The Greatest Items for Musicians

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Photograph: Chase Bliss

Shopping for a present for a musician could be disturbing, particularly when you’re not a musician. However it doesn’t need to be!

Once I was an adolescent, I used to be obsessive about guitar gear. My people did their finest to maintain up with what I had my eye on, and they might normally simply ask me for an inventory of choices. This can be a sensible strategy, but it surely takes away a number of the magic of gift-giving.

Ideally, you must shock that particular musician in your life with one thing they may haven’t prioritized in their very own buying. Search for objects which may add that one bizarre sound that makes a observe stand out, or is simply enjoyable to mess around with.

That’s why we’ve put collectively a present information that ought to put a smile on the face of that particular gearhead in your life. We haven’t targeted on recommending entry-level devices or high-end prize objects right here. That stuff could be very private for a musician. Positive, each guitarist may use a stocking full of additional strings, however do you even know what gauge of string they like?

Briefly, the right reward for a musician is sudden and sparks pleasure. I both personal or have used nearly all the pieces included beneath and there’s not a loser within the bunch.

Toys and Equipment

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Photograph: Stylophone

Stylophone Pocket Synth – $34.95

Launched in 1968, the unique Stylophone was one of many first moveable synthesizers made obtainable to the general public. The newest fashions don’t rock the boat. You continue to use the connected stylus to play notes on the tiny steel keyboard and it nonetheless produces a restricted variety of skinny, buzzy tones.

However this low-cost little man has been used on skilled recordings numerous occasions so as to add some bizarre background texture or carry a easy melody. Stylophone would be the first to inform you that David Bowie used it on “House Oddity” and that’s precisely what you must inform the one that opens the reward and appears slightly confused.

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Photograph: Teenage Engineering

Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators – $49-$99

In the event you’re on the lookout for one good stocking stuffer, you may’t go mistaken with a Pocket Operator. The straightforward construct high quality of those gadgets retains the value on the reasonably priced finish however they are often very highly effective.

In short, Pocket Operators are little devices that appear like calculators. A few of them include a prepackaged set of sounds and supply the power to create and set off musical loops. They will additionally work collectively in an effort to craft extra bold compositions or play dwell reveals. I do know a touring musician who makes use of a setup of those and a tiny mixer as his solely dwell gear.

However I promised this could be a easy information, and there are such a lot of Pocket Operators to select from. Don’t fear, simply purchase the PO-33 Ok.O! It’s a tiny sampler that may file and sequence any sound you need to file. You may’t go mistaken with any of the fashions, however that one gives essentially the most flexibility.

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Photograph: Mogami

Mogami Gold Instrument-10 – $68

We’re not going to get too deep into fundamental equipment, however I do need to word that purchasing instrument cables isn’t so simple as it appears. An inexpensive cable will usually include unhealthy sound high quality and a brief lifespan. That doesn’t imply you at all times get what you pay for. Monster Cables spent years bilking folks into believing they had been value extraordinary costs earlier than pivoting into the junk model that it was from the start.

Mogami cables are stable and revered by sound engineers. However sure, they’re slightly expensive.

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Photograph: Fender

Fender’s Mustang Micro – $119

The Mustang Micro is a good little observe amp if you wish to use headphones. (Or when you actually need that guitarist in your life to put on headphones.) It has an honest sound, 12 completely different amp presets, 12 built-in results, and may sync with Bluetooth to play together with recordings.

It’s important for individuals who journey lots, however the truth that it doesn’t require any further cables makes it a must have for lazily taking part in round the home.

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Photograph: Moog

Moog Theremini Theramin – $399

It’s in all probability slightly unfair to place a Moog Theremin within the toy class. It’s a full-blown instrument and there are individuals who dedicate their lives to mastering its intricacies.

However anybody can activate a theremin and begin taking part in instantly. You simply wave your hand across the antenna and regulate for the sound and tone you need. It’s like taking part in a singing noticed within the air.

The Theremini additionally consists of loads of options to shortly get you in control on controlling pitch and understanding scales.


