I had the chance to catch up with an old friend back in Australia, the multitalented Mr. Brodie Schumann. We were at a kind of cricket watching… party… gathering… event. So we found a quiet corner, hit record, and talked about many important things such as working in Canberra’s biggest guitar shop, designing the ultimate acoustic at the Taylor University, meeting Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger, the killer low-cost acoustic, and the psychology of Ukulele customers.
You can listen to the complete interview on my PodCast channel here. The summary of our discussion you can read below:
First and foremost Brodie is quite a proficient musician, and in quite a few domains: drums (playing since he could walk), electric & acoustic guitar, piano, vocals, with a little bass on the side. His father is a well-established professional drummer in the Canberra and Sydney scenes for both live and recording work. Yet inexplicably and unashamedly, Brodie refuses to play anything by Metallica. Sad but true.
After a dark history of working in a fish and chips shop, Brodie landed himself a role in Canberra’s biggest music store. Starting in a junior role in his mid teens, he applied himself to learning his products and the art of sales, and grew his work ethic.
Taylor guitar university
As Brodie became more specialised in the acoustic guitar section, Better Music sent him for training in the Taylor guitar university in San Diego, California. It’s a Luthier course where Brodie would learn enough to make what they call a BTO – a built to order. And this was the goal; that Brodie would be able to configure a custom and unique style of acoustic guitar for Better Music to sell to customers. Well aware this is for most people a “once in a lifetime opportunity” he set about learning all he could, both directly from the Taylor University and the other Luthiers attending.
American versus Mexican
This is for many of us an interesting and sometimes confusing topic – do I buy the Mexican guitar or the American version for more money? Is the American actually better quality? How relevant is it this day and age where the guitar is made? While we can’t speak for all instrument manufacturers Brodie got the low-down on what Taylor are doing…
Proximity. First off, Taylor have their American and Mexican factories only 45 minutes drive away from each other. They are certainly not worlds apart. In fact, the Mexican factory is a clone of the American factory – same technology, same machines, same materials used. Many of the staff from the American factory also work in the Mexican factory, according to their roster.
The only real difference between the factories is the economy of the country in which they stand, Mexico offering lower operating costs.
Interesting also, is the bigger picture Taylor are driving. A major part of their business model is to create sustainable timber plantations and grow their own materials, all while investing in the local communities and bringing economical benefit to the people there.
- A guitar can be holding up to 400ml of water in the timber at any time.
- When providing an optimum climate for your instrument, it’s not so much a question of a dry versus humid environment. Instruments like consistency. This is why some shops will use humidifiers. These are machines which measure the humidity of the air and will release moisture to keep it at a constant humidity. The Taylor timber warehouse runs at a constant humidified 20°.
- An acoustic with a healthy amount of moisture will have a slight convex (up) at the bridge. If the wood is too dry, the wood will be either flat or concave (down), and this is not good.
Taylor BTO – Built to order
While guitars in the price bracket of $2,000 – $4,000 AUD are considered by many as pro-level instruments, the BTO instruments will cost this and beyond. Brodie’s custom guitar retails at $7,200 AUD and I can vouch for it personally – it’s a dream to play. His goal was to make something unique, as he puts it: “a modern vintage Martin with a small body.” Of which magical components was this guitar created with? A concise list:
- Adirondack spruce top.
- Flame maple sides and back with vintage sunburst.
- Nylon string headstock for the tight, focussed tone. Not for the looks. Has a focussed attack more than a standard headstock.
- The Taylor Expression System® 2 (ES2) piezo and transducer pickup.
Once the order was placed, it was a 9 month wait for assembly. But custom is worth the wait. When it came, it never needed a setup. It came direct from the factory perfectly ready to play.
Pickup recommendations – Acoustic Guitar
I asked Brodie point-blank for a pickup recommendation. This personally has always been an overwhelming ocean of choice, and is so critical for the sound. But he knew straight up what to recommend for a general purpose, natural sound: The Pure Mini by K & K. Some points:
- Transducer bugs that sit underneath the bridge, evenly spaced between the strings.
- Completely passive, no battery used.
The part I liked most, was what Brodie personally plays. After having owned many top-shelf instruments has settled on a Sigma acoustic. It cost him little more than a sneeze at $400. He then fitted it with the Trinity Pro pickup system, the flagship K&K with a condenser mic.
His main acoustic has been, and for some time now, this $400 Chinese Sigma guitar with a $500 pickup – and it’s the best sounding guitar he has played.
That’s all for now
There’s too much other great info and stories from the interview to write here, you can listen to the full interview here: