Mudcat Café message #1009751 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62479   Message #1009751
Posted By: Don Firth
28-Aug-03 - 02:47 PM
Thread Name: Travel guitars
Subject: RE: Travel guitars
Travel guitars.

For the past thirteen years I've had to use a wheelchair to get around, and it's pretty hard to play a standard size guitar in a wheelchair because the lower bout of the guitar and the right wheel of the chair want to occupy the same space. This throws the guitar into an awkward position for playing. So a couple of years ago I set about trying to find a small guitar—small enough so that, with a neck strap, I could hold it high enough not to bump the wheel, but it would still be in a good position for playing. I tried a child-size guitar, but that didn't work. I tried a couple of odd-ball instruments, restringing them so that I could play them like a guitar, but they didn't work out either. So I figured "travel guitar."

I had a problem, because I play a wide-necked classic guitar, and most travel guitars are made for steel strings. I looked at a Martin Backpacker nylon-string, but I thought the sound was just too puny and thin. My two regular guitars are top quality (José Oribé concert classic and an Arcangel Fernandez flamenco—a real flamenco guitar—that has appreciated so much since I bought it in 1961 what I'm afraid to take it out of the house), so I wanted something that sounded at least passably good.

Then a search of the internet turned up the "Go" guitar, made by Sam Radding in San Diego. He makes several models, including a nylon-string, and since he makes them to order, he's willing to customize an instrument. At first I passed them by because they looked so weird and un-guitar-like. But still searching for travel guitars on the internet, I kept running into reviews of the Go guitar (several on Harmony Central, and a number of others), and they all raved about them. Simple looking, but superb woods and workmanship, and they all said that even though they are small, the sound is surprisingly big. "It sounds like a real guitar!" was the comment I kept running into.

So a little over two years ago, I ordered one. The GO-GW ("Grande" with a slightly deeper body, spruce soundboard, and walnut back and sides) nylon-string, complete with plush, padded gig bag. I got it about a month later. The thing looks like a cross between a guitar and a canoe paddle, but what the reviews said was true. When I took it out of the gig bag (which is really well padded and lush, by the way) and tuned it up, the sound amazed me. It was really surprising to hear that volume and quality of sound coming out of that small box. The bass was not as strong as my two full-size guitars of course, but it's certainly strong enough, and the balance between bass and treble is good. The sustain is as good as that of any guitar I've ever heard. I was truly amazed. And once I attached the neck strap (which can double as a shoulder sling on the gig bag, if you want) and tried it while sitting in the wheelchair, everything worked like a dream. This was it!

I have since used it a hoots and parties, and I used it in the Coffee House Reunion concert at the 2003 Northwest Folklife Festival over Memorial Day weekend. During the concert, I sang a couple of duets with Bob (Deckman) Nelson, including guitar intros and breaks between verses, and my little musical canoe paddle kept up with Bob's fine old (collector's item) Martin Classic. When I ask people out front how it sounds ("Is it puny? Does it sound okay? Whadya think?"), the response is "It sounds good. It sound like a regular guitar."

About a year after I got the nylon-string Go, I ordered a steel-string, same model. Same story there. It doesn't have the strong bass of a Dreadnought, but it's certainly strong enough, and the balance is good, sort of like a parlor guitar. My steel-string playing friends are highly impressed, and one said, "It's got good heft to it for something this small, and the neck feels like I'm playing a Taylor."

I play the steel-string some when I want a change of sound and such, but I now consider the nylon-string Go to be my primary guitar. It's so convenient that I keep it within arm's reach most of the time, and I play it constantly. During the two years that I've had it, the sound has opened up and got even better—a sure sign of a quality instrument. In addition to all the above, it's a fun instrument and people think it looks "cute" or "kinda funky."

And Sam Radding seems to take a personal interest in each guitar and each purchaser. He answers his own e-mail and he's a pretty friendly guy.

Check 'em out. Home page. Various models

Don Firth