Christmas Wish List

Christmas Gift Ideas For a Guitarist

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  As Christmas draws near, people mad-dash and scramble to buy gifts for their friends and family.  Then there’s the days after Christmas when people try to return all the stuff they got that they don’t want.  If you happen to have a guitarist, or even an aspiring guitarist in your circle of family or friends, why not get them something you know they’ll use instead of that annual sweater?

Buying musical equipment can be expensive stuff.  But if you’re on a budget, I have listed some things that every guitarist needs, wants, or should have, and they are very affordable.  Save yourself some time and worry and get the guitarist in your life something they really want.  Here’s some ideas to help you out, courtesy of Musician’s Friend.

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Guitar Picks

Dunlop Nylon Max Grip Guitar Picks - 12-Pack 0.60 mm($3.95)

Dunlop Nylon Max Grip Guitar Picks – 12-Pack 0.60 mm

The importance of guitar picks cannot be overstated.  While they are not mandatory or absolutely imperative to all forms of guitar playing, guitar picks are used by just about every guitarist around.  Especially if you play electric guitar, picks are important.  They are also easily lost, and, depending on the type, easily broken.  Having a decent quantity of them on tap is a must.  And sure, guitar picks may seem simple and dull, but the varieties of picks are vast and you must do some research if you intend to give them as a gift.

Personally, I prefer a thinner pick (.60mm or lower)[the ones pictured above are exactly what I use, exclusively].  When I play acoustic guitar I like a slightly heavier pick (.80-.90mm).  I also prefer a nylon pick.  Why nylon?  I’ve never had one break on me yet.  Yes, picks can, will, and do break.  Additionally, the Max Grip are easier to hold on to while playing.  It’s a pain in the rump to drop a pick when you’re in the middle of rockin’ out.  Believe it or not, guitar players are extremely picky about their picks.  I have my favorite, as it’s curved slightly to fit my finger and thumb perfectly over years of use.  If you want to buy some picks as a present, maybe try to find out what kind your musician likes best.  Picks are pretty cheap, but the person you give them to will love you for the gift.


Vox Professional Guitar Cable 19 FT($39.99)

Vox Professional Guitar Cable 19 FT

Guitar cords are essential to electric (and some acoustic) guitar players.  Cords are one area where you truly don’t want to get skimpy.  Sure, you can find some pretty cheap guitar cords out there.  I’ve been able to find some as cheap as $5.  Trust me when I tell you, those cords won’t even last a regular guitar player two weeks (by regular I mean someone who plays regularly).  That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the crazy expensive ones ($100+), either.  I have gone through more cords than I can count.  Colored cords, fabric covered cords, cheap cords, expensive cords.  I’m still not sure I’ve found a favorite, as newer and better ones are always coming out.  That being said, a $40 or $50 cord tends to last me about a year, though, I’m not a regular guitarist.

Now I could get all into the details of a cord.  Copper purity, gold-plating, shields, conductivity, precision formulated polypropylene dielectric etc. but if you just want to get a cord for someone, that stuff might not even make sense to you, nor do you care.  You just want to get a gift.  So here’s what you need to know.  The usual problems with cords are the plugs (the connections on either end of the cord).  When you’re whalin’ on your guitar you’re jumping around, swinging from side to side.  Then you accidentally step on the cord and it pulls out of the amp or guitar.  It happens more frequently than you’d think.  And while that is annoying, and embarrassing if done during a performance, that isn’t the worst part.

Every time you pull the cord out like that,  it breaks the fragile solder job connecting the wires inside to the plug outside just a little bit.  The better cord you get, the longer it will take to totally break the cord.  In the meantime, the sound coming out of your amp can get static-y, muffled, muted, and all kinds of other various bad things.  While they don’t make an indestructible cord (that I know of) you can get decent life out of a relatively cheap cord.

Another factor to consider is how long of a cord you should get.  My preference is for long cords.  And by long I mean at least 15ft (4.5m).  Playing guitar in real life is not like playing guitar hero.  You don’t want to sit on the couch.  You want to get up, move around and rock out.  And finally, as pictured on the cord above, I like a cord with the plug on a 90° angle.  I guess that’s just more preference than anything, but it does stick out less from the guitar.  And depending on where the plug-in is on your guitar, it can make a huge difference.

Fast Fret String Cleaner
GHS Fast-Fret String Cleaner($5.99)

GHS Fast-Fret String Cleaner

When I am at my local Musician’s Friend store, this stuff is almost never available.  But when it is there, I stock up.  Insanely popular, Fast Fret is amazingly handy.  Guitar strings get dirty.  If you don’t believe me, play your guitar for a while and then look at your fingers.  Dirty strings makes for icky sounding guitars.  Cleaning your strings will make your guitar sound brighter and help your fingers move more easily along the strings.  Fast Fret works on both acoustic and electric guitars.  I use this stuff just about every time I pick up my guitar.  Once you’ve used it, you’ll wonder how you survived so long without it.


