In April 2016, we unveiled Magic Instruments to the world. Since launching, over 1,600 of you have supported our work with passion and excitement. We couldn't be more grateful! Since then, we have been working diligently to make our guitar every bit as excellent as you and we both expect. We have a massive update on delivery dates for both domestic and international and key features we’ve been working on.
So Where Is My Guitar? (and why it’s taking longer than expected)
When we first launched MI Guitar, we set out to make an instrument that allows anyone to play music instantly. Since then we’ve improved the product significantly to make it more than just a great music-playing experience - it’s now a bona fide proper instrument, and it’s also educational. These product improvements have taken additional time to design, engineer and test. Additionally, it has taken us longer than expected to select and reach an agreement with the right manufacturing partner. As a result, we are sorry to announce that the shipment of your guitars will not be ready until October 2017 for all our backers (both US and International). This was an incredibly difficult decision but one we felt was important because want to deliver a product that will meet your expectations, and one that you’ll be using for years to come. We would rather ship a great, high-quality manufactured product with an amazing user experience, over rushing things and shipping a lower-quality product.
UPDATE: Regarding international orders placed on Indiegogo, we stalled on collecting the remaining balance of the international backers until we broke the news on the delay. Once we're ready we will send an invoice for the remaining balance with accurate shipping rates just before we are ready to ship.
Here are some of the key features we’ve improved or developed to make your MI Guitar more enjoyable and the time it took to make these changes.
Improved Audio Speaker
The single most important (and expensive) component in the guitar is the speaker. We heard from a lot of doubters that our guitar would never sound awesome - that it would inevitably sound like a toy. This is why we decided to design, source, prototype and test our own custom speaker design - so your guitar sounds amazing.
We originally used an off-the-shelf car speaker, but through extensive performance testing we found it was 1) too bass heavy and lacked good mid-range and treble response, 2) was too power-hungry and would deplete the batteries too quickly, and 3) was thicker than we wanted, which would have made the guitar thick as well. We decided to develop and source a custom speaker that not only sounds incredible, but is also significantly more energy-efficient, enabling you to play a few hours longer on a set of batteries. This took 3 weeks of R&D, design, specification, qualifying speaker suppliers (including touring a number of speaker factories), developing prototypes, and testing them extensively with audio experts and users. Everyone who has heard the new speaker agrees that it sounds significantly better than the previous speaker.
Making The Guitar Neck Solid And Stable
After hundreds of demonstrations we realized that the neck was flexing too much. As a result, the guitar neck felt a bit flimsy, and we were also concerned with long-term product durability. We decided to improve the mechanical design and add in bracing. This took 1 week of engineering, prototyping, testing, and refining until we were happy with the result. Now the neck feels rock-solid, has greatly reduced torsional flex and is far more durable.
Neck Indicator Panel
Our original design enabled people to change keys, scales, and guitar sounds through knobs on the front of the guitar. However, there was no way for people to tell what the current key and scale setting was, unless they checked the mobile app. Through user testing, we found that this made it cumbersome for people to transpose a song from one key to another (i.e. singers who want to shift everything up or down a few steps).
Also, once we added “traditional guitar mode” we needed a way for a user to easily tell whether the guitar was in “traditional mode” or “magic mode.”
This required us to design, engineer, prototype and test a neck indicator panel, incorporating LEDs and light pipes, which required a full redesign of the neck’s circuit board and mechanical parts. This took approximately 3 weeks. Here is a video of the LEDs power cycling through the various keys, scales, and modes of the guitar with light pipes:
Improvements in Software:
Magic Mode Mobile App User Interface
Here is the original user interface, which uses an exponent numbering system to display the fret (base number) and string number (exponent number).
While many of our users had no issue with this system, a significant group of users found the use of numbers to indicate the fret and string confusing (for example, they would confuse 3^4 with 4^3, or 2^5 with 5^2).
We designed, mocked up, and tested a number of alternate ways to communicate the correct button for specific chords in a song. After 4 weeks of intensive UX and UI work, we settled on a pictographic representation of the fret buttons, where the number represents the fret and the six buttons you see below shows which string to press in a mirror image. Here is how that looks:
Traditional Guitar Mode
In our extensive user testing, we were repeatedly asked, particularly by many Indiegogo backers who tried the guitar, “can I play this like a real guitar?” When we surveyed you, our backers, over 99% of you told us that you wanted this feature. So even though we didn’t have this feature in our original product description on Indiegogo, so many people found this valuable that we decided to upgrade the product and build this in, without additional charge. Now, with the flip of a switch, the guitar can be operated and played just like a traditional guitar. See here for a video of guitarists playing in Traditional Guitar Mode:
Developing the firmware for Traditional Guitar Mode took 1.5 weeks of software engineering. However, we also had to completely redo the mechanical design and circuit board layout for the neck, as our original neck was designed for one-finger chords. We needed buttons shaped like a traditional guitar’s frets and strings, to accommodate traditional guitar fingerings. The redesign of the neck’s mechanical and electrical components took 2.5 weeks.
