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So, what gifts can you give to the gearhead in your life? Good question. The problem with instruments, amplifiers, and even boutique guitar pedals is that they don’t make great stocking stuffers. They tend to be major purchases for most players, and they’re not often given as casual gifts. Yet a closer look at today’s overabundant gear market reveals a world of often-overlooked and sometimes essential accessories. There’s an almost endless variety to choose from. But, for our purposes, let’s focus on stompbox-related accessories—pedal paraphernalia, if you like.
The first thing you’ll want to determine is your budget. Then we can look at what’s available in that range. Let’s start with $25 and under—something that might be appropriate for a holiday party, a “secret Santa” situation, or as a literal stocking stuffer.
This would be the first and most obvious choice as a small gift for your pedal-happy friend. A good number of popular boutique pedal brands have T-shirts and other promotional items branded with their logo. Some offer a surprisingly extensive array of souvenir knickknacks—hats, hoodies, coffee mugs, posters, magnets, stickers, and the like. These make great gifts, especially for the player who may not be inclined to get them for himself.
Books and DVDs
A book or DVD about gear is another no-brainer gift for the gearhead. While the subject of musical instruments and equipment in general has been documented quite extensively, the selection of pedal-specific books and videos is sparse. But there are still enough titles to satisfy even the most ravenous pedal junkie. Without intending to be blatantly self-promoting, I think it would be awkwardly conspicuous at this point not to mention Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects, written by yours truly. There’s also Dave Hunter’s Guitar Effects Pedals: The Practical Handbook and the one that started it all—Stompbox by Art Thompson. As for DVDs, aside from promotional demo videos, the only two that come to mind are the recently released The Art of the Stompbox and Fuzz: The Sound That Revolutionized The World. Any of the above will be warmly received.
Power to the Pedals
If your friend is a fuzz lover, see if you can find a pack of cheap 9-volt carbon-zinc batteries. I’m serious. For reasons outside the scope of this column, many players actually prefer carbon batteries in their fuzz, overdrive, and distortion pedals to alkaline batteries— or even AC power. That said, a power adapter can be another low-cost gift that most pedal lovers will appreciate. Just be sure it’s one that’s designed for music equipment with adequate noise filtering and voltage regulation. You can find these at nearly any music store. Most guitar pedals can be powered using a 9-volt DC adapter with a 2.1 mm barrel plug and negative-polarity center tip. This info is important, because using the wrong adapter can damage a pedal.
Hey, Big Spender!
If you can afford to be a little more extravagant, your options are better and more numerous. Power-supply kits that can power multiple effect pedals from a single outlet, such as the Godlyke Power-All and Visual Sound One-Spot, are available at most music stores. The Keith McMillen Batt-O-Meter battery tester is another handy gadget a lot of pedalheads would appreciate.
A solder-free pedalboard cable kit is a gift that just about any player would be thrilled with, too. These are made by Lava Cable, George L’s, and Planet Waves. In my experience, you can never have too many patch cables. While you’re at it, the George L’s cable checker is a useful accessory to complement any cable kit.
If all else fails, you can always get a gift certificate from your local music store or favorite boutique retailer. The bottom line is that you’re showing your support for the musician in your life, which may mean more than the item you’re actually giving.
When I was 16, my parents bought me a Guild D-40 acoustic guitar. Although I’ve bought and sold many guitars over the years, I’ve held onto that Guild to this very day. The reason I’d never let go of that guitar is because it was a gift from my parents—a gift that symbolized their approval and support of my musical interests. And that meant the world to me.
Appreciation and encouragement are among the greatest gifts you can give to the music lovers in your life. Though you may not understand all the technical details, your gift will show you’re not just fulfilling some social obligation—it’ll show you really thought about the interest of your recipient. Trust me, whatever you get will be received much more enthusiastically than another golf shirt or some useless trinket from the mall.
Well, that’s it for now. Let’s wrap this up and put it under the tree. I’ll see you all next year. Until then, keep on stompin’.
Tom Hughes (a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com) and author of Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects. Send questions or comments about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993, Analog Man (analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers. Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.