Tacoma Guitars

Tacoma MarrakeshTacoma Marrakesh

Founded in 1997, Tacoma guitars - originally part of the Young Chang company - were celebrated by many for their robust construction, beautiful sound, and affordability. It's not surprising that the guitars were noted for their resonance and tone, given that the company's parent company was a noted Korean piano manufacturer.

At first, the instruments were noted for their unique, non-conventional appearance. Whereas most acoustic guitars have the soundhole located in the center of the instrument directly underneath the strings, the first Tacoma models placed the soundhole on the upper bout close to the neck.

Non-Traditional Build

Shaped like a wing or tear (often called the Paisley soundhole), the justification for this non-traditional build is to improve the guitar's resonance by decreasing the amount of bracing needed for the top, since the soundhole is placed in a low-stress location.

Rise to Fame

In the time following their initial debut, Tacoma's star rose quickly, generally recognized as one of the top five guitar makers. To be sure, the unorthodox look contributed to this ascent (the company's first two guitars, the Papoose and Chief, both shared the tear-shaped soundhole and curved bridge) but the early guitars were also celebrated for their resonance and playability. 

Guitar players are pretty conservative on the whole when it comes to equipment, so it speaks to Tacoma's vision that they were able to break into a market that had been on the decline for a number of years (until the mid 90s, electrics far outsold acoustics). On the whole, reviews from both professional and non-professionals alike were wholly positive.

Growth and Decline of Tacoma Guitars

Eventually, Tacoma offered not only "traditionally" constructed instruments, but added baritone, bass, mandolins, and even an electric archtop to its extensive (and often confusing) product line. The Tacoma company grew substantially and, some would argue, too quickly. The company was sold to Fender Musical Instruments in 2004, but production eventually ceased in 2011. In time, many Tacoma instruments were plagued by finish problems in which the finish would literally fall off the guitar. This problem was enough to severely damage their quality for reputation, perhaps even beyond repair.

Despite these problems, countless players cherish their Tacomas and hold them in high regard. If you can find a used instrument on eBay or Craigslist that doesn't have one of the finish issues noted above, you can often get a great deal on a fine instrument.

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