The Non-Musician's Guide To Last-Minute Musical Gifts

This guide will protect you from the sea of experienced people in the music store, as well as ensure that you give a gift that lasts longer than socks.

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Despite the countless millions of dollars spent on holiday advertising, it remains a fact that christmas eve is the single biggest shopping day of the christmas season. If you'll be battling the crowds this year trying to search for that perfect musical gift, don't go in without a detailed plan and an exit strategy. This guide will protect you from the sea of experienced people in the music store, as well as ensure that you give a gift that lasts longer than socks.

1: Picks, Sticks, and Tricks

Every musician finds himself running out of plectrums almost constantly. Whether your musician is a bassist, guitarist, or drummer, he'll find himself for want of a pick or a drum stick at least once a week (this is documented fact). But this could be so easily avoided by keeping a fresh supply of picks. It's a comforting feeling to know that if you lose a pick, 10 more of its brothers will be waiting for you in the box.

Now, many guitarists have a favorite brand, which they have chosen through either countless hours of strenuous testing, or based on what color looks best. If you know one of the latter, buy them an assortment of guitar picks, of varying thickness, material, and shape, and use them as a stocking stuffer. They may just discover a plectrum that works better for them.

2: Strings 'n Things

Most guitarists don't change their strings often enough, resulting in sucky tone. Give the gift of sustain and intonation this year. Get your guitarist some new strings.

Again, this is a good opportunity to give a variety of different strings, or a bunch of the same guage. Many guitarists have never tried anything different from what first came on their guitar. Give them a variety of sets (ask the counter guy what he'd recommend for certain styles of music, if you're musically challenged), so that they can experiment. One of the main reasons people don't experiment with different things is cost. If they hate it, they're out 5 -10 bucks and they have to change strings again. But if they receive strings as a gift, they feel free to experiment. String sets make another fantastic stocking stuffer.

Be sure to also include, if they don't have one, a guitar multi-tool. These come with string cutter, string winder, a variety of allen wrenches (for truss rod adjustment), a few other things, and it's great to have every tool you need on hand.

EXCEPTION: Make sure to ask your musician casually if he has a "Floyd Rose" or other sort of Double-locking tremolo. Those are a royal pain to setup to new tunings and string guages and a floyd rose owner generally wants to stick to what he's got.

3: Safety Equipment

Many guitarists play in their homes, or even in public, improperly equipped. Make sure your guitarist is safe this season. Straplocks, backup cables, extra batteries, a comfortable guitar strap, and a spare guitar or three can make the difference between a contained incident and a full-scale disaster of a performance. Some pre-packaged gig survival kits can be found, but otherwise, find a salesperson who plays live with a band, and ask them about their survival kit.

But in all seriousness, many musicians choose to ignore the very real danger of developing tinnitus. Don't let your friends go deaf. Get them a pair of high fidelity earplugs. These will cost from 12 to 20 dollars for a standard pair, or up to 200 dollars for a custom fitted pair. Even if they only attend concerts, high fidelity earplugs make everyone a winner.

Many guitarists also ignore the necessity of routine guitar maintenance. Many products are available to help protect the guitar, from string cleaner and guitar varnish, to nut oils and chrome knob polish. If your musician doesn't have a full cleaning kit, give him one. Especially if you bought him the guitar.

4. Oft-Overlooked Essentials

Would a mountain climber climb a mountain without his harness and pitons? Only if he were crazy. Here are a few things that a musician would be crazy not to have:

A high quality floor based or rackmounted guitar tuner: It doesn't matter how fresh your strings are if your B string is tuned to F and your E string is tuned to G. Tuning is essential to all forms of music, and is especially crucial to practice. If your ear is learning to play out of tune, your fingers will follow suit, resulting in sloppy playing when the instrument is tuned properly. Tuners run for about 60 to 120 dollars for a good quality, durable, and accurate model.

A noise suppresor: If you have a musician that plays live music regularly without a noise suppressor, they are just asking for trouble. If you don't know much about their music, casually ask these questions in conversation: Do you ever get lots of feedback? Do you get a lot of noise from your (Pickups, amps, pedals)? If they answer yes, a noise suppressor is in order. Noise suppressors can cost from 70 to 150 or more dollars.

