Last minute stocking stuffers for the musician in your life
String-pickers, digital tunesmiths and bin bashers are not the easiest of folks to buy gifts for. Some are quite conservative and prefer tried and tested old tech while others are gearheads who like to gather in the latest, the novel and the bizarre just in case the need arises. And then there's the (often) eye-watering cost of instruments and accessories to consider. The holidays are almost upon us and a state of muso-related panic may now be setting in. Here are a few ideas that should hit the right note.
We road tested a very useful guitar tuner from TC Electronic back in October called the PolyTune Clip. The name kind of says it all – this is a polyphonic tuner that can be clipped onto the headstock of an instrument. Players can strum all the strings to discover which, if any, need tuning attention, or pick single strings for straightforward chromatic tuning. Guitarists are promised +/- 0.02 cent accuracy in strobe mode, the adaptive display is bright and clear and the unit has a very long battery life. All for around US$50. Bargain.
Guitarists looking to quickly change pitch may not bother to retune at all, but opt to clip a capo on the neck instead (though with the Tapo, they can do both). A capo is a kind of an all or nothing pitch solution, where all six strings are shortened at the same time. Fretlocks are designed to lock individual strings at any fret along the fingerboard for adventurous, or even previously impossible, compositions. A 12 pack costs £25 (about $40).
The GrooveTech Drum Multi-Tool is basically a Swiss Army knife for drummers. This inexpensive multitool is claimed compatible with virtually any make or model of drums and sports a drum key, spring adjustment guide, screwdrivers and metric/imperial hex wrenches. It's been on the market for a wee while and carries a list price of $24, though online vendors like Amazon currently have it in stock for less.
Dive bombs, squeals and scoops have become standard rock guitar techniques and though all require inventive use of a whammy bar on a guitar, the tremolo arm itself hasn't really changed that much over the years. That's changed with the introduction of the Palm-O-Low from Tremolution, which can be positioned over the strings while playing and worked comfortably under the wrist or hand. It's available now for $45.
Back in January, Teenage Engineering launched a trio of handy synthesizers called Pocket Operators. The drum machine, bass synth and lead synth each came with exposed circuit boards, a simple LCD screen, built-in speaker, line in and out ports, with power supplied by two AAA-sized batteries. Prices start at $59.
If the bare bones aesthetic appeals but you want to get more hands on, education startup Technology Will Save Us has a DIY Synth Kit available for €40 (about US$44), which includes everything needed to build three separate digital tone producers.
Just last month, IK Multimedia released a soundhole microphone for acoustic guitars that also served as an interface to the infinite tone world of digital effects. The appropriately-named iRig Acoustic MEMS-type omnidirectional microphone is said to essentially replicate the sound picked up by an ideally-placed high-end studio microphone. It works with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and Android devices and is priced at just under $50.
Sticking with acoustic string pickers for a moment, Mitchell Guitars has introduced a new line of budget-friendly ukuleles named MU40. The soprano ukes are made of a bound Lindenwood body in a number of finishes, a 14-fret rosewood fingerboard, a rosewood bridge and classic open-gear tuners. Each comes with a beginner's booklet to get newbies playing in minutes. The Mitchell MU40 has a street price of $40.
Though there are a few notable exceptions, including the AMPLIFi range from Line 6, few of today's instrument amplifiers come with built in wireless streaming capabilities. The Tone:Link from Blackstar Amps adds Bluetooth audio to any guitar amp that has a free line-in jack. It will also work with PA rigs, home hi-fi systems, headphones and car audio setups. Released this month for $30.
Our final holiday gift suggestion could well appeal to percussionists, piano players and guitarists. Attached to an acoustic or electric guitar, Ken McCaw's Hammer Jammer has six plastic fingers jutting out from its angular base, each with a knobbly button and a foam-tipped hammer. As you can see in the video below, the fingers of the player's fretting hand form chord shapes or riffs while those of the picking hand whack the knobbly "keys" to create strangely compelling percussive sounds.
Last year, McCaw hit Kickstarter to bring the Hammer Jammer into production, but the campaign failed to generate the necessary funds. Development continued, however, and a newly-improved version is now available to buy direct from the maker or from Amazon for $79.
We hope you found these gift ideas useful. Let us have your suggestions, and tell us what you'll be hoping to find under your tree this holiday season, in the comments below.