I'll begin by saying I'm not a talented musician. We'll just get that out of the way, right now. BUT, I love music and I love my ukulele. I can sit on a beach next to the ocean or in a hammock hanging between a couple palm trees and play for hours and hours. It's one of the smaller instruments around so it's easy to take anywhere I go.
I have a drum kit too (in which I'm also not very good at playing), but the problem is portability. I can't take my drums to the beach--at least not easily; however, there are several small instruments that are fairly portable and can bring a little melody to your travels.
(Now, before we go much further, I need to mention that if you don't already own one of these small instruments, you'll probably have to buy one. Check out the tips on how to afford travel so you'll be able to swing the cost for both your trip and your new instrument)
Small Instruments You Can Take With You Anywhere
Daniel Ho ST-Concert
My ukulele is the Daniel Ho ST-Concert by Romero Creations (above and in the feature photo up top). It's pretty cool because the features of Soprano, Tenor, and Concert ukuleles are all rolled into one. It sounds beautiful and was pretty much everything I was looking for. Plus it has sort of a unique look to it--but the look is just a matter of opinion.
I'm a beginner but I have "Riptide", "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems", and "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" down (sort of). Thank you, YouTube tutorials. Man, it is such a fun instrument.
The ukulele is the perfect travel companion. It can easily fit as your carry-on piece of luggage. And it is a cool experience walking through the airport with it slung on your shoulder and having a fellow uke player encourage you to "keep strumming, brutha".
I'll take a minute and let you know where my ukulele was purchased: Reverb.com. It has a cool mix of new and used instruments for sale from "rock stars to local music shops". I can get lost for quite awhile looking at some of the cool stuff on their site.
***During this post, I'll provide some links to some instruments on Reverb (because I'm a fan) that I think would be good choices for your traveling endeavors. I'll also try to provide some budget-minded options from other vendors as well. Please know that if you use one of my links, I'll probably get some sort of commission or credit at no extra cost to you, so thank you--it helps this blog keep going! That said, my honest feedback about items will not be compromised. Also, because of the nature of the Reverb site, some items may be sold that I have provided a link to. I'll try to keep it updated, but if something is gone, you can search on their site HERE as well. Now, back to the music***
AKLOT Concert Ukulele with Beginner Kit
A more economical choice may be the AKLOT Concert Ukulele. This quality-for-the-price uke also comes with a gig bag, picks, tuner, strap, strings, and cleaning cloth. It is durable and sounds great. With over 5,000 reviews, it is rated at 4.8/5.0 stars. Very nice instrument for the price.
Again--and I may be biased--the ukulele is one of the best small instruments you can travel with. It is particularly fitting, soothing, and fun while in the sun and on the sand. It is relatively easy to learn and will make you feel like a rockstar carrying it with you during your travels.
Harmonicas are so travel friendly, you can even carry them in your pocket. Can't get more travel friendly than that! Although its history is rooted in Europe and Japan, harmonicas have played a pretty big role in the history of American Rock and Blues. Iconic performers and bands such as The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, John Denver, and Stevie Wonder have included the harmonica in some of their most famous songs. Although it is not easy to master, anyone can pick up a harmonica and start to make some music almost immediately.
Hohner 1896BX-C Marine Band Classic Harmonica
The Marine Band Classic is just that--a classic. Not only does it sound like a classic--it looks like a classic. It is also known to be harmonica of choice for legends like John Lennon and Bob Dylan. How cool is that? It is also Hohner's most played harmonica (gonna go out on a limb here and say it is probably the most played for a reason).
Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica
This more affordable harmonica also comes with pretty big name--Fender. The Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica is good for players of all levels. It also has over 8,000 reviews with a 4.7/5.0 star rating. Although its tough to beat having the same model harmonica as John Lennon did, this would be a pretty good alternative if you wanted to spend quite a bit less on your small instrument to travel with.
The harmonica ranks near the top of great small instruments you can travel with. I see the perfect setting being sunset, on a dock or deck, at the lake house you found on Airbnb--but really, is there every a bad place for a little harmonica music?
No, not Mandalorian--mandolin. Mandolins are relatively small (about the size of a ukulele); however, they are different from ukuleles in a few notable ways. First, the mandolin's strings are usually steel while a ukulele's strings are usually nylon. This means you may need a pick for the mandolin but not with the uke. Second, mandolins usually have eight strings while a uke has four. That said, the eight strings are played as pairs, so four pairs of two strings tuned in unison--or in other words, a pairing of two strings are played as one. That description is complicated, but they sound really cool--and are still probably a little easier to learn compared to a guitar.
