If you’ve got a guitar player on your to-do list of Christmas presents, but you’re not a musician yourself, the chances are you can’t figure out what to buy them unless you’re somehow closely involved with their music. Guitarists always seem to have lots of bits and pieces — and who knows what works and what needs replacing or upgrading? How do you know what they really need?
Here’s our list of ten things that any guitar player will find handy. We’re sure that one of these will fit the bill. Some, you’ll think, might be a little obvious and fall into the “already got one” category, but it’s surprising how many players never get around to buying the simpler things. A few others are definitely thinking outside of the square.
1. A Guitar Stand
Yes, you might think this is an obvious one — who on earth would own a guitar and not a guitar stand? Trust me, I’ve been a musician, a live sound operator and a recording engineer for a very long time and it still amazes me how many players will happily spend $4000 on a Les Paul Gibson and never get around to spending twenty bucks on a good stand. Their treasured axe is forever leaned against the wall, propped up on a chair, rested on the guitar amp… it’s a musical accident just waiting to happen.
Buying a guitar stand is pretty straightforward except that you need to beware of floor-cradle designs specifically for electric guitars. Most stands for acoustic guitars double-up on electric instruments no problems. The kinds of stands that suspend your guitar by the neck cater for all types, too. If your friend already has a stand after all, don’t worry. Now they’ve got an excuse to buy another guitar! Brilliant!
2. A Guitar Slide
Playing slide guitar isn’t just for country music, lap-steel guitars and the blues. Plenty of hard rocking players sneak some cool slide into their repertoire, too. Think David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame. Still, it’s one of those things that novice players might wait years before trying it out, and a good slide is a must.
Jump the queue and buy them a nice slide now. You’ll have a choice of glass, steel or brass (to name just a few) and each one offers a different sound and playing experience. I’ll recommend brass, because it doesn’t move quite as smoothly and allows you to place it more easily — rather than over-run your target fret and be sliding all over the neck. If you want to spend a few more dollars, you can also get small hooks designed to hold a slide on a microphone stand.
For further reading, here is a guide to guitar slides – an introduction for beginners.
3. A Headstock Tuner
A tuner is one of the first things a lot of players buy after a guitar. And don’t forget, Uberchord has an excellent and very accurate tuner built into the app. But when you’re playing live and need to tweak the tuning, it can be a pain disconnecting your guitar and plugging into a tuner. It might only take a minute or so, but it feels like a lifetime. The latest headstock tuners are a clever answer. These simply clamp onto your headstock and sense your strings via the vibrations transmitted through the wooden body of your guitar.
There are two great advantages. First, as I’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to unplug your instrument and risk your amplifier going nuts. Second, external sound hardly affects the tuner at all. The rest of the band can be smashing out a storm of heavy metal and you can still sneak in a quick tune-up. If someone already owns a standard tuner and, of course, they’re using the Uberchord app, a new headstock tuner will still be a welcome gadget.
4. A Fold-Up Stool
If you’re a sit-down kind of performer, it sucks to roll up to a gig and realise you’ve got to steal a decent stool from one of the drunken punters at the bar. A problem is that stools tend to take up a lot of room in the car. The good news is that a few microphone stand and guitar stand manufacturers also offer a range of musician’s stool with guitar players in mind.
These stools both fold up and break down completely, making them easy to fit the trunk. Most of the adjustments are by T-nuts and bolts, so there’s never any mistake about putting them back together exactly the same. You get a proper footrest for those players who don’t use a strap (hmm… there’s an idea) and importantly you’re rehearsing on the same stool, determining your posture, as when you play live. Normally the stools come in a choice of black, black or black. What other colour could you need?
5. A Nice Rug
Right, a nice rug… maybe something with a cute floral pattern and — hey wait. Are we talking about a rug? Like, a piece of carpet? Isn’t this blog supposed to be about guitar stuff, not house furnishings?
