Today’s New Thing

Although I’m cutting back on public travel this year, I’m still going a few places here and there and wanted to be able to take a guitar with me, but I’m hesitant to take the tenor guitar because it doesn’t have a travel case (they are strangely hard to find for tenor guitars) and it’s too large to be a carry-on for a plane. Enter the Washburn Rover (to the right, next to the concert uke, which is there for scale), which is small enough for to be a carry-on and also shipped with a study case. It would have been nice to find one natively designed as a tenor, but that really would be a specialty item. So for now I just took off the two low-end strings and tuned the remaining strings so I could play the guitar with uke chords, just as I did with my tenor.

Seems to work so far, although it will take a little getting used to. It’s not as full a sound as I get out of the tenor, but then with a tiny body like it has it would be unrealistic to expect it to. It’s definitely funky looking, however. I like it.

31 Comments on “Today’s New Thing”

  1. I see people bringing full-size guitars as carry-ons almost every time I fly. I think there’s a size exception for musical instruments.

    Having said that, though smaller is likely better, as long as it’s playable.

  2. (now waiting for someone to pop up and tell you how they’ve heard of someone who knows someone who might have ended up with a warped neck after leaving one string off for a couple of days :-)

  3. Devin, the reason you see people with guitars when you fly is that Congress passed a law last year that requires airlines to allow passengers to carry on their instruments.

    So, Scalzi, any airline in the united states must allow your tenor guitar on board, and they may not charge you any additional baggage fee for it.

    That said, some airlines appear to have lost that particular memo. So given your travel karma, I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to risk it.

  4. Warped neck isn’t likely to be a problem, but you might consider moving the strings to the center 4 tuners rather than the bottom 4. It might help balance the sound some.

  5. Missing two string won’t hurt a thing on that instrument, and strings don’t pay no nevermind to what’s tuning them in terms of how they sound.

    [20 years experience as a luthier, making, restoring and repairing the likes of Gibson and Martins (all vintages]

  6. Devin: It isn’t an exception for instruments. Most people buy a seat for their guitars. I have found some workarounds, but if they really don’t want you to bring it on without paying for a seat, you’re screwed, and you will have to check it. That’s why I quit carrying my lovely old Les Paul when I had to fly – if I couldn’t get my guitar on with me, I’d rather risk almost ANY other guitar.

  7. Neck warp shouldn’t be much of of a problem since he took off the two strings that produce the most tension (in theory, at least). I’m trying desperately to keep the lest web savvy of the Scalzi fans in my extended family from discovering John’s penchant for 4 stringed, re-entrant tuned, musical thingamabobs. They may not be all up in the blogosphere just yet, but they do, for the most part, play guitars, or, I don’t know, teach music with big fat degrees in music that required them to grow a serious music tude to earn. Would suck if they got all up in arms hearing this and then stop reading along with me as we keep up with our favorite Scalzian author.

    For example, trying to explain what John has just done to my retired father-in-law, who has nothing to do but practice guitar and go to jam sessions with local artists all the time, would result in an afternoon of, “but that’s not what that guitar is for. Why doesn’t he just learn to play guitar? yada, yada, yada … here why don’t you just take this copy of Redshirts you gave me for Christmas back. I feel kinda nauseous just looking at it now.” Can you see the bind I’m in?

    Oh, and I’ve secretly coveted one of these Washburns myself on occasion, but I can’t play guitar worth a crap so my one nice guitar and my one crappy electric (for playing Rocksmith) is all I’m allowed. I’m more of a bassist ;-p Up to a point, I’m all for the smaller is better on instruments. Even my bass only weighs in at 7lbs (trust me, if you don’t know, that’s really freaking light for a bass). However, the baritone uke someone mentioned is really way bigger in the body than the Washburn, and nowhere near as cool looking ;-p

  8. Or at the very least a U-Bass (Kala makes a line of things that are basically baritone ukes rigged for these ungodly thick plastic strings and piezoelectric pickups that play the same range as a standard bass guitar; yes they have to be amplified to really notice that you’re playing most of the lowest notes) ;-p

  9. Did you get written approval from @Molly23 to take strings off a guitarlike instrument? She is the Monarch of 4 stringed guitar things.

