Problem. There's five days till Christmas, and you still don't know what to get your muso friend. While most musicians do wear socks and undies, here's a list of ideas that they'll appreciate even more - that you can buy at the last minute without breaking the bank.
Buying a gift for a musician can be difficult. Firstly, the things that really are on their wish list cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Secondly, the gear they want can be pretty technical, and the wrong gift might be incompatible with what they're already using. Thirdly, if you buy something for them that you can actually afford, it might be so low in quality that it will leave them either laughing or crying.
I understand why you're seriously considering buying them socks or underwear. I really do. You wouldn't believe how often I receive that particular combination of apparel as a gift, wrapped thoughtfully.
But don't do it. You want to make your muso friend happy don't you. Then read on. Here's a list of gift ideas that they'll love, that won't break the bank, and you can grab at the last minute.
You're almost definitely too late to order a physical gift online and expect it to arrive before Christmas. But gifts that can be downloaded don't have that restriction. Online stores will even be open on Christmas day. Also, most stores - including music stores - will be open right up until Christmas Eve. So going out and grabbing something is still an option.
Our first six or seven suggestions are downloadable. For the rest you'll have to visit a store. And I've used a few affiliate links throughout this article - and noted that each time. By using those links you're giving welcome support to our site at no cost to yourself. Thanks in advance!
1. The Gift of Music
Musicians love listening to music just as much as playing it. We find it enjoyable, inspirational, and educational. It's part of the air we breathe.
Purchasing downloadable music online these days is pretty mainstream. You've probably done it yourself, and are comfortable with the process.
If you're not sure where to start, I recommend Apple's iTunes Store (which is best to access through the iTunes program on your computer, or you can browse online here), or the Amazon MP3 Music Store (affiliate link). Songs in either store start at around $1.
If you're not sure about their music preferences, check out Suggestion 4.
2. Music Apps for Their Phone or Tablet
A lot of musicians have an iPhone these days - and maybe even an iPad. If you know you're friend does, consider getting them some great music applications. To help you get started, you might want to see the lists of recommended iPhone and iPad apps we compiled in the past.
A good inexpensive gift at around $5 is GarageBand. This app allows you to inexpensively create music on either an iPhone or iPad.
If you know your friend's Apple ID you can gift the apps to them. If you don't, or you're unsure about which apps to buy, consider a gift card (see Suggestion 4 below).
3. Some Software for their Computer
Alternatively, you could buy they some great software for their computer. But you have to be careful here. Firstly, you need to be confident about whether they use a Mac or Windows computer. Secondly, if you know they already use music software on their computer, it's best to buy something that's compatible. It might actually be safer to talk to them before buying.
One safe bet is iDrum. It's a virtual drum machine that works on both Mac and PC, and costs $32. You can purchase a boxed copy from Amazon (affiliate link), but this close to Christmas it's better to get the downloadable version straight from the iDrum website.
If your friend is always talking about getting into home recording on their computer, and you know for a fact they haven't started yet, one great gift might be the program REAPER. It's relatively inexpensive (at $60 for non-commercial use), works on Windows and Mac, and can be downloaded even on Christmas day.
4. A Virtual Instrument for their Computer
You may not realize, but you can buy musical instruments for computers these days. This will give your friend even more sounds for creating amazing music on their digital audio workstations. The most popular of these are called "software synths", and you can learn more about them here.
One great option is the software synthesizer Sylenth 1. It's not the cheapest present listed here at 139 euros.
A little cheaper is Fxpansion's D.Cam Synth Squad. It's on special till the end of the year for $99.
But if you're rich enough, you can really make your muso friend happy by getting them Native Instrument's Komplete 8 (around $500, affiliate link), or Komplete 8 Ultimate (around $1,000, affiliate link). Not everyone can afford gifts like these, but if you can, it's guaranteed to be the best gift they receive.
5. A Loop or Sample Pack or Two
Serious and budding music producers are always building their loop and sample libraries. These are pre-recorded sounds they can use when creating music. Here are a few to consider. Prices vary, so check before hitting "buy".
6. Still Feeling Unsure? Then What About a Gift Card?
The problem of buying music or software for your musician friend, is that you might buy the wrong thing. You could buy an app that works on the wrong phone, some software he already has, or a song he hates.
You might consider getting them a gift certificate instead. That way they can get what they love and need.
You might want to write them a note like this:
Hi Ted. I really wanted to get you GarageBand for iPad for Christmas, but wasn't sure if you already have it. Here's a $10 iTunes card. Please spend it on something you'll enjoy.
7. Books about Music and Audio
Books are a great idea for a recording musician. There is always so much to learn. Some of the most popular are written by our premium author Bobby Owsinski. Check them out at his website, where previews are available.
If you order these (or any other) books from Amazon, you can still get it in time for Christmas by ordering two-day shipping if you live in the States. Alteratively, most music stores have a great collection of books. Chat to the salesperson about which book might suit your friend.
8. An Inexpensive Instrument or Two
While you're in the music store, you'll notice that not all instruments cost hundreds of dollars. Consider purchasing an inexpensive instrument or two. Ukuleles, harmonicas, shakers and other percussion instruments will all be appreciated by a serious musician. We love to experiment, and have more sounds to make music with.
9. A MIDI Controller
We also love new ways to get music into our computers. That's what controllers do. A keyboard is a good example of a controller, but you can also get drum pads, knobs and sliders, breath controllers and a host more.
If you want to check out a long list, have a look at Amazon's MIDI Controllers section (affiliate link). But two inexpensive options almost all musicians love are the KORG nanoKEY (around $50, affiliate link) and nanoPAD (around $60, affiliate link). You can often find both of these with cheaper prices if you look around. And if you want to make sure it arrives in time for Christmas, purchase it from your local music store - most carry them.
10. A Pair of Headphones
Every muso needs at least one pair of headphones. And if they have one, they won't mind a second. Check out Amazon's range (affiliate link), and see what you can find at your local music or electronics store.
Generally, the more you pay, the better quality you get. You'll find a pair to suit your budget - but I don't recommend you buy a musician a pair of cheap headphones!
Well, that brings us to the end of our list. Did it help? What are you buying your musician friend?
And if you're a musician, feel free to forward this list of suggestions to all your friends. Or just let us know what you'd like to receive in the comments. But hurry! Christmas is only days away!