Here’s the thing. Guitarists who start playing live soon gather lots of different gear around them. Like stomp pedals, guitar stands (that you bought them…), microphone stands and wah pedals. It’s really important to feel comfortable about where everything belongs and have a sense of familiarity no matter where you’re performing. The best way to do this is to have your favourite rug with the correct positions of everything marked out in white tape. That way, you can be playing in the smallest, gloomiest bar or be centre stage at the Royal Albert Hall and your playing setup will be exactly how it should be — you know precisely where everything goes.
Next time you check out a concert DVD or get to sneak on stage somewhere, now you won’t be surprised at how many of the performers have their own rugs to stand on. It’s not about keeping their toes warm or feeling at home, it’s because the rugs are marked out for their equipment (and sometimes the positions to stand for special lighting effects).
So a nice rug is a great present idea for a working musician. By the way, nothing too woolly or shaggy. The gaffa tape won’t stick!
6. A Good Guitar Strap
Guitar straps always become really personal things over time, like a treasured T-shirt or hat (if you’re into country music). Check out photographs of your favourite players and often you’ll see that despite what guitar they’re playing, it’ll be the same strap. It can even get a bit superstitious.
A very basic leather strap, but over time the leather will wear, fray, stain and become a much-loved thing.
So if you buy somebody a guitar strap, it’ll be more than just an accessory to be used sometimes—it can be something they’ll keep for years, so it’s worth spending a bit more. Some straps need special, lockable tabs on the guitar and you might need to buy that hardware, too. And if in doubt, always choose something wide and made of leather. Some of those guitars can get heavy.
7. A Solid Music Stand or Device Holder
Play it safe, if you want a tablet holder, and get a universal size design.
Some music stands are made of thin aluminium strips which—to be fair—folds up into something compact. But with a puff of wind and the weight from a collection of cheat-sheets, they’re the first to topple over. And they don’t last long. Instead, a heavier and solid music stand will work better and last for years.
Music stands always come in handy, no matter how much a guitarist believes they’ll learn everything by heart. And if they’re into using iPads or some kind of tablet, check out the various microphone stand-mounted products for holding these… or, like me, they can “hide” the tablet on—guess what? A good music stand.
8. A Proper Guitar Polish and Cloth
The name says it all. “Luthier Grade” polish”
A lot of players don’t buy expensive, dedicated guitar polish because of the costs. Instead, it’s tempting to clean your guitar with any one of hundreds of household “polishing” products that promise a brilliant shine. But many of these polishes contain alcohol, citrus acids (like lemon oil) and other cleaners that might do a great job of the kitchen table, but will wreck your guitar finish.
You need the real thing. Also, you don’t want anyone polishing their guitar with the same rag they use to check the oil in the car, so a high-quality, dedicated cloth is a good idea, too. This is one of those obvious gifts, but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t have any.
9. Some Serious Merchandise
We’ve all got our guitar heroes—or maybe the band—that inspire us to keep learning and playing. And while plenty of shops will sell generic, branded T-shirts, windcheaters and hoodies, nothing beats getting the real thing from the band’s own website. Sneak around, find the right size, and order some genuine merchandise from the band itself, and you’ll be on a Christmas winner for sure.
10. A Gig Bag
So many pockets, not enough stuff to put in them all. A great excuse to buy more guitar accessories!
Guitar cases are great for carrying… well, guitars—and not much else. As a musician’s skills improve and they start to get out and about, maybe practising with a band somewhere, they begin to accumulate stuff they have to carry all the time. A tuner, that strap, spare strings, a capo, a couple of leads (one spare), cleaning cloths… it soon all adds up. A decent backpack with plenty of small pockets and pouches will become invaluable. You can buy branded bags from music stores, but any good rucksack is fine. Here’s a tip—carry bags for photographers have heaps of extra pockets and things for stashing lenses and such. Check those out.
There you have it, ten different gift ideas for the guitar player in your life. If you’ve got any other suggestions that are a little out of the ordinary, let us know in the comments.