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I'd like to have a small acoustic steel string guitar that's easier to take on trips than my full size dreadnaught. I don't want to pay more than $200, including gig bag. I realize it won't sound as good as full size, but I do want it to sound decent, have easy action and stay in tune pretty well. I won't be performing with it except maybe for family.

One of my grandsons has a J. Reynolds JR15S, which is a 3/4 size guitar and costs about $70. I think this is the size I'd be looking for, but the sound is not as good as I'd like for myself, although it's a pretty good starter guitar for a child.

I've heard that the Fender Squier MA-1 is good. The Yamaha JR-1 is also a candidate. Both are a little over $100. I suspect anything under $100 will not be satisfactory. I'm sure there are other choices too.

What's been your experience with travel-size guitars, and what would you advise?


Tags: 3/4 size, childrens' guitar, travel guitar, travel size

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For what it's worth, I have a Martin Backpacker that travels with me on vacations. It's size was what attracted me since much of my vacation travel involves sail boats. The sound is not bad, though it tends to be a little "ukulele-like". Mine stays in tune fairly well but the intonation in the upper end of the fretboard is off (I have not taken it in for a real set up).

I paid about $100 on eBay for mine, with the gig bag. I think they retail for around $200.

For me, sitting on the bow of a sailboat or my feet in the sand, my Backpacker more than satisfies my needs. Actually played sort of an impromptu concert in an anchorage in the Caribbean last year. The more they drank, the better I sounded! :-)
I have a Washburn Rover which is a very nice guitar sound isn't bad for its size, I took it to Florida and it fit in the overhead compartment. I use it now for some nursing home ministry. Comes with a case around $150.00
Yep well the only thing I think of the Martin travel is well, you don't want to know but I think a canoe is involved. I to have a Washburn Rover and the thing doesn't play to bad and it keeps okay tuning you will need to re-tune the next day, but at least I wouldn';t use it as a paddle ( sorry Larry no pune intended, well maybe just a little ) unfortunately I am no Martin fan thats not to say there aren't some good ones but for the money I think there should be many great ones and there isn't, mind you I can say the same thing about Taylors, and don't flame me for my opinion after all its just my opinion.Ship
Hi Walt:

Quite by chance I came into possession of a Montana travel guitar -- they are marketed by Kaman Music and are made in Romania. It blows away the backpacker (no offense to any backpacker fans...). The scale is a bit shorter than, say, a Seagull acoustic and it has a small teardrop-shaped body that appears to be made of solid woods. It comes with its own modest gigbag (which will fit into an overhead just fine). Due to the body shape it doesn't rest on your thigh very well, but if you spend a couple of dollars to get a strap button installed on the heel of the neck you have a great little guitar. I've even strung it with high tension classical strings and it played and sounded great -- I normally use a Pearse silk & bronze .011 set.

Check on Ebay or maybe a local Ovation / Takamine dealer.

I hope that helps you out. Good luck.

Matt Richards
Thanks to all of you for the input. The Washburn Rover looks especially interersting. I'll check it out.

By the way, Ship, my main guitar is a Taylor, and I like it a lot. I know there are debates and favorites (like Mac vs. PC I guess). Anyway, I certainly won't flame anybody who takes the time to give me some advice. Thanks!

Does anyone out there have an opinion about the Fender Squier MA-1 or the Yamaha JR-1?
Ship - LMAO buddy. No offense taken - that's how I describe it all the time - an oar with strings!! I figure it can do double duty if I lose the outboard on a dinghy!

use it as a paddle ( sorry Larry no pune intended, well maybe just a little )
Just to close the loop on this, after shopping, playing & researching a lot over the past few weeks, today I bought a Little Martin LX1. It came down to a choice between that and the Baby Taylor BT1 (formerly 305 I think). Unlike the formica top Martin LXM, the LX1 has a solid Sitka spruce top and it sounds a lot better. Only $20 more for the spruce. Although the BT1 also has a spruce top and sounds good (and I liked it better than the Baby Taylor BT2 mahogany option), I just liked the LX1's sound a little better than the Taylor's.

I wasn't able to stay below my $200 target unfortunately, but at least it was under $300 and it came with a nice gig bag. All the under-$200 little guitars I tried sounded like ukuleles on strings 1-3. Nothing wrong with ukuleles, but a guitar that sounds like one, to me anyway, would drive me nuts.

In addition to traveling with it, I'll be using it for writing and practice where I can put it on my desk or get it close to the PC monitor when I'm looking at teaching videos or picking out a progression I want to use in PrintMusic, without worrying about knocking it into something in the fairly confined workspace I've got here.

And I won't be using it as a canoe paddle!

Thanks again for all your earlier comments. They really helped.

I'd be interested in how you feel about the Martin after you've road-tested it. I was drawn to both it and the Baby Taylor a couple of years ago (and ended up getting neither), but I preferred the BT. I remember thinking the BT sounded better, and it seemed more playable.
John, I'll try to remember to let you know. I do think I'll like it because I actually test drove a friend's LXME (the formica top version) for two or three weeks and thought it had an acceptable sound. But the LX1 with the spruce top sounded a lot better to me.

In some ways I liked the sound of the Baby Taylor even better because it is brighter, but the more I tried it in the store, going back several times and playing the LX1 alongside it, it just seemed a little too bright on the high 1 & 2 strings. Also, the first time I went to the store I personally tuned both guitars. When I went back a week later, the Baby Taylor was more out of tune than the Little Martin. Of course, that could be due to many things, since I didn't have a surveillance camera going, but I suspect neither guitar got played much during that week and that it was a fair test.
I second the martin backpacker.....but i like all martins so I am biased.
I've had a few experiences with some travel guitars, most of the backpacker styles play o.k. but sound like a dimestore plastic guitar. This is one that I'm impresses with. Tried one out and it does sound better than a baby Taylor. Wechter.
I own a Martin backpacker steel-stringed.

It's fun, but I don´t believe it can compete with a "real" guitar.

I would settle for a 3/4

It is fun to play on at first, but soon is lacking to emphasize melodies. Indeed it sounds as a kind of ukulele.

Greetings from Denmark in Scandianavia

Jan Borgstrøm


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