Every year around this time, when the frenzy nears its peak, our editors look for new gift ideas for musicians you won’t find anywhere else. Over the years, we’ve featured guitars, books, CDs, straps, calendars, effects pedals and other products. None are paid placements – this is just stuff we love and use ourselves. Here’s our 2017 collection of ideas for guitarists, mandolinists or banjo players (or just FJ readers). Have any other great gift ideas from 2017? Let us know and we’ll try to add them to the list.
A little shout-out to our neighbors – Copperpeace makes their beautiful custom straps just around the corner from the Fretboard Journal office, and this particular strap features vintage embroidery they scored from Miishka Handbags, who are just around the other corner from the Fretboard Journal office. These straps are slick, in the hip sense, comfortable and attractive, and they feature that nifty pick pocket, to boot.
TC Electronic Unitune Clip
We were mightily impressed by the TC Electronic Polytune Clip when it was introduced, but, to be honest, it can seem a bit like overkill, sometimes. Polyphonic tuning is neat, but it takes some getting used to, and if you’re an old horse, you’re rarely, if ever, going to take advantage of it. We probably weren’t the only ones thinking that, because TC Electronic has introduced the new, much simpler, less expensive Unitune Clip. It’s rugged, accurate and easy to read, plus it fits all too readily into just about any stocking.
NeckUp Guitar Support
The NeckUp guitar support is one of those things that you look at with a “What th…” expression on your face the first time you see it; then you try it and it’s more like “Ahhh…” We first saw it on Eric Skye’s knee, supporting his signature Santa Cruz OO Skye. This simple leather marvel attaches to your guitar (unobtrusively) and lifts the instrument into a more comfortable and ergonomic position for folks who prefer to play seated. They’re adjustable and offered in either black or brown in four different styles: Standard, Classical (for the other knee), Mini and Mini Narrow Body (for electric guitars). Prices range from $44.95 for the Mini to $52.95 for the Classical model.
Strymon Ojai R30
A little love for the wee boards! After making a huge splash in the pedal market with their pedals, Strymon introduced a couple of nifty, compact power supplies that do an excellent job of providing clean, flexible power to any pedal on your board. Unfortunately, their smaller version, the Ojai, didn’t quite fit under the most popular we pedalboards. Enter the recently released Ojai R30, which not only solves the fit problem, it also incorporates the fancy voltage switching that wasn’t available on the original Ojai (but was on the larger Zuma). Like the others, it’s expandable, via a 24V “Thru” jack, and it’s wicked quiet and super safe.
DRS Racks D36 and BT7
Like a lot of small-scale builders, Doug Kauer (of Kauer Guitars) has had to diversify during lean times, taking on the occasional odd job. Thankfully, Kauer’s odd job is creating gorgeous, modular DRS guitar racks. We’ve loved the DRS aesthetic for a while (in fact, we featured the racks in last year’s Gift Guide) but his new D36 and BT7 add-ons – which add a convenient storage drawer and turns your rack into a tabletop workbench – are, in a manner of speaking, the icing and cherry on top. Like the racks themselves, they’re built from bamboo, a sturdy, attractive and sustainable timber. The D36 is priced at $249, the BT7 at $149, and they can be purchased separately.
Thelonious Monk for Guitar
We put together a playlist to commemorate Thelonious Monk’s centennial that included Gary Wittner’s solo version of “Monk’s Mood,” and we pointed folks at his fine book of Monk arrangements for solo guitar. It quickly sold out on Amazon.com, but they’ve since restocked, so if you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s a nice little something-something to add to your Wish List. We find the arrangements tasteful and easily approached, but still challenging, covering the sweet spots from the Monk oeuvre.
Solid Ground Stands
We first discovered Solid Ground Stands at the 2016 La Conner Guitar Festival. These folding stands have sleek lines and are constructed from some gorgeous hardwoods. The basic model ($350) is offered in walnut, cherry, curly maple and sappele; they also offer special models with contrasting wooden stripes and more exotic timber choices, like bubinga, Claro walnut, chechen, shedua (ovangkol), black limba, koa and Caribbean walnut.
Union Tube & Transistor LAB Compressor
A couple months ago Chris Young of Union Tube & Transistor stopped by the office with a suitcase full of pedals and a smile. Everything that came out of that suitcase was cool, but the LAB compressor pedal was the business. An optical compressor designed to emulate the sweet, smooth tone of the classic LA-2A rackmount compressor (and its kin), the LAB’s fast attack/slow release approach to compression sounds great with just about everything you plug into it, and watching the LED fade from bright red (fully compressed) to green (uncompressed) is kinda mesmerizing. At $300 it isn’t cheap, but the quality and tone (not to mention its relative affordability compared to its inspirations) make this a must have for folks who dig a good compressor. Check out the little video demo we did, below.
Collings OM1 JL
Sure, for the most part, Santa doesn’t often come down the chimney with a guitar, but if he were ever so inclined, please Santa, how about a Collings OM1 JL, the new Julian Lage signature model? The guitar is essentially a variation on the OM1 “Traditional,” with a neck carved to match Julian’s ‘39 000-18, an extremely thin, all-nitro satin finish and an old school script logo matching the hand-carved inlays of Bill Collings’ earliest instruments. We were lucky enough to talk to Julian about the guitar and hear it up close, and although we know that he can make just about anything sound good, we were more or less stunned. Gotta have it! The guitar is priced identically to the OM1 T, so if you can find one it’ll set you back $4,635 for the basic model, $5,535 with an Adirondack spruce top.
A Fretboard Journal Subscription
You didn’t think we’d leave this out, did you? The Fretboard Journal is the print magazine for the rest of us: filled with long-form articles, exclusive photographs and stories you can’t find anywhere else. We print each issue to the industry’s highest standards but – even more importantly – we get you behind-the-scenes with some of your favorite builders and players. For a limited time, we are offering a new, introductory rate for first-time subscribers/gift subscriptions: one year (four issues) for only $32. You can also subscribe or renew for three years for only $99, a nice discount from the $40 annual rate, and we guarantee you’ll love it.