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The holidays are hurtling toward us in a snowy accelerando, dear reader, and if you're shopping for a musician or music lover, you don't have to do it a capella—er—without some form of accompaniment. We're here to help!
Musicians can be especially tricky to shop for: They're picky about speakers and headphones, and use all kinds of instrumental peripherals that don't make a ton of sense to the uninitiated.
However, the only holiday fretting anyone should be doing is on a honky-tonk geetar, so here's 15 awesome gifts for your musician and music-adoring giftees.
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1. For the audiophile's living room: Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar
We've tested a ton of soundbars at Reviewed, but nothing quite as nice as Sennheiser's Ambeo model. Okay, full transparency—it's a busy time of year, and while I'm planning to review this one, I haven't actually reviewed it yet. However, Sennheiser has built a name for itself in the high-end speaker and headphone scene, and this first foray into soundbars looks severely promising.
For what you're paying (and we admit, this one is a bit steep), you're getting an impressive array of speakers and drivers: six 4-inch long-throw woofers, five 1-inch tweeters, and two 3.5-inch top-firing drivers. That's essentially an entire surround sound system stuffed into one rather handsome soundbar, and it's the kind of powerhouse sound array that keen-eared listeners will go gaga for.
2. For the diligent practitioner: Korg TM60BK metronome/tuner combo
Getting your musician friend a metronome/tuner may sort of be the equivalent of buying your SO a Peloton—just what are you trying to say, huh?—but let's face it, musicians: none of us play perfectly on the beat or with perfect intonation 100% of the time.
I've personally used this Korg model of combo metronome/tuner for years, starting back in my undergrad years where practicing 5 hours a day was a program requirement, and it's never let me down. Between its basic functions, headphone jack, multiple backlight brightness settings, and line-in port for electric instruments, it's a Swiss army knife where musical correctness is concerned.
3. For the beat designer: Akai Professional MPK Mini
This little keyboard may look complicated, but trust me, your musician friend probably knows what to do with it. If not, it's a very easy tool to learn on; the lauded Akai "Mini" keyboard has been beloved for years as a portable, low latency MIDI controller that delivers a surprising combination of input options for its low price and small size.
It's important to note right away that this isn't a traditional keyboard: it doesn't have its own speakers or sounds. To use it, it has to interface with music software and have a bank of instrument sounds that it controls digitally via USB cable. However, this model on Amazon bundles in 1,400 controllable sounds, which can be mapped to either the piano-style keys or responsive drum pad banks. I have one, and trust me, if I could figure it out, anyone can.
If your musician friend makes music digitally or has been looking into composing in MIDI at home, this is where to start!
4. For the modern player: Roland Aerophone digital wind instrument
A DWI might sound like something you want to avoid while driving to friends and families' houses this holiday, but actually it means "digital wind instrument," a newer instrument that makes it much easier to get started (or continue) playing breath-based music, a la traditional flute or clarinet.
This option from Roland actually makes it a lot easier to jump in compared to traditional reed-based instruments, and delivers a smorgasbord of cool features to keep your giftee playing and practicing. It can sound like a flute, clarinet, or even a violin, and features a built-in speaker and Bluetooth capabilities that lend it a severely friendly ease of use.
5. For the traveling musician: Sennheiser PXC 550-II headphones
We reviewed a TON of headphones in 2019, and one pair that stood out for its considerable value was Sennheiser's PXC 550 wireless noise-canceling headphones.
The PXC 550-II are the latest iteration of those cans, and they're not just a great choice for your keen-eared musician friends: they're pretty excellent for anyone who wants a high-quality pair of comfortable over-ears that are especially good for commuting and traveling situations.
6. For the folksy strummer: Seagull S6 Original acoustic guitar
You don't have to be a folksy guitar player to love this guitar: it's been one of the best acoustic guitars for the money for years. I bought the S6 a few years ago after devouring many reviews, and have loved it since then. For the price, this guitar sounds about as good as some that are twice the money.
This one is especially good as an upgrade for younger guitarists who have outgrown their entry-level models and want something that they can grow into. The fretboard is slim and easy to play on, and the tone is warm and loud without being overbearing like some juggernaut-style acoustic guitars.
7. For the aspiring uke'ster: Kala 'Learn to Play' Ukulele starter kit
Whether a six-string guitar seems too intimidating or you're just looking to capture the mellowy, islandy sound of a dulcetly strummed ukulele, starter kits like this one are where most musicians should, er, start.
This kit gives you a lot for what you're paying: the Kala LTP-C soprano ukulele, online lessons, a gig bag, and a lesson booklet. Basically, everything a novice player would need to self-start on their own, before considering lessons with a teacher. This one is an especially good choice for students!
