Enter the Voide

Jes here.

There's a particular service we offer that you probably have heard mentioned briefly across our various social media platforms, or you've heard me talk about more in depth if you've visited the shop in person, but I've been negligent in writing out a comprehensive explanation of what the Voide service is, why we offer it and who it is for.

Let's say you're a guitar player that has already has a great looking guitar, but it just doesn't feel great in your hands, or maybe it just sounds flat to your ears. If you went into your everyday music store they would tell you this is because your guitar is a cheaper model and you need to drop a few $$$$ one of their newest Gibson/Fender/Martin/{insert brand here}. Of course that's what they'll tell you because they are music retailers. They get paid when they sell new guitars. And to a degree they're right. That Gibson or Martin acoustic is going to sound better than your old, abused cheap guitar. That brand new USA made Fender is going to rock harder than your off brand Squire copy.

There are multiple reasons for this. A US manufactured guitar is usually going to feature better materials and quality control than something mass produced oversees. That's part of what you're paying more for. I say usually, because when you're talking about something made in a factory and not for an individual and by an individual on a case-by-case basis there are bound to be a few duds. In the auto industry they call these 'lemons.' A big part of what you're paying for, however, is branding. A $3000 Gibson isn't 10x the guitar of its $300 Epiphone counterpart. If you put an Epiphone logo on that same Gibson, it's perceived value would drop dramatically. Conversely, if you put a Gibson logo on the Epiphone you'd likely be able to fool someone into paying a much higher price for the guitar.

So should you pay out the nose for a new guitar? Maybe. If that's what you really want, go for it. But if you want to have a guitar that sounds and feels every bit as good, or in most cases better, for a fraction of the cost you should bring your guitar to us. I know it sounds too good to be true and you have every right to be skeptical. The American consumer is relentlessly bombarded all day long every day with aggrandizing claims about products and how it will revolutionize their life. Finding a company or a product that lives up to those claims is akin to stumbling across a unicorn or Bigfoot.

A lot of my clients have left reviews calling me a miracle worker or claiming that I've worked some sort of dark necromantic magic on their instruments. As much as I enjoy reading that stuff and seeing the disbelief and exhilaration on their faces when I hand their instrument back to them, there isn't any literal magic in what I do. I'm not peddling a wonder drug or a miracle cure. What we do at Artifact is backed by scientific principles as they relate to the transmission of mechanical energy through vibrations. Music, if you boil it down to a level that takes all the magic out of it, is a set of vibrations at different frequencies that combine to produce a plethora and wide array of different sounds which often connect with our deepest desires, dreams, hopes and feelings. A scientist could probably describe this a lot better. I don't claim to be a scientist, I just understand these principles enough to apply them to the realm of upgrading guitars.

The name Voide is a play on the age old principle of voiding a warranty by tinkering with a company's product. The Voide method is simple in scope, but complex in detail. I'll keep with the broad and simple scope for this post, and perhaps in the future I'll delve into more details on each step of the process. It all centers around what we refer to as 'Points of Contact.'

What are the Points of Contact? The name is self-descriptive. They are comprised of all the points at which the strings on your guitar make contact with the guitar itself. Starting with the neck and working our way down, the strings start by wrapping around tuning pegs. The next point of contact would be the nut (or a string tree or retaining bar if your guitar has one). From there you might think that the final point of contact is the bridge, or the saddle(s) that the strings rest on(in). You'd be partially right, except you're forgetting a whole bunch of contact points in between. Each fret is a contact point. Think about it. When you press a string down, it makes contact with a fret.

Great. Every guitar has these Points of Contact, so why am I taking the time to tell you what you already know? Here's what you may not already know: the materials used, and the method of installation, for these points of contact matters a great deal to your tone and sustain. Remember that transfer of mechanical energy I mentioned earlier? Well not all of the energy you put into the strings when you pick or strum is transferred into sound. A lot of it gets lost. Not all materials are created equal. These materials at the points of contact have a tendency to absorb that mechanical energy rather than transfer it. The way they're installed can also suck up energy. Lighter materials tend to absorb more of this energy. Denser materials tend to absorb less. Gaps or air pockets will absorb more energy than a perfect seal. So it stands to reason that if you use dense materials and couple them together with perfect seals, you will lose a lot less mechanical energy than if you use light materials and have air pockets at the coupling points. Are you tracking with me so far?

