You know what's awesome about December? Not only is it the Friday of the months, but it also won't be long until you can kick back and relax for the holidays. Of course, you'll spend some quality time with the family and suppress all thoughts of school and work, but more importantly, you'll (hopefully) receive a ton of new music gear before the end of the year. As musicians most likely strapped for cash, we depend on the kindness and wallets of our loved ones to get us our much needed music products for the upcoming year. But how do you decide what you really want? Should you go the practical route and ask for some essentials, or do you want to get in touch with your inner 5-year-old and request a ridiculous amount of musical toys? And how can you convince someone to shell out some serious cash toward expensive gear?
Well, if you're unsure how to go about asking for certain items, here's a letter you can present to the one who will bear your gifts. Print this letter on some festive holiday stationery, put on a nice Bill Cosby Christmas sweater and sweetly present this letter to the mall Santa, Uncle Bill, Grandma, or whoever is in charge of holiday shopping. You're almost on your way to home studio glory and high tech playtime.
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"Dear [Santa], [Hanukkah Harry], [Mom and Dad],
You probably figured this list would come eventually. I know it can be hard to know what to get a guitarist for the holidays so I wanted to let you in on some things I've been eyeing over the past few months. I want to make your holiday shopping experience as stress-free as possible - these items aren't exactly the Turbo Mans of the year so you won't have to get in a fistfight outside of KB Toys. A quick online shopping session or Guitar Center run is all it takes to make me the happiest guitarist of the year!
Now, let's cut to the chase. I'd like to point out that I have been a good musician this year; I practiced nearly everyday, joined a band, and even volunteered at a senior citizens center to teach guitar chords and sing Woodie Guthrie songs. All in all, I'd say I did a good job. Also, I love you.
So this is where you come in. Based on how much you think I deserve presents, I've come up with a few scenarios that will make your shopping experience much easier. Keeping in mind that we're dealing with some expensive stuff I know I'll take what I can get. It all depends on how amazing you think I am, and how much you'd like me to succeed as a musician. Did I mention that I love you yet? Here's my list:
Scenario 1: If You Want to Make My Musical Dreams Come True
Choose this option if you believe there's a 95%+ chance that I could become the next Eddie Van Halen or Brian Eno, and you want me to have everything I need to capture my musical ideas and record my eventual masterpieces. As a musician in the 21st Century, it's important to have a solid knowledge of current music software and technology, so this scenario primarily deals with some gifts for the complete home studio. Think of these products as investments for my future.
Item 1: Axe FX II by Fractal Audio (Price: $2,599.95)
I'll get the big item out of the way. I know the price is steep, but check it out: the Axe FX II is a guitar preamp and effects processor that masterfully emulates the sound of high-quality classic amplifiers, speaker cabinets and effects. Remember all those amps and bulky effects pedals I bought years ago that now take up space? Getting an Axe FX II is like fusing them all into one amazing rack box. I'd literally have everything I need with amps and effects. I can use it live as well as for recording. Now I could go on and on about the improved memory, improved ability to make custom patches, G2 Amp Modeling Technology, and advanced dynamics sensitivity, but that's all nerdy tech talk. Basically, for guitarists, the Axe FX II is the Tickle-Me-Elmo of this year, and if I get it, I'll be the coolest guitarist on the block. Plus, if you buy an Axe FX II, I'll likely be set for life, thus eliminating the need for future gifts.
Item 2: Apogee Duet 2 by Apogee Electronics (Price: $595.00)
The Apogee Duet 2 is a nifty, sleek, portable audio interface that really helps with home recording. The preamp is essential for enhancing the audio signal going into my Mac and it's perfect for capturing professional-quality recordings. Say I'm noodling on my acoustic and think of a good melody; with the Apogee Duet 2, I can quickly record my idea with superior audio quality without having to fuss with a ton of cables and sub-par microphones.
Item 3: Superior Drummer 2.0 by Toontrack (Price: $349.00)
Superior Drummer is a drum simulation software package that can produce some extremely realistic-sounding drums. From what I understand, the sounds Toontrack recorded for this software is of the highest quality, and the ability to customize detailed aspects of the drums makes it sound much more realistic than other drum simulators. Think of it this way: when it's time to track drums for my album demos, instead of lugging a drum set into the house, setting up expensive studio mics and recording the drums at full volume, I can just program the drums using Superior Drummer for a professional-sounding performance. Plus, I won't have to deal with dense drummers
Oh, how I love to crack jokes and spread the holiday cheer! This concludes Scenario 1.
Scenario 2: If I'm Asking For Way Too Much
At this point, you could be saying, Get real. I can understand why, but it's okay, I realize that the amount of money is pretty steep in Scenario 1. If it's out of reach, here's another group of gifts that is a little more affordable and more fun.
Item 1: Jambox by Jawbone (Price: $199.00)
This is probably the coolest portable, wireless speaker around. It's smaller than a standard brick and apparently gets insanely loud despite its small size (outputs up to 85 decibels!). This can come in very handy for some impromptu parking lot mosh pits or holiday party entertaining (hint). There's even a Bluetooth setting that allows the speaker to pick up phone calls.
Ideally, I'd prefer it in black, like my metal.
Item 2: Guitar Rig 5 Pro by Native Instruments (Price: $199.00)
I could really use this guy for practicing and demo recording. The software program has a library of 17 high quality amp simulations, 27 cabs, 16 mics, and 54 effectsbasically, you can create any amp and effects rig setup right on your computer. An added benefit to those who don't want to hear me practice guitar constantly: I can easily use headphones while I jam away. I'll be in my own world, practicing some economy picking on an authentic David Gilmour setup, able to enjoy a seemingly endless horizon of guitar tones all on my laptop.
Scenario 3: If I've Been a Huge Disappointment
Maybe you're unimpressed with my guitar playing this year. Although I will be sad with this result, if this is the case, I can live with it and use it as motivation to work harder next year. I get that practicing diminished arpeggios for 3 hours per day and blasting nothing but progressive music can get annoying. Maybe the time isn't right.
The bare minimum scenario is for practicality's sake. Maybe you want to instill the mindset that I need to earn the high-end gear myself and I'd be better off practicing my ass off with lower-end gear for now. Fair enough. Well, if the Axe FX II isn't in the cards, maybe we could go with some more essential items
Honestly, a garbage bag filled with Dunlop Tortex Black Jazz Guitar Picks would be amazing; there are so many times when I'm out and about and need a guitar pick, only to find that I don't have one and have to rely on my underdeveloped finger picking. An assortment of strings and instrument cables are also useful.
An iTunes Gift Card would also suffice. There have been a lot of great albums released this year Mastodon, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Trivium, Opeth Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead - and I'd like to contribute to my favorite artists' album sales. Gotta support the artists, right? Plus, you wouldn't want me contributing to illegal file sharing, would you?
Well, that's my list. A little long, but isn't that what a wish list is for? I figured I'd cover all the bases. I anxiously await your decision.
*Note: Feel free to mix and match items from each Scenario.
Potentially the Happiest Musician Ever
P.S. I know you've been hearing a lot about Metallica and Lou Reed's album, Lulu. I'm aware that you know I'm a Metallica fan, but for everyone's sake, please ignore the impulse to buy it. I'd rather get nothing."
By Zach Pino