirga Beag Fan fret
Indian Rosewood Oreval
Cocobolo Tirga Beag
Indian Rosewood Springwell
Brazilian Rosewood Taran Mhor
Brazilian Mahogany Oreval
Indian Rosewood Archtop Bouzouki

We spent the day recording some of these for the site. Sorry, no… Matheu played beautifully, recorded, mastered and made coffee for Paul and I while we all blethered about projects gone and hills to come. 

Thank you to Matheu and Paul and special thanks to Lucy Macrae for her hospitality and guitar chat patience!!


binaural recording=the player perspective

A Binaural recording is the process of using in ear Omni mics to record the perspective of in this case the player. What you are listing to when playing this Binaural recordings is what Matheu heard while he was playing the guitars. It doesn't work if your not listening with good left and right head phones as the mics pick up what he heard in each ear individually and thus has to play it back to you in the same way. 

Here is Matheus beautiful playing on these 4 guitars.

Oreval Mahogany/German


Oreval Indian Rosewood/German


Taran Brazilian Rosewood/Italian


Tirga Beag Cocobolo Adirondack

Keith Robson Tuners


I'm very pleased to announce that all of my bespoke guitars will now come an option of Handmade Tuners by none other than Keith Robson. Keith makes all of his tuners by hand down in England and they are some of the finest tuners in the world.

Available in a variety of different styles, we can tailor a set for your guitar when organising your order.


For more information please do get in touch.


All the very best,