Buying a guitar from Rory at Taran Guitars is a strange and wonderful experience. I’ll start by pointing out that I am not a professional musician – I would describe myself as a (barely) competent amateur, capable of playing a song, chord by chord, end to end. I’m no Richard Thompson, I’m no Kris Drever. While chatting with my parents, who live just down the road in Anstruther (“Ainster”, if you’re local) they mentioned a luthier based in Pittenweem, and I might be interested in having a look. I did just that, and was immediately hooked by Rory’s open friendliness, total lack of pretention and sheer enthusiasm for his work. The moment I picked up the Tirga Beag he happened to have in the shop, and started playing, I knew this was something special.
For me, the most exciting part (and possibly the most difficult) was spec’ing the tonewood to use – you end up with these weird conversations about how you want the guitar to sound – deep, rich, complex – sounds more like coffee tasting notes than how a musical instrument should sound! “Writing (or talking) about music is like dancing about architecture” kind of sums up it. The two options I really had to build in to my Tirga Beag were the two that hit me from the “demo” one I tried – first off, it had a bevel originally designed by Grit Laskin - used with permission – and secondly, it was double-bound – this adds a weight and a depth to the guitar, and makes it incredibly resonant. I’m not the most patient of people, the wait between spec, build and completion was agonising – however, during the build process I was furnished with pictures and the occasional question, as and when Rory hit on a good idea – I wanted him to have freedom in the design to try new things if he felt they would work better on the finished article.
“Presentation day” was a bit nerve-wracking – the buildup and anticipation was laced with some nerves – had I over-hyped it? Was the one I played as good as I remembered? What if I don’t like it?! The first Em chord killed every concern, stone dead. The guitar absolutely nailed the spec – it sounds very deep without being “boomy”, the high notes sparkle, and there are some wonderful harmonics that twist and shimmer. I’m a couple of months down the road now, and my Tirga Beag gets played pretty much every day. I still get a shiver when I pick it up, and I still feel a bit “I’m not worthy!!” (I figure it’s my duty to get good enough to be worthy of the guitar, so that’s OK…) Would I recommend buying a custom guitar? If you can, it’s a unique experience.
Would I recommend buying one from Rory at Taran? Only if you want to work with someone who lives, loves and breathes their work, who is passionate about every detail, who will not compromise on quality at any level, and who will deliver one of the finest instruments you are ever likely to play. Your call.
- Jamie Barr