Affordable holiday shopping guide for the musician in your life

Holiday Musician Buying Guide

The month leading us into the late December holiday season can certainly get difficult when looking for items to buy your family and friends. That difficulty can be even more pronounced when you have a musician in your family, and you don’t know where to start. When shopping for the musician in your life, a very present roadblock can make itself known if you, yourself are not a musician, and don’t have the money to spend on pricier items like a $250 guitar pedal. Worry not, we are here to guide you along to find the best musician-friendly gifts that you don’t have to shell out the big bucks to Santa for, that will put a huge grin on the musician in your life’s face.

Guitar, Bass, and Keyboard Players

Instrument Cable

  1. Instrument Cables – The first piece of gear that every guitarist and bassist needs, especially those with electric instrument, are instrument cables. Every time a cable gets plugged in and used at a gig, its lifespan gradually cuts down over time. Beyond that, they are an item that can become easily lost in if another player accidentally picks one up after a jam session with your family member. They are an absolute necessity in the guitar and bass world, and something that will definitely put them at ease to open up on Christmas morning. Instrument cables can otherwise be referred to as 1/4″ or TS cables depending on where you shop, and as a general rule of thumb, we’d strongly recommend purchasing one 10ft. in length or longer, which is ideal for practicing with the band, or bringing to a gig. Instrument cables, depending on durability, length, quality, and where you shop, can range on average from about $10-$50.

Guitar Distortion Pedal

2. Cheap or Used Effects Pedals – If you’ve heard the player in your life going non-stop about buying new pedals, it may be easy to assume that the only ones out there will run you several hundred dollars. However, this could not be further from the truth. There are plenty of great options out there for under $100, even for a new pedal. A nice pro tip for shopping would be to visit a website like Guitar Center or Sweetwater, and simply type “guitar pedals” into the search bar, and then sort by price low-to-high. That way, You’ll see all of the more affordable pedal options that you can buy brand new. Additionally, be sure not to rule out buying used pedals as well. There are a lot of very popular guitar pedals out there that normally run a few hundred dollars, that you can pick up for much cheaper. Go visit the marketplace at Reverb.com, which is essentially an Ebay-type online store for musicians to browse for top dollar items at slashed prices.

Guitar Picks

3. Picks, Strings, and KnickKnacks – Another great idea for holiday gifts for the guitar player in your life would be small items they might not even think of, but could definitely come in handy. For instance, you can consider an item like this pick puncher that will allow them to punch unused credit cards into guitar picks for a second life. A bag or two of actual guitar or bass picks for that matter is always a necessity for regular players, as it is the most common accessory that goes missing. Or, you could grab a new pack of guitar or bass strings as stocking stuffers, although you’ll want to keep in mind that strings are much different between electric and acoustic instruments, and you might want to ask ahead of time what type of strings they prefer to play with, as there are many options available. They’d definitely appreciate you asking, and it would probably impress them that you know there’s a difference in the first place.

Drummers

Drumsticks

  1. Drumsticks – No, we’re not talking about a holiday trip to KFC here, although I’m sure they wouldn’t turn it down either. Every drummer out there could always use a different, or new pair of sticks to play with. Because they’re always bashing them around on drums, sticks can get chipped, cracked, or broken easier than you’d think. So a back up pair of sticks or two will definitely put a smile on their face. Like guitar strings however, drumsticks also come in a variety, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask what types of sticks they currently use, or even ones they’ve been hoping to get a pair of before you make the purchase.

Drum Moon Gel

2. Moon Gels and Tone Control Rings – If you’ve been listening into the drummer in your life’s practice sessions, (and if you’re in the same house, it’s hard not to), you might have picked up on the fact that some of their drums, when hit, can have a ring that seems to last a few seconds. And trust us, the drummer is not keeping it that way on purpose. There are companies out there that make “moon gels”, which look and feel similar to those sticky hands on a string you might have gotten as a child by putting a coin into a vending machine. These get placed on the drum heads to reduce that ring, and can tighten up the tone significantly. Along the same lines are ring reducers or tone control rings, which are actual plastic rings that the drummer lays flat on top of the circumference of the drum, that also cuts down the ring. Before you buy the latter however, be sure to ask, or find out the size of the drum’s diameter, and buy accordingly.

