The holidays are on us and it’s time to buy that instrument for your loved one. Where do you go for information on what to get without spilling the beans to your musician? Ask me! I know what can flip my trigger when I receive a musical gift.
Stocking stuffers. You have no clue the joy’s that small gifts bring a musician. Here are a few off the top of my head:
•Strings – There isn’t a guitarist you know who doesn’t need to change his strings regularly. A pack of strings for an electric or an acoustic will run you about five bucks. Bass strings from twenty to thirty dollars on average. A brand called “Elixers” are about twice as expensive but the strings last about three times as long. Splurge for that if you can. They are sweet, and everyone hates changing strings. Find an old string package and bring it with you to the store. If you can’t go to the music store where your musician shops and they more than likely either know or can look up the brand and gauge of string your musician uses. Don’t guess. Talk to your music store salesman if you don’t know where to start. Grab a string winder while you’re there. A dollar or two will pick up a plastic tool that lets you wind strings on your guitar much faster. Get me one. I also lose them. Get me one. I can’t find mine.
• A capo – A capo is used to help change keys while playing the same chords or different tunings, and many more reasons that are too many to go into. A good one will run you about 20 bucks. I have used the Kyser model for years. Most of the artists I have worked with use the same model. You can get better ones for more. They have some bells and whistles that the Kyser doesn’t have. Don’t get the ten dollar one. They are a pain in the ass to put on and move. That’s just my opinion.
• Tuners – A quality tuner will cost about fifteen to thirty dollars on the low end to hundreds of dollars for a rack mounted tuner. I have used the twenty dollar Korg Tuner for years. Tuners are small and easily lost or left behind at a show. Having an extra tuner won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
• Picks – buy them by the pack. I lose picks constantly. Friends pick them up after playing and naturally put them in their pockets. They get worn away and nicked from playing. Like socks they just disappear. I bought a gross the last time I needed picks. It’s still pretty full and I lose them all the time. Like strings, your musician will want to use their own gauge. Look in the dryer or the couch cushion, (or at my house the floor.) bring in a pick or ask your salesman at your favorite music store. I won’t lie here. There is a difference in picks. I use Fender Heavy picks. My friend Wally uses Fender Thin picks. I love Fender picks. Once again ask your salesman if you need help choosing the pack of picks. You can get a twelve pack for a few bucks.
• http://www.logolighters.com/custom_guitar_picks.htm For something REALLY special have custom full color picks printed up by Clayton Guitar picks. They cost a little more but they are bad ass! You can put their band logo, musician’s name, heck your family even your family portraits on a guitar pick. Anything you can think of can be printed on them. I don’t mean this as a plug for my graphic services but drop me an email if you want a unique mind-blowing graphic made just for your musician. I tell you what. Subscribe to my blog and share it with your musician friends and family and I’ll design it for FREE! Or Buy a copy of my album and I’ll design a unique pick for you. FREE! FREE! FREE!
• Guitar cables – They go bad all the time. You can’t have too many.
• Batteries– Foot pedals, tuners, active guitars. They all take batteries. If you love them by Duracell batteries. They last the longest.
• Guitar stands and Wall hangers – Too many guitars? Hang them on the wall. My wall hanger displays the finely crafted instruments I play. They are pieces of art. Handmade and look great on a wall or in a man cave. Stage stands are great too. Quit leaning that guitar on the wall and put it in a stand. This also makes it easily accessible to pick up and practice at anytime. Put the case away till gig time.
• Drumsticks – the same as picks. Find the type of stick your drummer uses and bring it in or ask a salesman to look it up.
• Gift Certificates – When all else fails. You can bet the musician in your life will probably buy at least one of the items on this list.
• Concert Tickets – If I found tickets to see Steve Earle, David Bromberg, Dr. John, or Lyle Lovett in concert I would do a flip. Find out the favorite artist and look on Ticketmaster or go to the band’s website to see when and where they are playing.
Mid Range $30 +
Tweed Guitar cases – This popped right into my mind. I got one from my first wife. She gone and remarried but the case is still here. It’s now stained with dirt and grime. Small nicks in the tweed and the leather, plus a permanent imprint of my telecaster on the orange fur covering the inside make me think of all the gigs I’ve played. I don’t know, but when I see a tweed case it usually says to me that a person loves his instrument enough to invest in a quality and classy case. Don’t be pissed if they scratch it or nick it. It adds character. Each nick has a story behind it. When I look at my case I imagine all the places it’s been. I’ve found them as low as $80 bucks. I would go for the square ones rather than the guitar shaped ones. There is more room to store your strings, cables, and tuners. Buy early. Some music stores carry them in stock and some don’t. They will have to order you one. They ship fast so a week or so in advance should be plenty of time.
A Recording Program – I use Cubase. The package included a small mixer that connects via USB and allows you to record track after track of music. You can actually produce a studio quality album from your own home. The studio I work in uses this same program and has recorded many albums, mine included), with this program. The software can be bought for about $99 bucks. If you want the USB bundled pack you’ll pay a little more. I love mine and use it constantly.
Effects – Gear junkies like effects. If you don’t know what your musician wants, get a gift certificate. There is no point in spending money on a Boss Envelope Filter if you are never gonna use it. When all else fails, and you know the guitarist you love doesn’t have one. Get a Crybaby Wah Pedal. They will use it and plus it’s funny to watch their faces when they use it. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you get one. Starting at $70 bucks.
