The Washburn Rover travel guitar

Just what I needed: Another music toy. Well, so be it: Here’s my Washburn Rover, a travel guitar I bought so I could play guitar at night without disturbing my sleeping wife — and also to, well, travel with.

I already own a Yamaha dreadnought that I bought used about 22 years ago. For most of that time, it’s been a guitar I pulled out every few months, played a few old songs on that I could still remember the chords, and then put away. But I’ve been playing it more and more lately, and I’m finally feeling motivated to really do something with a guitar for the first time in decades. That led me to the Rover.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it is, indeed, tiny. It can’t weigh any more than a couple of pounds. The small body eliminates most of the bassiness (and volume) of a typical acoustic, making the guitar sound almost banjo-like. Every review I’ve read says that using decent strings makes a big difference on this guitar; I’ve got some extra-light Ernie Ball Earthwounds that should do the trick, once I get motivated to restring the guitar. The stock strings that come with it appear to be nothing to write home about.

The body is made out of solid spruce and mahogany, which is remarkable for such a cheap instrument (I paid $125 new, which is less than I’ve paid for some harmonicas). It has cheaper, but very functional, open-style tuners that hold the guitar in reasonably solid tune.

The best parts of the guitar are the sort-of-full-size neck (full width, but the back of the neck is thinner than most acoustics, making it much easier for me to play but possibly vexing for someone with bigger hands) and the excellent fabric-and-hard-foam case, which is much sturdier (and more travel-worthy) than the typical gig bag that most guitars come with. The finish and fretwork on the neck is excellent. The action is a notch high for my taste, but I should be able to adjust the bridge to deal with that.

The strangest thing about is is the overwhelming diesel-like chemical smell that wafts from the case. This guitar is made in China, and stories about the persistence of this nasty solvent smell are legion on the Internet. I’m hoping some Febreeze and airing out will fix it and that I won’t start growing a giant goiter out of my arm.

I bought this at a Best Buy in Largo, near FedEx field. It’s one of a number of Best Buys that now have a musical instrument store in the back; prices there were very good.

Summer’s almost here and I have three beach weekends and a camping weekend already planned. This will be fun to haul along to those events, just to noodle on. Highly recommended. Here’s a little video of the guitar in action, courtesy of YouTube:


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