You may be a musician yourself, have a musician as a friend or family member, or simply be interested in the process of creating or performing music. Here are some of our favorite musical toys/tools that may be of interest to you if you are searching for a great musical gift or are looking for a new source of creative inspiration:
1. Roadie instrument tuner: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadie_Tuner
One of the challenges of playing a stringed instrument is getting and keeping it in tune. This becomes even more of a challenge if and when you begin to explore alternate tunings. The Roadie tuner makes it easy to tune your instrument quickly and accurately and a well tuned instrument is both more fun to play and more pleasurable to listen to! I recommend the Roadie Bass version, as it has a stronger battery and can also be used for bass guitars in addition to guitars, ukuleles, mandolins and banjos.
2. Partial capo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partial_capo
A standard capo is used to bar all of the strings of an instrument and is a useful tool to change the key of a song to make it easier to sing, to shorten the scale length of the instrument to make it easier to play or to alter it’s dynamic response, and is particularly helpful when you want to play a song in a key that is not “friendly” for the guitar, i.e., when you play chords in the key of C with a capo at the 3rd fret you are now playing in the key of Eb - without the capo the chords in the key of Eb are much more difficult to execute.
While capos are very common, the use of a partial capo is less familiar. A partial capo covers only some of the strings and there are a variety of partial capo configurations which are available. Using a partial capo has some similarity to playing in an altered tuning with the advantage of not having to retune your instrument. Partial capos provide a powerful stimulus to creativity and you can even use one or more partial capos together or in conjunction with a standard capo to achieve some truly exotic results. Harvey Reid is a guitarist who has put out some wonderful resource books on the use of partial capos. A partial capo and/or a book from Harvey Reid is is sure to be appreciated by any guitarist!
3. Nashville tuning guitar strings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nashville_tuning_(high_strung)
Nashville tuning (aka high strung tuning) is the use of lighter gauge strings to replace the four lowest pitched strings of the guitar (E, A, D, G). If you use the lightest gauge string in each pair of strings in a 12 string guitar string set you will have a high strung guitar, or you can alternatively simply order a Nashville tuning string set. The 4th string (G string) will now be the highest pitched open string and in some ways it becomes reminiscent of a 5 string banjo where there is a high drone that is played by your thumb in fingerpicking patterns. Nashville tuning provides a beautiful complement to guitars that are strung with standard strings and you can also tune your high strung guitar to an alternative tuning such as Drop D or DADGAD for a beautiful and unusual sound. A wonderful creative and performance tool for the minimal cost of a set of strings - particularly if you have a second guitar so that you can keep one instrument in standard tuning while you experiment with your new sonic palette!
4. A great stocking stuffer for any age is an egg shaker:
These ubiquitous rhythm instruments come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes and are deceptively versatile. One of my favorite performance tricks is to play rhythm guitar while holding an egg shaker in my strumming hand. It really accentuates the percussive nature of the guitar and people are mesmerized while trying to figure out where that noise is coming from if you hold the shaker concealed in the palm of your strumming hand! In addition, it is a useful tool to help improve your rhythmic groove and you can also always delegate the shaker rhythm to a member of your audience if the rhythm is pretty straightforward!
5. A good metronome is always a great investment to hone your rhythmic abilities, but even more so when it is also a functional piece of art! When you are looking for something that truly makes an aesthetic statement, one-of-a-kind vintage craftsmanship (and made locally in Washington) is hard to beat:
6. Finally, a gift for or from the studio: a comfortable, high performance set of headphones is the single best, cost-effective way to elevate the quality of your listening experience. A good choice for both value and performance is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x:
There are many great choices for headphones and the selection and performance features continue to evolve rapidly. High quality headphones are a great way to add to the quality of your listening experience! In addition, the increasing use of 3D headphone mixes to add greater dimensionality to the soundscape in music, movies, video games and TV, offers an additional reward for investing in a pair of comfortable, high quality headphones. (For further details see our September 2019 Blog post: How Do Lessons Learned From Bats & Dolphins Help Advance 3D Headphone Mixes To Now Offer A VR “Virtual Reality” Three Dimensional Soundscape?
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