If you’re a guitar player you know how much of a hassle it can be to take your guitar anywhere. Aside from the fact that airlines have a well documented history of being jerks to musicians the world over, guitars are really just kind of awkward to travel with. It’s even worse if you’re primarily an acoustic musician.
Thankfully, crafty entrepreneurs have developed a solution to this problem. That’s right folks; if the heading didn’t already clue you in today we’re going to be talking about how to select the best travel guitar for your needs. So if you’ve ever wanted a travel guitar but have been unsure what to buy you’ve come to the right place!
- What is a Travel Guitar?
- What Should I Look For in a Travel Guitar?
- The Five Best Travel Guitars
What is a Travel Guitar?
Simply put, a travel guitar is a guitar that’s small enough to be easily transported. Generally for acoustics a travel guitar is smaller than a parlor guitar but still features a full scale neck. For electrics a travel guitar is still generally full scale (a neck as long as a standard guitar) but features tuning pegs below the bridge or in the body.
However, that’s not to say that shorter scale guitars (whether acoustic or electric) are uncommon. Generally smaller scale travel guitars are less desirable because they’re dissimilar from the musician’s main instrument. Technique is honed with repetition, so practicing on an instrument that’s different from what you’ll be playing (whether live or just for fun) will be less effective.
What Should I Look For in a Travel Guitar?
Above all, I would focus on portability when looking for a travel guitar. When it comes to acoustic travel guitars you’re never going to get the same tone as you will from your full-sized dreadnaught. Acoustic instruments have the dimensions they do for a reason, and if you change them there’s going to be a drastic effect on the sound. Jumbo style guitars have a lot of bass because of their size. Likewise, a travel guitar will generally sound thinner and quieter than their full sized counterparts because it’s built with portability in mind as opposed to just tone.
Electric travel guitars can sound fine, they just generally don’t. The reason for this is that if a company puts in high quality materials it leads to an expensive guitar, and travel guitars are generally priced much lower than standard instruments. Definitely make sure to consider the pickup components when selecting your travel guitar to make sure you'll be able to achieve the tone you're looking for.
The Five Best Travel Guitars
Looking for a great travel guitar but can’t figure out where to start? Check out these five great recommendations!
Martin Steel String Backpacker
Looking for a travel guitar that will replicate the feel of a traditional acoustic without breaking the bank? If so, look no further than the Martin Steel String Backpacker. The guitar features a solid spruce top, a full scale length, and solid tonewood back and sides. Personally, this is my favorite travel guitar. The Martin Backpacker is full scale and sounds like a proper instrument rather than a toy. The build quality is exactly what you'd expect from a brand like Martin, and it is priced really well given the brands' premium craftsmanship.
Cordoba Mini O Travel Guitar
The Cordoba Mini O markets itself as a travel guitar, but in truth it’s really a functional instrument in its own right. The instrument can be thought of as a mid-range ukulele with six strings rather than a guitar that sacrifices tone for function. As an added bonus, the Cordoba Mini O features a solid ovangkol (similar to rosewood) top and a mahogany neck.
Don’t let its small size fool you; the Johnson JG-TR2 packs a lot of value into a tiny package. The guitar features a rosewood bridge, a full scale neck, and 22-fret rosewood fretboard. As an added bonus, the instrument comes with attractive binding around the neck and body.
Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric Guitar
The Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric guitar isn’t just a travel guitar, it truly is a functional instrument. It features a one-piece maple body, a detachable lap rest frame that mimics the feel of a full size guitar, as well as a Shadow under-saddle piezo pickup.
Voyage-Air Songwriter Series VAOM-04
The Voyage-Air Songwriter series fills a really particular niche, but it does fill it very well. The guitar is priced like a professional guitar, because it is. It folds at the neck and stashes into a backpack or hardshell case, but aside from that it’s built as well as any of its peers. This makes it a great option for touring musicians.