I like to bring a guitar along on vacations, going to the beach, biking to the park, or hiking in the mountains. At first, I had a Martin Backpacker, one of the early ones with the small headstock. I liked the idea of the Backpacker, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t bond with it. The narrow body meant that you couldn’t really play it without a strap. The action was a bit tough, and it sounded more like a dulcimer than a guitar. Even so, I took it a lot of places.
Then I got a Yamaha Guitelele, a ukulele-sized guitar with six strings, but tuned in A instead of E, like playing a guitar with a capo at the fifth fret. At the time, about eight years ago, it was about $100. Here is a post about it. This little instrument is small enough to fit in a suitcase. I played it all over Europe a few years ago. It’s great fun. Now it lives at my daughter’s house. I play it for my grandson when I come over. He likes to strum it. It will become his.
So I began to look for a replacement travel guitar. We have a Cordoba C5, a nice classical guitar. Cordoba used to make a guitelele too, but it seems to have been discontinued. Now they make the Mini II, a 1/4 sized nylon string guitar with some innovative features. I ordered one. Here’s a picture:
Mine is the cheapest one, made of mahogany laminate. It was $149. They have models with solid tops, cutaways, and electronics, but I wanted something inexpensive and durable that I didn’t need to worry about too much.
It sounds good and plays easy. The intonation is good. The action is a tad high. I may sand down the saddle a bit, as I did with the C5. The frets are quite tiny and low, but they seem to do the job. Notice that it does not have a traditional slotted headstock. The tuners look like what you might see on a steel string, but they work well. Unlike the guitelele, it can be tuned to standard pitch.
Here’s a quick demo clip. It has a bit of simple finger picking and then some blues. The playing is not my best, but you can hear the mellow voice of the instrument. This was recorded quickly into Audacity with a Rode NT-USB mic.
I bought a Cordoba 1/4 classical deluxe case to go with it. The case has shoulder straps so I can easily take it biking and hiking. I like it quite a bit. It won’t fit into a suitcase, but is still extremely portable.
Update: I did lower the action a bit. It is not unusual for a new guitar to need some setup work. New guitars often have high saddles because the manufacturer doesn’t know how you like it and if the saddle is too low, there is nothing to do but replace it.
What I did was take a pencil and draw a line on the side of the saddle facing the strings right on the edge of the wood of the bridge. Then I pulled the saddle (the white plastic piece under the strings) out and got some #400 sandpaper and put it on a very solid and flat surface, in this case a granite countertop. Then I held the saddle in my fingers and moved the bottom of it back and forth across the sandpaper, taking care to exert even pressure. This saddle had a slant on the bottom for some reason, so it was a bit more difficult to hold it steady. The pencil line serves as a gauge of how much I am taking off, so I repeatedly tried the saddle back in the bridge to see how I was doing. When I did this with the C5, I kept sanding until the pencil line disappeared into the bridge. The same thing happened with this Mini II. I think this takes off about 1/16″. It’s a small amount, but it makes a difference.
Here’s another clip. This is a backing track from TDPRI, the Telecaster discussion site. I recorded it with an sE Electronics X1A condenser mic into Reaper. I added some compression and delay to make it fit with the funk/blues track.
One respondent said, “I would never think of this, but the acoustic guitar works great; good playing throughout. I like that you processed it a little.” Another said “Mmm…Acoustic funk? You’ve made it work quite nicely and the phrasing sounded good with your version.”
One more clip: A Tom Paxton song. This is a quick mono recording with the Rode NT-USB.
As delivered, the Mini II was fine and easy to play in first position with standard open string chords (“cowboy chords”) for folk music and such. However, I play up the neck a lot. In the first clip, I am playing blues in A at the fifth fret, and I am struggling a bit to make the bar chords ring out properly. You can probably hear it. This minor adjustment to the action made it much easier to play up the neck. It’s a lovely little guitar.