On one hand, having a musician to buy a gift for can be nice. There are a wide variety of music-related items out there to choose from, including everything from funny t-shirts to books. Musicians are a rare breed who love what they do so much, any and all references to making music are appreciated. And if all that fails, there’s always music itself, of course. I know about this first hand, since I am a musician with many musician friends.
On the other hand, though, musicians are extremely picky when it comes to the stuff they use to actually make music. This can make shopping for them tricky if you want to get them something more useful than novel. Most musicians won’t stray very far from their favorite brands or models, so a little due diligence goes a long way into picking more practical gifts. We’ve compiled a good mix of items to help you choose a great gift for your choosy musician.
From guitars to gigabytes, here’s our list of the top 25 best gifts for musicians:
1. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones
Did you know musicians require (at least) two pairs of headphones? Because they’re often obsessed with music in general, musicians tend to have one set of headphones for recording and another for listening. When simply listening to music, the preference is for something a little lighter weight with slightly more bass response, like the Bose SoundTrue, which are my personal favorite.
When recording in the studio, however, headphones need to be larger and better balanced, with no added bass. Studio monitoring requires natural sound response, and these Sennheisers are a great option. I have personally used them and can attest to their performance, particularly at this price point. The sound is clear and even after many hours of recording, they remain comfortable.
2. Musician’s Dice
Somewhat in the vein of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, Musician’s Dice gives composers a method to randomize note or chord selection as either a way to get valuable practice or to get through a block when writing. The random nature of the dice will stretch even the most practiced musician when they need it most. A technically complicated gift that’s easy to give and will appeal to a wide audience.
These are extremely popular, so if they’re out of stock when you go to buy, you could also consider Chord Dice.
3. The Musician’s Notebook: Manuscript Paper For Inspiration And Composition
Speaking of composition, after utilizing the dice, the musician in your life will need a place to record their new creation. Sure, there’s excellent software for this these days, but for relatively simple songs, it’s still sometimes nice to put pen to paper. I owned this notebook for many years and it inspired me to write a good number of songs. Musicians can toss it in the gig bag and have it on hand when inspiration strikes.
4. Prime Music
Every musician loves music — usually just a touch more than the people around them. They are fanatics who can’t get enough of exploring new bands and cherishing their favorites. An Amazon Prime subscription includes unlimited, ad-free access to over one million songs in addition to all the other benefits of Prime. Alternatively, you can get an Amazon digital gift card so the musician on your list can download digital music.
Price: $99 for one year
5. Godin XTSA Solid Body 3-Voice Electric Guitar
Everyone knows Gibson and Fender, the two most popular guitar companies who make a number of truly excellent guitars. My main guitar is a 1985 Fender Stratocaster. They’re great. But for people craving something a little different, I recommend Godin. These beautiful North American-built guitars offer technical innovation with three outputs — normal electric, acoustic, and 13-pin which can carry all three voices.
The on-board acoustic guitar simulator means this may be the only guitar you need, while the synth voice offers even more options. It’s a very modern, advanced guitar in a traditional package. Don’t be afraid to step out from the shadow of the big boys when buying gifts for musicians.
6. Western Digital 1TB My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive
Musicians love to collaborate, and that usually means packing up the gear and heading over to another studio. Since studio setups are (generally) more involved than just a laptop, having a simple way to carry files around can really simplify the process. A one terabyte drive that fits in a pocket is a perfect solution. Even if it doesn’t get used for recording projects, it’s a great way to back up what is sure to be an enormous collection of digital music. Available from 500GB to 3TB, it’s practical, affordable, and always appreciated.
Price: $59 (41 percent off MSRP)
7. Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ Platinum LP Award Style Collectible Display
Music memorabilia makes a great gift for musicians. This happens to be a display honoring Pink Floyd’s achievement, which will look great on any wall of the house, but especially in a studio or listening room.
Price: $129.95 (48 percent off MSRP)
8. Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth
Musicians love musical toys. Whether it’s a theremin or a noise maker, messing around with a toy version of more serious gear can be a way to free up creativity and unlock new ways of thinking about making music. This Stylophone pocket synth is a recreation of the 1967 version and includes the ability to pitch-bend three different organ voices. This little gem has been featured on some of my own music, and I happily recommend it to anyone looking to give a fun musical gift. You can also get the newer GEN X-1 model.
