Gifting Your Guitar Buddy

It’s getting to be that time of year again, and people who are friends (or co-workers) with guitarists get nervous. What to give? Gift certificates are great – seriously, who doesn’t what to hear “Here’s $x, go nuts at (insert favorite music store)”? But some people consider them impersonal. Some want to actually choose a gift for you like they would any other, but usually they have no clue where to start. Strings and picks are personal choices, so unless you’re intimately familiar with your friend’s gauges of choice, that’s a return waiting to happen. So what then? Here’s a newbie guide to gift-giving for guitarists (without breaking the bank). From this point on, let’s approach this as if we’re giving your friend/co-worker helpful suggestions to hook you up. I can’t authorize you cutting and pasting the rest of this into your suspected secret Santa’s email as a guide, but we’ll proceed as if you could. Here we go:

You can't go wrong giving a basic black strap. Duncan one? Even better!

You can’t go wrong giving a basic black strap. Duncan strap? Even better!

Let’s presume for the sake of this discussion you drew the guitar guy in your office gift exchange. For that matter, it could be your guitar buddy’s birthday, whatever. If it’s a co-worker, perhaps because of company policy you can’t – or just don’t want to – spend more than fifty bucks. No probs – we can do that and still have beer money left over! Or eggnog if you’re into that sort of thing… But the larger point, you’ll run less of a chance of buying them, with the best intentions, a completely wrong gift.

We’ll begin with the “This is for your gig bag” and “Here’s a spare …” gift(s). There are a few things you just can’t go wrong with when buying for an electric guitarist. There are things we’re always going to need and that are handy to have spares of  for when things inevitably break. Even if you’re just sitting at home jamming and something breaks, we don’t want to have to leave to buy new ones and lose the moment musically speaking. So help us be prepared and you’re automatically the cool guy/gal.

Example one, Cables: Can’t have enough of them, especially if the guitarist in question has a bunch of pedals (those things that light up) on the floor. One- and 3-footers are great for those, and generally aren’t expensive. Extra 10, 12, and 25ft lengths are always great to have around, and are almost always without fail in the bargain bin or “sale” items at guitar stores. And, truth be told, if we don’t have spares of these, we’re paranoid. Ever been to a show and seen the guy with the cool guitar but his cable is shorting out, and he doesn’t have a spare? Nightmare. Help your buddy not be that guy. They’ll love you.

Pocket full of awesome.

Pocket full of awesome.

Another cool thing to have as a spare, but be intentionally understated, as styles vary – is a basic black guitar strap. Because over time they occasionally break or wear out, too. A standard cloth weave one shouldn’t set you back more than twenty bucks. An extra string-winder is always cool to have as well as extra tools, like a spare string cutter, (a pair of small wire snips from the hardware store will do, we’re not picky). Or say something like a  Groove Tech Guitar/Bass Multi-Tool. It’s kind of a Swiss Army Knife for guitar players, and has tools that fit most guitars. You can’t really go wrong with something like this. Yet another gift no guitarist will be disappointed to receive.

Tuners. Friends of guitars and ears everywhere.

Tuners. Friends of guitars and ears everywhere.

Another great one, that any guitarist can (and should!) use, that thanks to the advance of technology keeps getting more accurate and less expensive? Tuners! There are a variety of clip-on tuners available from several manufacturers, some in the twenty-to-thirty dollar ballpark. For an example, Snark’s Son of Snark works for guitar and bass and is $39 retail, but they have more affordable models. We’re talking 15 bucks on sale. A clip-on tuner is incredibly handy on the go, or say between songs when your tuner pedal is on your pedal board, which is 20 feet away from your beer. Just sayin’, YMMV.

"Here you go - clean, care and polish away, my friend..."

“Here you go – clean, care and polish away, my friend…”

One indispensable item that is pretty much one size fits all? Guitar Maintenance Kits. Who doesn’t appreciate a freshly polished guitar? Okay, ‘relic’ guys notwithstanding. But hardly anyone else will scoff at getting a gig-bag friendly kit that includes a polishing cloth, cleaning/polish and in some cases scratch-remover and string-cleaning products. Some kits also include lemon oil compounds for fretboard wood conditioning, and still retail at under fifty bucks. As an added bonus, it shows you care that your buddy cares about their guitars, instant win gift. Most of those items are available separately, too.

As previously mentioned you might choose incorrectly if you try to buy your guitar-pal picks, but if he/she gigs, something like Dunlop’s Mic Stand Pick Holder is simultaneously useful and cool-looking. Let them worry about what size picks, you give them a handy place to stash them, whatever they are. The standard holder comes in 7″ and 12″ lengths and will set you back less than ten bucks. Do they play slide, too? Get them the combo version, done! And remember, you also get points for getting us the functional/cool gift.

So while staying within the ballpark, and the prescribed budget, there’s a plethora of “can’t miss” items you can buy your guitar buddy. Items that will not only delight, but will make your friend wonder “HOW did (you) know to get me that?!?” But I’m not telling! It’ll be our secret!

"Why yes, this IS what cool looks like."

“Why yes, this IS what cool looks like.”

And of course this (Duncan) blog would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the cool stuff available on! There’s cool shirts for men and women in a variety of styles (any girl in an Invader shirt is already cool in my book). Or perhaps a Black Winter Hoodie is more their style? Again, proceed at your own risk guestimating someone’s size there. Hey, back to can’t miss gifts, there’s also that cool classic black Seymour Duncan Guitar Strap, an item already on the list. But my personal favorite, and one your friend may also love, is the Pickup Necklace! It comes in a variety of colors and styles (gems or metal polepieces) and they’re like guitarist dogtags. You probably couldn’t go wrong with either white or black if you’re worried about them “coordinating their apparel” (I hear people do that).  I have a black one with metal poles that regularly gets compliments. The great thing is, of all the cool items available, nothing there will set you back more than thirty bucks max . Still, as above, well under budget in our $50 imaginary-gift-exchange scenario. I did say we’d have beer/eggnog money left over, didn’t I?

Jay Hale

About Jay Hale

Jay Hale is a guitarist and guitar-builder located in Los Angeles who has also occasionally moonlighted as a guitar tech for bands like Quiet Riot.
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  • johnnybeane

    Great stuff Jay!

    • Jay Hale

      Thanks! :)

  • Justified

    Thanks for the suggestions/ideas Jay! Stocking stuffers for anyone/everyone that ‘bends those strings’! MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!