Saturday, December 14, 2013

10 Guitar Gifts for the Guitar Players on Your List

If you're considering buying a gift for a guitar player, do a search in Google for "Guitar Gifts" and you'll find all kinds of interesting ideas. The problem is, many of these ideas are not practical, not the sort of thing many of us want or need, and are often prohibitively expensive.
Here's a better way to go at it. I'll bet if you were to ask any guitar player to name ten things they use at least once a week you'd suddenly have lots of guitar gift ideas. You'll find a lot of those things listed below. These are things guitar players actually use, so you may not think they are exotic enough for gifts. Then again what is better than getting something that is actually useful?

Ten things a guitar player uses at least once a week
1. Guitar strap 
I know, not every guitar player uses a strap, but they probably should. You can get really cheap fabric straps or go for something more substantial. Decorative or branded ones (e.g., Beatles, Kiss, etc.) can be interesting. But you'll pay a lot for a bit of decoration.

Eventually your guitarist will want to graduate to something that doesn't slip off his or her shoulder - leather usually does the trick. A good strap will last decades, so if you're giving one as a gift you might have it inscribed inside with a nice "from me to you". Even writing the occasion, recipient's name and your signature with a pen will leave a reminder that will last for many years.
2. Guitar Amplifier 
Whether your guitarist plays an acoustic or an electric an amp is useful. Most decent acoustics these days have built in electronics that make it easy to plug into an amp. You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a decent practice amp. You can get a real, brand name starter amp like a Fender, Line 6 or Behringer for less than $125.

Or you might check out the large selection of "mini" amps that have hit the market in the last few years. Marshall, Fender, Line 6, Vox and Danelectro all make models for under $50. These little units are extremely portable and can be surprisingly "big" sounding. Here is a typical comment: "Great little amp; and I mean little. It puts out a lot of sound for its size and is great for practice. Plug your headphones in to really get a great sound."
3. Cable for amp 
If your guitarist plays through an amp he or she needs a cable. Everyone who has ever used a guitar amp or a microphone knows how cables can be troublesome. They get yanked, thrown around, stepped on, and the plugs inevitably stop working the way they're supposed to. So every musician or performer needs extra cables - just in case. Don't be cheap. They don't cost much, so get a couple that look rugged and substantial - perhaps two of different lengths. Check out the plugs required before you go to the music store.

4. Guitar Capo 
I suppose there are a few guitarists who never use a capo. But the vast majority of us find it one of the most useful guitar accessories we own.The two most important things about a capo are first, its effectiveness in holding down the strings, and, second, the ease of putting it on and taking it off.

Both of these things suggest you should not get a cheap one. The cheapest is one that consists of a plastic bar held on with an elasticized strap. The biggest drawback of this design is they are somewhat difficult to put on - especially for younger guitarists.
A much better capo is one that is spring loaded, can be put on with one hand, and can be clipped to the guitar head when not in use. Probably the most popular are made by Dunlop and Kyser. Both retail for under $20.
5. Guitar Stand 
These things are so cheap and yet so useful. If you are a guitarist and you don't have a stand you'll always be wondering where to put your instrument so it doesn't get banged into or sat on. Even a cheap guitar stand solves that problem. Most music stores will have a range of stands from expensive and elaborate to simple and inexpensive. Don't spend a lot. You can get an effective stand for less than $10.

6. Foot Rest 
This is something that many guitarists need in order to get the knee they're resting the guitar on (when they are sitting) up to a comfortable level for playing. Almost anything will do - a stack of books, a shoe box - but these things have a habit of getting kicked around and constantly need adjusting. Why not get a proper foot rest that allows you to adjust the height? They cost less than $20.

7. Headphones 
Most amps come equipped with a jack for a set of headphones. Your guitar player can wear headphones while he or she practices making it bearable for everyone else in the house. They can turn up the volume and play to their heart's content.

Most headphones are quite versatile. They can be used with other digital instruments like keyboards and drums. Or they can be plugged into a computer or mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. So the budding musician can never have too many sets of headphones.
8. Guitar Picks 
Every guitar player needs an assortment of picks, and every guitar player regularly loses them. So giving a guitarist 10 or 20 picks is a great idea. Make sure you know what they like and use all the time.

Picks come in a bewildering range of thicknesses, and shapes. The stiffness of a pick is the most important variable. Most guitarist use only one type of pick, so make sure you know what to get before getting something they will never use.
If you are confident you know what weight and thickness to get you might consider some personalized picks with the guitarist's name on them, or the name of a favorite band. Or you can even get a pick-making kit that lets the guitarist punch out picks in different shapes from different weights and colors of plastic and then imprint them with a name or logo.
9. Guitar Case 
A lot of beginner guitars don't have a case, so taking them out of the house to a friend's or to an actual gig is risky. Name brand guitars (Martins, Taylors, Fenders, Gibsons, etc.) usually come with a fitted case. Each model is usually a unique size and shape, so be careful when you go looking for a case. Be sure to write down the model of the guitar so you can tell the music store guy what is going in it.

You might be able to find a new (or used) case for a premium brand guitar, or even what is usually considered a second level brand like Epiphone, Squier, Godin, Yamaha, etc. But having the name on the case is no big deal. So don't sweat it. Make sure it fits and that the guitar sits snugly inside. A new generic case might be better than a used branded one. Used cases often smell musty (because they've sat in someone's closet, basement or attic for a few years) and unless it is exactly the right one you have no guarantee that it will fit, or that the hardware works properly.
Or consider getting a "gig bag". These are made of fabric and the better ones are usually padded. Since they are flexible the exact size is not as important and they can be folded up when not in use.
10. Guitar effects pedal 
This is a great little gift for a budding rock guitarist. An effects pedal plugs into the guitar amp and adds effects like fuzz and distortion when called for. You can get pedals that let the guitarist switch between a number of settings, or one (or more) dedicated to a specific effect.

For instance, Danelectro makes the "Fab" line of pedals where each one gives you a (variable) effect (such as distortion, metal, chorus, echo, overdrive, etc.) and cost less than $25 each.
When looking for a great guitar gift get past thinking about trinkets and cutesy decorations or jewelry. Look for something the guitar player can actually use to make his or her guitar playing experience more interesting and more enjoyable.

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