Guitar Straps
Rock Steady RSC01 Cotton Guitar Strap Black($8.99)

Rock Steady RSC01 Cotton Guitar Strap Black

Guitar players who like to stand while playing guitar are going to need a guitar strap.  Once again, you can find some pretty cheap guitar straps.  The cheap ones tend to be made out of some plastic type stuff that slices into your shoulder and side of your neck and, yes, it is as uncomfortable as it sounds.  Some people like the leather straps, I don’t.  Even those tend to bother me.  I like cloth straps.  Some guitar straps are wider than others ranging anywhere from an inch to 5 inches+ (2.5cm-12.7cm+) and that’s really more of a preference thing.  Some people like the feel of a wider strap.  And the wider ones tend not to dig into your shoulder as much.  All straps should be adjustable.  If not, well, I really can’t give you any advice there because I wouldn’t buy one that didn’t.

One thing you really want to check out on a strap, when possible, is the areas where it connects to your guitar button (I call it button, some call it pin).  Basically, the ends of the guitar strap.  If those ends are made of material that feels thin or flimsy, I would suggest shying away from it.  I’ve had excellent results with straps that use leather, though over time those do tend to stretch out.  That’s when it’s time for a new strap or duct tape it up.  If you ever wondered why some musicians duct tape the ends of the straps, it’s so the strap doesn’t come loose from the button sending the guitar smashing on the ground.  Guitars are like babies.  You shouldn’t drop them.


Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal($49.99)

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Pedals aren’t necessarliy an essential, but electric guitarists love them.  And like with guitar picks, guitar players can be pretty picky about their pedals as well.  The one shown here is what I use religiously.  I have used many a pedal in my day, and the Boss DS-1 is hands down my most used and favorite.  While it’s not “cheap” per se, when you factor in durability and sound, it’s a steal.  It creates a fantastic distortion that is highly customizable.  My amp comes with it’s own distortion pedal, but it’s pretty weak and doesn’t have the bite that my Boss does.

The Boss DS-1 will run on a battery (9v) or you can get an AC adapter (which I highly recommend).  This particular model comes with a 5 year warranty.  I have had mine for over 10 years, and it’s still running strong.  It is incredibly durable, strong, and heavy.  I’ve dropped mine, stomped on it way too heavily, and flat out abused it at times and it keeps coming back for more.

Distortion pedals are pretty popular among electric guitarists.  But the fun doesn’t stop there.  There are tons of pedals that will perform a wide range of actions.  Some will give you an echo, some are fasers, some are fuzz pedals.  This list is immense.  Find out what your guitarist needs or wants.  If the guitarist you are buying a gift for has lots of pedals, you might consider splurging on them a bit and getting them a pedal board (Gator G-Mega Bone Pedal Board with Padded Bag).


D'Addario EPN115 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Blues/Jazz Electric Guitar Strings($5.99)

D’Addario EPN115 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Blues/Jazz Electric Guitar Strings

The absolute, single most important piece to ANY guitar.  Without strings, you just have a hunk of wood in your hands.  And if you thought guitarists were picky about picks, straps, and pedals, you will be astounded how picky they are with their strings.  And I will tell you straight-up, do not surprise someone with guitar strings unless you know exactly what kind they like.  Otherwise you very well could be wasting your money.  Ask them what they want.  Also, if someone has a guitar that is supposed to use nylon strings and you get them strings for a steel string guitar (or vice versa), that can be VERY dangerous.

Guitar strings can get a little pricy, especially for the higher-end ones.  But just because they are higher-end doesn’t automatically make them better.  Many times you are paying for the name brand rather than the quality.  Now as far as strings go, you essentially have a two options.  Nylon or steel.  After you choose nylon or steel, you have a lot of options to choose from.  Nickel plated, pure nickel, silk and steel, phosphor, bronze and phosphor, and the list goes on.

Personally, I hate nylon strings.  Hate them, hate them, hate them.  They sound terrible to me.  I like my acoustic guitars to sound bright.  Steel strings are my preference there.  With electric guitars, again, I like my sound to be bright, but I also like to maintain the life of my frets, so I don’t use stainless steel on my electric.  I prefer pure nickel.  It’s a more mellow, old-timy sound that I really like.  I prefer D’Addario, but I’ve also gotten a lot of flack from people about that.  It’s really all preference with strings.  They are all going to break at some point, and the price usually isn’t that big of a factor.  What they’re made of, how often you play, and how hard you play factor in more than anything else.


Korg GA-40 Electronic Guitar and Bass Tuner($13.99)

Korg GA-40 Electronic Guitar and Bass Tuner

After you’ve got your strings on you’re going to want to make sure your guitar is in tune.  If you’re like me and aren’t fortunate enough to tune a guitar perfectly by ear, you’ll want a tuner.  They are pretty handy too, especially when you’re in-between songs during a performance and it’s too noisy to tune by ear.  The one I use is really old and I couldn’t even find it on Musician’s Friend’s site, so I would suggest the Korg GA-40.

This tuner will work on acoustic or electric guitars.  It can play the pitch of each string while you tune if you wanted to learn to tune by ear.  It can tune up to a 7 string guitar and will also tune drop tuning.  It has a large LCD screen with a needle pointer to show you exactly where you’re at on the scale.  After seeing this one, I think I need to update my tuner.  It doesn’t do any of this fun stuff.

So there it is.  The list ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would.  But these are some essentials and some non-essentials that any guitarist would love to get as a gift this holiday season.  And most of them are pretty cheap, too.  If it were me, I would want the Fast Fret and some picks.  If someone gave me those as gifts, I would be ecstatic.

I have been shopping at Musician’s Friend for the better part of 12 years.  I shop there almost exclusively.  They’ve never done me wrong, and the staff is very knowledgeable.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to live near a store, they are also available online

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