Cosmo is an advanced guitar from Verso Musical Instruments
Cosmo is an avant-garde version of the electric guitar by Verso
Verso Musical Instruments reinvents the electric guitar, with Cosmo, a totally simplified minimalist design, handcrafted with a curved steel body
The electric guitar is experiencing one of its periodic rebirths. While the instrument is regularly seen as an old and embarrassing technology, beloved by baby boomers and unrelated to modern mores, interest is still generated by covers and returns, as well as a constant stream of innovators. able to do new things with six strings and a piece of wood. What rarely changes is the form factor of the guitar; musical innovation does not necessarily need technological change.
This is where Verso Musical Instruments comes in. Founded by industrial designer Robin Stummvoll and based in Hessen, Germany, Verso Musical Instruments makes different electric guitars.
Cosmo by Verso Musical Instruments
As Stummvoll himself explains, “The decision to design an electric guitar started with weariness with the instrument. No other instrument is so closely linked to the development of pop culture and therefore to personalities. As a result, there are high expectations from and from the musician.
“It’s a fetishism, with the guitar as a scepter in the hands of icons.”
Taking responsibility for reducing the design of an electric guitar to a minimum, Stummvoll developed the Cosmo. He acknowledges that his metallic-bodied designs might not have the same cultural impact as the familiar pieces of wood that have been a focal point of global popular culture since the 1950s.
“I wondered if the electric guitar would reach this point of becoming something universal through maximum simplification,” he says. “I don’t claim to have succeeded, but that was my intention for the project.
The Cosmo mixes art with industrialization, carrying its know-how with lightness while being a strictly non-deterministic form. “A traditional guitar is a fashion accessory that gives us a distinct identity,” he says. “What really bothers me is that these fads create high expectations and social issues like sexism. You play on a Gibson SG, you rock; you play on a Fender Tele, you play blues; you have a red Fender Strat, you like Knopfler. ‘
The Cosmo is a reaction against the idea of buying a copy of a guitar played by your idols. Although Stummvoll is quick to point out that he “loves the design work of Leo Fender and the music of Hendrix,” he believes this strange symbiosis between object and art is both unique to guitar and culturally rather stifling.
Form is totally dictated by function. “The simplest electric guitar basically only requires a rod over which the strings are stretched,” says Stummvoll. “I was very inspired by the guitars of Allan Gittler (part of the MoMA design collection), the German luthier Ulrich Teuffel and the one-string Solitaire model by Nobuaki Hayashi. “
The Cosmo’s neck is connected to a bent sheet steel body, a practical consideration that makes the guitar ergonomically playable, but also houses the electricity. “Steel can be produced quickly and inexpensively and makes certain components and work steps obsolete,” notes Stummvoll, noting that he also owes a debt to Dieter Rams. “I like his job. With Cosmo, I didn’t just focus on simplicity, but also on the balance between matter and form. I was very attached to the instrument being honest and understandable, and at the same time friendly and feminine, especially with such a cold and technical materiality. ‘
There are other subtle innovations. Because guitar pickups are magnetic, they naturally attach to the surface of the body. “It was almost an accidental discovery that I turned into a unique selling proposition,” Stummvoll says. Because the pickup can be moved under the strings, the tonal characteristics of the guitar can be finely tuned. “Combine that with the steel plate and the instrument has a unique timbre with a lot of bodily resonance,” he says.
“However, that also results in extreme sensitivity, which is not only beneficial in the distortion range. To a certain extent this sounds very powerful and rich in harmonics, but at some point in the high gain range it becomes exhausting. You can hear it all with great gain – every shirt button hitting the body. ‘
The Cosmo Plus model adds another mic for even more experimentation, as well as two separate outputs so you can mix and match different effect chains. There’s also the new short-scale Gravis bass from Verso Musical Instruments, with a similar aesthetic and acoustic approach.
Stummvoll took three years to develop the Cosmo, reducing shapes and materials so that virtually anything could be made in his own workshop, including the body, neck, bridge, and pickups. Each guitar is carefully handcrafted, from the bending of the powder coated metal, to the finish of the neck and surface, to the construction of the circuits and winding of the pickups. Although Stummvoll studied industrial design, his skills as a luthier are entirely self-taught.
“Any acoustic instrument is a blank slate,” he says. “It has limits in the design, in the choice of materials, which makes it something universal. In our common imagination, a piano is black furniture – an archetype with no expectation of what will be played on it or by whom. By being so far removed from conventions, Cosmo opens up a universe of possibilities. §