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Photograph: Z. Vex

Z. Vex Fuzz Manufacturing unit – $320, Vertical model – $199

If you wish to purchase a fundamental results pedal for delay, refrain, reverb, and many others., any of the basic Boss models will do you wonderful. However we need to get bizarre.

The Z. Vex Fuzz Manufacturing unit is my favourite results pedal that I personal. It’s very over-the-top fuzz for guitars however you should utilize it with different devices as effectively. I’ve run synths by way of it simply as a lot as a guitar.

It’s onerous to elucidate why it’s so good, however simply perceive that it might probably do any fuzz sound you want and it’s extremely sensitive. The controls make no sense. Some settings will produce no sound in any respect, others offers you harmonic-rich suggestions from the gods. It’s a tinkerer’s delight.

The unhealthy information is the unique Fuzz Manufacturing unit is at present bought out. The excellent news is that Z. Vex began making a “vertical model” that has all the identical elements with a unique structure and a less expensive value. By all accounts, the vertical mannequin is strictly the identical, it’s simply not made in the usA.

Even when the particular person you’re looking for has each stomp field underneath the solar, they in all probability don’t have something like this.

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Photograph: Chase Bliss

Chase Bliss Behavior – $400

The simplest approach to perceive the Chase Bliss Behavior pedal is to watch a video of somebody utilizing it. At a elementary stage, it’s a delay/echo impact and it might probably deal with these duties in addition to most.

However Chase Bliss prefers to name this stompbox a “musical sketchpad” and a “compositional delay.” Its actual energy comes from the truth that it’s continuously recording all the pieces you play to a 3-minute loop. That loop could be accessed, edited, and manipulated at any time. The concept is that it’s a pedal for noodling round and going again to save lots of one of the best bits that pop up.

There’s much more to this factor, I haven’t even talked concerning the 16 dip switches on the again. Mainly, any musician who likes adventurous results or is struggling in a artistic rut will discover one thing to love concerning the Chase Bliss Behavior.

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Photograph: Chase Bliss


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Photograph: Shure

Shure SM57 and SM58 – $89

These aren’t one of the best mics cash should buy, however they’re tried and true. All you actually need to know is that SM57 is taken into account to be higher for recording intruments and the SM58 is extra for vocals. However the reality is both mannequin can do each.


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Screenshot: Apple

Logic Professional – $199.99

If you’re shopping for for a musician who desires to start out recording themselves, I can’t suggest Apple’s Logic Professional software program sufficient. It’s knowledgeable high quality studio at a dust low-cost value. It’s very intuitive, straightforward to navigate, and highly effective as hell.

The one caveat I’ll say is that musicians who use software program to play dwell in actual time are likely to desire Ableton Stay ($449-$749). Logic Professional added a “Stay Loops” characteristic a few years in the past that makes actual time efficiency simpler however Ableton has a headstart with suitable peripherals and is simply typically extra versatile.

Backside line: If they simply need to file, Logic Professional is nice.

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Photograph: Landr

LANDR subscription – $20/month or $150/yr 

In case your giftee is already deep in recording, a LANDR sub would possibly assist them take their manufacturing to the following stage. The service gives a collection of instruments for musicians together with plugins, collaboration instruments, and a networking platform. However the major motive to make use of it’s for it’s AI-powered mastering instruments.

Mastering is taken into account the darkish artwork of the recording world. It’s the ultimate course of earlier than a file will get pressed and streamed. I don’t perceive it and it prices some huge cash to rent knowledgeable.

LANDR has not managed to place these professionals out of enterprise however for 20 bucks it does an amazing job of balancing the sound throughout completely different programs and usually making recordings “louder.” An individual can use top-notch gear with flawless method but when a recording hasn’t been mastered, it might probably simply nonetheless sound like a house demo.

Samplers and Drum Machines

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Screenshot: XLN Audio

XLN Audio XO Drum Machine – $129

I’ve by no means used a drum machine just like the XO software program. In the event you make beats, you in all probability have hundreds of samples in your machine. Sometimes, you’ll set a channel to be the kick drum by clicking by way of a library of kick drum sounds. That is tedious and repetitive.