Eastman MD305 Mandolin
This first mandolin I'll suggest is the Eastman MD305 on Reverb. It is a decent option for beginners or intermediate players--and plus I just think this thing looks beautiful. Mandolins have such a unique sound and you'll be sure to get some comments once you start jammin' out during your travels. The only downside is that this particular mandolin is not on the inexpensive side, relatively speaking--but sometimes you do get what you pay for!
A solid budget mandolin choice is the Rogue RM-100A. It gets consistently good reviews as a great sounding mandolin at a decent price. You can see and hear it in action on this YouTube clip from MandoLessons. Check it out and you can be assured that you'll be getting a nice sounding, affordable mandolin for your travels.
The mandolin would be a fun instrument to play. It sounds and looks unique and would undoubtedly be a conversation starter.
If you're traveling to Europe and you're in a "classical" sort of mood--perfect. You can play some Beethoven in a courtyard while you're visiting Berlin. If you're in more of a "downhome" sort of mood--perfect. You can play some Charlie Daniels while sitting on the porch of the Georgia plantation you found on Airbnb. This instrument is a decent size for traveling and you can count it as your carry-on piece in most cases.
Joe's Fiddles 4/4 Shop Fiddle
There is something about this fiddle that I like. Maybe because it's unique. Maybe because it's pretty affordable. I'm not sure what it is, but I like it. Not only is the Joe's Fiddles 4/4 Shop Fiddle listed at a fair price, but because it is on Reverb, the seller is willing to accept offers as well. Pretty cool, huh?
Eastar Full Size 4/4 Violin Set
Here is a good beginner violin for kids or adults. It also comes with a bow, rosin, shoulder rest, violin bridge, additional string, and a tuner. The Eastar Full Size 4/4 Violin Set gets a lot of good reviews from people like beginning students to professional musicians. Pick this small instrument up, head to Ireland, and get your Celtic fiddle playin' on.
No matter your preferred style of playing, a violin/fiddle is a great choice on the list of small instruments you can travel with.
These small, attached drums, are thought to have originated from Cuban and African cultures. They are small enough to take with you so you can return them to the Caribbean sun to bang out some smooth rhythms on the beach. Combine the bongos with a ukulele and/or a harmonica and have your own jam session on a pier.
Meinl HB100VWB-M Headliner Wood Bongos
These bongos are perfect for the beginner or seasoned player. The Meinl HB100VWB-M Headliner Wood Bongos come in a few different awesome finishes. On the affordable side of things as well.
Meinl Bongos with Durable Synthetic All-weather Shells
Here is a second offering from Meinl at a little lower price. The Meinl Bongos with Durable Synthetic All-weather Shells have a rating of 4.8/5.0 stars with very few people unhappy with these great sounding bongos. Affordable quality and sound are what help these drums stand out.
Bongos have a way of making your body feel a certain vibe with its distinguishable rhythm and beat. Because it is one of the small instruments you can travel with fairly easily, you can bring that whole vibe with you wherever you go.
Roll Up Piano
Dude. How cool are these things? Believe it or not, the piano has emerged as one of the viable small instruments to travel with. Roll up pianos are very easy to pack and bring with you wherever you go. They are usually made of tough silicon and can even be rolled up and tossed into a backpack. If you're a pianist and songwriter, it'd be pretty awesome to get some inspiration writing your music and lyrics looking at the view after hiking to the top of a mountain.
Mukikim Rock N Roll It Studio Piano
The Mukikim Rock N Roll It Studio Piano is great for beginners who want to learn how to play the piano (because actual pianos can be mighty pricey). It also offers some more advanced features like multiple tones, demo songs, record and playback, and is Midi compatible--which means it can be used with synthesizers, samplers, and computers and stuff. It has a lithium battery and or can be powered via usb (so maybe with your solar-powered power back on top of that mountain).
Sunny & Fun 61-Key Roll-up Piano with Speaker
The Sunny & Fun 61-Key Roll-up Piano is an good choice economically if you want a decent roll up piano at a good price. It is powered by a provided USB cable, or can function for about ten hours with four AA batteries. It has a 4.6/5.0 stars rating with the primary gripe being that you have to push down on the keys fairly hard.
So, thanks to this invention, you can take your piano with you just about anywhere. With models capable of interfacing with computers and synthesizers, you can get just about as simple or as complicated with a roll up piano as you want.
What in the world is a kalimba? Another common name is an African thumb piano. A kalimba is basically just that--a piano-type instrument that you can play with your thumbs. They sort of have a music box or lullaby sort of sound to them, so make sure you aren't in a place where you can be lulled to sleep. You can hear what a kalimba sounds by watching this YouTube video, HERE.
