A guitar for (mis)adventures

I’d like to haul along a guitar to some vacations I have coming up next year. The problem is that I love the guitars I have (a Guild dreadnought and a Takamine parlor guitar, neither of which are financially valuable, but still), and I fear introducing them to the potentially guitar-killing environment of modern air travel. The FAA lets you bring a guitar onto a plane and store it in the overhead compartment — if there’s room, and ‘room’ is at the discretion of the airline. And there’s sometimes a gate agent or flight attendant ready to rain on your parade, no matter what the feds or the airline’s own rules say. Those folks want the guitar in the belly of the plane, where guitars are turned into kindling.

That led me to look for a travel guitar — usually a scaled-down and more gate-agent-friendly version of a typical guitar. I owned one years ago — a Washburn Rover — but that didn’t sound great and had a nearly standard-length neck. I sold it off because I just didn’t enjoy it enough and it wasn’t all that convenient.

You can spend a modest chunk of money on a travel guitar — for example, a kid-size Baby Taylor starts at $400 and heads north from there — but that would defeat the purpose of having an instrument that was 1)playable 2)sounded OK-ish and 3)could be splintered into tiny bits by an airline/camping/whatever adventure without causing me to openly weep.

As always, the Internet is your problem-solving friend, and that’s how I landed on a Yamaha JR2 acoustic. It’s three-quarter size and it’s marketed as an instrument for kids, beginners and/or people with small hands, but it was clear from a little research that lots of people bought them as a beater. It runs about $180 new and it has a lot of positive reviews.

I was looking to save even more money, so I started shopping around for a used model. I came across one at a local Guitar Center through an online search, but when I got there, they did not have the bag that their listing claimed came with it — an important part of the deal for me. A few days later, I located one in a music store near Baltimore, forked over $110 and had them ship it to me for another $15. It had a few modest scratches, but wasn’t beat at all, and now it’s in the house.

It’s as easy to play as you might think, the action on it is great and the sound is a little boxy, but that’s actually kind of cool. More importantly, if it gets crushed, I won’t be.

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