In praise of the humble travel guitar

These days I have hardly any time, money or physical space to dedicate to making music. Dad Lyfe. So I’m down to one acoustic guitar, and it’s a humble little guy. The Taylor BT1e 3/4 sized travel guitar, to be precise. You never really see a grown man playing one on-stage, the same way you never see a grown man order a half-pint. Come to watch my current band forestfloor and you’ll get to see two grown men playing these diminutive guitars (and quite possibly nursing half-pints, tbh) and you’ll go: “huh.”

Huh, indeed

Let me explain why acoustic indie-folk duo forestfloor uses 3/4 sized guitars exclusively. It’s an epic tale of love and loss spanning generations and striking at the quivering heart of man’s inhumanity to…. okay it’s actually just about convenience.


You may take this as a sign of a man who is turning away from the noble struggle of art, towards the enticing siren call of comfortable mediocrity. A man who no longer cares about the sonic integrity of his music as much as he cares about ergonomics. The middle aged dad who needs lumbar support more than he needs high-minded creative ambition. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Convenience, though, is a highly underrated ingredient in the recipe of rock ‘n’ roll, as antithetical as it sounds. Ease-of-use is a great way to lube up the passage from the muse to the audience. If you want unfettered expression, a direct and passionate howl into the void, it can help to use frictionless tools.

UI design

We love our funny little guitars because they’re akin to a very accessible user interface. If your list of barriers to playing music is as long as your arm, then you want your guitar to be no longer than your arm. You want to be able to grab it at any time, in any situation. The difference between a 3/4 sized guitar and a full-size one may be a mere matter of inches and ounces here and there, but it feels like the difference between a violin and a cello.

Contrary to the romantic Myth of the Artist, creative types usually tread an organised and methodical path, relying upon prosaic systems to deliver their poetic visions. You can’t maintain your flow state if you’re swimming against a tide of disarray, scrambling about in a maelstrom of detritus trying to find the alizarin-crimson paint tube that you need NOW! You want to be able to access your metaphorical alizarin-crimson effortlessly, at the drop of a beret, while the spirit moves through you. A smaller guitar is significantly easier to store, move, and use. As such, it always makes itself available.

Just show up

You may have heard it said that “the best workout is the one you do”. It doesn’t matter how far from ‘optimal’ that workout is. If it’s the only one you’ll do consistently, then it’s the best. The best guitar for you is the one that you’ll play the most. It’s a pretty simple equation. You could argue that timbre is just as important as proficiency. Or just get technical about it and point out that there isn’t a positive correlation between playing hours and proficiency at all. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If you practice poorly, you’ll only ever play poorly. Spamming the same few licks and chords endlessly is less effective than a brief high-quality practice session where something is actually happening.

But, let’s be real. It kind of is as simple as you might intuit: those that play a lot, get good. You have to put in the work, you have to expose yourself to music-making as much as possible to make music as well as possible. You have to be present, both literally and psychologically, for moments of serendipity to land.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Pablo Picasso


It’s stupid, I know, that the size of a guitar makes any difference in your application to your craft; that a grown-ass man should be so pathetic as to feel like picking up a standard sized guitar is an effort. What can I tell ya, the 21st century has been too easy on me, I have gradually grown exactly that pathetic. I didn’t know it until I had a small guitar and noticed that I kept playing guitar.

If this whets your appetite to try a travel guitar yourself, you can ignore the inner voice saying “nahhh, it won’t sound as good”. Correct, it won’t. But you won’t really care. You’ll find it easier and more enjoyable to grab and to noodle (I think that’s the technical term?). And if you take it a step further and have the temerity to actually gig with it, like we do, guess what? Your audience won’t really care, either. They’re not constantly A-B’ing the difference between your guitar and another guitar when listening to you perform, so its shortcomings probably won’t register. Every gig that ever happened has featured the following interaction at some point in the night: 1) an audience member praises a performer, 2) the performer deflects and moans about how actually, it sounded like shit, and 3) the audience member counters with “I didn’t notice, it sounded great to me!” No-one cares about your tone. The internet has tricked you into its vortex of consumerist dissatisfaction and onanistic ‘toan’ chasing.

Maximum strummy strum strum

You could have the most achingly sonorous sounding guitar ever crafted, but if your song is lame, shush please. On the other hand, if your songwriting is good, you’ll get my attention with a shoebox and an elastic band. The specific guitar that you play matters far less than we’re lead to believe. The thing that matters most is how much it entices you to play. Play more = get more gooder.

Tiny guitars make it easier for forestfloor to spend time writing and composing and practicing quietly while the house sleeps. They also make it easier to physically carry our act into public spaces for daylight bookings, when we’re also physically carrying toddlers and babies and buggies and change-bags and scooters and that gnarly stick the 3-year old insists upon keeping to hand for the rest of the day. These are significant wins for our beleaguered band!

See for yourself - we recorded the following video spontaneously with nothing but two iPhones, and I’ll bet that the sonic characteristics of our guitars, and the image they project, have nothing to do with whether you love or hate the video. It’ll just come down to the song itself.

Watch the video

Two travel acoustic guitars leaning against a wall with shadows