If you are looking to do a little traveling, having a guitar can make the whole experience that much better. At least if you take something small and compatible! Anything too big and bulky will be a hassle to carry on and may likely get damaged. In this article we will look at some of the best current travel guitars and how to get the most out of them.
What is a Travel Guitar?
There is no exact description of what makes a great travel guitar, some look like regular guitars, while others are slimmed down to a nearly unrecognizable form. A few can even be folded where the neck and body meet to save space! The main goal of travel guitars is to keep the instrument as portable as possible without losing intonation and sound projection.
Intonation is where all the strings sound exactly as they should up the neck when tuned. If the intonation is off, the chords will not sound right, and this problem is common in mass produced cheap guitars. The same rule that applies to regular guitars also applies to the travel variety; do not be cheap! If you do not buy a playable guitar, it will just be another clunky object to drag along!
What are the Best Guitars for Travel?
Of course the best is subjective to your needs and budget. You may want a slightly smaller regular guitar wood body, or a more compact instrument made of modern composite materials. In some cases you may even want a 4-string tenor guitar or a baritone ukulele, they are small and play like regular guitars. Your budget, travel destination, and musical goals will all factor into what the best travel guitar is.
This acoustic has a solid spruce top and solid mahogany sides. It is larger in size compared to a parlor guitar so it may be a little big for some travel purposes.
An acoustic solid spruce top which is simply a “baby” version of the popular Taylor brand. It may still be a little large for some travel situations. And you will most certainly want a hard case for any expensive guitars.
Taylor GS Mini-e
Unlike the other travel guitars this top is made of solid koa wood which is common in ukuleles. If you want a different tone than spruce this is worth looking into. It also has a pickup so it can be plugged in if you happen to have an amp.
This is the type of guitar people think of when they mention traveling brands. It barely looks like a guitar, but with its solid spruce top and mahogany sides it has an incredible tone and a great price. If you can get past the weird look, it is easy to take just about anywhere.
Little Martin LXE1
This is a similar size to the Yamaha and baby Taylor. The one downside is that the neck is composite, and the top is laminate. This helps lower the cost, but it will not have as nice a tone.
Steinberger Spirit GT Pro Deluxe
Not all travel guitars are acoustic, there are a few electric brands to choose from. But keep in mind you will need a mini amp and cord, or at least a smart device and interface to plug the electric into an analog or digital amp. The more expensive electric travel guitars may have an amp built in.
Voyage Air VAOM-02G2
This is one of the innovative travel guitars that folds at the neck. It may seem awkward for first time players, but it seems to not affect the intonation. These guitars are a little on the pricier side though.
Enya Nova Go
Enya makes a variety of instruments out of carbon fiber, like the backs of Ovation guitars. These are more resistant to water damage and are often more affordable. However some players are not fans of the tone of the modern plastic guitar.
This is not just a travel guitar, smaller bodies and scales are becoming more common for young guitarists. This Ibanez is even smaller than the mini Taylor and Yamaha and has a solid top made of Ovangkol. If you want a unique looking smaller scale guitar, this may suit your needs.
Cordoba Mini II
Cordoba is mostly known for decent ukuleles and here they offer a 1/2 size guitar. This is not just suitable for travel, but also for smaller guitar players. It is made of mahogany so it will be more affordable, but not have as nice a tone.
Luna Safari Series
And Luna is another ukulele maker that has moved into mini guitar manufacturing. The Safari is a 3/4 size guitar and has laminate spruce and mahogany. It will not have the greatest tone but is much more affordable.
Traveler Guitar LTD EC-1
Normally with an electric travel guitar you also must worry about other gear. This model has a built-in headphone amp with boost, overdrive, and distortion. It even has a full scale despite its compact size, so there is no compromise when moving to a regular size guitar.
Gretsch Jim Dandy
This is a parlor guitar sold to those who like a Mississippi blues style twang. But like many smaller parlor guitars it is perfect for travel. These are rather inexpensive so do not expect solid wood, but they are perfect for camping or anywhere that you don’t want an expensive instrument to be ruined.
Keeping Your Travel Guitar in Playable Condition
Travel guitars have a lot more chances to become dirty and damaged! Especially if you are taking them camping or to music festivals. The strings and fretboard will also likely fill up with grime faster as staying clean on the road is not easy! In your guitar case it would be wise to keep a cleaning cloth and guitar cleaner for degreasing and smudge removal.
You will also have to pay attention to where it is placed, as there will be many chances for it to be crushed, sat on, or bumped into. Foreign trains and buses can get packed so make sure the guitar isn’t damaged in the vast crowds. And of course every traveler must be aware of potential crime, so don’t keep it in a flashy case or ever leave it unattended.
And don’t forget strings and basic tools! A couple extra sets of strings, a pair of pliers, and wire cutters will be a lifesaver when a string breaks! The travel guitar, hard case, strings, and basic tools are more important than learning material. These days with all the access to smartphones and the Internet, it should be easy to find lessons and chord encyclopedias online.
Scales, Practice Exercises, and Songs to Play on the Road
When you are traveling you want to carry as little as possible. If you will not have any digital access, a Circle of Fifths chart and simple guitar scales and guitar chord chart are all that’s necessary. In fact just the Circle of Fifths and Nashville Numbering system will do fine. The less info you have, the more you will save in carrying, and the more your ears will be forced into deeper training.
And usually when you travel your companions or audience will be looking to hear songs. The best thing to do is learn the major chord progressions and a handful of tunes that go to them.
- Traffic – “Feelin Alright”
- Sly and the Family Stone – “Everyday People”
- Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A”
- Wilson Pickett – “Midnight Hour”
- Great White – “Once Bitten Twice Shy”
- “Big Rock Candy Mountain”
- Elvis Presley – “Teddy Bear”
- CCR – “Down on the Corner”
- John Lennon – “Imagine”
- Miley Cyrus – “7 Things”
- Train – “Hey Soul Sister”
- The Beatles – “Let It Be”
- Bob Marley – “No Woman No Cry”
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge”
- Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin’”
- Boris Pickett – “Monster Mash”
- Sam Cooke – “Wonderful World”
- Justin Bieber – “Baby”
- The Penguins – “Earth Angel”
- ELO – “Telephone Line”
- Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London”
- Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”
- Devo – “Whip It”
- Led Zeppelin – “Good Times Bad Times”
- Fleetwood Mac – “Don’t Stop”
There are about 10-20 chord progressions that popular songs use over and over. And over!! Learn the most popular progressions in a few different keys, and you will seem like the best guitar player ever, even if you’re only taking beginner guitar lessons. Some songs use the same progression the whole time, while others switch up the verse, chorus, and bridge. The closer you pay attention to chord progressions, the faster you will see how so many songs are similar.
Traveling with a guitar isn’t just fun, it will help you become a better player! Because you will be carrying less, you will be forced to rely on your ears more. And getting to jam with complete strangers will introduce you to new songs and styles. Just make sure your travel guitar is moderately priced, has a quality build, and will be portable enough for your specific traveling needs!
By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer
About the Author
Shawn Leonhardt is a writer for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer. He has produced songs, written T-shirt slogans, and provided voiceovers. He specializes in teaching songwriting, lyrics, and music theory.