We all know that traveling can be a pain. For musicians, this means lugging around their gear from place to place. Whether it be in a van, on a plane, or a train, things can sometimes get crammed. What’s even worse is when your gear needs to be stored away somewhere you can’t see it (queue separation anxiety).
Thankfully for guitarists, there is a solution – travel guitars.
Travel guitars have been around for a little while. They’re compact and easy to carry and super convenient. That’s why today I’m excited to share my review of the Snap Dragon travel guitar.
Snap Dragon guitars are awesome for traveling with. They’re compact, lightweight, come with electronics so that you can plug them into an amp, and are relatively inexpensive. Overall, I really love mine, and although it is a pain to have to tune it every time you can opt for one with locking tuners.
Who Is Snap Dragon Guitars?
Based in the UK, Snap Dragon Guitars make folding guitars for traveling musicians. The company was created when its founder learned how difficult it was to carry a regular-sized guitar onto an aircraft.
He had come across other travel guitars but realized the process needed to assemble/dismantle them was cumbersome and inefficient. Thus, Snap Dragon Guitars was born.
Snap Dragon guitars were designed by a traveling guitarist, for traveling guitarists. They all feature an easy-to-fold/unfold mechanism and are small enough to carry onto an aircraft with you as a carry-on!
Unboxing My Snap Dragon
Like any other guitar, the Snap Dragon guitar really doesn’t come with too many parts. After opening the shipping box and pulling out the carrying case with the guitar inside, I unzipped the case which revealed the neatly packaged guitar.
Even though I knew what the guitar would look like I was still pretty surprised as I hadn’t seen anything like it in person before. The model I ended up getting was the Snap Dragon Traxe Noir. It’s an electro-acoustic guitar that provides enough volume on its own to play for a few people in a room but can also be plugged into an amplifier or PA system for greater volume.
Although most acoustic-electric guitars come with dials for volume, treble, bass, mid, etc this one does not. You can, however, add a passive volume control knob for an extra fee if you’d like.
What you receive when you order this Snap Dragon Guitar model includes:
- A carrying case
- The pre-strung guitar
- Allen wrenches (for truss rod adjustments)
- A couple of straps to keep the strings nice and tidy when the guitar is folded
Once I pulled the guitar out of its case, I went ahead and started to rotate the neck so that it would be in its normal position. My first time doing this I was a bit nervous that I would break all the strings. Once you unfold the guitar’s neck about 3/4 of the way out, it starts to create quite a bit of tension between the strings.
Don’t worry though, as you keep unfolding the guitar the neck and strings will all snap into place as they should.
Who are They For?
Snap Dragon guitars are primarily marketed toward the traveling guitarist. You may have heard the quirky song “United Breaks Guitars” where United Airlines’ baggage handlers broke a traveling musician’s guitar. If not, check out the video below.
Essentially any guitar you bring on an aircraft with you that needs to be stowed as checked luggage runs a greater risk of being damaged.
Although Snap Dragon’s guitars are mainly geared towards traveling musicians due to their small size, I also think they would be great to bring to a party, campfire, etc.
Anywhere that you’re going where you don’t want to lug around your $2,500 Gibson acoustic with a hardshell case, the Snap Dragon makes for a great alternative.
Snap Dragon Guitar Specs
Of course, Snap Dragon’s Traxe Noir isn’t the only model available and each guitar’s specs might vary a bit. That being said, here are some important specs for this model:
- 24″ scale, 12″ radius
- Maple fretboard
- Polycarbonate with an aluminum center block body
- 20 frets
- Passive Piezo under-saddle pickup
- Locking tuners
- weighs just 2KGs
- Length: 51.7cm, Width: 29.4cm, Depth: 8cm
Given the specs above, this makes it a great guitar to travel with since it’s extremely light and low profile.
How Does it Play?
To my surprise the way this guitar plays and sounds actually exceeded my expectations. Being that it was a smaller guitar I wasn’t sure how much smaller the frets would be compared to a regular-sized guitar. However, there really isn’t much difference at all and so far it hasn’t impacted my playing.
Being that the body is so small, it takes a bit of getting used to. Where I would usually rest my upper arm, on the top of a guitar’s body, is no longer there. That being said, this isn’t a big deal and you’ll get used to the small size pretty quickly.
What really impressed me about this guitar is when I plugged it in. Since it was a small-body guitar made of polycarbonate, I was presently surprised when I heard the large sound that came out of it. That was the point that brought me from “this is a good practice guitar for on the road” to “I could actually record or play live with this guitar”.
Here’s a video to show how it sounds:
Other Good to Knows
At this point, I’ve talked a lot about the benefits and features of this Snap Dragon guitar. There are however a few good-to-knows about it:
- Tuning – This was one of my biggest questions about the guitar. Will I need to tune it each time I fold/unfold it and just how badly will it be out of tune? Well, in the case of the Traxe Noir model, you will need to tune it each time. From what I’ve experienced so far, each time you fold and unfold the guitar, your strings will be out of tune by 5-20 cents. So, you will need to tune the guitar each time. However, if you’re willing to pay a little extra, Snap Dragon does have a couple of models which come with Evertune bridges meaning you’ll only need to tune the guitar when you change the strings.
- String Gauge – If you like a really light string gauge you’ll most likely need to tune your Snap Dragon more often. You don’t need special strings for your Snap Dragon but they do recommend using 10-gauge strings and up. Snap Dragon uses 11-52 Phosphor Bronze gauge strings for their acoustic models and 11-49 nickel strings for our electric models.
- Locking Tuners – Just to circle back on the point about tuning, locking tuners doesn’t mean that once your string is locked, you don’t need to tune your guitar anymore. Locking tuners simply make it easier when it comes time to change your guitar strings and help reduce the amount you’ll need to tune your guitar. However, if you don’t want the hassle of tuning your guitar each time you unfold it, consider getting one with an Evertune bridge.
All in all, I think this is a really great little guitar. It sounds good, it’s compact, easy to dismantle and reassemble, and is available at a fair price (220 Euros or about $260 USD). The only downside (and the first thing everyone asks me) is that you’ll need to retune the guitar every time you unfold it.
Although yes, that is slightly cumbersome, it’ll only take a few seconds. Even so, if you do have a higher budget and want to avoid that, you can opt to get a Snap Dragon with an Evertune bridge which is a nice option to have.
If you’re a traveling guitarist and want something small to bring on the road with you that’s easy to carry around and sounds great, check out this company. They’re making some great instruments and are dedicated to their craft.