Let's take a step back from this ethereal, theoretical realm and apply it to these Points of Contact. Most manufactured acoustic guitars today feature injection molding plastics at the nut and saddle. And these aren't your super dense NASA type plastics either - they are cheap and lightweight materials. It's an incredible cost savings to them over paying someone to hand carve a bone nut and saddle to fit your individual instrument. Anybody (or any robot) can fill a mold. It takes zero skill. We use bone in place of these types of plastics because it is much denser, the unbleached stuff has a sort of natural lubrication effect for the strings. As far as frets go, not all fret wire is created equal. We use Jescar frets because they've created a proprietary alloy that is harder and denser than other fret wire. We're not sure how they do it (that's basically the definition of proprietary) but it is consistently superior to the other fret wire available on the market. This means not only will they make your guitar sound better but it will also last longer. When guitars are manufactured the frets are pressed in, sometimes (as I've found installing new frets for clients) without an agent to fill the gap between the edge of the fret tang and the bottom of the fret slot. Remember those air pockets we talked about? Tone suckers. These same principles apply to electric guitars.

The Voide service in essence is taking all of that shoddy material off of your guitar and replacing it with material that is sonically superior, longer-lasting and more visually appealing and doing it in a way that ensures maximum coupling between those materials and the wood of your guitar. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of skill, which is why you don't see everyone doing it. It's a lot easier to make money selling high priced manufactured guitars than it is to combine new school scientific principles with old school craftsmanship and make your current guitar the best it can be.

Remember those thousands of dollars you were going to spend on a new guitar? What if I told you that you could achieve the same (or better) desired result with our $399 service on your current guitar? You know, the one that you've gigged all over the country with or grew up learning on. The one that you've played for friends around a campfire during a particularly memorable vacation up north, or played music in the church band with for several years. That guitar salesman telling you to throw away all that nostalgia for a new model? Tell him you found out you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

Still not convinced? Here are a couple of our reviews from customers who have had their guitar voided copied from Facebook and Google and one from our internal review service for quality control Lux Sono.

"Artifact Guitars brought my guitar back from the grave, and for that, they have my eternal gratitude. Seriously, these guys know how to do some crazy dark magic to make a guitar sound like it's worth 10x its original value. Looking forward to many more years with my guitar that they brought back to life." - Micah
"My guitar feels like new again! Jes transformed my over 10 year old acoustic and I am amazed as to how good it sounds and feels again. I will continue to bring my guitars to him in the future and definitely recommend him to everyone!" - Hannah
"I'm so thankful that I got my guitar voided! (Since I'm not on Facebook, I'm writing this post through my wife - Nate.) to be honest at first I was a little skeptical and scared of handing over my guitar. I am very particular about my guitar and exactly how it sounds. From the outside my guitar doesn't look all that different but after taking it home and playing it for many hours I could definitely tell a difference. I was told when I got my guitar back I would not be able to put it down. I really didn't believe that until I found myself playing through most of the night and losing track of time. It's amazing I feel like I can play and sing without the guitar getting in the way. I sing and professional chorus each week and we sometimes use choreography. That can get in the way of your singing and performing sometimes. I felt the same way with my guitar until I had it voided, now I can just sing and play and not have to worry about the quality of the instrument or the imperfections getting in the way! Thank you for bringing the joy back to playing music. I find myself playing better and trying new things as a result! Amazing work, The kind you have to play and experience to really appreciate! Worth every penny!" - Nate
"Jes restored two of my guitars, both having cracked necks and labeled "beyond repair" by others. But Jes brought them back to life! Also got them VOIDed,and they are amazing! I will be bringing my other guitars in as I can. Great work by a great luthier." - Ted

"Today you get a combined rant and shameless plug. My great friend, Jes Gilman, recently opened @artifactguitars down in Burnsville. Guitar repairs, killer setups and a very unique process of "voiding" your guitar (you can see more about that at www.voideguitars.com). He's worked on 3 of my guitars now and out of the 15 or so guitars I have, they're pretty much the only ones I play anymore. Larger frets and bone nuts/saddles make such a difference in the tone and playability I'm now mourning the almost two decades I played without them. The reviews coming in for this guy are outstanding. Folks - we're finally starting to realize that the lowest possible price on cheap, foreign built things really isn't a smart way to go about your shopping, hobbies and most definitely not your career. I learned the hard way. I've had a bunch of my guitars fixed by the "cheapest price in town" shops and was left with something that wasn't much different than what I brought to them. It's totally different with Jes - I will literally hand the guitars he's touched down to my boys someday and there's a long line of guitars waiting for his midas touch. SOOO - if you've got an old crappy guitar that needs some love or you've been putting off some critical repairs on your piece or you've been wanting to buy a new guitar thinking your current one sucks - PUT SOME MONEY ASIDE AND GET IT TO JES. Let's put our hard earned money into local, American artisans and not into questionable (and often slave) labor oversees - the results are ALWAYS worth the price." - Jeromy

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