A guitar that folds in half so you can travel with it? Gimmicky, unworkable nonsense, right? Not according to Jon Gold of Music Force, who has taken on the Voyage-Air range, which does exactly that and stays in tune too. Not convinced? Let Gary Cooper persuade you…
The guitar’s popularity in the USA might have been spread because it was an easy instrument to pack-up and move in the age of the covered wagon, but succeeding generations have found guitars a bit less convenient to carry with them. Air travel is notorious, and how do you manage a guitar if you ride a motorcycle or a bike? They’re not even that easy to carry on the tube.
All that changes in the UK from this month when Music Force – after a 12 month wait – will be unleashing the Voyage-Air acoustic range in this country and throughout Europe. And what's even more amazing about this folding – yes, folding – guitar, is that it's an acoustic of seriously high quality, according to US reviewers, and boasts a growing band of big name endorsees, including no lesser mortal than Brad Paisley.
Music Force’s Jon Gold sounds like a man who has won the lottery, having secured Voyage-Air distribution for Europe. “I've been around a long while and seen some fantastic instruments, but I've never seen anything like this. It's one of the finest bits of technology I've seen in any medium,” he says.
Voyage-Air was the brainchild of US engineer Jeff Cohen, whose son needed a guitar to take away with him when he went to university. Cohen’s background is in the ultra-precise world of medical and surgical engineering and he applied his mind to the problem, brought in the experience and wisdom of noted Californian luthier Harvey Leach and produced a guitar that you can literally fold in half, pack away in a small rucksack, then snap the neck back into position and still have it almost perfectly in tune. Sounds impossible? That’s what everyone says until they try one, Gold insists.
Music Force signed the distribution deal at last year's NAMM show but has had to wait a full year before getting any instruments. The reason was because Cohen took the product on the US equivalent of Dragon’s Den (ABC’s Shark Tank), turned down a $1 million offer and found a queue of wannabe owners forming outside his door the following morning.
Among them are a growing number of stars, apparently including two guitarists with Paul McCartney, who recently stunned the great man’s audience by folding their Voyage-Airs in half during a version of Give Peace a Chance, joining in the clapping, then springing the necks back into place to continue the song. Publicity like this simply cannot be bought and Gold is convinced Voyage-Air is going to be a huge success for both his company and retailers.
“I’ve taken the base model Voyage-Air guitars into some of the top retailers in the UK and asked them what they thought they would sell for. People have played them, saying they were really good acoustics and worth – well, more or less exactly the sort of prices they are selling for. And then I’ve watched their jaws drop when I folded the guitar in half and told them not only is it a top class guitar, but it does that as well. What really amazes people is that you don't even need to slacken-off the strings when you fold it and when you put it back, it’s still in tune.
“You’ve got three series – the Transit Series, the Songwriter Series and the Premier Series. They have RRPs from £479.99 right up to the Premier Series, which are £1,379. Even if they didn’t have the folding mechanism and came with this phenomenally well made bag that is designed to slide into standard cabin aircraft overhead storage or slung on your back on a bike, they would be worth what they sell for. They aren’t just folding guitars, they are actually very well made, great playing and great sounding guitars.
“With the industry in the state it’s in, what we need is new ideas, not just the same old things being re-hashed over and over again and this really is something genuinely new. It's ideal for so many people – people going camping, hiking, on holiday, travelling round cities on bikes and motorcycles, travelling to songwriting sessions and rehearsals. We see it as a second guitar for people, too – players who already have very high quality guitars, but want something they can travel with as a complement to their existing instruments. That is a very big potential market.
“We’re not looking to put it in every music store, as we see it as a quality product and quite a lot of the bigger stores had already become aware of it from the publicity and have placed orders, but we are, of course, still looking for retailers who think it would work for them.
“I passionately believe this is an absolutely unique thing – that is just the sort of instrument that the music making public really needs.”
Sceptical? The website videos might just change your mind...