Every year near Christmas, Father’s day and my Birthday I rack my brain trying to come up with a list of gift ideas to give to my family. Most of the time this gift list includes a few guitar based items because playing guitar is a very big hobby of mine. I’ve put this list together for myself and anyone else who may be looking for gift ideas for the guitar player in their lives. This list isn’t for guitar lovers. You won’t find dorm room refrigerators shaped like a Marshall stack, or guitar shaped bottle openers. This list is the best gifts for guitarists – as in people who play guitar and love doing it!
If you’ve got any that I missed, feel free to share them in the comments section below.
All prices at the time of this writing and may be subject to change.
GIFTS UNDER $20
I had a friend in high school who thought that using a capo meant you couldn’t play very well. His view was that using a capo made it easier to play certain chords, and he naturally looked down on capo using guitar players as some form of inferior species. At the time, I didn’t really know enough to argue with him but I’ve since learned enough to abandon that line of thinking. Capos are really there to make transposing a song’s key easier. As such, they are nearly essential to anyone who wants to play with another musician – especially if they just want to jam informally and don’t have time to arrange a song in a different key.
What makes a good capo?
One essential attribute of a good capo is that it doesn’t screw up the tuning of the guitar when you put it on. Another nice thing is if the capo is quick and easy to put on and take off. Two of the best capos I’ve found are:
Kyser KG6B 6 String Capo
The KG6B might sound like a Soviet era spy agency, but it’s really a strong and lightweight aluminum capo. It’s spring-tension design make it a quick release, easy deploy kind of capo that won’t mess up your tuning.
It sells for $13 and has 9 different styles to choose from.
And if you’re a total nut on the six string, you can use this capo like Tommy Emmanuel does in his famous Beatles medley:
Here’s a video of Tommy Emmanuel explaining how he uses a quick release capo:
Shubb Deluxe Series GC-30 (S1) capo
If your not into the quick release, mid medley key change like Tommy you can give the Shubb GC-30 a try. It’s a beautifully designed capo that’s accurate and strong, yet gentle as a finger on the fretboard. It does exactly what a capo is supposed to do without sending the guitar out of tune. It’s stainless steel design makes it more resistant to wear and tear, meaning it should last a good many years.
Tuners have come a long way since the guitar first became popular. No more tuning forks or pitch pipes. In fact, you don’t even need a cumbersome device to balance on your knee. I know, you can get plenty of free tuning apps on your smartphone these days, but they really aren’t the same.
Here are two of the most accurate clip-on tuners on the market today.
Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin
First up is the ever popular, and whimsical looking Snark. It features a full color display that rotates a full 360 degrees for easy viewing. It simply clips to the headstock of the guitar and shows the note currently being plucked by vibration – perfect for tuning in noisy environments (kids, bars, etc…). Also works in bass and violins!
Meisel COM-80 Clip-On Tuner
The runner up for clip-on tuner is the Meisel COM-80. This tuner also features an easy to read back-lit LCD display, but it’s not as adjustable as the Snark. It also scores very high for accuracy, and is adjustable from 27.5Hz to 1760Hz. It’s a chromatic tuner calibrated for Guitar, Bass, Violin and Ukelele
NOVELTY GUITAR STRAPS
Guitar straps make great gifts. They can be functional and they can be conversation starters. They are often as unique as the player who uses them and give guitar players another way to express their individuality. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on them either. Here are a few favorites that sell from $5-20, great for the player who has everything.
Acoustic guitars (and even hollow body electrics) like to be humid, but not too humid. It’s a balance. If a guitars isn’t maintained in within the proper humidity for long, it will start with losing intonation and will eventually get a cracked body, warped neck or more.
Luckily, guitar humidifiers are cheap. Here are two of the best guitar humidifiers for under $20.
STINGS FOR ELECTRIC GUITARS
ERNIE BALL REGULAR SLINKY NICKEL WOUND SETS
Ernie Ball Slinky electric guitar strings are used by artists from Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, AC/DC, John Petrucci, Slash, Green Day and more. They are made in California, U.S.A. and consist of specific gauges and core-to-wrap ratios which create balanced rich harmonics and that signature Slinky feel.
