Principles Behind Travel Guitars (Pt1): Reduce it All!

A few years back I was looking for a travel guitar. Now that I don’t move that much, I am still interested in the concept. First because most of the travel guitars I know are cute, and second because there are some technological challenges and strategic choices to make in manufacturing a travel guitar. All these choices have one goal: how to make a usable but small body-size guitar? Dilemma!!

As a matter of fact, the choices are quite restricted:

  • Reduce the whole guitar.
  • Reduce a part of the guitar.
  • Create a foldable/retractable guitar.

Short Scaled Travel Guitar.

Basically, the easiest way to build a small sized guitar is to apply a simple geometrical transformation. You then keep all the proportions and ratios of a regular sized guitar but you reduce the scale length i.e. the distance between the nut and the bridge is reduced.

This means that the distance between the frets is smaller so the player will have to adapt make fingers fit on the fretboard. This can be rather uncomfortable for those who has big fingers though you can totally manage to do it with a little training. The other tricky point is that the body size is smaller so you will also have to find the best way to hold the guitar if you are used to bigger guitars and mainly if you play in a sitting position.

Recently (it’s all relative), several manufacturers created small-sized guitars (¾, half-size) either acoustic or electric and clearly targeting travelers and children. I didn’t have the opportunity to put my hand on a lot of these travel guitars because they are quite hard to find in Paris. The ones I tried were very exciting guitars with there very own tone and characteristics.

Acoustic Short Scaled Travel Guitars

The Baby Taylor for example is one of the most amazing as you wouldn’t expect it to sound loud, yet it does. Entry models from Cort (Earth Mini) or Tanglewood (Baby Evolution) were not bad too. I think you can only compare what is comparable, but for half the price you’ll get an interesting guitar. Their tone was not far from the Baby Taylor, yet I had more troubles to adapt to the Tanglewood model. The space between the frets and between the strings was really to tiny for my fingers.

babytaylor

Electric Short Scaled Travel Guitars

The point of electric short scaled travel guitars is harder to get, as the portable characteristic is unbalanced by the fact that you still need an amplifier to get the full potential out of these. But nowadays there are many small sized amplifiers that you can use in addition to such guitars. Most of these short scaled travel guitars are copies of famous models. Most of the time they look toyish and are mainly designed for kids. I owned a Pee Wee Les Paul from Epiphone. I used it either as a standard guitar or to play lap style. Once I understood that it had to be tuned in A to ensure strings stability, it was quite fun to play.

Electric short scaled travel guitars became quite interesting for the traveler when manufactures started to implement built-in amplifiers. Now we are talking about something that can be used to play electric guitar anywhere at anytime. The most famous of these self-amplified guitars are made by Pignose. Basically, they implemented their famous Pignose F-100 amplifier on a short scaled cute guitar, the Pignose PGG. One pickup and one volume knob (that controls the volume and consequently the rate of distortion) and let’s roll!! I want one… I’ll have one for sure!! The Aria company also built a very similar model that should be fun as well (I’ve read that Pignose PGG were produce in Aria Factory but I couldn’t verify the information)!

pignose_pgg100_02

The Fernandes Nomad guitar is another very interesting model I’ve tried once. I loved the shape of this guitar but also the fact that Fernandes made several models implemented with the built-in amplifier only or with an additional multi-effect unit or a sustainer.

fernandesnomad

Autonomy is the main weakness of this built-in amplifiers guitars. Never had a Pignose and couldn’t find the information, but if I rely on the autonomy of the F-100 amplifier I used to have, this shouldn’t be an issue. This seems to be another story with the Nomad guitar, and particularly the Deluxe model (with the built-in effects unit) on which batteries seem to be sucked from their energy quite fast.

Upcoming:

  • Full Scaled Travel Guitars
  • Foldable/Retractable Travel Guitars.
  • Individual overview of the travel guitars and basses available.

About Sem

I am the founder of Muzicosphere (that also exists in a French version). In 2011, I also created Guitar Fail, the Guitar LOL place to be. And before that I created GAS a GoGo, a gear giveaways blog in French.

4 comments

  1. Niveau accoustique, il y a aussi le guitalélé de yamaha, un bon compromis entre guitare classique et ukulélé (d’où son nom 🙂 )

  2. C’est marrant tiens, je parlais justement d’un concept hier soir sur GW. Perso, en attendant d’essayer une bonne guitare de voyage, j’ai opté pour un ukulélé. C’est petit, pas cher, le son est craquant, et même si c’est pas une guitare, ça permet de gratter n’importe où. 🙂

  3. @ Flameboy: Yeah j’ai aperçu… En fait j’ai ressorti ce billet que j’ai écrit il y a plusieurs semaines parce qu’hier sur Twitter il y avait l’ami Pierre Journel qui demandait une idée de prix pour revendre sa DNG Traveler! M’a rappelé que j’avais ce billet et j’ai beaucoup ri en voyant qu’à quelques heures d’intervalle on publiait tous les 2 un billet guitare de voyage. Concernant le Uke j’en ai un aussi (qui tient très mal l’accord malheureusement) c’est vrai que c’est sympa mais très différent de la guitare quand même…

    @ jibhaine: Yeah le guitalélé aura sa place dans la suite des billets dédiés au travel guitars… 🙂

  4. I travelled the world with my Martin Backpacker travel guitar and just like yourself have stopped travelling as much.. but still love playing the guitar. Great to play when just hanging round the house!

    The fret size is as per a regular guitar so theres is no difficulty switching between it and regular guitars… the only tricky bit with ‘cropped’ guitars is working out a way of holding them. The Martin is narrow so doesn’t sit on the lap correctly. Using a guitar strap to prop up the guitar does help a bit though.

    Still, a lot of fun to play when travelling and improving guitar techniques. I used the teach yourself guitar with Jamorama series while travelling to improve C&W picking styles using the Martin.

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