8. For the one who hates changing strings: Elixir 80/20 Nanoweb strings
This is a set of strings I've used on acoustic guitars for years, and have gifted them to more guitarist friends than I can count (hey, I'm a musician, not a mathematician).
While Elixir's acoustic strings sound incredibly robust and warm, perhaps the best thing about them is how long they last before going "dead," something that eventually happens to all strings. If you've got a guitarist giftee who basically hates changing strings, not only will they appreciate the improvement in sound offered by this set of strings, but they'll love that they don't have to change them for many months.
9. For the new pianist: Casio SA-46 portable keyboard
When I first started trying to expand my musical horizons beyond the guitar, this funky little keyboard was my item of choice. While it's much too simple for an accomplished pianist, it's perfect for children, and is a good choice for someone who might be interested in keyboards but also might not stick with it. It's also a decent choice if you're looking for a more vintage set of sound patches.
The sound banks don't sound amazing, but this Casio has been a favorite for teachers and musical instructors for years due to how simple and flexible it is. It has built-in songs and soundbanks, runs on either battery or AC power, has a headphone jack, drum pads, and even features 50 "play along" tracks for learning how to tickle the ivories all the better.
10. For the home recording artist: Focusrite Scarlett Solo bundle
Focusrite's Scarlett Solo is what is known as a "Digital Audio Interface" (or DAI), and it essentially provides the user with an easy, high-definition way to record at home. The Scarlett Solo has been beloved amongst home recording artists and hobbyists for many years due to its relatively lenient price tag, super-simple setup, and attractive design elements.
It plugs into any PC or laptop via a USB cable, and allows you to connect either a microphone (via XLR cable) or an instrument with a 3.5mm cable. The bundle includes a set of headphones and an XLR cable, so after downloading any free recording software—'Audacity' is a favorite—you're ready to start recording in minutes.
11. For the podcaster: Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone bundle
If you're looking to get started podcasting, recording voiceover work, or simply want a great microphone for recording acoustic instruments or vocals, the Audio-Technica AT2020 has been a fan favorite for years. I've been using this one for a while, too, and I'm always surprised by how sensitive and accurate it is in recording.
This bundle on Amazon is a great place to start. You get the microphone itself, plus a pair of Audio-Technica's excellent ATH-M20X headphones and an adjustable, clamp-based studio boom arm. I have owned/used all the products in this bundle, and made some great music with them (in my humble opinion). Your giftee can too!
12. For the one with too many instruments: AmazonBasic A-frame stand
Let's face it: once you start buying instruments, it can be hard to stop. Especially for string players, where a basic acoustic guitar suddenly turns into an electric guitar, an electric bass, a ukulele, or a mandolin. Suddenly you own more stringed instruments than pairs of pants. Not speaking from experience or anything.
If you've got a giftee who has bought all the instruments they want but doesn't have a good place to store them, this AmazonBasics stand is a great choice. It's simple and flexible enough to hold a huge range of stringed instruments, and is cheap enough that you can buy your friend six or seven of them—before it's too late.
13. For the experimental musician: Otamatone electronic synthesizer
Definitely the cutest thing, and maybe also the strangest thing on this list, the Otamatone has been growing in popularity amongst musicians since it first released as a toy way back in 1998. Since then, it's essentially become a respectable handheld synthesizer in its own right, despite the goofy mouth/face and whatnot.
This one is great for kids (it's adorable and super easy to play), but I've jammed out with plenty of adult musicians who toted one of these along for the sheer fun of it. If you aren't sure what to buy your musician giftee, I can't imagine any player not hoping to get an Otamatone stuffed in their stocking this holiday.
14. For the beginner string player: Cecilio CVN-300 ebony violin
Violins are very expensive, serious instruments—or leastways, that's been the case for hundreds of years. Nowadays, however, you can actually get a decent beginner violin (and bow) online without spending thousands of dollars or going down to Georgia or any of that.
If you've got a musician giftee who has been hankering to try the violin but doesn't want to invest in a professional version, this ebony fitted violin and TWO bows is certainly not a good instrument by any standard (sorry, Cecilio). However, it's good enough for beginners who just want to make horrible screeching cat noises in an attempt to master one of the most beloved and beautiful instruments of all time.
15. For the DIY guitarist: Pyle electric guitar kit
Why buy the same electric guitar everybody already has when you can make and customize your own? That's the impetus behind this Pyle electric guitar DIY kit, which gives you an unfinished electric guitar body, a classic maple neck, and all the parts you'll need to build and wire your own electric guitar.
Amongst musicians, individual tone is something that's highly prized, and how better to ensure you sound unique than to play on a guitar that you built and customized yourself? This isn't a great choice for someone just starting out, but it's a fun project for your guitarist giftee—just note that it's available in right-handed versions only.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed.com: 15 perfect gifts for musicians and music lovers