Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Travel Guitars

This Little Martin LX1E is the perfect travel size!
One of the things we always like to take to our vacation cabin and on the road is a good travel-sized guitar.  These are 3/4 scaled guitars so they are a quarter smaller than a full-sized acoustic.
I have played a Baby Taylor which is a very lovely guitar but did not have the option of a built in pick-up.  I also found the headstock to be a bit heavy, so it made playing the Baby Taylor a bit unbalanced for sitting down playing.

The Baby Taylor is a 3/4 scale travel guitar
Pack Your Guitar
Still, what makes either of these guitars so versatile is that they travel well.  Catching a flight?  Both guitars will easily fit in the over-head bin so you don't have to worry about checking it.  The same thing on a train or bus.  We've even broken out the Little Martin and started playing on the train.  The other passengers loved it! It comes with its own little gig bag so traveling with this guitar is pretty simple.

Travel-Worthy Construction
The construction materials also make these travel guitars hold up where other acoustics would die.  We took the Little Martin to an outdoor music festival (RevGen) one Labor Day Weekend and left in in a burning hot car for about 3 hours.  When I retrieved it, the guitar was fine...in tune even!  Don't try that with a regular sized guitar.  Part of the reason for the Little Martin's travel-worthy ruggedness is that the soundboard or guitar top is Sitka Spruce but the sides and back are of compressed wood. This is also known as HPL or high pressure laminate.  This material is not going to react as violently to changes in temperature and humidity but some purists prefer the sound of an all wood guitar.

The Baby Taylor has a Sapele arched back and sides plus a Sitka spruce top.  Sapele is an exotic wood which is sometimes called African mahogany and has the same reddish-brown color. So the Baby Taylor is in fact a solid wood guitar. You'll have to decide what is more important, sound quality or road durability.  Both guitars are played and taken all over the world so it is not as if you have to give up one for the other.

The Little Martin at our outback cabin.  The cool gig bag is included with the guitar.

Martin Backpacker Guitar

This is another alternative to hauling a full sized guitar on tour.  The Martin Backpacker has been a major hit among our armed force members.  Why?  Well for one thing they are very easy to ship and nearly indestructible once they get there.
These little travel guitars weigh only 2 1/2 lbs and offer a pretty loud projection for its size. Don't expect it to have the sound of the Little Martin or Baby Taylor.  It is more uke-like as far as tone goes but the fret board is more familiar to full sized guitar players.  The only thing I found when playing the Backpacker is that the headstock is quite heavy.  Sitting down with one in your lap is going to be tricky so I'd recommend using a guitar strap.  

The McNally Strumstick

The McNally Strumstick isn't really a guitar but I'm including it among possible substitutes for travel guitars.  This is their Grand Model and is tuned to the key of D.  The sound is higher than a guitar but really pleasant and with only 3 strings, well, no wrong notes!  That's because it is based on a diatonic scale.

It resembles a stick dulcimer but is really it's own thing.  I believe the German people have a similar instrument called the "sheitholt" which is played like a dulcimer. 

The Strumstick also comes with its own carry bag and you can order a little soundboard pickup for amplification if you wish.  I have played this instrument at folk festivals and visiting hospitals and nursing homes.  It really has a delightful sound that is perfect for traditional old English and Celtic music.  The company offers a lot of customer support with videos and music book instruction.

This instrument is much smaller than even the Baby Taylor and Little Martin so if size is an issue you might try this! 

The McNally Strumstick being played at the New Jersey Folk Festival