Kalimba - CN/Crane Gradient Brown
This kalimba is pretty darn affordable and pretty darn pretty. It is made of solid mahogany and has a cool design in it. To play it, you hold it in both hands with your fingers underneath and your thumbs on top. Once you have that down, be prepared to make some magic happen.
Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano
The Newlam Kalimba Thumb Piano is perfect for beginners and perfect for travel. It is affordable and its keys have embossed letters notes, making learning how to play a smooth process. It also comes with a bag, cleaning fabric, and access to play guidance and tips.
Kalimbas are small and easy to transport. There are a ton of tutorials on YouTube so if you're able to find someplace nice and peaceful on your journey, you can sit down and learn how to play some unique music.
Pan flutes are played all over the world. They are typically used in folk songs and melodies and have a pretty distinguishable sound. With Cobra Kai being pretty popular right now, I'll use the Karate Kid as an example of where you may have heard the pan flute before. It is heard frequently when Daniel is training with Mr. Miyagi in many scenes. Wouldn't it be cool to learn the Karate Kid melody during your travels?
Panflute 20 Pipes Natural Bamboo
This pan flute is currently nearly 50% off! It is 10" X 8.5" so it makes for a perfect travel companion. I also think it's cool that it's made of bamboo.
SUTILA 15 Pipes Brown Pan Flute G Key
This SUTILA Pan Flute is a little cheaper than the one above (though that 50% is still pretty tough to beat). It is also constructed of bamboo and is roughly 10" X 10", so again, easy to find space for during your trip. This particular pan flute is known to be a good option for beginners as well as more advanced players.
Pan flutes are great small instruments that don't take up much room and are easy to pack. They're small enough to not only pack in your luggage, but easy to transport in a backpack to one of your excursion stops. And man, seriously, the appeal of learning that Karate Kid tune is really tempting to me...
Maybe you are familiar with the Nintendo game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Well up until recently, I thought an ocarina was a made up instrument for the game (and I can still hear some of those songs from the game even though it was released like twenty-some years ago). But I was wrong! It is an actual instrument that is perfect for traveling.
Ocarina Originale Di Budrio
The ocarina was created by a teenager in Italy way back in the mid-1800s, so its super cool that the Ocarina Originale Di Burio ships from a music shop in Belluno, Italy! Talk about authentic. Toss it in your luggage and have some fun playing this cool, small instrument wherever you end up.
Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 12 Hole Alto
So maybe I'm a bit nerdy, but I'm comfortable in my own skin and I think this ocarina is awesome! This is a replica ocarina from the Zelda game I mentioned above. It looks cool and it's made of ceramic. It's also rated 4.7/5.0 stars. If this isn't your speed, there are also plenty of other affordable options out there. Just choose the one that calls to you and go for it!
Ocarinas are unique small instruments that can be taken with you anywhere. Its also cool that there are options that come straight from the source (Italy), as well as an option that can manipulate time and weather! Okay so maybe that part isn't true, but it'd be cool if it was, right?
Basically, a travel guitar is a more compact version of a regular guitar. Travel guitars usually have a full scale or a full length, and unlike the four strings of the ukulele, they usually have six strings. If you want a small instrument sounds great and is easy to transport, a travel guitar is a great choice--which is pretty much the point of this post, right?
Washburn RO10sk Rover Travel Size Acoustic Guitar
The Washburn RO10sk is good for players of all levels. The small size can help younger children learn how to play while the size can also help the seasoned musician travel easier with it. It comes in a variety of finishes, sounds great, and comes with a gigbag for your journeys. I see this guitar being a popular item on a camping trip and around a campfire.
Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar
This is another good travel guitar option. The Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar has a different look to it and will probably get noticed as soon as you take it out of the bag. It has a rating of 4.7/5.0 stars with very few unhappy customers. Check with your airline, but in most cases the size of this travel guitar allows it to be carried on and stowed in the overhead bins. This guitar would add a cool little touch to the end of a long day of hiking.
Conclusion to 10 Small Instruments You Can Travel With
Don't let anything get in your way of traveling and adding the spice of music to the mix. Whether you're sitting under a mango tree strumming a ukulele or composing a masterpiece on your roll up piano while looking out at the snowcapped mountain range you're hiking in, there are several small instruments out there that will do the trick.
I would also like to give a shoutout to my friend, Robert, at Gaither Studios, Inc. for his input on this post. If you're in the Des Moines area, look him up for lessons for a wide variety of instruments!
If this post was helpful to you in any way and you enjoyed it, please share, subscribe, and follow on social media! There are new travel-related topics published on a regular basis and I'll always do my best to provide the information that you need! Please leave a comment if you would like or send me a request on what you'd like to see blogged and I would love to respond! And remember: "die with memories, not dreams".