Gifts for Musicians

Digital recorder

Digital recorders can be used for all kinds of things. Recording a lesson, a rehearsal, a demo recording, a practice session – it’s very important for musicians to be able to record things and listen back. Our medium is sound, afterall.

I used to use a minidisc recorder, but that technology never seemed to catch on. Now these digital recorders like I have shown here are the new thing. They record better quality audio, in stereo in this case, and download it directly to your computer afterward. That is very handy.

For a cheaper version, you could also get an iPod audio recorder, like the Blue Mikey Portable iPod Recorder for $69.99.

Black catalog briefcase

I use one of these when I go on solo piano gigs. There’s often a broad range of music and styles that I’ll play on a gig like that, and I’ll need to bring plenty of music books. They won’t fit into a normal briefcase, so I have one of these large, catalog cases.

It looks a lot more professional to be walking into a gig with a suit and a briefcase, you know? It looks sharp for your client.

Plastic toolbox

Do you know a rhythm section musician that is always carting his/her gear around? I bet they have a ton of chords, pedals, drum keys, guitar strings, etc., etc., etc., they they have to bring with them on every gig.

I’ve found that the best way to carry all that is a toolbox. It’s a great way to carry accessories, plus it stacks well with other gear, it’s easy to carry and it is meant to get beat around a little. I use a bright yellow one because I can always see it in the dim of stage and backstage.

Get a plastic one because they are light and sturdy.

Instrument-specific magazine subscription

This is a good one! Nearly every instrument has it’s own magazine these days. There’s Guitar World, Drum Magazine, Clarinet & Saxophone Magazine, The Trombonist as well as genre specific magazines like Down Beat (jazz), Opera News and Classical Guitar Magazine.

This is a gift that will continue giving year-round!

Dr. Beat Metronome

This is a great gift. I know several musicians that own more than one. I visited the house of a married couple recently – he a cellist and her a violinist – and they had a basket of them. A whole basket of Dr. Beats, can you picture that? It was beautiful.

For reasons I’ll never understand, Dr. Beat Metronomes are very expensive, as you can see here. There is a lower cost version of this one, though, the Boss DB-60 for $73.49.

A nice music stand

Raise your hand if you have one of those wire, fold-up music stands. Ok, put you hands down, I can’t see you anyway.

Musicians spend a lot of time practicing, and after they get out of music school that still spend a lot of time practicing. But after music school they don’t have the luxury of dedicated practice rooms with nice stands and grand pianos – they mostly practice at home. A great many musicians (don’t deny it) steal nice music stands from work or school and keep them at home. That might be a little questionable ethically, but it’s a testament to how valuable a good stand is to a practicing musician.

So for Christmas, consider buying them a nice stand (so they can return the one they stole…). Metal is nice, wood is also nice. What I personally prefer is a full back to the part of the stand that holds the music (the “face” of the stand). You need something that allows you to write and make notes on loose pages, and having a solid face to the stand allows that.

Stand light

This isn’t necessarily for that stand you just bought them. That stand will probably stay at home and stay well-lit. This light will be something your musician will bring on a gig. Stand lights are usually provided on gigs, but musicians can always use more light on a gig, especially if it’s a sight-reading job. This is a cool little light that will make all the other kids at school jealous. If you want something more traditional, you can buy a regular stand light, like the Stand Light by Weise

An instrument they don’t already play

As musicians, we got into this business because we love making music. Sometimes with all the practicing, all the critiquing and all the working it can turn into a job. Never a real job, mind you, but something approaching that feeling.

Sometimes musicians find it really refreshing to start learning a new instrument. There’s no pressure to be good at it, and sometimes it can help them rediscover their joy of making music. In other words, musicians can relieve the stress of playing music by playing music. This is what happens when your passion is also your job!

This can be a really refreshing gift. For violinists, you might consider a mandolin (the fingerings are the same). For wind players you might consider a Celtic Tin Whistle. And don’t forget – everyone likes a guitar.

New music

When in doubt – let them pick out some new music. You’d be surprised how infrequently some musicians buy new music. Personally, a lot of the music I buy isn’t recreational, but practical. Maybe I’m trying to learn a new groove, a new genre, or a new song.

Gift your musician an iTunes gift card and let them pick out some recreational music to listen to. They will be very grateful!

Published by

David J. Hahn

David J. Hahn

David J. Hahn (@davidjhahn) is the co-founder of and a former Broadway conductor. He grew up near Chicago, lived in New York City, and settled in California. In 2012, he left the music business to found California Surfcraft, a San Francisco-based start-up that makes high-performance surf gear out of fiberglass-reinforced cork. He is the inventor of the Bodypo®, a sustainable alternative to the traditional bodyboard. He is a cancer survivor, an advocate for unlikely career paths, and, beginning in spring of 2015, a father.

10 thoughts on “Gifts for Musicians”

  1. Great post Dave! These are some great gift ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Holidays!
    Madalyn Sklar

    Founder of…, cuz chicks rock!

  2. “In other words, musicians can relieve the stress of playing music by playing music.”

    LOVE the quote man. I’m going to use that.

  3. These are some great gifts! How about giving a musician the gift of their own, custom iPhone app. iPhone apps are the cool new way musicians connect and communicate with fans. Now you can give your favorite musician their very own custom iPhone app with a MobBase Holiday Gift Pack. Only $50!

    Fore more info, check out

    Full disclosure: I am a founder of MixMatchMusic, who makes MobBase.

  4. Anyone know of a good cart or means of hauling a guitar and amp around Manhattan (including going up and down subway steps)?

    1. Buy a folding luggage cart. They usually have bungee straps, if not, get a couple of those, too. You strap the amp to the cart, carry the guitar over your shoulder in a gig bag, and off you go. If the amp isn’t too large, you can even get through the rotary subway gates without too much trouble.

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