Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hit the Road, Jack

Regular classical, left, half-size right.

One of the things I really missed when I took the big metal bird to Louisiana was my guitar. I play pretty much every day, hour to an hour and a half, and even though I didn't have that much spare time when I was there, I'd have found some to do music. I could have used it.

Last time I flew to Dallas for a con, I took my full-sized guitar, and the jet was big enough so I could get it into the overhead bin. On the most recent flight to Louisiana, I had to switch flights at DFW, and the little plane they put us on to BTR was one of those one-seat-on-the left, two-on-the-right crop-dusters, and there not only isn't enough room for a full-sized classical guitar in a case in the overhead, the flight was full enough so that normal carry-on that would fit had to be gate-checked from a lack of room. Either that, or fly holding your bag out the window ...

It's not my intent to spend any quality time on aeroplanes in the near future, but given the medical situation with my folks, another flight back down home is a matter of "when," and not "if." So I decided to look around for a little travel guitar.

I looked at Martin's Backpacker. Didn't like the way it felt, nor sounded. Even looked at a guitalele–six-strings, but a baritone uke's body, but it's tuned in A, and I didn't like that way that sounded, either. You can tune it down to E, but then you need Hawaiian slack-key chops.

So I needed a little guitar.

Before any of you offer I could have opted for the less-than-sane option of checking my classical guitar and submitting it to the baggage handlers–"Kreegah! Bundalo!" and DIAL UP TARZAN'S YELL IN THE B.G. to go with the great apes hurling luggage hither and yon–don't even go down that road. To get a case that would hold up would cost a thousand bucks. I mean, Calton's or some of the other nice spiffy new carbon fiber jobs are cool, lightweight and bulletproof, but I'm not going to be traveling that much.

I can, however, justify a half-size Yamaha classical guitar at just under a hundred and twenty bucks. Add a gig bag and tuner, and we're still talking no big deal compared to an airline-proof case.

These guitars were basically designed for children getting into playing classical, and quickly became useful for travelers.

The fretboard is tiny, and that requires some adjustment, but with the good Nylgut strings, it doesn't sound too bad. Plays better quietly, not a cannon, but I'm not looking to fill a concert hall with sound, and if it gets mauled en route somewhere, it won't be a major loss. 

So, Merry Christmas, Steve. I'll let my wife put it under the tree.


steve-vh said...

familiar with the Strumstick?

Dojo Rat said...

My Ukuleles are great for travel, but my favorite is a nice little Seagull parlor guitar I got a couple of years ago. Got a nice soft case with backpack straps and enough room for some clothing too!

Steve Perry said...

Yep, I've seen the Strumstick. If I had an extra two or three grand, I might try the Chapman Stick, which is a band-in-a-box, but I"m less interesting in learning a new instrument and more into keeping what few chops I have. (Plus the Chapman Stick would require as much case as a shipped guitar, since it's longer than a standard guitar, almost four feet or so.)

J.D. Ray said...

Did you consider stopping by a local pawn shop in BTR and picking up a guitar to leave at your parents' house? Probably would've made off with something full size and playable for $80 or so.

Steve Perry said...

Buying a guitar locally did cross my mind. I went so far as to locate the local Guitar Center, but given the nature of the visit, running around wasn't in the cards. Most of the time I was either with my father, in the rehab unit with my mother, or enroute from one to the other.

Too, I sometimes travel via plane other places, so having the new toy here is more practical. Plus a couple times, I've been stuck in an airport longer than expected, due to late or cancelled flights, and I can find a quiet spot and noodle, long as I keep the volume down -- nobody ever came by and told me to knock it off ...

Chester said...

Strumstick is ok, but more of a dulcimer than a guitar ( unless you opt for the chromatic version).
Generally, in a "best bang for your buck " sense, Seagull makes phenomenal stuff. Their Parent company Godin makes a few really neat electrified classical types that are worth checking out too.

There is a brand called Travler. One of the teachers here at the store uses one.

Might be worth a look if you haven't already settled.

Steve Perry said...

I used to have a Soloette nylon-string travel guitar. It broke down into parts I carried in an aluminum gun case. I sold it when we got our camper because there was room for a regular cased guitar.

Had a LaPatrie classical, full-sized, for a while, so I know the quality of Godin instruments.

I'm a nylon-string player all the way.

I've gone with the half-size Yamaha classical and Nylgut strings, and it sounds much better than you'd expect from a hundred-buck guitar.