A while back I got a question from a fat-fingered Severn River Music reader (sorry Robert, but you said it, not me). Here’s what Robert said:
I just started (1 week ago) teaching myself to play on an old classical acoustic guitar that was given to me. Eventually want to learn to play some old and new rock/pop songs so is learning on a classical guitar ok? I’m just doing basic dexterity/scales practice for about 20-45 mins a day and started learning a few chords. I do have some issues due to having smaller hands/fat fingers and was wondering if that will always hold me back or will it just take longer to get the needed dexterity? Also, calluses are coming along nicely so it’s not as painful now!
Hey Robert – Ahhh yeah, the old fat/stubby/little/short finger issue. A few things that may help:
Use A Big Fat Guitar
Using a classical guitar will probably help anyone who has thicker fingers. Generally, classical guitars have wider/thicker necks, which usually means that the strings are further apart. This lessens the issue of your fingers rubbing up against the wrong strings. Rubbing up against the wrong strings mutes the strings (or gives you that buzzy sound).
Unfortunately, wider necks can make it more difficult for players with small hands.
Capo That Baby Up!
Using a capo on the 4th or 5th fret (or playing your scales on higher frets) may help as well.
As you get further down the neck of the guitar, the frets become closer together. This means that you don’t need to stretch your fingers as much as you would in the first position (up near the headstock of the guitar).
Closer frets means less stretching which can make playing guitar easier for people with small hands.
Examples of Famous Guitar Players with Fat Fingers (or no fingers)
Check out this post (and video) of Django Reinhardt. One of the best guitar players ever, and he only used two fingers. He lost the use of his pinky and ring fingers, leaving him only able to play guitar with his pointer and middle finger.
Read the full post for all of the details, but the bottom line is: don’t let your physical limitations, limit your guitar playing.
Another example is Richie Havens – who had super large fingers that made normal open position chords tricky to play. Basic things like G, Am, Em, F, etc – so he relied on open tunings to get the sound he wanted. You can see a video of Richie Havens (and his fat fingers) in action here.
From the New York Times...
His hands were very large, which made it difficult to play the guitar. He developed an unorthodox tuning so he could play chord patterns not possible with conventional tunings. The style was picked up by other folk and blues singers.
“A person looking at him might think he was just flailing about,” the guitarist Barry Oliver said in the magazine Guitar Player. “But the way he flailed about was so musical, and it went perfectly with what he was portraying. He’s a good example of not having to have to be a technically perfect guitarist in order to come across.”
I love that quote: “not having to have to be a technically perfect guitarist in order to come across”. I also love the his style was picked up by other folk and blues singers! He couldn’t play using traditional methods so he created his own method out of necessity!
Real Life Examples (from Normal People)
My 48 year old student.
He plays a Gibson Les Paul.
He has smallish hands and thick fingers.
I have yet to find a song that Gus can’t play. Now granted, he does a lot of power chords. But he also plays solos and intricate arpeggiated chords. I’m talking bar chords… C shaped bar chords.
He loves Red Hot Chili Peppers. These aren’t the easiest songs to play… and play well. But Gus can do it.
It takes him a little longer to find the chords. He has to really focus his efforts. It certainly doesn’t come as easy to him. But he loves the music and he loves guitar so he makes it work.
I’ve had other students with gigantic bear sized hands and sausage fingers. Yet they still execute chords and scales perfectly. It takes patience and deliberate practice.
Thanks for everyone that comments and asks questions. If it weren’t for you, I would never be able to address questions like the one in this article. That’s it! If I missed anything (or if you have any questions) let me know in the comments below!
Jake Posko is the owner of Severn River Music – proudly and happily providing in-home guitar, piano, drum and music lessons in the Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at email@example.com
The holidays are coming. If you have a guitar player in your life, here are some easy (and cheap) gift ideas.
Buying gifts for musicians can be tricky (most of us are extremely particular about what type of gear we use).
That doesn’t mean there aren’t staples that will always be needed.
Oh… and everything should be well under $50.
So, what should you buy?
If you’re looking for the best guitar strap, you may want to check out the top selling straps here.
