Gift Guide For Musicians
If you’re looking for gift ideas for the musician in your life, you’re in luck, because musicians need a lot of stuff. Fortunately, they need stuff at a variety of price points. This guide moves roughly from less expensive to more expensive, and I really hope you find it helpful.
I’ve put Amazon links below for reference and anyone who needs them, but I really can’t recommend enough that you support your local music store. They need you, and the people that work there are fantastic.
The Thing Everyone Needs - A Music Stand
If you play piano, your music stand is built into the instrument. But if you play basically any other instrument, you need a stand.
Trying to read music that’s balanced on your case or propped up by books is not a great experience. You’ll find lots of options at your local music store. There are full-size stands you’ll find in concert halls or the music room at school as well as portable stands, some so small that they’ll fit in your case.
You can probably even find some beautiful, bespoke, hand crafted stands if you want to go that way. And aside from reading music, music stands can be really useful devices for holding books, papers, signs, and tablets. If the person you want to buy a gift for doesn’t have a good stand, that’s the thing to get.
The Actually Useful Stocking Stuffer, And The Upgraded Version You Didn’t Know You Needed - Pencils
Don’t underestimate how much every musician needs decent writing utensils. We use pencils all the time in practice, rehearsal, and lessons. And a good musician will write all kinds of notes and reminders on their music, but they can’t do that if they don’t have a pencil handy.
You could get a big box of pencils so they can drop a couple in every case or bag they have and always have one handy. Go with standard yellow, or fun colours and designs, but also consider getting them some good mechanical pencils.
A few years ago I got frustrated with my dollar store pencils that were cheap but wrote terribly, jammed if you looked at them wrong, and always exposed the wrong amount of lead so it was always breaking and flying off, and. So I upgraded to decent mechanical pencils and haven’t looked back. They’re only about $5-8, which is kind of a lot for a pencil but not that expensive overall, and it’s so worth it. This is the upgrade you didn't know you needed.
Consumables And Small Accessories
Most musicians have consumables of some kind. Woodwinds needs reeds and cork grease, brass needs valve and slide oil, strings need rosin, guitars need picks, drummers need sticks. And most instrumentalists could make use of cleaning supplies and tools designed for their instrument to keep the bright and shiny on the outside and get the gunk out of the inside. These can all be great little gifts.
Metronomes and tuners are also incredibly useful tools. You can get these as apps on your phone, but some people prefer a separate device, or they like seeing the old style of metronome with a physical hand clicking back and forth, or they prefer a stand alone device, or want to make use of a clip on tuner so they have constant reference while playing.
An instrument stand is another affordable and seemingly mundane but I would say absolutely life changing accessor. There are mounting brackets for your wall or floor stands to help keep your studio tidy, but portable instrument stands are incredibly useful. The safest place for your instrument is in your hands or in its case, but sometimes you need to put the instrument down for a moment and it doesn’t make sense to fully put it away in it’s case. A proper stand means you don’t have to balance your instrument somewhere precarious and hope it doesn’t fall or get kicked when you’re in the bathroom. I bought a trumpet stand long before I owned my own trumpet and it was one of the best things I ever bought for myself.
This category is a bit of a risk but could be really fun. You’ve got to know the personality and interests of the recipient, but you should know that you can get some small fun instruments are very affordable prices - think 10s of dollars. But these aren’t toys. Think of things like recorders, penny whistles, harmonicas, and melodicas, kalimba/mbira, or ukuleles. You can also spent a lot of money on high quality versions of these, but sometimes the cheap ones are pretty decent, and they can be fun to play with if you think your musician might enjoy them.
Guitar/Bass Effects Pedals
Guitars and basses make use of devices for different effects like like delay, wah-wah, and dozens of others. They’re tons of fun and there’s lots of varieties. Cost can be a couple of hundred dollars and go up from there.
Concert tickets are a great idea and can be had at almost every price point. Here’s some ideas…
• See if there’s a soloist coming to town who plays your giftee’s instrument.
• Consider a night out to a club to listen to some jazz or blues.
• Try the symphony, opera, or ballet, especially if you’ve never been before
• If the person is younger or new to music, you might look for a children’s concert or programs designed as an introduction to the symphony.
• Many symphonies are doing concerts where they play the soundtrack of a movie live while the movie plays. It’s quite the experience to watch Star Wars where the music is being playing by a live symphony orchestra.
• Consider local choirs, wind bands, brass bands, or orchestras. Those tickets will be more affordable and those ensembles will really appreciate your support.
• If you happen to live close to a school with a university music program, look into recitals by graduating students. They’re often free, open to the public, and those players are often really good, even in they’re just at the beginning of their careers.
Paying for some private lessons can be an amazing gift. They can get expensive but are well worth it. If you can’t afford a term’s worth of lessons, even one or two or three lessons can be helpful. Your local music store, conservatory, or music school can point you in the right direction of a teacher.
The difference between iPhone selfies and a shots from an expensive camera taken by someone who knows how to use it, is not to be underestimated. If the person you’re buying for is starting to get serious about their career, proper headshots by a professional photographer can be an amazing gift, and it’s one of those things that we all put off. Those photos can be useful for your website, social media, and promoting gigs and concerts.
Subscription services can be excellent gifts as well. There are plenty of services for streaming music, which is amazing because you can search for and listen to almost any song or artist you can think of. And there are also apps that can help you learn music better.
The Sight Reading Factory is an amazing service that creates new music to read for any instrument, instantly and infinitely. Use my code "bradharrison" at checkout to save 10%.
Skoove is a service that helps you learn piano at your own pace. It displays the music, highlights where you are, listens to you play, and only moves on when you've played the correct next note. Use this link for a one-month free trial.
Cases can be a great investments and much appreciated upgrades. The cases that come with instruments usually aren’t very good. They’re large, heavy, and don’t actually hold much in the way of accessories or music. But aftermarket cases can be much better designed as far as size, weight, and how much they actually carry. Some cases even carry more than one instrument, which may or may not apply to your situation, but I have a few double and triple trumpet cases and they’re just fantastic. Similarly to my trumpet stand, I actually bought a single trumpet case before I bought a trumpet because it was so much easier to carry around my horn than in the stock case.
Depending on the specific needs and interests of the musician in question, a microphone can be an excellent gift. Almost anything you buy would be an upgrade from your phone or computer’s built in mic and start at one or two hundred dollars. But the sky is the limit on price here. You can spend thousands on mics, but they last a very long time and help you sound like you, in a way that a poor microphone just doesn’t help you at all, so they can really be worth it. I use an Aston Origin for most recording of trumpet or voice.