XO shows your pattern library as a sea of coloured dots which can be organized by similarity. Scrolling over a dot performs a pattern. Swiping your curser throughout the dots performs the samples quickly in a really satisfying rush of sound.

There are many different intelligent search tweaks and the editor is effectively designed. In my ebook, it’s one of the best non-hardware drum machine you may get.

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Photograph: Roland

Roland Aira Compact T-8 – $200

Not everybody desires to make use of a mouse with their drum machine. The tactile really feel of {hardware} can present inspiration to make up for its lack of flexibility. For entry-level beatmakers, Roland’s Aira Compact T-8 packs in a bunch of basic sounds from its legendary ‘80s drum machines with some fashionable conveniences tacked on.

It’s a easy machine that shall be producing beats inside minutes of pulling it out of the field.

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Picture: Roland

Roland SP-404MKII – $555

Right here’s one other instance of Roland doing a contemporary riff on considered one of its basic machines. On this case, the SP-404MKII updates the SP-404 sampler that’s been utilized by a number of the greatest names in music.

Of all the pieces on this listing, I might say that that is may be the riskiest merchandise to purchase on a whim. Virtually each musician may use a sampler, however not everybody desires to. My advice can be to solely go for this if the particular person you’re shopping for for has explicitly stated they need a sampler or in the event that they’re the kind who’s at all times drumming on a desk and would recognize some sturdy set off pads.

That stated, this can be a well-made sampler with loads of options at a really affordable value. It’s simply manner an excessive amount of cash to throw away on a guess.


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Photograph: PreSonus

PreSonus Eris E5 – $200 (for pair)

In case your particular musician is in want of some audio system, don’t go for some form of Bluetooth-connected shopper system. They want displays that don’t shade the sound very a lot. If the monitor’s tone is “impartial,” the ultimate combine is extra prone to be constant throughout a variety of audio gadgets.

The PreSonus E5 displays aren’t studio grade however they’re a number of the finest you may get for the value. They sound good, have some further shielding to chop down on hiss, and supply some knobs on the again to regulate the acoustic tuning.

(Additionally word that wherever you purchase displays, you must double-check that you just aren’t simply shopping for one unit if you intend to purchase a pair.)

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Photograph: Yamaha

Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor – $400 (for pair)

These displays are twice as costly as those from PreSonus. However if in case you have the additional money, they’re value it. There’s nothing mistaken with the primary advice however Yamaha’s HS5 displays will carry you thru knowledgeable recording journey longer earlier than you begin itching for an improve. Loads of skilled studios have these unhealthy boys sitting round alongside displays that price hundreds of {dollars}.


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Photograph: Sennheiser

Sennheiser HD280 Professional – $99

Each producer wants a pair of over-ear headphones. There’s a lack of sound high quality with wi-fi headphones and it’s important to check a number of completely different audio outputs when mixing or mastering. Sennheiser’s HD280 Professional cans gained’t break the financial institution and are extensively revered throughout the business.

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Photograph: Liszewski

Nothing Ear (stick) – $99

For extra informal listening or composing, there’s nothing mistaken with a wi-fi pair of earbuds. On the cheaper spectrum, we discovered Nothing’s new Ear (stick) buds to be extraordinarily spectacular and comfy.

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Photograph: Liszewski

AirPods Professional – $239 or Pixel Buds Professional – $185

When you’ve got slightly further dough to spend on some wi-fi buds that characteristic high-quality sound and noise-cancelling, we suggest two choices that ought to please most individuals. The AirPods Professional can work with Android gadgets however are a should have for anybody within the Apple eco-system on account of their seamless pairing talents. For Android customers, the Pixel Buds Professional are a bit cheaper and supply improbable sound high quality. You may learn our opinions right here and right here.

Synths and Keyboards

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Picture: Arturia

Arturia Modular V3 – $149

I perceive that it’s slightly underwhelming to unwrap a present that’s only a obtain code, however software program synths are an unbelievable discount. The Arturia Modular V3 relies on the unique Moog Modular synths that will usually price hundreds of {dollars} in {hardware} type.