For more details, read on…
How to Use a Guitar Strap
Guitar straps are super easy to use and attach.
There are two ways to attach a guitar strap:
- Using the buttons on your guitar
- Using one button and using a string.
Using the Buttons
In the photo above we can see the button on the bottom of the body of the guitar.
This is where we attach the guitar strap.
For newer guitar straps, it may take some work to fit the strap onto the button. Over time, the strap will start to wear down and attaching it will be easier… just make sure it doesn’t get too loose (otherwise it may slip off).
For many guitars there is another button located at the base of the neck of the guitar, or on the opposite side of the body of the guitar.
In the photo above you can see where the two buttons are located.
If your guitar has two buttons, attaching the strap is pretty straightforward.
If it only has one button at the base of the guitar, here’s what to do.
Using one button and using a string
If your guitar only has one button for the strap, you’ll need to use a string or other rope-like device to tie off your guitar strap.
In the photo above you can see where the guitar strap has been tied off.
You’ll need to thread the string underneath the guitar strings just above the nut of the guitar.
It can be kind of tricky at first, but that’s how it’s done.
You could also get one of these cool snap-on guitar strap attachments to make things little easier:
Now that you’ve got your strap attached. There are some other things you’ll probably want to keep in mind…
You gotta practice with a strap.
I’ve written previously about how I regret not using a guitar strap early in my life.
I exclusively played while sitting down – this included when I performed at gigs.
It didn’t really matter from a performance perspective since I was using just singing and playing by myself.
When I started playing with other people, I had to stand.
I wasn’t used to standing up so my playing suffered.
Plus it was exhausting.
I’ve learned my lesson and now I practice standing up every so often (especially if I have a gig coming up).
I also teach my students to practice while standing if they have a gig.
It will make you that much better when you actually perform.
Plus, it will force you to test your strap out prior to playing
You gotta test that thing out.
Last thing you want is your strap to slip or break.
If you want – you can get a locking guitar strap.
I’ve used them before (though not often).
They work pretty well and they keep your guitar secure…. they’re just kind of a pain to change on and off.
Even if you use a traditional guitar strap – make sure you test it out so that it’s working.
I’ve had cheap straps that slip off the button on my guitar while I am playing.
This is obviously dangerous for your guitar.
Test your straps and have an extra on hand just in case.
For those of you with acoustic guitars that don’t have buttons behind the neck by the body, you’ll need to tie the strap just above the nut by weaving a string, shoelace, rope, or paracord underneath the strings.
Make sure you don’t tie it off on top of the strings or it will alter the tuning and the sound.
I usually use a hefty shoelace, nylon rope, or paracord.
You gotta use it at the right length.
Just as you want to test out the strap durability, you should also test various lengths.
So, how long should a guitar strap be?
Really it just comes down to personal preference.
I like to have my guitar hang around my belt buckle or belly button.
Any lower and I can’t play as well.
Any higher and I feel restricted.
Don’t be afraid to play around with different lengths.
I also find that when I play my acoustic, I have the guitar slightly higher.
When I play the electric I have the guitar slightly lower.
Again… personal preference.
Get a few different kinds.
I have a few straps that are my go-to guitar straps.
And I have a few cheap backups.
Don’t be afraid to express yourself with your guitar strap.
That’s it! If I missed anything (or if you have any questions) let me know in the comments below!
Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Tim Walker
I really dig Halloween.
I’ve loved it since I was a kid.
As an adult it holds an even more special place in my heart – my wife and I met on Halloween and were married on Halloween (separate Halloweens… obviously).
I love Halloween music.
But sometimes guitar songs get the shaft on Halloween.
While I love Thriller and Ghostbusters… they’re not exactly “guitar songs”. Don’t get me wrong, there are excellent versions of these songs being done on the guitar.
But I’m talking about songs that either highlight some wicked electric guitar, or can be played easily on an acoustic guitar.
So, as your resident online guitar teacher and guitar music recommender, I’ve compiled a list of the best Halloween songs to play on the guitar.
There are some obvious choices and some that are less popular but worthwhile.
Here we go….
