The holidays are upon us. For those of us that like to give gifts and celebrate with people we love, music is a fantastic gift to give. However, shopping for that musician in your life can be difficult. There are so many variables, and where do you even begin? Well, that’s what I’m here to do today. I wanted to give you a short guide on where to start for your holiday gift giving.
Stocking Stuffer Ideas
It doesn’t have to be a big gift to make a difference. That’s what’s great about stocking stuffers. Things like straps, strings, picks and tuners are great for guitar players and bass players alike. Sticks, drum pads, even metronomes can be great for drummers. However, for most musicians they tend to be a little particular about what they use. This doesn’t mean you can’t get something. Sometimes this requires a bit of sleuthing. The good news is most musicians like to talk about the kind of gear they use and why. For example you can ask a drum student about the sticks they are using.
As a guitar player, I have very specific reasons for the pics I use. The same can be said for my strings. But, how do you find out what they prefer? Glad you asked, here are some sample questions to get you started:
I know a lot of people like the idea of getting a guitar as a gift. Often the same people feel overwhelmed with the prospect. I have helped a lot of parents, spouses, and significant others help select guitars. I’ve even written a buying guide. The most common questions I get are:
What kind of guitar should I buy?
How much should I spend?
What kind of guitar should I buy:
Obviously this is going to depend on the person. When I started playing the conventional wisdom was “get an acoustic guitar first to learn the basics.” But, our approach here at Silversound Guitar is to get people interested. So, the question should be “what is the person you’re buying for excited about playing?” If they listen to a lot of metal, an acoustic guitar may not be for them. If they really dig acoustic blues or country then it might be the right instrument.
How much should I spend
There are a couple of ways to approach this. If you are buying for yourself you might want to consider getting a guitar that fits your hand and plays well. Even if you are a beginner you can still pick it up and see how it feels.
Here is a price breakdown:
if you are just getting into the instrument this is a comfortable place to start in order to figure out how you play, what kind of body style and neck shape work best for you. There are some impressive guitars out there for under 500 from companies like Legator and Scheter . If you prefer to look at some of the traditional brands, Fender’s new Squire line is killer. It is perfect for a great looking, great sounding guitar on a budget. The Squire line used to have a stigma attached to it but really since NAMM 2018 Fender has stepped up their game.
As you start getting into this price point you are looking for a instrument that you are going to be able to use for a long time. Perhaps you already have been playing for awhile but this is also a good place for a beginner. It seems like a bit much if you’ve never played before. However, a guitar that feels great, sounds great and is easy to play will help you keep up your practice and make you enjoy playing. You can also find some excellent models from Solar, and Jackson at this price point.
This is a broad price range. But, you don’t have to go into the custom shop in order to find an outstanding guitar. If you love a guitar that’s based on old school looks or but plays like a hot rodded guitar check out Reverend. For the modern guitar player I would point you towards Ormsby. I play one myself. For under 1500 they make one of the best shred machines out there.
What to do about amplifiers? Are they a good gift? There are so many different directions to go. Do you want tube amps or do you want a modeler? Do you play out or just in your room? Well there are solutions for all.
First I would stay away from full stacks and 100watt heads. Unless you are playing stadia that need the space and they don’t have mic’s for your amp then go for it. Otherwise it is going to be impossible for you to crank that thing to get the best tone out of it.
That said I love my VOX AC15. Sure I can’t crank it but, I did put some low output tubes in it to get it to break up at a lower volume. But that is discussion for a different blog.
If you’re on the look out for an amp that is a little lighter and allows you to get that tube sound and response stick to 20 watts or less. This could be a Fender Blues JR, an AC15, a Peavey Classic 20 any of those will do just fine. There are now some great mini heads by Yahmah and Orange that are all tube and only about 5 watts. They sound amazing and are really cheap. It’s definitely a fun toy!
Modeling Amps have come a long way. The Boss Katana is a great example of one that has busted the market wide open recently. The Bias Spark is a great in home example of one of the best new things to come out this year. Of course if you have the cash the Line 6 Helix, the Fractal AxFx and the Kemper are great options. Each one of these things does some thing slightly different so when you have to buy all of the above just tell your significant other that they are all unique tools.
Now if you are interested in getting into effects pedals there is a whole new world of options opening up here too. Plus they can make great gifts that come in nice boxes. So where do you start? My recommendation if you are just starting to build a pedal rig is to start with a good reverb. A reverb can go a long way in just adding some depth and color to your tone. I love my Afterneath by EarthQuaker Devices but you may also want to check out The Strymon Blue Sky (a modern classic), the Keely Aurora, or the Electro Harmonix Oceans.
Besides a good reverb I would next recommend a good overdrive pedal. I am partial to overdrive instead of fuzz or distortion because it mimics more of the tube break up than a circuit distortion. But hey it’s up to you and your taste. For more on the difference check out this article here.
Next I would say it’s a toss up between a good compressor and a delay. A lot of modern music uses delay and this could be really helpful in a wide range of applications.
A compressor helps smooth out your playing especially with your clean tone. I almost always have mine while playing clean.
A great present or gift is for sure the Looper pedal. Make sure you get one of these. A looper pedal allows you to work on chords and timing while being able to play leads over it. Mark did a great video on how to use one of these and you can check it out here.
It’s 2020. You should have some sort of thing to record on a your home computer. However, if you’ve never delved into it can be daunting especially if your buying it as a gift. If you don’t know where to get started the simplest thing is to get a two channel interface. The gold standard at the moment is the Scarlet 2i2. But Presonus and Berhinger get you in the game for a reasonable price as well. The difference is going to be clarity of sound and latency but if all you need to do is get started, just get what the pocket book can afford.
Additionally get a microphone. However, What kind? Should you get a condenser? A Dynamic? And instrument? All of the above?
I would say start with a condenser microphone, unless you are sure you will only ever be recording a guitar amp. A condenser microphone can be used for voice, for acoustic instruments and for amplifiers (with careful placement). It is the most versatile of all types. I wouldn’t recommend pencil condensers, unless you are just recording acoustic instruments.
Once you’ve got your recording set up all in place there are few things you may want to look into for software. To help with your recording you may want to start with Reaper. Reaper is a recording software. It’s a light weight program that is easy to learn. They offer a free trial and is pretty inexpensive for what you get. Reaper is perfect to start learning how to use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
Once you’re settled with your DAW it’s time to think about plugins for your electric guitar, bass rig or even drums. For Drums EZ Drummer and Addictive Drums are pretty common and we have used both in studio here. For guitar there are numerous ones. Some of the best to come out in the last couple of years are Bias FX and Neural Dsp. Kyle just purchased the Neural DSP and can’t say enough good things about them.
For practice and writing software, I highly recommend getting Guitar Pro. We work with these guys to get our students a discount. If you’re a studnet here and havn’et heard about this yet, talk to your teacher or send us an email. Guitar Pro allows you to work on sections of a song in order to practice them at a slower speed and bring them up to speed. It can also be a great writing and learning tool. I have several students that use if for their own compositions.
So what do you do if you have a musician who doesn’t need gear? First off who are they because every musician loves new gear! But seriously, lessons are a great way to take your playing to the next level. The problem with apps and youtube is they can’t help you in real time and there is rarely a structure built to help you reach the next level. Our teachers at Silversound have the experience and know-how in order to get you playing, singing and writing the music you want. We have gift cards that we are offering this year as well that you can load with a lesson pack or save you the headache and have them buy their own particular stocking stuffers.