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GUEST POST by Dave the Traveling Music Man!
I am a musician. My instrument of choice is the electric bass guitar. When I met Kathy (aka Will Run for Miles), I was swept off my feet, both literally and figuratively – as I was suddenly in the air flying all over the world with her.
It’s been a blast, but I found that (as a musician), I needed a guitar with me when I was on the road. Given the size and weight of a regular guitar, it just wasn’t practical to bring one on a plane when I wasn’t actually gigging. So, in the early days of our relationship, I practiced musical abstention when we were traveling, which is to say that I went without having a musical instrument with me at all. That never worked well. I tried to appease my guitar desire by using a bass guitar iPhone app to play root notes along with a song I was learning. That was fun, but not enough. Whether the trip was long or short, I felt lost without a musical instrument on hand to practice with. A few times I looked into renting a bass, but that never worked out.
One day, Kathy and I were strolling in Riverside Park in Manhattan, and we saw a musician sitting on a bench playing a most unique-looking guitar-thang. It looked something like this:
I stopped and spoke to the man and learned that the guitar was a Wright travel guitar manufactured by SoloEtte. The light came on! A revelation! I would buy a travel guitar-thang!
I started researching travel guitars and basses. The Wright guitar was out of my price range, but others were interesting. I decided initially on a travel bass instrument called a Shred Neck Bass. It looks like the neck of a guitar without the guitar! At the time, it seemed like a good solution: it wasn’t expensive, it was small enough to put in my carry-on bag, and I would be able to use it to practice while I was on vacation. The Shred Neck Bass however had one big shortcoming: you can’t hear the actual tones when you play it. Rather, it is more for keeping your finger dexterity together, rather than playing.
As for traveling with the Shred Neck Bass, I generally packed it on top of my clothing inside my carry-on bag. However, even with TSA-pre, the peculiar shape of the instrument sometimes aroused suspicion. After a while, I found it was easiest to just take it out of my bag at airport security so I didn’t have to go through the hassle of explaining what it was.
After a while, the Shred Neck Bass just wasn’t doing it for me. I wanted something more like a real guitar or bass! I again did research. I decided on the Travel Bass Guitar by Traveler Guitar.
This travel bass is reasonably priced ($399) weighs only a little over 3.5 pounds (about 5 pounds with the case) and is 30 inches in length. It comes with a removable lap support. Although I read mixed reviews on the bass, I was confident it would meet my requirements.
At first, the bass seemed somewhat awkward. However, after playing with it for a while, I started to get more and more used to it. One of the adjustments I came up with to make it feel more natural to hold was to wrap a necktie around the lap support and onto my leg. This leveled the instrument so it didn’t tilt. Also, since the instrument doesn’t have a volume control, I bought a Vox mini bass amplug for it. I added an original iRig setup with Apple headphones to the mix so I could play along with music. So far, I’m happy with it.
The real test was taking the instrument on a plane. Kathy and I recently went to Denver for a weekend. This was to be my test flight!
I usually bring a man bag along with my carry-on bag on a flight. Since I am only allowed one personal item, I had to trade the travel bass for my man bag. So here’s what I did: I put all of my necessary man bag items in a ScotteVest and put the man bag with the remaining items in my carry on. This way, I was only carrying my bass and my carry-on. (Want to read more about me and my man bags? See this POST!).
Success! I passed through TSA without an issue! Even on our return flight to New York, which was completely sold out and the overhead bins were all full, my travel bass fit in the overhead bin on top of our carry-on bags without a problem.
I know many of my professional musician-friends usually check their guitars and basses. However, they use professional cases to protect their instruments and have to wait at the carousel for their instruments. As for me, I want to travel light and get in and out of airports without having to wait for my instrument.
If you travel frequently and are a musician (or aspire to be one), a travel guitar (or bass) might just be what you are looking for! Maybe I’ll try my travel bass out on a gig and tell you how that went on a future blog. In the meantime, happy traveling.
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