The Less Obvious Halloween Songs
This song is cute and creepy. A ghostly love song with some strong mandolin, but easily played and translatable to acoustic guitar with simple open chords. You can probably get by with just I – IV – V chords (not necessarily in that order). Capo your guitar up around the 7th or 8th fret to get that mandolin sound.
Open chords, all acoustic. Both of these Springsteen songs have a mystical creepy vibe. Nebraska (about actual murderer Charles Starkweather) is smart, calm, and poignant. Sung from the perspective of Starkweather. My Father’s House is essentially a dream. Not so scary as it is ethereal and sad. Neither of these songs have anything to do with Halloween… but they feel right for this time of year.
Chosen explicitly for it’s inclusion and use in the soundtrack to An American Werewolf in London. I love the movie. The choice of the song at this particular moment in the film feels wonderful. Jarring and hilarious. The Elvis Presley version also works earlier in the film… but there is something about the way this song hits that makes me love it. Also… easily played on the guitar with open chords.
Again – not a Halloween song, but a disturbing song nonetheless. It starts off with organ and quiet guitar and progressively builds as the story unfolds. I’m not going to spoil it, but listen for yourself.
First of all, if you don’t know A.A. Bondy – check him out. He’s a great singer/songwriter and this song demonstrates how you can tie in sadness, hope, and love into a funny little song. It’s short and sweet and I could listen to it over and over.
Most of Nick Drake’s music has a steady mix of melancholy (Things Behind the Sun) or hope (From the Morning). It’s easy to close your eyes and let it wash over you. This song is different. Smoking too Long was written by Robin Frederick. You can find more details about the song (including the chords) on Frederick’s website here. Drake’s recording is sad and lonely and seems to jump rather than flow to the end of the song. Again… not Halloween… but it feels good to sing and listen and play in the fall.
The Popular Halloween Guitar Songs
You know these songs (if you don’t, you better get to know them). They work anytime of year… and they all work really well on the guitar.
Bad Moon Rising (CCR)
I put a Spell on You (CCR)
Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)
Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Season of the Witch (Donovan)
Bark at the Moon (Ozzy Osbourne)
Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Runnin’ with the Devil (Van Halen)
That’s it! Did I miss any? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll add them to the list!
Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at email@example.com
(Photo Credit: FHgitarre)
If you’re looking for the best travel electric guitar or the best travel acoustic guitar, you can check out these articles.
If you’re looking for the best travel guitar amp… read on.
Overall, I recommend the Line 6 Micro Spider 6-Watt Battery-Powered Guitar Amplifier. It’s the one I have used for a few years now. It takes 6 C batteries or you can plug it in with a power adapter (included). I like it because it pumps out a lot of power in a little package. It also has a TON of build in effects (even the presets work really well right out of the box). You can read the full review below, or check it out here.
Just buy this amp.
Yesterday I reviewed and recommended the best travel acoustic guitars.
Today we’ll cover the best travel electric guitars.
Decent travel guitars are hard to find.
They often end up feeling awkward (Martin Backpacker… I’m talking about you).
But don’t worry.
There are actually some decent options out there if you’re thinking about taking your electric guitar with you on a road trip (or any kind of trip).
Here’s what I suggest:
Child Sized Guitar
Squier by Fender “Mini” Strat
If you’re looking to save money on a cheap travel guitar, I’d suggest first looking at a child sized (or 3/4 sized) guitar.
I usually recommend the Squier to all of my younger students.
With the three single coil pickups, they’re super versatile – just like a standard stratocaster.
They usually run about $100 so they’re very affordable.
Their low price is also nice in the event the guitar is lost or damaged during travel.
The downside to using a child sized guitar for travel purposes is the size.
Even though it’s not as large as a full sized electric guitar, it’s still larger than most travel guitars.
Size info: 44.5 x 14.5 inches
Weight: 11 lbs
That’s the size info from Amazon, the Fender website yields even less results. I’m guessing that it’s not really 44 inches long – probably closer to 35″. It’s hard to tell with Amazon as sometimes the size is actually the shipping size.
For those interested, the Squier Mini has a 22.5″ scale length compared to the 25.5″ scale length. When we’re talking about scale length we’re talking about the distance from the bridge to the nut.