Microphones – I don’t know a musician that didn’t need a mic at some point. Micing up an amp to recording, you will always need one. I don’t know anyone who has ever said “I own too many mics.” You get what you pay for in a mic. Talk to your salesman about what they would use it for. Industry standard has been the Shure SM57 and the Shure SM58. They are built like tanks and can be used for instruments to vocals. A 57 will run you around $90 bucks. The 58 a few bucks more. Remember mics can run into the thousands of dollars. You will get what you pay for. Anything under $99 retail and you are going to get a “cheap mic” that is good for nothing but skyping.
Guitar Strap – You can get the cheap nylon straps for around $20 bucks. No frills. It’s always nice to have an extra strap around. If you want something special though, a nice strap is the cat’s pajamas! Like women and shoes, guitarists and straps. It’s hard to pick out a strap for someone else. Some guys like over the top ones, some like plain jane models, some like wide straps and some like thin. A nice strap will cost you $25 – $100 bucks. Go nuts and have one handmade for a particularly nice instrument. My Uncle who I have never met, (he’s Married to the most wonderful aunt in the world. Betty. And no you can’t have her. She’s all mine!) Handcrafted an awesome leather strap with conchos on it. I ran home and put it right on my Gretsch. I don’t think I have ever been given a gift so special. So take it from me, a nice strap will leave a guitarist speechless.
Strap locks are always a good accessory for a new strap. They keep your strap from falling off your guitar when you least expect it. I’m total white trash. I just use a big washer and a long screw and bolt my straps right to the body. A washer and a long screw will cost you $.10 and I just went out to the garage and found mine. Now DON”T do this to a nice strap. $15 bucks on up depending on the style.
High End Items like guitars and amps should probably left to a time when your musician can come with you. Like cars, every guitar is different, and every player is different. Unless they have circled the EXACT model they want in a magazine, then don’t try this one. A gift certificate is the way to go. American guitars are the ONLY guitars that retain or go up in value. You can get an American Standard Stratocaster for $700 bucks. These are the guitars that will be cherished and more than likely kept till the day they die. Look at it as investment in your musical career. Hell even if you never make it out of the garage, the guitar will be making money!
Those are some ideas for people who own guitars. First time buyers I will just give you a suggestion on what I like and I think are the best guitars for the money. Fender Strat Packs and Fender Bass Packs and Fender Acoustic Packs are fantastic. You get EVERYTHING you need to start playing. A great guitar, amp, tuner, strap, video, picks, and case. It comes in a box and will look great under the tree. For the money they can’t be beat. These are” no brainers.” I worked at a music store and there isn’t much mark up on these packs so you are getting the best deal no matter where you buy them. I understand Ibenez also has a pakage like this. I haven’t played them so I don’t know but Ibenez is a great company and I have no doubt their package is just as good as the Fender Packs. It depends on what brands your local store carries.
One last point; electric guitars are easier to learn on than acoustic guitars. Especially for younger students. The body is smaller, necks are thinner, and the strings are lighter. Plus kids like to rock! In the time I spent at a music store, I heard a lot of Nirvana and Metallica from kids but never heard one come in and play any Bob Dylan. Kids wanna rock!
It is Christmas time and although I’m not spiritual in any way, I do like the extra smiles you see during the season. I want to emphasize the supporting of your local music store. They are loyal to you so be loyal to them. The Mom and Pop stores, the Independent stores. You are their bread and butter. When they tally up sales at the end of the year it’s not just a gain or a loss, it’s having or have not. The money you spend with them makes them fiercely loyal to you. You are paying the rent after all. The stores I use most are independent. I like knowing my salesman. I like knowing they care about my musical career because the more successful I am the more I will spend and it’s the way they live. It’s win-win. The local guy will get a great customer and you will get someone who’ll suggest your band for events, introduce you to other musicians, and give you the best deals. Plus guys at music stores can give you the skinny on what’s happening in the music scene.
In a time where a person can carry a phone into a store and compare prices online while standing in front of your salesmen. You have to ask yourself. Who would you rather buy from, a store with guitars you can touch and feel, on the wall polished and tuned with a salesman who honestly wants your business and wants you to succeed or a cold online check out. They come within a percent or two of the big online stores. But the extra twenty bucks that you spend at the store, instead of dropping it on Starbucks on the way home will be better for you in the long run. For ten dollars you have a face and a place to go if you have problems, need last minute items, or just wanna hang out where other musicians hang. We sold a ton of strings, picks, and capos verses selling top shelf guitars. So keep buying those strings and picks. We’re all looking out for each other in this. One can’t succeed without the other. Invest in your musical career by buying from your local independent music stores.
I’m gonna leave you with my current project. The scene in the Blues Brothers where James Brown is the preacher kicks into a form of gospel music called “Shout Music.” It’s blistering fast and even though I’m not religious, it is very inspiring. I live in a small town and the churches just don’t have that kind of southern gospel music. The next time I’m on the road on a Sunday morning you can bet I’ll be stopping in and listening. George Carlin says “the only good thing that came out of religion was the music.” Many will disagree but then again it will put my sinful butt in a church. I wanted to learn the style to incorporate into my own music. I found some wonderful examples on YouTube.
St. Louis Area Fellowship Choir” “He Keeps On Blessing Me”