A pedalboard/DC brick: Does your musician often carries his pedals in a backpack and tosses them onto the floor, praying that he has enough battery juice to get through the night? Save him from himself; get him a pedalboard. Pedalboards can be bought premade or custom crafted to suit the owner's pedals. The important feature of the pedalboard is the direct current power station that powers all of his pedals, so if you don't get the full board, get him one of these. Be sure to include a host of adapters, just in case. IMPORTANT: Make sure that your musician both:

  • Uses pedals
  • Has trouble plugging in all of the adapters he needs to use OR uses batteries

    A hardshell case: This can be tricky to shop for because they are often fitted to a specific guitar, so if you can't abscond with the guitar, let them come with you when you purchase this. Many guitarists don't have a hardshell case for their guitar, and it is essential that your guitar be protected when traveling to play live music, or in storage for a long while.

    Band T-Shirts: Chances are your favorite musician has a favorite band. But they may not have merchandise with that band's logo on it! Save them the embarrassment of walking into a concert wearing plain black t-shirts. If there's a band they talk about, and they don't wear that band's merch, get them some. If you don't know exactly which band they like, but you know that they like metal, popular standards include Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Cannibal Corpse, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Death, and Slayer. DO NOT buy either Metallica or Megadeth shirts, because there's about a 50-50 chance that they'll hate one and love the other, and also a chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake.

    Most of these are fairly expensive, so make sure that you keep the receipts.

    Follow this guide, and you will be remembered as a good gift-giver.

