You like to play guitar. And you travel frequently. You need a travel guitar! Whether it’s on a plane, bus, train or even by car, hauling a full sized guitar around can be a bit of work. You can be forgiven for thinking we’re on a path to compromise as, technically, we are. After all, an acoustic guitar gets much of it’s sound from the size of the body. So when you shrink that, naturally, you’ll lose some volume and the tone will change.
With an electric travel guitar, however, size matters a great deal less. As long as you can house the electrics and other necessary bits (tuning machines, bridge, pickups, etc.) you’re only limited by making the unit easy to handle. (Pics and Videos below.)
Hofner Shorty Travel Guitar
Acoustic travel guitars aside, an electric travel guitar can sound every bit as good as it’s full sized counterparts. Indeed, a company called Hofner has been making it’s Shorty since the 1980’s and those who have them love then. You can still purchase them today, and I did just that. I opted to buy used so my cost was just under a hundred dollars. That included the guitar and a gig bag. Even new they’re around $150 as this is written, so they remain an entirely plausible choice. Heck, even if you aren’t after a dedicated travel guitar, the Hofner Shorty is a solid choice.
It’s only got a single humbucker-style pickup, but that doesn’t stop it from sounding epic. It’s just a great all-round choice. But it’s not the only choice.
Lap Axe Travel Guitar
Lap Axe makes a big selection of travel guitars. A look through their website shows no less than 14 options available. Most are variations on a theme, but sometimes you want a certain look. Lap Axe will probably have you covered. Unlike the Hofner, these travel guitars come with two pickups and a lot of finish options like flame maple tops. The satin black with gold is particularly striking.
Of course, options like flame maple tops and multiple pickups add to the cost. Plan for north of $500 for one of these new off the lot. But man oh man, some of these options have me seriously considering adding one to my collection. Fully a part of the attraction of a guitar is how it looks. If you don’t love the look, if you aren’t drawn to it, you’re much less likely to actually play it. And these guitars just LOOK like rock & roll!
Traveler Guitar is the brand name, and they make, you guessed it, travel guitars. Nice and clear. These guys take the travel guitar seriously. They offer over 35 choices between electrics, acoustics and bass. Prices range from just under $300 USD to about $600 USD. Pricey, but again, with these electrics offering comparable output to a full-sized guitar, the quality is there. And if you travel and need a smaller footprint guitar, there is a premium to be paid for your need.
If you want a unique, well designed travel guitar, these guys are a premium brand in the space. And they are at many of the popular, local guitar stores, too. It’s worth taking a run with one to see if you like the overall package and sound. The Speedster is a unique looking, well designed model. The Ultra Light is designed for those who want the absolute minimal package. They may be smaller than a full sized guitar, but they give up very little in performance. Traveler Guitar makes acoustics as well, if that’s your choice. Really, you lack for nothing with their choices.
For years now, Martin Guitar Co. has offered the Backpacker. It’s an acoustic option that takes up minimal space in, ah…a backpack. They sound surprisingly good given the diminished size of the body compared to a full sized guitar. That said, it’s a Martin, so expect high quality and clear tone.
There are three options in the line, a nylon string and steel string version in Sitka Spruce and a version in Sapele. These travel guitars are largely produced with sustainable materials, too. From sustainably farmed woods, to materials like Corian, Tusq and Richlite these are great options if your social conscience ways in on a purchase decision.
The bottom line is this. A travel guitar may not be a replacement for a full sized axe. But it’s close, in size and performance. If you need a smaller footprint to tote that axe cross country (or around the world), these are excellent options. And these only represent the common, most popular options. Almost every day new options can be found on Kickstarter, too.