Need a holiday gift or birthday gift for a musician this New Year? Don’t just buy another tie with musical notes on it, or jewelry shaped like guitars or keyboards! Try some of these fun and functional gifts for guitarists and anyone who loves making music from the past decades.
Musical Accessories: Great Gifts for Guitarists and Other Musicians
These fun gifts are great for any musician and just about any budget, and can be found in about 30 seconds with a simple Internet search:
Sailor 1911 Series fountain pens with “Music Nib”
These high-quality fountain pens have a special nib (point) designed for making musical notation. They are beautiful and fun to use.
Moleskine music journal
A great gift for a composer, or just the casual musician who enjoys transcribing favorite songs, this journal with musical staffs instead of regular lines will be a welcome companion for jotting down ideas when inspiration strikes! Comes in two sizes, with eight staffs per page.
Chord block stamps
Guitar teachers and beginner guitar players alike will appreciate this inexpensive gift, which helps them create tab versions of songs or create chord charts in notebooks.
Musical instrument wall hooks or stands
Musicians love to be able to grab their favorite instrument for a quick jam session, so why not make it easier with a wall hook or stand for their guitar, ukulele or other instrument? This inexpensive gift is available for most musical instruments – and the bonus is that the musician gets to make their favorite instrument part of the decor.
Most serious musicians have an electronic metronome, but there’s just something about the classic wooden metronome, with its tick-tocking arm and rhythmic movement, that makes it a lovely gift for musicians.
Those accessories are all welcome and useful gifts for most musicians. But if the budget allows, how about giving an actual instrument?
Fun Musical Instrument Gifts for Musicians
For the fully-accessorized guitarist, dulcimer player or other musician, these lower-budget and high-fun instruments make fantastic gifts:
Strumstick or Other Guitar Dulcimer
These three-stringed instruments are simple to play, lovely to look at and reasonably priced. Used in traditional Irish or Appalachian folk music, the guitar dulcimer’s folksy sound is a pleasure to listen to – and it’s a very portable instrument. Some examples of guitar dulcimers include the McNally Strumstick and Grand Strumstick (priced at around $130-180), the Backpacker Travel Acoustic Guitar/Dulcimer priced at about $30 (which is actually a six-string travel guitar), and the basic Strum Stick from the Smokey Mountain Dulcimer Works for about $85.
It’s a classical guitar, it’s a ukulele, it’s both! With nylon and steel strings and a small body, the Guitalele (officially known as the Yamaha GL-1) is a small, fun and infinitely playable instrument with a nice rich sound. Priced at about $100, the Guitalele is not available for sale in the United States but can sometimes be mail-ordered from music stores in Canada.
For guitarists who are interested in more avant-garde music or experimentation, the EBow (“electric bow”) turns any metal-stringed instrument, acoustic or electric, into a virtual theremin. Just listen to U2’s “With or Without You” or REM’s “E-Bow the Letter” for examples of how the EBow can be used.
A good starter ukulele is a great gift, even for a child – but don’t be too cheap, because quality matters! The Makala “Dolphin” series of starter ukuleles are a good gift choice. They come in a rainbow of colors and can be bought for about $40 online, complete with a gig bag. For more info about ukuleles beyond the basics, see Choosing the Best Ukulele for Beginners.
These affordable and useful musician gifts are easy to find and order online, and will definitely be enjoyed!
Musical Instruments Don’t Have to Weigh You Down
Musicians learn more quickly and double their fun by getting out and playing band instruments with others. They may not be planning on playing in public or even with a group of friends for a while, but they’ll want to keep portability in mind as they consider which musical instruments to take on.
Portability of Heavy or Large Musical Instruments
Perhaps the greatest obstacle musicians should consider with larger instruments such as concert harps, double basses, drum sets, or tubas is transportation. Musicians who just purchased a shiny, new economy car might do better to select a more economy-sized instrument.
The acoustic bass for example, is one instrument which begs for company. It may shine on a few short solos, but generally, its lot is to round out an ensemble and lend a full sound. But getting the bass to that ensemble is no small feat. Tight corners, narrow doorways, and winding stairs have made their mark on many a seasoned bass. Many bass players even bring a tool along in case just the right bump knocks the sound post loose.
If an ocarina worn around the neck is at one extreme of portability, at the opposite end of the spectrum are instruments like pianos, best left to professional movers. Despite its extreme lack of portability, the piano still manages to remain very popular. Thanks to this, many places musicians visit will have a piano on site, but not all. Pianists may regularly find themselves frustrated in a group of musicians with no way to join in the music.
Electric Musical Instruments and Portability
Many musicians accommodate for the piano’s lack of portability with a high quality electric keyboard. Similarly, an electric bass is easier to lug around than the acoustic giant.
But musicians who play electrically amplified instruments will also need to take into account all the equipment that needs to travel along with their instrument. By the time they haul their instrument, pedals, amp, chords, and anything else, they’ll have gotten quite a work out.
It’s also important to remember that the portability of any electric instrument is somewhat compromised by its need for electricity. Outlets, or at least long extension cords, will always dictate where these musicians can play and how many of them can play together.
Musicians who dream of playing under the stars or greeting the sunrise with music may want to consider an instrument that amplifies sound through an old fashioned resonator chamber. On the other hand, in certain settings, only electric instruments will have a chance of being heard.
Tuning Musical Instruments Affects Their Portability
Another portability issue to consider is tuning. Subtle changes in temperature or humidity make tuning necessary almost every time a string instrument is moved. The relatively few strings on a guitar, violin, or mandolin, can be tuned in a matter of seconds. The dozens of strings on a harp, autoharp, or hammer dulcimer though, are more of a commitment.
New percussionists might also want to take tuning into account if a great deal of traveling is in their musical plans. It probably won’t be long before they want to join the camaraderie of a drum circle or lend rhythm to a group. Animal hide heads have a distinctly natural tone, but many percussionists opt for synthetic heads which hold their tuning despite temperature changes. Synthetic heads also have a crisper sound that tends to carry better when played in a group.
Portability Issues Related to Quality of Musical Instruments
Musicians aren’t likely to bring their Gibson to play by the campfire. Certain instruments become less portable simply due to their quality. For this reason, musicians who own a nice instrument often purchase an inexpensive model to take on beach trips or hikes.
When traveling, musicians who play wooden instruments will need to be mindful of the effects humidity and temperature changes can create. Wooden clarinets or flutes often develop cracks as warm air from the player’s breath causes the inner wood of the instrument to expand while cold air of a chilly evening causes the outer layer to contract. One travel hazard to instruments is the temperature extremes found in hot cars or airplane cargo holds.
Portability is just one factor that goes into choosing a new musical instrument. A musician will also take into account each instrument’s versatility, degree of challenge, cost, and compatibility with his individual personality.