    Jacobb Byers

  • 43 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Ryan Nias
      "chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake." Oh, that's beautiful. Makes me imagine this exchange: "What Metallica shirts have you got?" "St. Anger." "...I am so sorry."
      cotton3434
      GisleAune wrote: justinb904 wrote: But in all seriousness, many musicians choose to ignore the very real danger of developing tinnitus. this is true, having a constant ringing in your ears is no fun a little late but still a good guide I agree tinnitius sucks...I got it at a concert, even though i stood far away from the stage.
      Agreed. I've had it for as long as I can remember. No wonder it takes me forever to go to sleep..
      unininium
      I find that no matter how many picks I buy I can only ever find the one that I keep in my guitar. Stupid pick gnomes can't get at it
      DonJulio
      DO NOT buy either Metallica or Megadeth shirts, because there's about a 50-50 chance that they'll hate one and love the other, and also a chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake.
      haha nice ending
      Leather Sleeves
      Nice article though. Personally I like to wear a Metallica shirt and my Megadeth hat and see if anyone looks at me weird.
      King ofKumbucha
      EXCEPTION: Make sure to ask your musician casually if he has a "Floyd Rose" or other sort of Double-locking tremolo. Those are a royal pain to setup to new tunings and string guages and a floyd rose owner generally wants to stick to what he's got.
      As a user of Floyd Rose bridge guitars, I find it seriously annoying that anyone could be so retarded as to not be able/find it difficult to set up the tension on their flaoting bridge.
      ComeInnerEar
      Chronologo wrote: lol at the last lines about metallica and megadeth shirts. Good guide, but I tought it would be a little more in-depth
      If it would've been more in-depth, it would've been an advertisement. Good article, wish I would've sent this to a couple of people. haha
      Dan shreds
      and also a chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake.
      lol my dad should read this he done this exact thing he knew i liked metallica but he thought all there music was the same
      drycell17
      senorbobby wrote: The funny thing is that this is a guitar site so most likely, the person reading it will be a guitarist, and therefore know a thing or two about guitar accessories anyway. See if this was out a week ago this is what you copy and paste onto your girlfriend or wifes facebook. And secondly if you didn't know anything about guitar, you wouldn't go to a tab-based site for it! Good guide though, incisive
      darman92
      Does your musician often carries his pedals in a backpack and tosses them onto the floor, praying that he has enough battery juice to get through the night?
      Oh god...I would have to say, in the position I'm in (what with my pickups freshly dead on my Jackson, my strings needing changing, my need for more picks, all my batteries dead, my tuning fork lost, my cables suck, my truss rods needing tweaking, and my horrible horrible amp) you should just take your favorite guitarist to the music store and give them a budget somewhere between 250, or if you're feeling generous, 1000 dollars and have them get everything they need.
      blade_shredder
      I have tinnitus. its not very loud. . . but it sucks. My hearing blows too. to many loud concerts and standing to close to way to many drummers. . . im Only 20. Ive had it since I was 18. . . Buy some ear plugs.
      Monkeyboard
      great little guide. Birthday coming up. Accidentally emailed it to certain people...
      JakoSnako
      also a chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake
      i actually liked St. Anger....
      NOSPI
      also a chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake i actually liked St. Anger....
      LOL!
      Hotdogs753
      Yeah I love St. Anger as well I mean it's not there best album but it's still a good 1. Also earplugs are good my idea should have got some for when I was dragged to a Taylor Swift concert by my niece (to young to go alone) the amount of screaming girls made my ears ring for the next 3 days. But great when jamming with mates.
      Chronologo
      lol at the last lines about metallica and megadeth shirts. Good guide, but I tought it would be a little more in-depth
      Zeppelin Addict
      Lou108 wrote: cool list... i wish the people that got me my presents read this. I got "trendy" clothes
      blah i am sorry good ideas, metronome or a guitar stand works good to. playing in time and keeping your sexy best friend on display is never a bad thing \M/
      woodenbandman
      Check again, it's listed under safety equipment. I would never recommend buying a guitar that a person didn't specifically ask for by model number, otherwise it's guaranteed that they'll find something they dislike about it. It's like clothes: you only ever want to buy them by yourself and for yourself.
      justinb904
      But in all seriousness, many musicians choose to ignore the very real danger of developing tinnitus.
      this is true, having a constant ringing in your ears is no fun a little late but still a good guide
      Rock In Rio
      Save him from himself
      I was just listening to "The Test That Stumped Them All" while I was reading this.
      Jondy
      Does your musician often carries his pedals in a backpack and tosses them onto the floor, praying that he has enough battery juice to get through the night?
      Haha I've been there. Actually, I'm pretty much still there except I have AC adapters now. Still no pedal board though. I am so broke now...
      Lou108
      cool list... i wish the people that got me my presents read this. I got "trendy" clothes
      jetwash69
      "chance that you'll buy a St. Anger shirt by mistake." If you got one and don't want it, I'll trade you some picks for it...
      sammo_boi
      haha my brother got me strings. managed to get exactly the same type as i use.
      Koshman32
      I was smart this year and gave my parents a couple old packages of the strings I use (the different sizes and such), and gave them the hint if they wanted to buy me strings again for Christmas
      GisleAune
      justinb904 wrote: But in all seriousness, many musicians choose to ignore the very real danger of developing tinnitus. this is true, having a constant ringing in your ears is no fun a little late but still a good guide
      I agree tinnitius sucks...I got it at a concert, even though i stood far away from the stage.
      droctogonapus93
      Does your musician often carries his pedals in a backpack and tosses them onto the floor, praying that he has enough battery juice to get through the night?
      Hahaha thats me, thrown in a back pack and pray to the 9v gods
      senorbobby
      The funny thing is that this is a guitar site so most likely, the person reading it will be a guitarist, and therefore know a thing or two about guitar accessories anyway. And secondly if you didn't know anything about guitar, you wouldn't go to a tab-based site for it! Good guide though, incisive
      SlayingDragons
      senorbobby wrote: The funny thing is that this is a guitar site so most likely, the person reading it will be a guitarist, and therefore know a thing or two about guitar accessories anyway. And secondly if you didn't know anything about guitar, you wouldn't go to a tab-based site for it! Good guide though, incisive
      You could always 'accidentally' set this guide as their homepage. :p
      LPDC
      You could always 'accidentally' set this guide as their homepage. :p
      baahahahaha
      Andragon
      Unique article, but it would've been more helpful a week before the posting date.
      Ssargentslayer
      a comfortable guitar strap, and a spare guitar or three can make the difference between a contained incident and a full-scale disaster of a performance.
      Perfect gift!
      flashmdg
      Rock In Rio wrote: Save him from himself I was just listening to "The Test That Stumped Them All" while I was reading this.
      win