We've all been there: unwrapping a gift from a bright-eyed friend or family member, who watches you tear the wrapping paper with such excitement that they almost snatch the gift away and open it themselves. They know you are a musician, that you LOVE music, and there isn't anything that you can't play. When at long last you open it, you smile and express your gratitude, but your internal voice is saying "Bless their thoughfulness, but WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!"
Don't be on the giving side of this situation this holiday season. Not every guitar player wants a shirt that says "Shred Master" (especially if they play jazz), and there's always a possibility that your piano teacher doesn't need a pizza slicer with a treble clef-shaped handle. There is a trick to buying gifts for musicians, and it starts with doing a little homework.
First, consider the recipient. Is s/he a beginner? If this is the case, you have more flexibility. We can easily help you choose an instrument for a first-timer based on their interests. If they already have an instrument, but not too many accessories, they are in the "trial and error" stage of being a musician. During this stage, it's important for them to try out different things so they can decide what works for them. This especially applies to guitar strings and picks; drum sticks, drum heads; clarinet and saxophone reeds, and many other accessories. You can also help supply them with practical items such as instrument stands, a music stand, care and maintenance products, tuners and metronomes, and gig bags.
Gift giving is trickier if you are buying for a long-time or professional musician. Most likely, they are very particular about kind of equipment they use. That being said, there are certain things that a musician can't have too many of, particularly the small "expendable" items listed above. You might just have to do a bit of sleuthing to make sure you get something they feel comfortable using. If you don't want to give anything away, ask one of their band mates if they know or if they are able/willing to "spy" on your behalf. You can also ask the recipient in such a way that won't spoil the surprise. Instead of blurting out "What kind of strings do you use so I can buy them for you but act surprised, ok?" ask "What strings would you recommend to someone who's been playing for a long time?" or casually work it into the conversation: "Man, I love tacos but only tacos from TacoTime. One time I saw a guy playing guitar at TacoTime and he said he only plays with Elixir strings. Hey, you play guitar. Are you as particular about your strings as I am about my tacos?" Just put your own spin on it, and you're good to go. Most seasoned musicians will not miss an opportunity to talk about what they like, and chances are you'll get more information than you originally bargained for.
For everyone in between, there are a lot of fun suggestions. Many musicians will, at some point, experiment with other instruments, and you can be a part of how and when they branch out. Ukuleles, for example, are extremely popular, very affordable, and are easy to learn for anyone with a basic musical background. The same goes for harmonicas. Budding percussionists may enjoy a set of congas, bongos or a cajon. If your roommate plays a brass instrument but you don't have the heart to tell them to stop practicing at 3am, consider buying them a practice mute (you're welcome).
Still stuck? Give us a call or stop by. We are here and eager to help share our knowledge with the new and old members of our community of musicians. You can also ask us about our favorite tacos or tv shows or types of gravel, as long as we get back around to helping you choose the perfect gift. See you soon!