If you’re a guitar player and you also like to bounce around town, the country, or the world, you likely encounter a problem–most guitars aren’t easy to take around with you. Sure, it’s not a tuba, but with a few feet in length and a semi-blocky, obtuse build, an acoustic guitar is not a particularly travel friendly item. So, as with any innovative and progressive industries, the leading makers of acoustic guitars sought a way to solve this problem. And thus the travel guitar was born.
With the many varieties of travel guitars, big names like Martin and Taylor—along with some others, have found a way to shrink the overall volume of the instrument and make it travel friendly, while still being wonderfully playable.
Some travel guitars look like a normal acoustic guitar, just shrunken down a bit. Others have a whole different style. These guitars are durable, compact, and will afford you the sound and feel you’ve been missing when you’re on the road. To figure out what works best for you, read on.
Popular Travel Guitars
The GS Mini is a guitar with a persona all its own, standing out even amongst all Taylor’s very impressive models. Taylor had the insight to use their inimitable skills to shrink their ever-popular Grand Symphony model, creating a premier travel guitar. While it may be on the high-end of travel guitars, it’s quite affordable for a Taylor.
The playability of the GS Mini is off the charts. All GS Mini models boast a 23.5″ scale length sapele neck with a 20-fret ebony fingerboard, for lovely sound and smooth feel. The standard GS Mini has a layered sapele back and sides, a Sitka spruce soundboard, and X-bracing with Taylor’s tone-enhancing relief rout. The GS Mini is also available in a koa model, with Taylor ES-B electronics, and a walnut model, with Sitka spruce top and electronics.
The Little Martin (LX) line is comprised of small-scale, highly affordable Martin acoustics, perfect for taking with you wherever you may roam. With a 23-inch scale length, the LX Series makes the best use of affordable materials to accommodate players of all levels who want truly excellent sound in a compact design. Within the Little Martin series, there are slight variations between wood types used, as well as whether or not each guitar has electronics, so you will find some variance in price within this line. Some LX guitars are also available in left-handed versions.
A bit more affordable and way more compact, the Martin Backpacker defines the term “travel guitar” for many. Yes, it looks weird, but Martin made it that shape so it could fit anywhere. You still get acoustic tone, but you can put the Backpacker in an overhead compartment, under a chair, or sling it over your shoulder as you hike up a mountain.
The Backpacker features a Sitka spruce top, 24″ scale length, and 15-fret, ecologically friendly Richlite fingerboard. It comes with a soft gig bag to make carrying it around really easy. It’s nimble, it’s fun, and it’s an instrument you’ll be glad you have with you on your trip. It’s also available in a left-handed model.
Looking for a quality, inspiring travel guitar? Michael Kelly’s got the axe for you. Making use of their port technology, which features an offset soundhole and unique side port, the Forte Koa has a reduced 24.75″ scale length (from 25.5″) which still gives you the sound and feel of a full-size guitar. Not to mention, the body is all-koa, which makes for a beautiful aesthetic and rich tone.
Very affordable and incredibly fun, the P304 is a great buy for anyone. It features a smaller body and 23.5″ scale length, making it ideal for guitarists on-the-go. The all-mahogany construction lends to the guitar’s warm acoustic voice and the rosewood fingerboard brings home that classic feel and sound.
At a slightly higher, but still quite affordable price-point, this Carlo Robelli offers a great travel option for those who want a classy guitar with them at all times. The compact body of the P505 is crafted using a solid Sitka spruce top, along with beautiful walnut back and sides, to offer great sound and surprising projection. The nato neck also features a player-friendly, smaller 23.5″ scale length, which makes the P505 exceptionally comfortable to play.
As you might guess, Traveler Guitar is focused on this niche market exclusively—and their dedication to it makes for some very innovative designs. The body style of some of these guitars is about as unique as you’ll find anywhere. A majority of Traveler Guitars are without a headstock and feature tuning machines within the body. Despite just being super cool, this adds to their very compact nature. Traveler Guitar even makes an electric bass, and a Travelcaster guitar, the latter of which will probably look oddly familiar to you.
Wherever You Go, I’ll Follow You There
Whatever type of traveler you are, one of these excellent travel guitars is sure to fit your style so you’ll never have to be without your instrument. If you’re obsessed with playing as much as the Sam Ash crew, that’s a real great thing.