Gifts for your Guitarist

Gifts for your Guitarist

Looking for a gift for that guitarist in your life? You can encourage their musical growth and help speed their progress with a few key tools. Here’s a list of a few items that every guitarist can benefit from and that we all need in our “toolbox”. There’s a wide range of items from very inexpensive tools to unlimited expenditures on tutoring or new rigs. You might check to see what your guitarist already has or might be most interested in. Here’s a few things we all can use.

A guitar – Always get the best instrument you can afford. Young guitarists will outgrow 1/2 and 3/4 size guitars and be ready for full-sized instruments by about age 12 or 13. Guitars aren’t quite like saxophones or pianos where just one will do. Serious guitarists will eventually have at least a small collection including an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar based on what kind of music they’d like to play. Nylon string acoustic guitars are known as classical guitars, hollow-body electrics are sometimes known as “jazz boxes”. Guitars are fairly inexpensive compared to violins or pianos. Your guitarist will have some idea of the types of guitar designs they are most attracted to. They are more likely to enjoy it, play it and practice on it if it’s something they really wanted.

amplifiers – electric guitars need an amplifier to complete the instrument. A small practice amp will do until the time comes for professional playing. A good amp will make even a cheap guitar sound good while a great guitar will still sound bad through a cheap amp. There is a wide range of styles in amplifiers too. The more modern ones come with some nice effects built in.

effects – You can add effects to your electric guitar/amp combo with effects pedals. These are stand alone devices sometimes called “stomp boxes” as we control them with our feet. They add distortion, vibrato, reverberation and delaying effects to the guitar.

Electronic tuner ($15-25) – I recommend a clip-on tuner. They are a great invention and clip right on to the end of the guitar. You can also get free guitar tuning apps for your smart devices these days. Other options are stand alone tuners, pedal based tuners, pitch pipes and tuning forks. Go with the clip on type if you can.

Music stand ($15-75) – Every practicing musician needs a music stand. The inexpensive fold-up kinds are just fine but something a little more substantial is better. It’s a tool they should use everyday for years.

Guitarist’s foot stool ($12-20) – Foot stools are commonly used in classical guitar playing and sitting positions but they are great for all guitarists. They just help us get a better hold on the instrument and raise it up a bit which makes everything easier.

Metronome ($20-100) – Everyone needs a metronome. Again, there are apps out for metronomes for your smart device. Options are the old school “pendulum” types that wind up or more modern electrical, quartz or battery driven digital models. I personally wear out metronomes because I use them so much. My favorite for the past several years is a $60 Boss Dr. Beat (DB-60) that is a metronome, tuner and timer combo.

Capo ($5-25) – Sometimes called a “cheater bar”, capos are an important and enlightening tool for any guitar player. They allow us to easily transpose music to other keys and offer fresh and inspiring sounds. They actually make the guitar a little easier to play too!

Picks (.25 – $10) – Picks or “plectrums” come in a variety of shapes, sizes, thicknesses and materials. Don’t go crazy here but do get a variety or different ones for your guitarists to have on hand. We use different picks for different styles of play. Players who have some long-term experience may know exactly what their favorite picks are. I still like to try different ones from time to time for a different feel or inspiration.

Guitar straps ($10-40)— Straps come in a variety of styles and can add a little personality or flair to your instrument. They can be made from a variety of materials from nylon, fabrics or leather. I usually try to find one that matches the color tone of my instruments (each guitar has it’s own dedicated strap) and I like wider ones versus narrow. Acoustic guitars will sometimes need additional strap buttons installed. You can also by strap locks ($30) that will keep the guitar from slipping out of the strap. My heavier electric guitars all have strap locks.

New instrument cable ($15-25) – Guitar cables wear out from time to time (even if they say “lifetime warranty”). They are around $1 per foot and most guitarists will use the 15-25 ft models. If you are running amps will effects pedals or pedal boards you’ll need cabling in a variety of lengths from 6 inches to 25 feet depending on the number of items in the signal chain.

Slides ($5-20) – Slides are little tubes of metal or glass that slip over a left hand finger. They create a sort of “Hawaiian” sound and many guitar styles are based on their use. They are a fun tool to have on hand. It’s important to get the right size for your finger, like buying a ring. Choosing the steel or glass one is up to you. Normally, the steel ones are for acoustic and the glass ones for electric, but really anything goes.

Cleaning cloth/Polish ($5-20) – A clean, cotton polishing cloth is best. Actually, a good ol’ cotton t-shirt is a great guitar rag. Mostly, you’ll use elbow grease to remove fingerprints and oils from the finish. I always have one on hand to keep it dry when we are playing outside in the summer months and always give the guitar a good wipe down before it goes in a case. Cleaners and polishes are also available but they are a “sometimes” application. A little goes a long way.

Strings/String winder ($8-15) – Guitar stings break on occasion. Having a spare set is a must. The comes in specific gauges and materials. Experienced players know the gauges and brands they prefer. If you aren’t sure, just make sure you buy for the right type of guitar. Electric guitar, steel-string acoustic or nylon strings for classical guitars are the basic choices. Steel strings (usually made from nickel) are gauged roughly from extra light to heavy. Go with the light or extra light. Nylon strings for classical guitar are gauged by tension, normal through hard tension. I’d go with at least hard but I personally use the super-high or super hard tensions. A string winder is an inexpensive little tool that helps you put the strings on a little faster. You need one and they are probably a couple of bucks.

Guitar stands ($10-30) – A guitar stand is better than leaning the guitar on the wall. They make it easier for players to keep the guitar out of the case and at hand for practicing. They also make ones that you can install on your wall so they are up and out of the way or even part of the room decoration.

