How to choose a travel or mini guitar that’s road-ready and suits your music and budget.
What‘s a musician to do? You need a guitar for your upcoming road trip but you don’t want to take one of your prized electrics or acoustics and risk damaging it. So you’ve decided it’s time for a new guitar you’re willing to risk on the road. Well, hold on just a heartbeat, slick. There are a few things you should consider before you drop your hard-earned cash on that new travel guitar.
Why get a travel guitar?
Aside from scuffs and scratches, life on the road can be hard on a guitar—especially if you’re covering a lot of geography. Constant changes in humidity are tough on your guitar’s finish, tonewoods and electronics. So what can you do? Get a travel guitar!
With a travel guitar:
- You can be a little more carefree, as you won’t have to worry about damaging your primary/favorite guitar.
- You’ll free up space in your car or tour bus with a travel-sized instrument.
- You can choose from acoustic, electric, or acoustic-electric travel guitars when it come to finding the ideal instrument.
So leave that fancy expensive and much-loved axe at home, and dive into the big, big world of small guitars!
Electric guitars for travel
With an electric travel guitar, you may also want to consider a travel-worthy amp. Our review of 9 Lunchbox Amps is a good place to get started. Knowing you may not want to drag an amp along, some models include a special practice-friendly headphone output so you can jam out (albeit silently).
The Squier Mini Strat delivers a lot of sound and great feel for a minimal price. It makes a great kids’ starter guitar too.
If you’re looking for something a little less traditional looking, you can grab one of Traveler Guitars’ uniquely shaped models, like the Speedster or the Ultra-Light. There’s also Hofner Shorty Electric, that give you all the functionality of a normal sized electric in a scaled-down package.
Its sleek headstock-less design, detachable armrest and convincing sound make the Traveler Speedster a great choice for electric players on the move.
Back at home, your travel electric guitar can add another unique voice to your jams and recording sessions. Plugged into your go-to vintage amp or a digital-everything modeling unit, you may be surprised by just how versatile these little guys can be!
Hofner also makes a Shorty Bass, similar to their Shorty Guitar, for all of you nomadic thunder monkeys.
Learn the critical details to look for with our Electric Guitar Buying Guide.
Acoustic guitars for the road
Travel acoustics are essentially downsized guitars designed specifically for the purpose. Now, you could just run out and buy the first downsized acoustic guitar you see, but you might wind up with something more akin to a ukelele than a guitar.
If you’re often on the road, and you don’t have the space to lug around a full-size acoustic, then you can always pick up a travel sized acoustic. Now, it might require a little effort to find something that fits your sound and lifestyle due to the size of these guitars, but there are travel guitars, like the Washburn Rover Travel Guitar and the Martin Steel String Backpacker, that despite their size, project a lot of sound.
The super-compact Martin Steel String Backpacker brings surprisingly powerful acoustic sound anyplace thanks to its solid spruce top.
Travel-sized guitars are perfect for people who want to take their sound on the road without using up a lot of storage space or running into airline check-in hassles. But the smaller body and neck plus somewhat lower volume of mini guitars may be a turnoff. You want a regular guitar, but … smaller. Well, there are some acoustics a bit smaller than a regular guitar, that retain the shape and replicate most of the feel of their bigger cousins. Guitars like the Luna Muse Safari Series, or the Ibanez PF2MHOPN, are ¾-scale instruments that produce decent tone and a similar feel to playing a conventional acoustic. These guitars are also good for beginners and children, as their short-scale necks require less finger-stretching dexterity to master. They’re also both great-looking little instruments with friendly price tags.
If you need the adaptability of an electric but don’t want to miss out on the sound of an acoustic, then you should probably consider getting a mini acoustic-electric guitar. Some good ones to consider include the Martin LX1E Little Martin, the Yamaha APXT2 or the Traveler Escape.
Like full-sized acoustic-electric guitars, these smaller, travel-friendly versions have built in preamps and output jacks so when you want to play in amplified settings, you’re good to go. Aside from tone controls and anti-feedback circuits, these preamps often include a tuner—convenient when you’re on the go.
The Luna Muse Safari Mahogany ¾ Dreadnought gets high marks for its meaty tone and excellent low-end response.
This ¾ dreadnought from Luna generates a lot of well-balanced sound and makes a great starter guitar for kids.
Learn more about what to look for with our comprehensive Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide.
Keeping Your Guitar Protected
If we haven’t managed to talk you out of taking your Precious on the road, we understand. There’s really no substitute for a prized guitar, and if it has to go with you, so be it. But if that’s the situation, by all means make sure it’s super well protected with a case that can hold up to the worst that roadies and baggage handlers can dish out. The key is to find a case that fits your axe exactly or can be modified to do so. Some case manufacturers offer moldable interiors that you shape to exactly match your guitars curves and contours.
Don’t forget that hard case! The Gator GWE Acou-¾ Hardshell Case offers affordable, durable protection.
At Musician’s Friend you’ll find a huge selection of acoustic and electric guitar cases from all the major guitar brands like Fender and Gibson as well as specialty manufacturers like SKB and Gator Cases.
This Fender Pro Series Strat/Tele Case is one tough mother, and is guaranteed to keep your Precious safe.
Keep in mind that if you plan to fly with your guitar, it should meet FAA specs and have locks accepted by the TSA.
The Gibson SG Hardshell Case has a plush interior that’s custom designed to hold your SG securely in place.
Finding the right case or gig bag can sometimes be tricky. To help you find a model-specific solution, check out our Case Finder tool.
Stuck at a fork in the road?
Still don’t know which travel guitar to choose? Or maybe you can’t find the right case to protect your Precious on the road. Call one of our Musician’s Friends Gear Heads at 877-880-5907. They’ll help steer you in the right direction on your musical journey.