So.. recently the mother of one of my students asked about some guitar related birthday present ideas (that won’t break the bank). I wasn’t sure what to recommend. I’m usually terrible at coming up with birthday (and Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) present ideas. Strangely, as I began compose the e-mail back to her, the ideas just started flowing and I began to get excited and started to recall (what I think are) awesome gifts for anyone who is a sort of singer-songwriter type of guitar player or performer.
Here are my thoughts…
(Note: I am the furthest things from an audiophile or gearhead or technically-minded musically. The recommendations are based on a small(ish) budget, and providing equipment that will keep a singer-songwriter/guitar player motivated).
An Amplifier for small venues like Coffee Shops
I remember when I got my first amplifier. It was a Behringer that had multiple inputs for both vocals (microphones) and instruments (guitar). The model I got (for Christmas I think) was probably around $150 – $200. It is probably about 15 years old (I still occasionally use it for small gigs and/or as a monitor for larger gigs).
I like this for a few reasons:
- It proved and awesome motivator for me – meaning when I got this for Christmas, I immediately had visions of performing my original material in public venues (which I eventually did).
- It made it possible to perform in public venues (like coffee shops, small bars, even private parties). In other words, I didn’t have to worry about borrowing/obtaining any equipment.
- For an idiot like me – it was simple to use.
- It was specifically made for acoustic singer/songwriter/folk/low-key rock type of music.
So what should you get?
This Behringer (pictured above) is very similar to the model I mentioned earlier. It’s relatively cheap. Not super powerful. But good for smaller venues. Behringer is an awesome brand that I have used personally for many many years and have never (I’m totally serious) – never had any failures or problems with.
If you’ve got a larger budget…
This is a little closer to what I own. Still very good. Just more expensive. And a lot heavier.
No matter which option you choose – you’ll be in good shape with either. But if live performances aren’t your thing, you may want to get…
A Microphone for Home Recording
Soon after I started playing the guitar I wanted to be able to record my own songs (or other peoples songs – I just wanted to hear what I sounded like). This was around 1999. The good news was that I didn’t need any special recording equipment like this…
Even better news – I could record on my home computer. The bad news is this was the microphone that came with my computer:
I have very vivid memories of recording with that microphone in my dorm room onto my PC using the “recording” software that came with the computer – which allowed for 60 second clips before it timed out and you had to press record again. I still have close to one hundred, minute-long clips of songs saved to my computer from that era. Ahh memories.
The good news for you? Home recording has come such a long way in the past 15 years. So much so that you can buy a pretty decent quality USB microphone for less than $150. As long as you have some kind of recording software on your computer (Garage Band or something like it), you can just plug in a USB mic and start recording. So easy.
Now, I’ll be honest (and as I said to the mother of my student – I’m kind of out of my league here), I’m not the best person to ask about microphone recommendations – I can’t speak to specifications or any technical jargon. I can however, speak from personal experience. Here’s what to look for:
- Something that you can just plug in and press record
- Something that doesn’t take up a lot of room
- Something that provides good quality for not a lot of money
Those are my criteria. If those are yours… get this:
It meets all of the bullet points above. If positioned appropriately it should be able to pick up both acoustic guitar and vocals pretty easily. It’s great for quiet rooms and home recording (note: this mic shouldn’t really be used with the amp I recommended above – the amp is for live performances, this is for home recording).
If you have a bigger budget…
This is the same mic – but you also get the filter, the stand, and some headphones. I don’t really see the need for headphones – especially since you probably already own a pair. But the pop filter is pretty cool and the mic stand may help if you need to adjust the position of the mic to better record vocals and/or guitar.
There are a ton of other USB mics out there. Feel free to do some research on your own. I’ve heard good things about the Blue Yeti mics – but haven’t used them myself.
Lastly, my recommendation if you’re really strapped for cash…
An Awesome Guitar Strap
I never really played with a guitar strap when I first started (and even for years thereafter). I regret this a bit, as playing with a guitar strap (i.e. standing up) is a different experience than playing while seated. It’s good to get in a bit of practice while standing – you have to form chords differently, adjust your posture, and obviously check yourself out in the mirror to see what you’ll look like when you become a famous rockstar.
Guitar straps can run anywhere from $20 – $2000. Pick out one that speaks to you. I still use a strap that my wife got me that has these cool early 1900’s french design prints on it. It’s not flashy, it’s cool and comfy. I love it.
So there you have it! Three gifts that I have received over the years that I still use and love. Hopefully this helps in your quest to find a nice present for your guitar-player-singer-songwriter-rockstar child/brother/mother/friend/husband/wife/grandma/etc.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below – as I said, I’m not really technically inclined and I’d love to get your feedback!
(Photo Credit: tadekk)
(Full Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission if you purchase through my site. But don’t worry – these products are awesome, I love them… if I didn’t I wouldn’t recommend them. I recommend them because they’re great… not because of the small commission that I make from them. If you have other recommendations, just shoot me an e-mail and let me know!)