We haven’t built features like hammer on, pull offs, and slides, but that is on our roadmap.
Learning Mode (a mix of Magic Mode + Traditional Mode)
When we originally launched the MI Guitar, we only had Magic Mode and had no intention of teaching people how to play the traditional guitar. But as we did more and more extended testing, users kept on asking us, “this is a ton of fun, but will this teach me how to play the real guitar?” So we went back to the drawing board we came up with this:
This is an amazing new way for people to learn and practice traditional guitar chords - because you can practice learning chords while playing your favorite songs from day one, and you can learn a single chord at a time. (With other guitar learning systems, you need to learn and master all the chords of a song before you can play that song for the first time.)
Designing and developing the guitar firmware and mobile app software took 2 weeks.
All these features have made the MI Guitar not just a fun way to play your favorite songs instantly, but the improved design and functionality have enhanced the value of the product as well. The cost of additional design, engineering, prototyping and improved components is partially reflected in the current pre-order price of $399, and will be fully reflected in the retail price of $499 once we begin shipping.
In November we began our selection of CM (Contract Manufacturer) – the factory we’re going to work with to mass-produce our guitar. We conducted a rigorous RFQ (request for quotation) and RFP (request for proposal) process with qualified candidates, toured their facilities, and narrowed the field down to two finalists. It was our determination that either one of them was qualified to make our product. However, negotiating a contract has taken longer than we anticipated. We now expect to finalize the contract next month, and then will proceed with cutting tools and starting the process of turning our final design prototype into a production product.
It’s the combination of community feedback and the longer than expected process of selecting the manufacturing partner that have caused our delay in shipping the product to you. As a result, we now have a revised timeline from now through production and out to the time when we will begin shipping to you, our backers. Here is our updated timeline. We will continue doing everything we can to meet it.
We will continue to keep you updated with our progress, including when we have concluded contract negotiations and signed with the new CM, when production begins, and everything that follows.
User Testing Videos Giving People (and a dog) Musical Superpowers
To date, we’ve had over 1,000+ people try the MI Guitar from all walks of life. We’ve tested this at:
Conferences and Fairs
And those who are young at heart…
While it might take some people longer than others, when someone recognizes that they are playing the right chords to the song, something magical happens. Psychologists call it “flow." And bearing witness to that state change in just one session is nothing short of amazing. It feeds our team and keeps us motivated to deliver this amazing experience to everyone.
We’re very grateful to you for your support and continuing to stand by us. Since you backed us, we’ve focused on doing the things which will make the guitars every bit of the feel and performance you expect. It’s our heartfelt desire to make Magic Instruments the kind of company which will support you and our growing community of supporters into the future. We’ve grown our team to six people, and our investors now include a venture capital fund, angel investors, friends and family, and equity crowdfunding.
As a token of our appreciation for your patience, we’d like to offer you a guitar strap as our gift if you placed your order before January 28th, 2017 which will be included with the shipment of your guitar. Or if you pre-ordered a guitar strap during our Indiegogo campaign we will refund you $19 when we begin shipping.
Cancellation of Your Pre-Order
When your guitar is ready to be shipped to you, you’ll see the rave reviews from your fellow supporters. But if you want to cancel early, we understand and can return your pre-order and give your place in line to someone else. However, if you do change your mind, and want to reorder, once we start shipping the price of the MI Guitar will be $499 USD.
Please note, if you are an Indiegogo backer, we can only process cancellations via PayPal due to the limitations of the Indiegogo platform once a campaign ends. If you pre-ordered on our website, we can cancel your order and the funds will be transferred back by the original payment method used. Please send us a note with your order number to email@example.com to cancel.
As far as we know, no other instrument will give you the ability to play your favorite songs and sound awesome in a matter of minutes, all the while teaching you how to play and practice traditional guitar in an easier and more enjoyable way. When you get your guitar we believe that you will be pleased that we took the time to do things right, and didn’t rush development or production.
Thanks again for your continued support. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Andrew, Brian, Chris, Mark, Shiv, and Sven
The Magic Instruments Team
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