Here’s what I mean:
It’s nice to know the scale length, but if I’m traveling I’d also like to know the actual size of the entire guitar.
A comparable guitar (size wise) is the Dean Playmate EVO Junior Solid Body Electric Guitar. I actually have one of these and measured.
Size info: 37 x 10 inches
Weight: 6 lbs
This Dean guitar is my go-to travel guitar. I recently took it with me on a family vacation to the beach. I packed it in soft gig bag and wedged it in my car with all of my other stuff.
It held up great, no scratches no damage and it was super fun to play while I was away.
If you have a larger budget and want a smaller guitar (that is a true travel guitar), here’s what I’d consider:
Traveler Guitar SONIC L22 Travel Electric Guitar
This is pretty close to a child sized guitar if only slightly smaller.
Size info: 33.5 x 10.5 inches
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Yes it’s about the same size as a child guitar, but it has a full 24.75″ scale. That means it will feel much like a standard guitar – just with a smaller body.
The other cool feature is the headphone jack.
You can plug your headphones in (no adapter needed) and choose from 4 different effects (clean, boost, overdrive, and distortion).
I love this aspect of it.
I don’t have to pull out my computer and run my guitar through Garage band. I don’t have to use an amp. I can just plug my headphones in and play.
Hofner HCTSHRO Shorty Electric Guitar
This guitar is small and cheap.
It hits the mark between travel guitar and affordability.
It has a full scale length, so it should feel like a full sized guitar in that respect…. with a notable exception:
This thing is super thin.
You’ll probably need a strap to play it comfortably (even when sitting down).
It reminds me of an electric version of the Martin Backpacker (of which I am not a fan).
But it’s pretty cheap… so it may be worth it for you.
Size info: 30 x 8 inches
Weight: 6.5 lbs
PRO MOD X Pro-Series Mod-X Hybrid Acoustic-Electric Travel Guitar
Now this is a legit travel guitar.
Here are the specs:
Size info: 28 x 5.2 inches (when arm and lap rests are detached)
Weight: 4 lbs
As you can see: It’s super light, and super compact.
It has an arm rest and a lap rest. That means that you can sit comfortably with it and play (without the use of a guitar strap). These rests can be removed when traveling.
It has piezo pickups which – when plugged in – will give it an acoustic sound. However, anyone who has ever plugged in an acoustic-electric guitar will know what that this is a little misleading. It will sound clean and clear, but probably a bit thin and tinny as well.
On the other hand, the humbucker pickups on this guitar can be split to single coil which means there is versatility in the kind of electric guitar sound you can get.
Downside – no direct headphone plug-in like the SONIC L22 Travel Electric Guitar. I realize this isn’t standard, but it should be given the nature of the guitar (and given the price).
The other downside, the lap and arm rests are detachable (as opposed to stowable/foldable). This means you’re dealing with additional parts which can be frustrating when traveling especially if you’re prone to losing things like me (Author’s Note: On my last vacation I lost my only pair of eye glasses as well as my Kindle Fire Tablet… losing things is a concern of mine).
Ultra-Light Electric Travel Guitar
This is probably the most popular travel electric guitar, and given the specs it’s easy to see why.
Size info: 28 x 5.25 inches (with lap rest stowed)
Weight: 3 lbs
It’s very small and very light (despite having a full scale length).
It has a lap rest (but no arm rest). However the lap rest can be folded for easy portability.
I should also mention that the tuning pegs on both the Ultra-Light and the PRO MOD guitars are located within the body of the guitar.
I love the efficiency of the design, even if it looks a little weird.
Time Travel Guitar
Erlewine Chiquita Travel Guitar
If I had an extra few hundred dollars laying around (or if anyone wants to get me a really nice Christmas present) this would be the next guitar I buy.
It’s a cool little travel guitar… and it is the same guitar that Marty McFly uses in the beginning of Back to the Future.
I think there is some subconscious part of my brain that locked on to that scene where he stands in front of the gigantic speaker, with a metal pick, and hits those strings.
Such power out of such a tiny instrument.
Here are the specs:
Size info: 27.5 inches long (with a 19″ scale)
Weight: 4.25 lbs
That it! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your travel guitar experience!