    (My wife just started playing tenor ukulele, mostly so she can play on the JoCoCruise. She doesnt like the word ukulele so I have to call it “the 4 stringed guitar”)

  10. Next time, check out The Minstrel (a travel guitar designed by John Hargiss of Omaha Ne) I have heard one in person and you get the same sound quality as a good guitar.

  11. I’d be more inclined to go with a Bari Uke, since it’s closer to your Tenor (strung the same, tuned the same, same shape, and actually designed for four strings, so the neck and string spacing is better) but I already read you wanted a travel tenor. My guess is this is fine, but your fingers will feel a bit odd as you play, since you’re only using two thirds of the width of the neck compared to what you’re used to on the Tenor. As to a travel sized Tenor, I know Martin had a model of Tenor based upon their Little Martin size, which is probably smaller than your Tenor, but not nearly as small as the Rover. But all searches I’ve done so far show it as not available, so I’m guessing you’d have to find one by luck, and it still might not be portable enough to meet your goal.

  12. Travel sized Tenor guitar? When you say that do you mean regular guitar, or Uke? I can’t say I’ve heard of a travel Tenor guitar, but you should be able to find Tenor Ukes at almost any music store..Oscar Schmidt are pretty good and fairly in-expensive. But the Washburn you have there hopefully works for you. I owned one a while ago, and while you really need a strap to play, it sounded decent for the price.

  13. Ummm…iPads suck. I don’t know how to get rid of the rest. Thank you for being a part of my day.


    Sent from my iPad

  14. In a music-and-flying vein, I’ve found that it is difficult to get a mandolin case under the seat in front of you in an airliner, but possible. It is also amazingly hard to play a mandolin quietly on an aircraft. The hard case makes a nice foot rest for the shorter-of-leg among us, though. Ask me how I know!

  15. Ya know, that’s neat and everything, but . . . how about going the extra step? Why not a bordonua for historical/stfnal esotericism? William Cumpiano is making them.

    My friend Jeff Kust has been doing well playing one of Cumpiano’s cuatros. The bordonua is its lower-voiced cousin.

    Yes, more than four strings – but when did John Scalzi ever turn down a worthy challenge (yes, I stick with the bass because I can almost manage four strings – I am not so protean as some around here)?

  16. It arrived today. Very nice and louder than you think. Tuned it to double drop D and I think it has excellent potential. Thanks Scalzi.

  17. The Martin Backpacker guitar is sort of the classic airplane guitar; the sound is a bit quiet and muddy, but it does the job. I have a $20 eBay Chinese knockoff of the Martin, which is quieter and muddier and ugly blue, and ok to leave in your car trunk or whatever. I don’t play it much; since there are four fingers on my left hand, it’s a lot easier to play 4-stringed instruments than 6-stringed. (Usually I play tenor uke with low-G GCEA tuning, or smaller ukes with the high-G, or mountain dulcimer in DAD tunings.)

  18. This may be of interest to Mr Scalzi..

    Chris Duncan’s Alpaca Guitar,…… Described as a great sounding, go everywhere instrument, it’s lightweight, durable and weather- and water-resistant……

    ……The 32.25 x 11 x 3.5-inch (81.9 x 27.9 x 8.8 cm), 2.6-pound (1.17 kg) instrument features a carbon fiber and sugar maple body. A headless neck has Steinberger gearless bass tuners positioned left of the carbon fiber saddle and resin-filled 0.25-inch (0.6 cm) carbon fiber shaft bridge. The back and hollow neck are cast as one piece, to which the guitar’s face-board and fretboard are then attached. ….

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