Herb Taylor moved to Colorado in 1973 and plunged into outdoor sports with a passion he still enjoys today; in recent years he has hiked for perhaps 1600 days in the Colorado Plateau. While supporting himself with a varied work career (artist, teacher, computer engineer), Herb also played amateur French horn in the Brico symphony orchestra.
In the 90s, two events changed his life. First, a benign brain tumor left him deaf in one ear, making it impossible to play orchestral music. Second, after retirement he tried his hand at folk music; although folk music didn’t grab him, through building a mountain dulcimer he discovered the fascinating world of lutherie. He was introduced to Ely Karasik, and one thing led to another: Denver Mandolin Orchestra, CMSA. Herb built an Irish Bouzouki which led him to Irish player Pete Strickler, Zoukfest and Roger Landes, a musical polymath who remains a mentor, and to the O’Flaherty Retreat in Texas.
Because of a desire to learn things for himself and not copy others, Herb became a self-taught luthier. The disadvantage: making mistakes that might have been avoided with classes. The advantage: the freedom to evolve new ideas and construction methods. Herb tries to combine structural integrity, maintainability, ergonomics, tone and aesthetics. Among his innovations are steam-bent arched tops, an adjustable neck joint, internal structural braces, super-light lattice braced sound boards and through-stick design.
Herb’s specialty is making instruments that aren’t common in music shops: mandolas, bouzoukis, tenor guitars, mandocellos in various 4- and 5-string configurations. His current challenge is reimagining the “classical” mandolin.