Tips, Tricks & Tweaks
Do you have ideas about how to make a great guitar even better?
This is your place.
We've created a spot where owners can pass along ideas to enhance their experience with Voyage-Air Guitars. Maybe you're looking at a tuning key upgrade? Find ideas here. Perhaps a question on adding electronics to your acoustic? Find it here. This and much more, as innovative Voyage-Air Guitar players, contact us to pass along their tips. Perhaps you've done a modification to your Voyage-Air Guitar and would like to share it with other owners? Send us the info and we'll post it online to share with the world!
Click here to submit your Tips, Tricks and Tweaks now.
- Upgrade Tuners
- LR Baggs M1 pickup
- VAD-06 Customization
- MIDI Harp Guitar
- Graph Tech Ghost
- BelAir Mods
Roger, who owns a VAOM-04, recently passed this along:
To the Voyage-Air Team,
Again, thanks for all your help. Let me give you some pics and tell you about my new tuners.
I purchased the Schaller, chrome, locking tuners from Musician's Friend. Click here. Great price and fast service. Unfortunately, the turners do not come with any installation instructions. Fortunately, very little instruction is necessary.
You can share this info with anyone else who wants to upgrade their tuners.
- The Schaller locking tuners are great and fit perfectly.
- Be sure to replace them just one at a time and try to match the markings on the tuners which represent post height.
- Use the small screws that come with the original tuners instead of the ones that come with the Schaller tuners (they are too long).
- If you buy the locking tuners, they will fit perfectly and there will be no need to drill new holes.
- The Schallers look great and work great.
- The locking mechanisms allow for fast and easy string installment and replacement.
- The tuner gearing is smooth with no slipping.
I can highly recommend the Schaller locking tuners.
I very highly recommend the L.R. Baggs M1 soundhole pickup, specifically the passive version, which I have installed as an upgrade to my VAMD-02. After doing a lot of research, I simply can't think of a better electronics solution to use with a Voyage-Air.
The M1 is a stacked-coil design, but with the lower hum-canceling coil suspended inside the pickup's shell in such a way that it vibrates with the body of the pickup itself. That adds the vibration into the signal. The result: this magnetic soundhole pickup genuinely senses the sound of the wood, similar to a good under-saddle or under-bridge pickup. Not just in the second-hand way that magnetic pickups sense only the strings, but the strings get influenced by the body. The tone can compete with any under-saddle or under-bridge pickup system.
You can also adjust the pole-piece heights for each string, for volume balancing. When you properly set it up (and put some time into the fine adjustment), it really can sound like your acoustic guitar, but louder. Maybe the only way to top it would be a multi-source setup involving an internal microphone — which might not be as friendly to getting bounced around in the Voyage-Air backpack.
Finally: here is why the passive version of the M1 is ideal for a Voyage-Air. This pickup comes with a cable that can hang from the soundhole, and can detach from the pickup when its not in use. The passive version also has a groove on the bottom of the pickup, to secure the cable for stability. The active version does not have this groove, as that space is taken up by the battery, and therefore the active model is best suited for a permanent installation with a hole drilled for an included jack. (The jack installation can also be done with the passive version.)
Of course, you would have to carefully maneuver your hands around the strings in order to plug the wire in, and get into the groove, and to undo the whole process each time — but this is not a problem at all when you fold the neck over and get the strings out of the way! If you're in a place where you're going to plug in, then you can simply do this setup when you first take the guitar out of the backpack, and then later remove the cable when you put the guitar away.
For this LR Baggs M1 passive soundhole pickup, you don't need to hire a technician or do any drilling at all. You can keep the pickup in the guitar at all times, and then add or remove the cable as needed. And if you ever buy another guitar, like a higher-end model, you can just unscrew the pickup and transplant it over to the new instrument.
Finally, if you wanted to have a permanent installation for your guitar, with a permanent jack and an onboard pre-amp control, etc, the M1 is a great place to start.
Pete Quin: VAD-06 Customization
I'm a working guitarist in the UK with over forty years professional experience, and for a long time I supported this habit (don't play guitar and expect to get rich!) repairing, setting-up and occasionally building guitars. So there's nothing I haven't seen in guitar construction. Until, that is, I went to Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island two years ago and Stan raved to me about this amazing guitar he'd just got that folded up! Cut to the chase, I bought one.
Amongst guitar techs I know, some of whom I've even taught, there is a general opinion that no guitars come in new the way you want it to feel, regardless of manufacturer. Everything benefits from work to make it suit your style. It’s just the way I am with any of my guitars: I set to work on my new Voyage-Air VAD-06.