Nickel Wound Slinky strings take a high carbon steel core and tin plate it and wrap it in nickel plated steel. This makes for a balanced tone that compliments all guitar types and playing styles.
The gauges run: .010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046.
These Ernie Ball regular Slinky strings are sold in packs of 3 or individual sets ($14.11 for 3 pack, or $4.62 for one)
These are made in the U.S.A. and sell for $9.95 for 3 sets
ELIXIR STRINGS W POLYWEB COATING
Elixir is the pioneer in coated strings. The original POLYWEB coating creates a soft and slick feel while providing resistance to grime and rust. This means the strings last longer – both looking new longer and sounding great longer.
A pack of Elixir POLYWEB light gauge (.010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046) strings sells for $10.43. They’re more expensive than other strings, but they also last up to 3 times as long.
STRINGS FOR ACOUSTIC GUITARS
ELIXIR STRINGS 80/20 BRONZE ACOUSTIC STRINGS
These are the acoustic version of the Elixir POLYWEB strings. They are an 80/20 blend (80% copper, 20% zinc) and feature Elixir’s special POLYWEB coating for smoother feel and longer life. The 80/20 mix provides a warm tone and the POLYWEB coating keeps the strings looking and sounding new for months.
The single pack of Elixir 80/20 bronze POLYWEB strings sells for $13.99.
D’ADDARIO EJ16 PHOSPHOR BRONZE
The D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings offer a balanced tone and also provide D’Addario’s EXP coating for longer life. Similar to Elixir’s POLYWEB, but not as expensive. I’ve had good results with both kinds, but haven’t ever done a serious, scientific comparison of the two.. maybe someday I will.
MARTIN M140 BRONZE
Lastly, I offer the Martin M140 Bronze acoustic guitar strings. These are also an 80/20 Bronze blend and offer brilliant sound and clarity with rich bass and bright treble. They are not coated for long life, but they also sell for only $3.32 so there’s your trade off. Great stocking stuffers though.
NOVELTY GUITAR PICKS
Guitar picks are always in demand for guitar players, because they’re always getting lost! At least that’s how it seems. Besides, they make for great stocking stuffers, birthday, father’s day or even mother’s day gifts for the guitarist in your life. They’re small, unique and not too pricey.
Here are some of the best novelty guitar picks around today.
GIFTS UNDER $50
VOX AMPLUG AMPS
The VOX amPlug headphone amps are not really amplifiers. They are pocket sized amp simulators that plug into you guitar input jack in place of the instrument cable. Then you plug in your headphones and jam out without disturbing the peace.
The amPlug headphone amp comes in a number of versions but the three best are on this list. Each one has 9 effects (3 chorus, 3 delay and 3 reverb), a fold-able plug to make it stow more easily in the pocket and runs off two AAA size batteries.
Each also has an AUX In jack so you can jam along with your favorite music.
VOX AMPLUG AC30
VOX AMPLUG METAL
Great for lead tone, not so great for clean.
VOX AMPLUG CLASSIC ROCK
BATTERY POWERED AMPLIFIERS
Here are a few battery powered amplifiers that a 9 volt battery and will fit comfortably on a desk (and maybe even a large Christmas stocking).
They’re not great for practicing with other people, but fit the bill for quick solo practice, and they’re fun and funky.
FENDER MINI TONE-MASTER
This is a miniaturized version of the classic Tone-Master and Fender does a great job of keeping true to the authentic Fender details here – cab corners, retro grille cloth, and vintage white control knobs.
At a glance:
• 1w battery powered amplifier that features two 2? speakers.
• Gain, Volume, Tone and Power controls.
• Powered by single 9V battery (included), or AC adapter
At a glance:
• Completely captures the vintage 50’s look with its miniature chicken head knobs, down to its tweed covering and brown grille.
• Made of real wood and not plastic.
• 1w battery powered guitar amplifier with twin 2? speakers.