Drumheads

3. Drumheads – The bread and butter of what makes drums useable in the first place. Like we mentioned earlier, the more drummers practice, gig out, and bang away at their drumheads, the weaker they become, and can lose their tone. A new set of drumheads for your drummer will definitely make them feel appreciated as we head into the new year. If you decide on drumheads though, here’s a few things to keep in mind. Take a trip to their drumkit, and take a look at the drums themselves, ignoring the snaredrum which will likely be on its own stand to the left of the bass drum for right handed drummers, or to the right for lefties. If the drumheads there are white, you might want to look for look for coated drumheads. If they are see-through, browse around for clear drumheads. Some go-to names are Remo, DW, and Evans that will almost definitely please any drummer. And be sure, again, to measure the diameter to ensure they’ll fit properly. I  f you still get confused, as always, it never hurts to ask.

Singers and Rappers

Vocal Microphone

  1. Microphones – Microphones to vocalists, are everything. And while they can certainly be a little bit on the pricier side, they will last forever, as long as they are taken care of. If you surprise the vocalist in your family a new microphone this season, we can assure you they will appreciate it forever. If you have a singer in the family who is just starting out, we’d recommend a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone for performing out. If they’re testing their hand at recording at home, a quality USB-style condenser microphone like the Blue Yeti should definitely do the trick to get them started off on the right foot. You can pick up either one of these new for around $100, and it will be a gift they won’t soon forget. If the vocalist in your family is more of a professional, chances are the Yeti may be considered too “beginner” stage for them, but an SM58 will work for vocalists of all ranges.

XLR Cable

2. XLR Cables – The right-hand-man to most microphones (with the exception of USB microphones), is the XLR cable. This cable is what connects your singer’s microphone to a recording interface at home, or to the PA system on the road. Without it, the microphone would be no good. And much like the instrument cables mentioned above, they can easily get mixed up or damaged. So it’s always handy for a singer or rapper to have an extra one at their disposal. Again, we’d recommend anything over 10 feet, which you can easily find in a price range of $10-$50 depending on quality.

Microphone Stands

3. Microphone Stands – Most of the time, singers are just fine holding the microphone in their hand throughout a performance. But everyone now and then needs an arm break. This is where a microphone stand comes in as a handy tool at home, or on the road. For most singers, it is likely that the ideal microphone stand style will be the “round-base” type while standing up, rather than a boom stand. This simplifies height adjustment and setup to a simple twist towards the bottom of the stand. Round base stands, depending on quality, and where you buy, can typically range anywhere from $20-$70.

Audio Engineers

  1. Any of the Above – One of the great things about having an audio engineer in the family is that it expands your gift giving horizons to whole new levels. As an audio engineer or music producer, chances are, they’ll be looking to collect new pieces of equipment that range across the whole spectrum of instruments. Most audio engineers will be just as happy to open up a new set of guitar strings, as they would a new XLR cable to mic somebody up with. Whether they’re saving up to eventually open their own recording studio, or just enthusiasts, they will most likely be happy with anything music related you let them open.

2. Audio Plugins – To many audio engineers, a gift that will be appreciated doesn’t necessarily have to be on a piece of hardware to hold in their hands. To many, the tools that will be most useful to them comes through a software download. There are many plugin manufacturers out there nowadays have a lot to offer for under $100, and most will run major discounts during Black Friday, and into the new year. To check some of them out, go visit websites of popular manufacturers like Waves, Soundtoys, Apogee, iZotope, Antares, and many more to get the list started. Seriously, audio engineers are arguably the easiest on this list to please, so honestly just about anything goes.