Firstly, in general, the changes I made to the VAD-06 were not particularly made to improve the sound, although I think there has been some small improvement. They've been made to significantly improve the playability. I believe that a guitar should be warm and snuggly, it should say 'stroke me, you won't regret it', it should be comfortable, even easy to play, you shouldn't get tired, sore fingers after an hour or two.
And I also believe that an acoustic should be able to take a similar setup to a solid bodied guitar. The vast, vast majority of the acoustics I've met over the 46 years I've been playing come from the factory, as too high, too hard, and too tight. I think this is probably to give them the most projection, and perhaps to give the typical flatpicker a fuss-free and buzz-free ride (think bluegrass in anger!). I'm okay with this, because it puts much more stress on the instrument, so makes it easier for me to judge what I can get away with if I choose to try modifications - almost everything I do will allow the guitar to relax a bit.
I do agree that if I pulled a high-end Gibson or Martin of the shelf, or even one of your own high-end models … I would probably want to make these mods, to a greater or lesser extent as necessary, and they would improve the guitar ('improve' being my own judgement, of course - other players might think I'd ruined it, though guitarists actual reactions to what I do suggest they'd just smile and play it until I pulled it out of their hands).
At this point, I want to say that what I do isn't very revolutionary - I'm sure any competent guitar tech could do it just as well or better, it's just that I'm ready to have a go at any aspect of the guitar in the stupid belief that I can make it better, but I'll only do it on guitars that are already good and well-made. Like my new Voyage-Air.
Where did I start? The nut - well, that's an easy one. String spacing at the nut makes a huge difference to the feel of the guitar over the whole of the fingerboard. And the equal holes in the Voyage-Air captive nut make the string spacing really odd. Again, just my opinion. Actually, I found myself staring at the nut on mine, seeing the odd spacing, and wondering why it was so odd. It's a subtle oddness. Then I noticed the holes, and realized that obviously, you have to make sure that the holes are large enough for the strings, but does a skinny first need the same size as a beefy sixth?
I created a new ‘captive nut’ carved from buffalo bone - not fancy, but neat. I looked at possible string gauges, and decided to rule out silly sizes on the basis that anyone who wants to fit extra ultra super jumbo heavy strings won't worry about the nut because the face will pull straight off anyway. Now, sorry, but my drills are metric sizes - we invented imperial measurements but now we're in the EU and we sell apples in kilos and drills in millimetres...go figure. The holes I used, from 1st to 6th, are 0.6, 0.6, 0.8, 1.0, 1.2, 1.5 mm.
They are drilled in the same positions as yours. To ease the string's exit to the rear, I used a conical diamond ream to open the rear side slightly - on yours, the thinner strings seemed to be cutting into the nut as they were pulled off line. The first two pictures show the front of the nut with individually sized holes. The second shows the even spacing across the fingerboard.
I also carved a new buffalo bone saddle, much lower that the one fitted, that gives me an amazingly low action, but one that can now be accurate with no rattle or buzz anywhere.
As to the bridge and saddle, if you're confident about the fingerboard, a lower saddle might be considered, but the matter of the break angle can be addressed. Sorry if I'm telling you the obvious, but this is the angle the strings go down into the face at when they 've come over the saddle, and it's an important factor in how the vibration of the strings gets transmitted into the face, thus affecting both the tone and volume. As a rule of thumb, the closer you can get to a drop of about forty five degrees the better. The V-A strings are held in place by bridge pins, with the string going from the saddle to the front of the hole the pin goes into. Lowering the saddle lowers the break angle - bad thing!
However, a small change to the bridge can be quite useful. After removing the saddle, filing angled slots in the bridge using a parallel diamond burr angled at forty degrees down towards the pin holes, and from a millimeter or two from the saddle slot, effectively reinstates this ideal 45-degree break angle. Underneath the bridge itself is the face, and under that the 'bridge plate', and the end of this slot is somewhere in this sandwich, but the construct is pretty solid so I do not believe that this mod decreases the strength of the bridge assembly by any noticeable amount.
The third picture shows the lower saddle, the fourth the improved break angle, and the fifth the appearance of the bridge from above. The flashy bridge pins are there for appearance only - I don't believe that they have any affect on the sound: they just look pretty.
The sixth picture shows my choice with the installation of new machine heads. They're Planet Waves locking tuners, which sit perfectly for height and the 18:1 ratio is excellent. Very pretty, they work very well, they cut the string automatically when you wind (whoo-hoo!), and the post height is fine. The screws are in different places, but coloured wax hides the old screw holes very effectively.
