Technology is everywhere these days. It’s a part of practically everything we do – which is probably why you’re interested in learning all about it. However, with UK adults spending roughly 12 hours a week on social media alone, without taking into account the endless hours a day spent staring at work screens, phone and tablet games, on-demand TV, and all the other unthinking acts of technological dealings we have, sometimes it’s worth taking a step back. Research by UC Berkeley has shown that taking a break from technology is really pretty good for you. It can improve everything from your sleep pattern to your concentration levels – and even your relationships. So that when you do get back to work, your performance will kick the proverbial.
But say you do take a break: go on holiday; leave your phone, tablet and laptop behind; book a place without a television in the room. What do you do with all of that down time? Ever thought about playing an instrument?
The benefits of playing a musical instrument
Playing a musical instrument always brings out a certain smugness. Guitar players know that they’re cool. Flautists know that they’re clever. Piano players know that they’ve had witchcraft carried out on them to make their fingers move at super-human speed… That last bit might not be quite true. But, did you know that learning to play an instrument is actually really beneficial? Not only is it an excellent form of stress-relief, but it gives you an enormous sense of achievement, it improves confidence, concentration, discipline and creativity. It’s even been shown to improve both memory and intelligence. But it’s not as if you can shove a grand piano in your suitcase before heading off on your secluded getaway. That’s why more people are turning to travel instruments.
Travel instruments and what to look for
The best instruments for travel are the smaller kinds. Harmonicas and recorders can fit in a handbag or backpack. Flutes and oboes can be taken apart to be stored in relatively diminutive cases. Ukulele and violins can generally fit into airline-approved hand luggage. But what if you already play, or fancy learning something bigger? A stalacpipe organ is probably out of the question if you want to play on the go. Likewise, a tuba or octobass, but how about a guitar?
Guitars aren’t known for their ease of travel. They’re both big and fragile. If you look at any guitarist magazine or website, you’ll see horror stories of instruments being smashed to smithereens by unthinking baggage handlers, or suffering from pressure changes in the hold. That’s why the travel guitar was invented.
Travel guitars are growing in popularity throughout the musical community. They deliver all the sound and quality of a traditional hand-crafted guitar, but they can be folded down to fit in a typical airline-approved backpack. This means that players can keep their instruments with them when they fly, without the usual worries associated with travelling with a standard guitar.
This might sound a bit strange, but it actually relies on a really clever bit of tech – a screw! With the screw in place, the instruments look just as you’d expect a guitar to look. With the screw removed, the neck folds down, the strings can be carefully tethered to the side, and the instrument packed away. This leaves you with an instrument no bigger than 54 x 31 x 8 cm in the case of the Snap Dragon Mini TraXe.
With other models, you can go smaller still. The Snap Dragon Snapaka Twin E1, for example, has removable ‘wings’, reducing the body to a single strip, producing a storage size of just 54 x 8 x 10 cm. Then to play, it just takes two minutes to clip the wings back on, straighten the neck, return the screw, et viola; you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll… or country, jazz, swing, or whatever musical style takes your fancy. Perfect for travel. Perfect for homes with very little storage space.
Learning to leave tech behind – at least for a few hours each week – is a really important part of unleashing its potential. If you do something for too long, you inevitably lose focus. Doubly so if you’re tired and distracted. Learning to play an instrument, or taking the time to relax with the one that you already know by heart, is one of the ways that you can do that. And in terms of beneficial relaxation, it certainly beats playing another round or two of Candy Crush!