There’s a steep studying curve for mastering this beast, however anybody can get began sculpting sounds in a matter of minutes. I’ve spent the extra time with this synth than some other merchandise on this listing and may say it’s an artwork type unto itself. It’s extremely straightforward to get misplaced for hours crafting new patches and constructing the largest sounds you may think about. No synth freak can be upset.

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Picture: Arturia

Arturia Jup 8 – $149

For musicians who’re much less excited about avant-garde soundscapes, Arturia’s Jup 8 is a fantastic retro software program synth that delivers a variety of ‘80s and ‘90s tones. This synth relies on Roland’s Jupiter 8 which was used on information by artists like The Automobiles, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream. However there’s one tune that completely describes the vibe this factor will carry to a package: The X-Recordsdata Theme Tune.

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Photograph: Modal Electronics

Modal Electronics Skulpt SE Synth – $219

Shifting into {hardware} synths, the Skulpt SE Synth is a tiny moveable unit that has loads of energy underneath the hood. Sure, it’s housed in a flimsy field and the keyboard is laughably unhealthy but it surely has numerous knobs and produces nice sounds.

What’s most necessary is that it has midi out and in ports in addition to an app to manage all of its parameters. It checks the field for a synth to tackle the go and do some tactile tinkering, however it might probably additionally simply combine together with your digital devices seamlessly.

It’s additionally cute.

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Photograph: Casio

Casiotone CT-S1000V – $450

That is our decide for a fundamental keyboard. Perhaps you simply need to study to play the piano and have some further sound choices, this man will handle you and comes at a fairly reasonably priced value. The built-in audio system sound fairly nice and the number of acoustic tones are wonderful.

That’s to not say it’s finest in school for a midrange keyboard however the Casiotone has one enjoyable trick up its sleeve: It sings. Effectively, it might probably sort of sing. You’ll need to mess around with the tones and parameters to get all the pieces to your liking, however utilizing the included app you may actually sort lyrics and listen to them carried out to the melody of your selection. There are 22 included voices with an excellent little bit of room to tweak and refine the ultimate output.

The one caveat I’ll add is that the keys aren’t weighted so not each newbie will need to begin right here. However it covers the fundamentals and can put a smile in your face.

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Photograph: Roli

ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 – $1399, eBay – $850

For the keyboard freak who has all the pieces, ROLI’s Seaboards open up loads of new potentialities. It permits the participant to transcend the easy strike velocity that controls a typical keyboard’s expressiveness by utilizing stress delicate keys and “5D know-how.” The outcomes are extra like taking part in a woodwind instrument. Right here’s a video demonstrating how the addition of press, slide, glide, and elevate inputs can open up new sonic potentialities.

Sadly, there’s no assure that pre-orders of the RISE 2 will ship earlier than the vacations and the RISE 1 isn’t at present being manufactured. The excellent news is there are many used models obtainable on eBay and because it runs on the costly facet, a reduction is greater than welcome.

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Photograph: Teenage Engineering

Teenage Engineering OP-1 – $1,399

It’s small. It’s bizarre. It’s troublesome to make use of. It very costly. And it’s lovely. The OP-1 is a conveyable synth for energy customers.

Because it was launched in 2011, Teenage Engineering’s little monster has turn out to be a legend and picked up endorsements from numerous celebrities. The tiny interface means navigating between its numerous features is a ache within the ass but it surely additionally retains you targeted on the duty at hand.

With reasonably priced, desktop-based recording programs, you may actually do something. That may result in artistic paralysis. The OP-1 has a really idiosyncratic system that pushes you to make deliberate selections every step of the way in which.

That’s to not say that it’s restricted. It’s a synth, drum machine, sequencer, controller, and sampler all crammed collectively. It even has an FM radio tuner for grabbing random samples out of the aether. You may theoretically file a complete album on this system with out touching one other piece of drugs. Simply consider it as extra of a throwback to the times of recording on an previous 4-track tape machine—a time if you add to suppose methodically about bouncing tracks and utilizing your assets sparingly.

Nobody will ever really feel let down when unwrapping an OP-1.

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