The final picture is a little change I made to the bolt that retains the neck. I've ground a rounded slot in the end which fits British pound coin, which can be used for a final tightening check if you've got any doubts. The soft edges of the bolt do make it hard to tighten really well, but I can understand a need not to tighten it really, really hard. Just looking for the middle ground. That's why a pound coin. It's not very big but quite thick. So the slot is wide enough to mean that bigger coins (easier to put force on with) slip out of the slot.
Also in the picture is the end of the nylon guitar strap. I chose one with a hard plastic end that ‘snaps’ over the strap pin. It's shaped for the bolt so it holds securely but comes off easily, because there's not a lot of space in the case for putting the guitar in with the strap on, so this system doesn't wear out with off-on-off-on etc.
And for the big close - how many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? Ten. One to change it, and nine to stand around saying 'I could've done it better'.
Yep, understand that.
All the best,
Curtis Thorpe Creates a MIDI Harp Guitar with Voyage-Air
Hello Voyage-Air Guitar!
"I've got quite a collection of guitars but I always find myself picking up my Voyage-Air VAOM-06. It's tone is rich and complex and it is just a joy to play. I really enjoy seeing the look on peoples faces when I fold it to and put it in my gig-bag! I cannot get enough of my Voyage-Air and I'm going to be playing this guitar for many years to come. "
I just wanted to share my latest ‘invention’ that I applied to my Voyage-Air VAOM-06 guitar. I used some common electronics, a laptop computer, a bunch of wire, and was able to transform my normal Voyage-Air guitar into a Harp Guitar.
Harp Guitars are large instruments that employ a regular guitar neck and frets, fitted into an oversized body with an array of bass strings. This enables the musician to pluck deep bass notes that flatter and enhance the music played with the guitar melody. They were popular in the early 1900s.
Recently, musicians such as Michael Hedges and Muriel Anderson have adopted a Harp Guitar to create their own compositions. I wanted to use my Voyage-Air guitar to mimic their beautiful work.
My Voyage-Air Harp Guitar modification works by using a device called the Makey Makey to trigger MIDI notes on my laptop computer.
The Makey Makey allows you to turn any conductive material into a keyboard key (a-z and 0-9) on your computer. When the conductive material comes into contact with a 'ground' it completes an electric circuit, and the corresponding key is automatically typed on the computer. I used a portable laptop computer for this project.
In this case, the conductive material was the 5 ordinary Canadian quarter coins on a small wooden platform. By simply touching any of them, I’m able to send a signal that creates the deep ‘Harp Guitar’ bass note.
To convert my touch into a MIDI note, I used a program called VMPK (Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard). It allows you to assign a MIDI note to any key on a regular piano keyboard. In my case, I chose the 5 deep bass notes common to a Harp Guitar.
The triggered key/MIDI note is then sent to the Logic Studio software on my laptop, and it plays the programmed sound that corresponds to a real instrument. I used a virtual electric/acoustic bass to get a sound similar to the strings of a Harp Guitar.
I hope that makes sense. Watch the video. Everyone’s amazed by the sounds I can create with this modification to a Voyage-Air guitar!
- Curtis Thorpe
Christopher Cyr: the Graph Tech Ghost
A few weeks ago, we received a sound clip from one of our Voyage-Air owners/enthusiasts that just completely blew us away. We decided to make it a combination of a question and a poll, to see how many could correctly identify the guitar that was used for the recording.
Many voted. Few guessed the correct answer, and yes – it was a trick question.
It was a Voyage-Air BelAir electric guitar.
Voyage-Air owner Chris Cyr has put a lot of time and thought into modifications to his BelAir guitar. His most recent mods were to install Phantom Ghost piezo pickups at the bridge, and related circuitry that brings a true ‘acoustic guitar tone’ to the output of the guitar.
The video here is in two segments: in the first segment, Chris describes the various pickup and control modifications that he made to his BelAir guitar.
In the second video segment, he plays the same tune that was used for our question and poll. Realize that this video was made hastily (per our request) in a hotel room while Chris was out on a business trip with his guitar. Captured with a laptop computer, the video still proves that his BelAir created these incredible ‘acoustic guitar’ tones.
At Voyage-Air guitar, we encourage you to share pictures, sound clips and videos that you can make with your guitar. You, and the music you create could be our next feature, and test question!