• Built-in distortion, Power, volume, and tone controls.
• Runs on a single 9V battery or power adapter.
The Marshall MS-2 Mini Amp has that classic Marshall look and crunch, with surprisingly loud volume for such a little thing. it’s just 5-3/4″ high and even includes a belt clip!
It features controls for overdrive, tone, and volume and is powered by one 9V battery.
The Marshall MS-2 Mini Amp is a 1w battery powered amp that makes a great and fun gift or a truly portable practice amp, and sells for around $45
GUITAR AMPLIFIERS UNDER $100
Playing with different gear is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and break out of any rut you may find yourself in. There is perhaps no piece of gear that influences your tone and style more than the amplifier. Here are a few low cost amplifiers that should add a little spice to your practice.
BATTERY POWERED AMPLIFIERS
Battery powered amps are not quite as portable as the VOX amPlug, but they are audible to those around you. They’re the perfect fit right between the 10-20w practice amp and the headphone amp. And they’re conversation starters.
THE LEGENDARY PIGNOSE 7-100
The Pignose 7-100 is a unique looking and playing amplifier. It’s genius is its simplicity. It has a single knob that looks like a pig’s nose and is located on the front. That one knob controls the power, volume and distortion. It works with your guitar’s volume knob too, so the tonal possibilities are surprisingly diverse.
At a glance:
• 5w amp with 5″ speaker.
• Runs on 6 AA batteries or an optional AC adapter.
• About the size of a shoe box and weighs around 5lbs.
• Hinged design and can be played either fully closed, wide open or at any point in between.
• It also has an open space inside that can be used to store the AC adapter or guitar cable when not in use.
• A preamp out jack which makes it possible to play the Pignose through a larger and more powerful amplifier (or PA) or straight into a mixing board.
The Pignose 7-100 has a distinctive look and sound that is like no other. It’s stylish and funky, and is definitely a conversation starter
ORANGE MICRO CRUSH
At a glance:
• 3w battery powered amp.
• Single 4″ speaker.
• Clean and Overdrive channels.
• Tone control.
• Chromatic tuner.
• Headphone jack
• Runs on a single 9v battery or AC adapter.
This is a great way to get the British Orange crunch.
The Blackstar FLY 3 is a 3 watt mini amp that runs off battery or DC power. It’s compact and portable and features Blackstar’s patented “Infinite Shape Feature (ISF)”, which lets you vary the tonal character of the amp.
“When turned towards zero, it gives a tight, focused, percussive response, characteristic of American amplifiers. When turned towards 10, the response becomes woody, crunchy and warm, like traditional British amps.”
The FLY 3 also has standard MP3 / LINE IN jack and a headphone output jack.
It’s 3 watts and features clean and overdrive channels and digital ‘tape’ delay effect.
SMALLER, LOW WATT AMPS
The VOX V9160 Pathfinder 10 Combo Amplifier
The Pathfinder 10 is like the classic VOX AC15’s little brother. You get classic VOX look and VOX tone at a great price. The Pathfinder 10 has a clean/overdrive switch which lets you choose tones ranging from VOX chime to creamy, warm overdrive.
With its 10 watts of power and custom 6.5 inch speaker the VOX Pathfinder 10 is a great amp for everything from clean leads to crunchy rock and blues. Also included are Bass and Treble EQ, and a lineout/headphone jack.
The MG15CF is pure Marshall tone in a compact 15 watt combo. It features clean and overdrive channels, 3 band EQ, and MP3/line in jack and a headphone jack. The MG15CF sports the modern Marshall look and is decked out in a bold carbon-fibre exterior.
ORANGE CRUSH 12
The Orange Crush 12 is a 12w solid state amplifier with a 6 inch speaker. It also features 3 band EQ, volume and gain controls. The headphone out jack with the Orange CabSim circuit. This lets you emulate the sound of a 4×12″ cabinet through the headphone jack.. Sweet!
The Orange Crush 12 gives you great British crunch tone in a portable practice amp at an affordable price of only $99