Do you know what company makes the world’s most convenient guitar?
According to Forbes, that honor belongs to Ciari Guitars, an up-and-coming startup seeking to disrupt the music industry.
Ciari makes a foldable guitar that fits in a backpack, but through proprietary technology and industry-leading craftsmanship, still looks and feels like something you’d want to bring on stage.
The founder of this company, and creator of the Ascender travel guitar, is Jonathan Spangler.
And after bringing Jonathan on and putting him in the hot seat (watch the video above), I am super excited to bring this opportunity to you guys.
Vision and Flagship Product
From the get-go, Jonathan wanted to make a stage-ready travel guitar, not one full of compromises.
As he put it, he wanted to establish his product as a premium guitar, something like "the Tesla of travel guitars."
The result is the “Ascender,” the company’s flagship model.
Guitar Player Magazine says, “The Ascender is the first travel guitar that can be used professionally as a backup guitar or even as a main instrument.”
Coming from a history of gimmicky and impractical travel guitars, that praise means a lot for Ciari and the future of this niche.
But just as Tesla started with the “premium” Roadster before segmenting down into mid-range models, so too is Ciari rolling out a new line of guitar at a new, more affordable, price point.
The Ascender sits around $3,000. Sounds like a good deal for the most convenient travel guitar in the world, but at that price, it is just out of reach for a large part of the market.
Ciari's upcoming mid-level model will be just half that price, $1,500. This more inclusive model has already been prototyped and is ready for a 2021 release.
Also coming down the line is a carbon fiber acoustic travel guitar, which should be available for pre-order later in the year.
Rounding out the offering is a travel bass guitar, currently in preparation for a 2023 release.
To recap, that's a premium electric, a mid-tier electric, an acoustic, and a bass guitar—all foldable and easy to transport.
That line covers a wide spectrum of musicians and has the potential to capture a huge segment of the market.
The Guitar Industry
Globally, the total addressable market for guitars is worth $2.79 billion.
There are an estimated 25 million guitarists in the U.S. and another 25 million that are interested in learning the guitar. This number is on the rise and has been for years.
Growth spiked during COVID-19. As folks sat bored at home, many of them decided to pick up the guitar. This brought thousands of new enthusiasts onto the playing field.
In other 2020 industry news—major musical retailer Guitar Center saw sales more than double.
Meanwhile, Sweetwater, the world's leading music technology and instrument retailer had a 40% increase in sales, topping $1 billion for the first time.
Ciari Guitars emerged out of this growing interest and seeks to capitalize on it with a unique offering.
The Problem With Regular Guitars
Guitars are a pain to lug around. To give you an idea, a regular guitar is about 60% of the height of an average person.
If you are a serious or passionate guitarist, you always want your axe nearby. But in practice, this is quite difficult to achieve—especially during travel.
First off, it can be frustrating if not impossible to get a guitar on a plane. Traditional guitars don't comply with carry-on standards and certainly can’t fit under a seat.
Often, musicians are forced to check their guitars.
The problem with checking a guitar—condemning it to the back of the plane with everyone’s luggage—is that guitars are easily damaged.
Musicians have heard horror stories of broken instruments and have seen the videos of heavy-handed baggage personnel.
This has led to a little joke in the industry, “check it and wreck it.”
If your instrument is valuable, essential for your work, or even just important to you, checking isn’t the way to go.
Enter Ciari Guitars.
Here’s the alternative: pack a stage-quality guitar in your backpack and throw it under your seat or in the overhead compartment.
When guitarists hear about this, their eyes light up.
Ciari technology gives them a VIP pass to bring their guitars where they have never gone before. This convenience, this access, is what has musicians lining up to get their hands on an Ascender.
Technology and Craftsmanship
Here’s how it works.
When you pull a hidden lever on the side of the Ascender, the mechanical guts get to work.
Inside, translating truss rods unlock a hinge on the twelfth fret. An actuator loosens the strings to allow the neck of the guitar to fold all the way back where it locks in place.
The result is a guitar that takes up about 50% less real estate.
It took Jonathan and his team of engineers from the medical device space two years to develop this technology. The task of getting a guitar to fit in a backpack—without sacrificing sound quality—was surprisingly tricky.
So when it comes down to playability and craftsmanship, the Ascender has no lack of great selling points.
First of all, it’s crafted in Nashville, Tennessee with the help of industry experts like Joe Glaser of Glaser Instruments.
A computer-controlled milling process, using Plek Technology, ensures proper fingerboard curvature and fret dress.
Vital components like tuners and pickups come from trusted names like Graph Tech and Seymour Duncan, respectively.
And in terms of materials, the Ascender uses traditional woods, like mahogany for the neck, ebony and pau ferro fretboards, and a variety of tonewoods in the body.
If you aren’t a guitar aficionado this might not sound like much, but these are the details that get musicians in the door and give this piece of equipment that premium sound and feel.
Jonathan says it’s this technology and craftsmanship that make the Ascender “a guitar, not a gimmick.”