Christopher Cyr: BelAir Mods
I travel a lot. Like 50 weeks out of the year a lot. I have been playing guitar professionally for over 20 years. For the longest time, I have tried to carry my guitars with me wherever I went, but it just got more and more tiresome to do so. I have even at times bought a used guitar where I was, played it while I was there, and then donated it when I left. But I just kept missing bringing MY guitar. Something I could get used to. There really are not many options when you consider a travel guitar. I have gone the acoustic route with travel guitars, only to feel like I am playing a weird instrument that sounds between a ukulele and a banjo, to the travel electric route which looks like playing a guitar neck with a pickup attached. I wanted a “real” guitar with a real body and a real neck with normal tuners that did not require major retraining for string changes.
Then I saw the Voyage Air guitars while running a web search for full-size solid body electric travel guitars. I never heard of the company before, never saw one, and never heard what one sounded like. The fact that they had a solid-body full-size electric guitar with a folding neck was enough to pick one up. I bought the Belair. What was interesting to me was that I bought it from Guitar Center that was a dealer, but had never seen one either. When it came in, I unboxed it at the store for everyone to see and play. Everyone was impressed, myself included, but of course, like all guitar players, I had to make it ‘mine’.
I almost sent it back, with an emphasis on almost, thinking that it was defective. I was an early purchaser, and by mistake it did not come with a manual, so I thought since it had four control knobs in a Les Paul fashion, that they were laid out that way. It was pretty funny after I figured it out, but it compelled me to write a review of the guitar and submit it to Voyage Air. What wound up being a simple email, turned out to being a six-page document with critiques and complements of my guitar. What I also included were the things that I wanted to do to the guitar. I got such a fantastic response back from the company (a phone call a couple of days later encouraging me to make the mods), I knew this guitar was not going away.
Everything you get with the Belair is great when you purchase it. The fit and finish are perfect, the hardware is quality, and the pickups sound really nice. With all P-90’s you are going to get hum when using them by themselves. Those controls drove me nuts after playing LP’s for such a long time. I re-configured the controls, and put push-pulls pots in the volume knob positions. I changed out the knobs themselves for amber top-hat style knobs.
Because of the size of the P-90’s my pickup choices were limited. Also, I did not want to cut/route out the body. After some searching, I found that TV Jones, made a version of his custom Filtertron pickup in a soapbar P-90 configuration, so I ordered one and installed it. When you order from them, they actually wind the pickup at that time, so it takes a couple of weeks for it to arrive. It is coil-tapped and connected to the push-pull on the bridge pickup configuration.
For the neck pickup, I chose a GFS vintage Filtertron style pickup with a P-90 ring around it. This too is coil-tapped. What these pickups give me is a much hotter and brighter sound, no hum when I want it, and single coil sound when I need it.
The last thing I did was to put locking tuners on the headstock. They work great, and keep the strings where they need to be, and changes are easier.
So what’s next, you might ask? On the guitar, I am going to replace the bridge with a piezo one so I can also get acoustic sounds, and install a 2.5 watt headphone amp that can turned on and off with a push-pull on a tone knob.
Next, I am going to do something about the case. While the case is probably the best travel case I have ever seen for a guitar, I need one smaller that fits in a commuter plane overhead compartment. The compartments are much smaller than the bigger planes. Even though this case is small, I still have to valet check it at the gate, so I have to take my laptop out, etc. As a stopgap, what I have found, is that the Belair actually fits in a normal backpack with the headstock poking out. I have been putting a golf club driver sock over it to protect it, but I want something that looks a bit better. As a bonus, I can stow it under the seat! How many guitars can do that? Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you posted!
A few months ago, Chris Cyr explained how he had modified his Voyage-Air Bel-Air guitar to suit his specific preferences and needs. His guitar is a work in progress, as he continues to modify various features of an already great guitar. Here’s an update:
Just wanted to touch base, and let you know how the Bel-Air is doing.
As you know, I am not finished with the guitar. I now am in the process of adding Graph Tech Ghost Peizo Saddles and an Acoustiphonic pre-amp. These should add an ‘acoustic’ tone to the guitar’s output, separate from the electric-guitar pickups. I am taking pictures every step of the way.
The picture here shows the parts I’m about to install. Most of this will be internal to the BelAir – to maintain the guitar’s stock appearance.
But right now, even without these upcoming mods, I am getting 8 distinct tones from the BelAir - without having to make any adjustments to my amplifier. Amazing.
Also, I have a couple of interesting ideas that I have come up with and wanted to discuss with you. We’ll be in touch!