Oh yeah! Time to take your show on the road.
If you’re in the market for a travel guitar (whether a travel acoustic guitar or travel electric guitar) I’ve got you covered….
…especially if you’re trying to save some money.
So, here are my travel guitar reviews….
(If you’re looking for the best travel electric guitar, read this)
Best Travel Acoustic Guitar
Decent travel acoustic guitars are tough to find at cheap prices.
Decent travel acoustic guitars are tough to find in general.
In fact – I’m not a big fan of “travel guitars”.
But I am a fan of traveling with a guitar.
So rather than buy an actual travel guitar – I prefer smaller sized guitars (sometimes even kids guitars) or a larger sized ukulele (if I’m really tight on travel space).
So what should you get?
In order of size, here’s what I suggest.
Note: If you’re serious about learning to play the guitar (especially if you want to teach yourself guitar), I strongly suggest you check out something like this online guitar app. I have a detailed review of JamPlay and other services here).
Ok, so maybe you’re feeling good about playing chords on the guitar and now you’re ready to learn how to play some riffs, solos, or melodies.
You could learn how to read music (also known as standard notation).
You know, the stuff that looks like this:
While that would work, I’m not a fan of learning to read music (as a beginner).
Reading music is extremely beneficial but it has a steep learning curve (which is probably why a lot of beginners quit before they ever get started).
Fortunately for guitar players, there is another option.
See this stuff:
￼That is tablature. Pronounced TAB-la-ture. Let’s call it “tab” for short.
At first glance it looks confusing.
Like some kind of weird algebraic formula.
I assure you it’s not.
Before I teach you how to read tablature (which is super easy), I need to explain what tab is and what it isn’t.
Tab is a shortcut for learning how to play melodies, lead, or solo guitar (and to a lesser extent, chords).
Tab is a sort of common sense way of learning to translate guitar from the page to the actual instrument.
It’s a way to play music using the guitar, without actually reading music.
Tab tells you exactly which strings to press down.
It tells you the exact order of the notes you should play.
By the end of this article, you will be able to read tab… and if you can read tab… you can learn to play any song that you are familiar with.
Note: Here’s the trouble with tab: You generally need to be familiar with the music/song you want to play. Tab doesn’t tell you anything about the rhythm of the song. This is a serious downside – but one I wouldn’t worry too much about. For our purposes, we just want to get you playing some basic melodies – and tab will do just fine for this purpose.
Part One of Tablature:
First, I suggest printing out this tablature example here (so you can reference the example and read at the same time).
Ok, so here’s how tab works: Each horizontal line represents a string on your guitar.
In the example above, we have six horizontal lines (just like we have six strings on the guitar). The bottom line labeled “E” (uppercase E) is the fattest/thickest string on your guitar (the Low E string). When holding your guitar properly, it’s the string furthest from the floor (closest to the ceiling). It’s called “low” because it’s low in pitch. When you pluck the low E String it has a deep bass sound.
Go ahead and pluck low E with your thumb.
Now let’s move on to “High E”. On our tab above, “high E” is indicated by a lower case “e”. This isn’t always the case, however, when reading tab, the “High e” string will always be represented by the top line on our tablature.
Go ahead and pluck the high E string with your thumb.
All of the lines in between the High and Low E strings represent other strings on the guitar. Each line is labeled with the name of the guitar string.
Pretty self explanatory.
Part Two of Tablature:
Ok – if the horizontal lines are the strings. What are the numbers? Frets. Right.
Each time you see a number on one of the lines, it is telling you to press down at a particular fret.
Using the example above, the first number we see is “4” and it is listed on the “high e string”. Here’s what to do:
Take your index finger, and place it just above the metal fret on the high e string. It should look like this:
Notice how the finger is placed just above fret. Also, notice how the tip of the finger is used to press down the string (not so much the fingerprint part of your finger).
Just like when we play chords, we want to make sure that your finger is in the right place.
