While we celebrate the holidays, Rocks Off is resurrecting a few of our best Christmas-themed blogs from the past few years. (Wait... resurrecting is Easter. Never mind.) This blog originally appeared November 21, 2011.
As the timeless tale of the Little Drummer Boy reminds us, there is no greater gift than the gift of music. But what about those on your Christmas list who already have plenty of music in their lives?
Buying gifts for musicians is no easy task -- most of them already own the entire Rush discography, and subtle hints that maybe, possibly they should consider taking lessons are impossible to wrap.
That's why it's necessary to think a bit outside the box when stuffing a musician's stocking. Because reading is easier than thinking, Rocks Off has taken the generous step of compiling this handy list of odd, interesting and downright cool gift ideas for the musicians in your life. Just don't forget the earplugs -- for yourself.
The bathroom serves many purposes in a musician's life: Writing sanctuary, makeshift studio, smoker's lounge. The only thing missing is the stereo.
Thanks to the iCarta, though, that's a problem consigned to the past. This amazing dual-function device plays music from any iPod device AND dispenses your favorite toilet tissue. The iCarta makes a great pairing gift with a new iPod -- don't forget it load it up with plenty of Butthole Surfers.
Nothing is more useless than a guitarist with no guitar pick. Save yourself a few practice-room shouting matches with this handy punch that turns old credit cards, Xbox game cases, military IDs and lapsed health insurance cards into functional guitar picks. Toss this baby into the gig bag, and you'll never have to bum a pick off your bassist again.
They say that chefs are the new rock stars. Sad indictment of the download era though that may be, your own personal guitar hero can enjoy the best of both worlds with this hip picker flipper. This 100-percent silicone electric guitar spatula is dishwasher safe and groupie-approved. It's the ideal axe for flipping baloney on the practice-space hot plate.
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The ukulele gets a bad rap. Sure, it was the favored instrument of Tiny Tim, but it's also been twanged by the likes of George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and the fat, charismatic Islander at your brother's Hawaiian wedding. Even the most jaded musician will gain a new appreciation for the uke after building and decorating his or her own courtesy of this nifty DIY kit. With the New York Times writing stories about them and Hawaii 5-0 back on the air, it's only an uncomfortable matter of time before these amazing instruments become megapopular again.
The gangsta rap creative process requires a borderline-sociopathic headspace, but even the most hardened street thug needs to relax quietly once in a while. Your favorite G will love busting out the Crayolas to unwind by coloring in iconic images of Pac, Biggie, Nas and other ghetto superstars. This one-of-a-kind coloring book contains 48 pages of hip-hop's hardest, ready to be seen in a palette that goes far beyond the traditional Blood red/Crip blue dichotomy.
By widely accepted generalization, indie musicians have two major turn-ons: Vintage musical instruments and graphic tees. Whomsoever you give this playable synth t-shirt to may well go into hipster overload as he or she bangs out "Axel F" in eight-voice polyphonic sound. On their T-SHIRT, dude.
Sheet music is so 19th century. In the dawning digital era, all sight-reading will be performed using high-definition, rare-earths-rich LED touchscreens. Prepare the musician in your life for the promised day when performers will be able to afford tablet computers with this handy iPad music holder! Finally, they'll be able to say goodbye to shuffling pages, illegal photocopies and agonizing papercuts. At least until music stands become retro-chic, anyway.
Lots of folks aren't aware of it, but zydeco music was invented in Houston. Allow your zaniest musical buddy to celebrate that heritage in style with this impossible-to-ignore washboard tie! He'll be the center of attention in any band, scratching out a rhythm using the included thimbles. Looks pretty sharp, too, for a hunk of corrugated sheet metal.
Drummer already got every cowbell, woodblock, set of rototoms and windchimes carried by Guitar Center? Complete his kit at last with this clamp-on ashtray made by Gibraltar. Soon he (or she... hot!) will be able to puff away while pounding the skins without ashing all over your clean, plush practice room carpet. It attaches easily to microphone stands, too.
According to the Jammin Johns website, outlaw country superstars Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (and, uh, the guy from Days of the New) boast one of these sunburst beauties in their water closets. Now your favorite amateur can poop like the pros with his or her very own six-string toilet seat! Makes a fantastic awkward conversation piece.
Any drummer still using the same front bass drum head that came with his kit definitely isn't getting laid. Do your drummer a favor this holiday season and hook him up with a custom bass drum head from DrumART, the company responsible for many of the pros' super-legit rockstar skins.
Your band's name and artwork can be uploaded using the DrumART Web site, or the company can design the art for you. Once that colorful new drumhead goes on, your drummer's claims to women that he used to tour with the Scorpions will suddenly seem a lot more credible.
Nothing derails a gig or practice session quite like a busted cable. Exactly what causes a quarter-inch patch cord to suddenly stop functioning may forever remain a mystery, but this little electronic gem will allow your musician friends to quickly determine which of the 17 bullshit, cut-rate cables they purchased from Radio Shack is responsible for the deafening silence emanating from the PA.
Back before entire music libraries fit on a single iPod, DJs used to create mixes using vinyl records. Now that iPods are also completely obsolete, this digital iPad controller will let your friends use modern musical technology to create their own mash-ups using turntables, just like the disc jockeys off old did. Just plug in an iPad and scratch, chop and screw tracks straight from iTunes.
Why should the tools in the audience be the only ones obnoxiously holding up their smartphones during a concert? Thanks to the Castiv Guitar Sidekick, that guitarist you have a crush on can read tabs, call his dealer, or record his performance right from his pegboard using an iPhone or iPhone ripoff. Wrap it up pretty enough, and maybe he'll notice you!
If there's a video game musician in your life ready to graduate from the little plastic guitar to the real thing, UbiSoft has you covered. Rocksmith is a lot like Guitar Hero, except you play using a real guitar instead of a dinky toy with stickers on it.
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The game's makers claim that Rocksmith will actually teach you to play guitar. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but Rocks Off is willing to bet that no one has ever looked more bangable playing a video game than they will holding an honest-to-God Les Paul.