Eager to buy something special for the guitarist in your life? Want to buy them a gift they’ll actually use? Here we have the 5 best and 5 worst holiday gifts for guitarists to help you navigate the minefield of musical gift-giving!
This list of 5 worst gifts will explain some of the popular misconceptions around guitar accessories and help you avoid the kind of akward faux pas that musicians cringe and laugh about. The 5 best gifts will provide you inspiration and help you buy something really special for the guitarists in your life.
This might sound rendundant, but before anything else, it’s worth checking that your lucky recipient actually plays the guitar and not, I don’t know, the tuba? Do your homework.
The 5 Worst Gifts for Guitarists
‘Tis the season.
Most guitarists are eager to try out other instruments and percussion is one of the most straightforward options because individual pieces are very affordable. Being Christmas, one might expect Sleigh Bells to be the best option – they’re inexpensive and seasonal so what’s not to love?
Don’t buy Christmas-themed products if they’re a gift given on Christmas day. Why do you think sales of Christmas jumpers peak before Chritmas? What kind of madman would wear a Christmas jumper after Christmas?
Do you know how many festive songs are written on or after Christmas Day? Zero. Exactly none. Do you want your gift to be forgotten under a pile of old wrapping paper? Of course not.
Yes, someone brought me sleigh bells one year. Clearly it bothered me.
Whoa Liam, what? Who wouldn’t want to get a new guitar pedal for Christmas!? Sure, yeah, I hear you. That would be rad. What would not be rad is being gifted whatever off-brand guitar pedal my Grandma found on Bing (I don’t know why she uses Bing but honestly it’s a miracle she can use a computer at all).
There’s 2 issues here. Firstly, pedals do different things, right? If a guitarist has a reverb pedal it’s unlikely they’ll want another – certainly not if they could have a tasty phaser instead. Secondly, guitarists are tribal (like everyone else), there’s brands they like and there’s brands they hate. Do you know which brands your guitarist prefers?
Am I saying pedals are a no-go area for a Christmas gift? Absolutely not, but my preferred method is the wonderful Christmas voucher. Impersonal? Maybe, but at least your guitarist can get something they really want, something they’ll actually use, rather than a very expensive paperweight.
COFFEE TABLE BOOKS
In general, Coffee Table Books assume the recipient knows nothing about the subject matter because they cover the topic in a very simple way. Even as a beginner, your guitarist will more than likely know most of the contents already.
Also, musicians, as a rule, don’t own coffee tables. I don’t know a single musician, of any kind, that owns a coffee table. Not a damn one. Don’t @ me.
Books are an excellent gift idea, but I’m asking you to try a little harder. There’s plenty of alternatives: biographies of famous guitarists, fine; a big book of guitar tabs, also fine; Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum… tricky, but fine.
Better yet, buy them a coffee table. I guarantee they won’t own one.
Guitar accessories might seem like a no-brainer of a gift: affordable, small enough to fit in the stocking, bound to be of use, surely? It’s not that simple I’m afraid. There’s a good chance they already have whatever accessories they desire and, if they don’t have something it’s probably because they have no interest in owning it.
Of course, if your guitarist has explicitly suggested they would like a certain accessory then that’s a different matter! (If you need guidance on a brand, I recommend Jim Dunlop guitar accessories pretty much across the board). Otherwise, I’m afraid slides, capos, jack cables are all to be avoided.
A further exception: if you happen to know what strings they like, a few packs of spares will go down a treat. Just don’t stray from what they’ve told you – I know it doesn’t sound like there’s any difference between Extra Slinky and Super Slinky but there absolutely is.
I almost regret telling my family I play guitar. They would have worked it out sooner or later, what with my owning a load of guitars and only having music-related stories to tell at get-togethers. But if I’d have known how many guitar-emblazoned mugs, pillows, knick-knacks and guitar-shaped spoons they’d buy me (yes, that’s a thing), I’d have tried much harder to keep it a secret.
If you’re certain, (and I mean certain), that the recipient is in dire need of new mugs then you should abolutely get them a guitar-themed mug, knock yourself out. If you, for some reason, aren’t sure on their mug-having status then I suggest you steer clear.
Now that we’ve established what not to buy a guitarist, let’s take a look at some good ideas.
The 5 Best Gifts for Guitarists
NOT SLEIGH BELLS
We know that sleigh bells are a no-no, but there’s plenty of other small, inexpensive percussion instruments you could gift to the guitarist in your life. A gift that isn’t immediately redundant for 8 months after being opened. There’s something for every price range too, which is really helpful. Egg shakers for under £3; Tambourines for under £12; Cowbells for under £16 (you’ll need drum sticks as well); and at the more expensive end of the scale, but still very giftable, Bongos for under £80.
I find Meinl to be a really trustworthy brand who make sturdy equipment that sounds good and won’t break the bank.
GUITAR MAINTENANCE KIT
If your guitarist has been playing for a couple years there’s a great chance they’ll really appreciate a set of guitar tools. Even better, they probably won’t have bought their own. As a rule of thumb, I’d say that if they own less than 2 guitars, they probably won’t already have maintenance tools and if they’ve been playing for longer than a couple years, they might need them.
There’s a few options so there’s some flexibility in the price range. At the top-end is this £80 guitar maintenance kit from Jim Dunlop which includes a variety of standard tools along with guitar accessories like string winders and fret tools, presented in a nifty case. For under £24 you can get a Jim Dunlop care kit which includes lemon oil, string cleaner and polish. On the stocking-filler end of the scale, we have GHS Fast Fret, which I’m a big fan of, for under £7.
Not very exciting, sure, but guitarists love these little things. Well OK, no, what they love is their guitar not falling off them and smashing on the floor. Strap locks prevent this by closing around the guitar’s strap bolts, on top of the strap itself.
There’s some expensive strap locks with cunning mechanisms but, in my experience, they’re super clunky and don’t last long on the road. Personally, I’m a big fan of these Jim Dunlop strap lock sets that are less than £4. Boom, we’re off to a great start!
This was the best gift I ever recieved because I no longer had to rely on the staff of the local guitar shop (which was ages away) for simple repairs. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice chaps, but learning how to re-solder broken guitar cables and fix basic guitar electronics saved me a load of time and money in the long-term.
There’s a good chance your guitarist won’t own a solder kit already, so it’s a great gift! As before – if they own less than 2 guitars, it’s a safe bet they won’t have a soldering iron already.
There’s a soldering kit here for only £23 which contains some brilliant accessories like a solder sucker (terrible name, but a fantastic piece of kit), or if you want something more substantial, there’s another solder kit here with a few accessories for £43.
Wrapping up this little list is an ingenious contraption.
The PubProp is a fantastic device that latches to any flat surface and provides a safe way to store your guitar. Handy in the home but especially useful if you know your guitarist is attending open mic nights or jams where there’s never anywhere safe to lean your instrument.
As ingenious as this device is, I’d never heard of it until I asked some friends for their suggestions. It’s likely that, even if your guitarist is an avid attendee of open mic nights, they’ve probably not heard of this device either!
Get your PubProp here for only £15! Can also be used for fiddles, violins, banjos, etc.
Are you a guitarist? What are some of the best and worst Christmas gifts you’ve ever recieved? I’d love to know, so drop me a Tweet!