Guitar case ($25-1000) – Every guitar needs a case. If you’re not playing it, the case is the safest place for it. There are soft cases, chipboard and hard cases. You’ll pay a premium for the sturdiest of flight cases for your world tour. All my road guitars are in hard cases. Soft cases require a little more care but are generally easy to pack around and have shoulder straps. Avoid the chipboard variety if you can. They wear out quickly.

Subscription to a guitar magazine ($12-25 per annual) – Everyone likes to get fun things in the mail. Guitar magazines are filled with profiles of famous players, adds for the newest guitar creations and LESSONS! My favorite is Guitar Player as it’s pretty well rounded. Guitar World is more for rock and heavy metal folks. Acoustic Guitar player is great too. You can find one for any style and there are a lot of online options too if you like to save the trees.

Guitar books ($10-50) – I love guitar books. There are so many method books and artist folios from every style and historical period. I’ve been building my guitar library for many years and continue to do so. Guitar books are always a great gift. Some of my personal recommendations are below.

Fakebooks ($25-40) – Fakebooks are a collection of songs, usually in specific style. They will contain anywhere between 200 and 1000 tunes written in traditional notation, lyrics and chord symbols. Musicians take that basic info off the page and we “fake” the song, making it up as we go along with intros, endings and maybe solos too. They are available in every style these days… Jazz, Bluegrass, Broadway, Folk, The best fake book ever, The Real book, even THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS GUITAR FAKEBOOK! A new fakebook every year will really add to your guitarist’s library.

Guitar Lessons ($20-100) – A great music tutor or coach can get advancing guitarists on the right path and the right plan. They can help students save time in learning and provide encouragement when the going gets tough. Finding the right teacher for your student is a must. It’s definitely a two-way street and personalities, learning and teaching styles need to line-up. Experienced teachers will know what a student needs, understand a variety of learning styles and be able to include many of the students own musical interests. I am grateful to the many great guitar mentors and teachers I’ve had through the years.

365 Day Guitar Challenge – Talk to your guitarists often about their practicing and encourage them to make time. We become guitarists by having the guitar in our hand a little everyday. I’ll be talking to my students about the 365 Day Guitar Challenge for 2016. All you have to do is just pick up your instrument everyday. That’s it. Most will go ahead and do a little playing or practicing while they’ve got it. It’s not easy so not everyone will be up to the challenge. I’ll admit, I missed a day or two this last year. But for those with fortitude the 365 Day Guitar Challenge will be a fun reminder that the guitar really is a part of their daily routine. We are guitarists! And it’s Free.

I’m sure you guitarist would also welcome a brand new guitar, amplifier or pedal board at any time. If you are in the market for some larger or more expensive items, you can drop me a note anytime, I’ll share my thoughts and can give a point in the right direction. If you have any other questions about the items listed, I’m always happy to talk guitar and can get specific about the needs of your particular guitarist. Send me a note to anytime.

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2017!


What guitar books are the best?

Guitarists everywhere get a great amount of knowledge and practice from specific methods, topical material and artist folios. Some of the first methods for guitar were published in the 19th century by the very first guitarists. The famous “methode por guitarre” by the Spanish monk and baroque guitarist, Gaspar Sanz, dates back to the 1600’s. Many modern guitarists got their early start reading from the methods of Mel Bay and Alfred’s. I’ve built a great guitar library over the years but there are a few books that have been really important in my growth. Books that have taught me foundational concepts, delivered flashes of insight and that I return to again and again. Here’s a quick list of some great books for the guitar.

The Advancing Guitarist – Mick Goodrick
Pumping Nylon – Scott Tenant
The Charlie Parker Omni Book
Jerry Hahn’s Complete Method for the Jazz Guitar
The Complete Joe Pass
Sheets of Sound for Guitar – Jack Zucker
Zen Guitar – Philip Toshio Sudo
Effortless Mastery – Kenny Werner
The Jazz Theory Book – Mark Levine
The Royal Conservatory Series
The Suzuki Guitar Series
Jazz Improvisation: The Goal Note Method – Shelton Berg
Thesaurus of Scales and Chords – Nicolas Slominsky
Creative Guitar 1 and 2 – Guthrie Govan
Ted Greene’s Books
The Library of Guitar Classics – Amsco Publishing
Frederick Noad’s Solo Guitar playing and historical folios
Berklee Press – Melodic Rhythms, Reading and Advanced Reading Studies for the Guitar, Pick style classical guitar – William Leavitt
Sight reading for the classical guitarist 1 and 2 – Robert Benedict
Building a Jazz Vocabulary – Mike Steinel
Matt Smith’s Chop Shop
The Big Book of Jazz Guitar – Mark Dziuba
Kitharalogus – Ricardo Iznaola
Guitar Lore – Dennis Sandole
Intervallic Designs – Joe Diorio
Forward Motion – Hal Galper
Mickey Baker’s Jazz and Hot guitar books
Rhythm Changes 1 2 and 3 – Frank Vignola
Juan Serrano’s Flamenco Method
Dennis Koster’s Keys to Flamenco 1 and 2
The Guitarists Compendium Series (Howard Roberts)
The Book of Six Strings – Philip Toshio Sudo
Guitar Player Repair Guide – Dan Erlewine
The Solo Lute Works of Johann Sebastian Bach – Frank Koonce
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
My Guitar Basics
My Artist Repertoire Series
My New Books
Syncopation for the Modern Drummer

Fake Books – The Real Books, The Ultimate Jazz Fakebook, Ultimate Guitar Christmas, Classic Rock, the Ultimate Fakebook and the Best Fake Book Ever.

Jason Riley

I’m a hustling musician and family man. I love to learn, play, share and encourage others in music. We’ve got some cool bands (including Soca Jukebox) and I am the director of the St. Joseph Arts Academy. This is my Blog!