1. Right next to the fret.
2. Using your finger tip
3. Pressing down firmly
1. Too far away from the fret.
2. On top of the fret.
3. Using your “finger print”
4. Pressing down too lightly (which will produce a buzzing noise).
Placing your finger like this may work occasionally, though as you begin to play more complex pieces, or start to play chords, this type of finger placement can cause trouble.
All of these incorrect fretting/finger-placement techniques are very common among beginners. Try to be aware of how you’re placing your fingers. It’s best to start with good habits.
Ok. Now that we’ve played the 4th fret of the high e string. Let’s move on to the next number in the sequence. This happens to be “2”. So what do we do? Place your finger on the second fret of the high e string. Pluck it.
Next we have a “0” listed on the high e string. What does this mean? It means you just play the high e string without pressing down any of the frets. We just play the open e string.
Got it? Good.
Now, start over from the beginning of the tab sheet (start at the beginning with the fourth fret).
Using your index finger, play all the way through the entire series of notes.
When done, the melody should sound something like “Mary had a Little Lamb”.
If it doesn’t, try again. Go slowly through the series of notes.
Make sure you press down firmly on the strings using the tip of your index finger.
Make sure you place your finger directly behind/next-to the fret.
Don’t worry if it’s slow. Don’t worry if it’s choppy. It will get better.
And that’s it! Hopefully that clears some things about about reading tablature on the guitar. If not, leave me a comment below and I’ll try to help!
(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
After teaching guitar for a number of years, you start to see a pattern questions asked by beginners.
I’ve decided to compile these questions in the post below. In some cases the questions are answered in this article, in others I’ll direct you to previous articles (with more in depth and better answers.
Here are the questions we’ll cover (scroll down for responses)
- What is a capo for?
- Do you need to use picks?
- When do I change strings?
- How much are guitar lessons?
- What happens if a string breaks?
- Do I have to learn to read music?
- How much should a practice guitar?
- How long does it take to learn a song on guitar?
- Is it better for a child to learn on electric or acoustic?
- Do I need a guitar teacher? (or Should I take guitar lessons)
As much as I’d love to get a new guitar as a gift (and will never turn one away), I would caution anyone to purchase a guitar as a christmas present.
Unless you’re buying a guitar for a beginner, do NOT buy a guitar as a gift.
Why you should NOT buy a guitar as a gift.
Guitar players are finicky.
And guitars are personal.
There are so many different styles, makes, models, and variations.
For example, let’s say you want to purchase an electric guitar for your spouse.
Well, what kind of electric guitar?
Are we talking solid body, hollow body, semi-hollow body?
What kind of pickups? Single coil? Humbuckers?
What brand? Fender? Gibson? PRS?
Already my head is spinning.
There are so many choices.
Not only that – there are choices within choices.
For example, let’s say you want to get a Fender Stratocaster.
Go check out these Amazon listings.
The price range will vary by hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
When you SHOULD buy a guitar as a gift.
There are two circumstances when you should buy a guitar as a gift:
- When you know EXACTLY what to get.
- When you’re buying a beginner guitar.
When you know EXACTLY what to get.
If your guitar-player-gift-recipient has told you precisely what they want… go for it!
If YOU are a guitar player (or if you are extremely knowledgable)…. go for it!
In these cases there is little room for error.
You probably have a budget set and (hopefully) know what you’re looking for.
When you’re buying a beginner guitar.
If you’re buying a guitar for a beginner or a guitar for a child then it’s probably ok to surprise them with a gift.
Do you’re research before getting a guitar for a kid… make sure that you buy the correct size.
Regardless of age, make sure you buy the appropriate type of guitar. Do they want electric, acoustic, or classical?
Well… what gift SHOULD I buy for a guitar player?
Don’t be dismayed! There are still plenty of gifts you can buy for the guitar player in your life.
The easiest (but most boring) would be a gift card to Guitar Center or Amazon.
If you want some guitar-related stocking stuffers you can check out this list of guitar accessories.
If you know what kind of guitar they have, you may want to get them a nice guitar case or guitar stand.
Or, if you may want to consider getting them a subscription to a service like this (full detailed writeup here).
Any of these things would be great alternatives to a guitar (that may or may not fit the needs of the guitar player).
There you go! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions (or suggestions for other guitar-related gifts).