Price: $20.90 (30 percent off MSRP)
9. ‘The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret’
I am personally fascinated with the history and trends of music that lead to what we hear today. This book focuses on a group of studio musicians behind many famous recordings from the 60s. They embodied the West Coast sound at the time, drawing many artists who previously recorded in New York out to California to cut their records, including the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel. There’s also a documentary about the same group. An interesting read, for sure.
Price: $12.07 paperback, $5.99 Kindle
10. Behringer Microamp HA400
When in the studio, monitoring via headphones is pretty common. If you’re multi-tracking, you’ll need to be able to split the monitoring or playback signal across several sets of headphones. This small device is a mini amplifier designed just for this purpose. It takes any 1/4 inch input and sends a high-quality signal to four sets of headphones at once. A simple but effective solution.
11. Yamaha Montage8 Synthesizer Workstation
Staying with the big-ticket items for a second, this synthesizer workstation will form the center piece of any production studio. With over 1,300 voices to choose from, the musician in your life with have access to a huge catalog of natural-sounding instruments for use in any kind of arrangement. Yamaha is known for their attention to detail when it comes to digital sampling, particularly with regard to acoustic articulation. You don’t need a full symphony to produce richly textured music, this will take care of everything.
12. littleBits Electronics Synth Kit
Also in the synthesizer category, this kit allows the adventurous musician to create a fully customizable, modular synth. The modules snap together with magnets for quick reassembly so the musician can spend more time generating new sounds than building. There’s an included guide to get started quickly with famous tones, but the possibilities are really endless. A great gift for the aspiring sonic pioneer.
13. Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitors
While studio headphones are good, a dedicated pair of studio monitors are even better. Monitors should be completely colorless, meaning they don’t add their own flavor to the sound. They should reproduce what appears on the computer as accurately as possible to help the musician properly mix and master recorded material. While you can certainly spend several thousand dollars a piece on these, the under $1,000 threshold contains some gems. These Yamaha monitors are almost certainly the best you can get for the money. You can also get a bundled pair with XLR cables, which provides all you need.
There’s also the lesser, but still quite good, HS5 model.
14. Pick Punch
The player of strummed instruments in your life might also enjoy the freedom to make a pick out of just about anything. Make custom-designed picks, reuse old credit cards, or memorialize a plastic item. Guitarists especially lose picks all the time, so having something handy to make one on the quick is great. You can also buy a variety of pick material strips to give them plenty of ammo.
15. Shure SM58 with Mic Stand and Cable
While the condenser mic on this list is ideal for recording, you wouldn’t want to perform with it. For one thing, it’s very sensitive and for another, it’s too expensive. When it comes to live sound, the issue has long been decided about which microphone is best. The Shure SM58 is by far the industry standard. It sounds great, it’s tough as nails, and it’s nearly ubiquitous from coffee shop to arena. I have used them for years (even for recording), and I can attest to their brilliance. This bundle comes with a few extras so the musician in your life has everything they need.
Price: $124.99 (38 percent off MSRP)
16. D’Addario NS Micro Clip-On Tuner
Clip-on tuners have grown in popularity of late. They’re ideal because they take up no room on pedalboards or on top of amps. This D’Addario model is among the smallest ones on the market. It virtually disappears when it’s on the instrument, so only the player knows it’s there. Despite not requiring any cable connection, it’s super accurate. It’ll work on the vast majority of stringed instruments, but just in case, there’s a violin version, too.
17. Monoprice Pro Audio Desktop Adjustable Acoustic Microphone Isolation Shield
Sound isolation can be tricky in a home recording environment. Unlike a dedicated studio, there’s always more going on in the home than tracking that guitar part or vocal take, so anything you can do to knock down unwanted noise is helpful. This adjustable microphone isolation shield will keep ambient noise to a minimum, while also reducing stray reflections from the surfaces of your room. This is adjustable so you can use it for vocals or in front of an amp.
If the musician you’re buying for needs even more isolation, especially for vocals, consider the Pyle PSIB27 Sound Recording Booth Box, which encloses the mic even more.
18. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface
If they already have everything else on this list, then it’s time for your musician to get recording. The simplest answer for the home recorder is a USB audio interface. This one from Focusrite includes a total of four inputs, two microphone preamps and two instrument for line-in use. Better yet, this device comes with Pro Tools so they can get started right away. For $100 more, you can get the combo pack that includes a microphone, headphones, and an XLR cable.
Need more options? Browse more audio interfaces here.
19. D’Addario DIY Solderless Custom Cable Kit
Cabling is a constant battle for most musicians. Either we’ve got the wrong length, or we’ve beat our favorite one to death, or we have the wrong combination of connectors, we’re seemingly always wishing we had just one more cord do perform a specific job. Solve this problem for a musician in your life by giving them this solderless kit that allows them to create cables of the exact length and connector type they need at any time. It includes 40 feet of cable, four straight 1/4 inch plugs, six 90-degree 1/4 inch plugs, and the tools needed to build them. Good in an emergency or to craft that perfect length of cord.
20. LED Sound Activated E-Q Raver T-Shirt
Sure, this shirt is billed as being for ravers, but I’ve never met a musician who didn’t want a graphical indication of how hard they were rocking. The lights have a removable battery pack for when it’s time to wash, as well as an adjustable volume sensitivity sensor and an on/off switch. Stand in front of your amp and let this thing go crazy.
21. Vibes High-Fidelity Earplugs
Musicians are unique in that just watching the thing they love can inhibit their ability to do it in the future. Going to shows every week can have consequences for hearing in a very short amount of time. The more damaged a musician’s hearing becomes, the harder it is for them to create music. These Vibes earplugs are designed specifically to be used in high-volume settings where detail is important.
Unlike normal earplugs, these are designed to reduce sound pressure without affecting clarity. I tested them in a variety of environments and found them to work really well and be more comfortable than normal ear plugs. Each set comes with three sizes of ear tips and a hard plastic case.
For each purchase, the company makes a donation to the Hear the World Foundation. Protect your musician’s ears without sacrificing the thing they care most about: the music.
22. Essential Songwriter’s Rhyming Dictionary
Regardless of genre or style, writing lyrics is an art form. You must blend not only melody and rhythm, but metaphor, imagery, and the sound of the words themselves. It’s true that a song needn’t rhyme necessarily, but having a book like this on hand can work like a thesaurus, giving you useful substitutions when the words you’ve jotted down in your notebook that day aren’t working in a given phrase. For non-lyricists out there, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of singers charged with writing lyrics design their melody line and meter with nonsense syllables, only filling them in later once the song is close to completion. This book of 15,000 entries should make the job easier — or at least serve as inspiration.
Price: $4.64 on Kindle, $6.04 for papaerback
23. DJ Electron Finger Piano/Mbira
As with the Stylophone above, this gift falls more into the category of noise making. The noise, in this case, is the incredibly pleasant, resonant sound of metal keys plinked against a block of wood. This one is made of rosewood, which is well known as a tone wood in instruments. Mbiras are fantastic for accompaniment, arrangement layering, or even just inspiration. Mindlessly playing one of these will often give a musician inspiration for a song or break them out of a rut.
Price: $13.50 (55 percent off MSRP)
24. Marshall Compact Fridge
Here’s a confession: Band practice is just as much about knocking back a few cold ones as it is about learning the songs. Even if those cold ones are just bottles of water to offset the perspiration rocking hard usually produces, having a dedicated fridge for the practice space is pretty nice. It’s far from a necessity, but that’s what makes it a great gift. This fridge is modeled to look like a Marshall half stack and is tall enough that maybe your rhythm guitarist will stop putting their beer down on their amp. (Guilty.)
If you like the idea of a fridge for the practice space but don’t want to pay for the branding, a normal mini fridge still makes a pretty great gift.
25. Vic Firth 5A Nova Drum Sticks
This gift suggestion might take some research. Drumsticks wear out and break and must be replaced regularly. However, most drummers have a specific size, wood type, brand, and other preferences when it comes to what they use. Once you figure out their favorites, buying a bunch of them makes a good gift. Musicians have to spend a lot on their gear just to make their music, so setting them up for the new year with a huge pile of something that wears out is always a good way to give. Help a player out.