Gifts for the Musician
A thought on this Black Friday: What can you give to a musician in your life? What will help them feel seen and heard?
If you have a musician in your life who you love and want to support, but you’re not sure what to give them as a gift for the holidays, this is for you!
Before I begin, I want to say the most important thing: the greatest gift you can give any musician you love, and respect is simply to listen to their music and let them know you’re listening. Musicking is a complicated business; it always takes so much more to bring those sounds to our ears than we are immediately aware of. Rather than pretend that we all understand what is going on in the minds of the musicians who bring us those sounds, we can simply engage in the humble act of listening. This is all any musician wants or needs.
Having said this, there are practical things that you can give to a musician in your life that might show them you care and that you are at least trying to understand more about what makes them tick. This list is not meant to be definitive or exhaustive in any way. I’ve divided it into subcategories. There are both more expensive gifts and less expensive ones here. I don’t presume on anyone’s financial ability to give lavish gifts. Still, these ideas are meant to be practical and thoughtful for the musician.
Please comment below and share your gift ideas for musicians as well!
So here goes…
Category: Health and Wellness
A One-hour Massage: this gift is more than a “spa day” for a musician. It is a gift (like others in this list) that acknowledges that the musician in your life must use their physical body to do their work.
This would simply be a reminder to them to take some time to rest, reflect, renew, and care for themselves. I sense that a musician would not see this gift as admonishing but more that you can see how they use their body, and you want them to continue to be able to do that for as long as possible. A bonus would be a card or note explaining this to them. Catch: you have to be a subscribed member to purchase. I use Public Goods for a lot of my household shopping, and I love it.
A Carpal Tunnel Glove - left and/or right hands:
Hear me out on this one. Some musicians in your life use their hands to play their instruments. Even if they don’t suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, they are at higher risk for one or both of these in the long term. Wearing gloves like this while sleeping is a great preventative action. They are adjustable, so you don’t have many variations in the sizes. There is less room for sizing errors.
I’ve been using one for some time now. It is a ring that is a step and fitness tracker. I like it better than a watch because it is less weight on my wrists when I’m playing or conducting. It’s lightweight, has a wonderful companion app for the phone, and comes in different colors and sizes. The catch is that you need to use their sizing kit before buying the ring. The workaround is to wrap the sizing kit and give that, and then follow through with the purchase after your musician has completed the sizing.
Intellectual & Academic
An Annual Subscription to Skill Share: Skill Share is a website full of video course content for self-growth, learning valuable skills, and interacting with others who are doing the same. It’s an inexpensive way to acquire practical knowledge that can help a musician - particularly in developing their business acumen, video and audio editing skills, and marketing strategy. Musicians today have to work hard to put themselves out there and differentiate themselves from the competition. I hate this, but it’s true. Read more and purchase the subscription ON THE SKILLSHARE WEBSITE.
Judy Green Music Papers and Pencils:
This southern California-based company started by Judy Greenwald many years ago remains what many musicians believe to be the finest and most lux purveyor of music papers and pencils. All my teachers have used this paper. I’ve used it. All the pros in studio orchestras and sound stages in Los Angeles use this paper. There is a great variety of sizes and styles to choose from, and it’s a local business! Don’t be fooled by the analog-looking website. What’s important is the paper!
Three Book Possibilities:
This book recounts the play-by-play experience, letters, press clippings, marketing materials, and real audience reactions to the world premieres of five giant musical works in history. It provides hours of enjoyment and empathy for composers and conductors in particular, but for any deeply intellectual musician in your life.
J.S. Bach - 413 Chorales Analyzed:
This book is a spiral-bound volume of Bach chorales analyzed in two ways. First, in the traditional sense using Roman and Arabic numerals as taught in most music schools, then also using lead-sheet-style chord symbols. This material can act as excellent source material for new compositions, for analyzing larger works by Bach based on these chorales, and simple sight-reading practice.
This volume contains every song written and recorded by the Beatles, transcribed note-for-note with all the instrumental parts written out in full score. Need I say more?
Ultra-Practical Gifts for the Musician
A Pre-Paid Day in a Recording Studio: This is a more expensive but practical gift for any musician who might want to record their work. They could use this for recording their compositions or their best-rehearsed work as part of a profile or portfolio for job applications or website use. Find the best studio within a reasonable distance from where your musician lives. As a price gauge, I can tell you that my favorite studio in Brooklyn charges about $800 for a full day of recording in their smaller room.
Pre-Paid Hours with a Grants Consultant: Many musicians are often trying to find funding to support their musical projects or even support themselves financially while they make space and time in their lives to create new musical projects. A professional grant writer with experience and knowledge of the landscape can be a game-changer for an ambitious musician trying to get their own career off the ground. My favorite consultant is Benvenuti Arts, which has team members across the U.S. and Europe. One has to apply for membership, but the cost is extremely generous, and they do the most impactful work in this area I have ever witnessed. Read more about membership with them on their website.
This little device creates ultra-high-quality stereo recordings in any location. Musicians can then take the files, mix them, edit them, and share them as they wish. It is small and reliable, and the sound it captures is excellent.
Two more ultra-practical subscriptions:
I have recommended this service to almost every musician I’ve taught who has ever asked me about personal finance management. As with any independent contractor, a lot of anxiety can build up around projecting personal cash flow and planning ahead for periods in the calendar year when gigs are less frequent, and income fluctuates. I think there is no better tool to get a handle on this and reduce anxiety than YNAB. It takes some work and commitment to get it going, but it has relieved me a lot of stress over the years.
Many musicians have to maintain a private teaching studio, and this involves scheduling, dealing with students and parents, invoicing, collecting payments, last-minute changes, sharing lesson materials (i.e., books and exercise sheets, etc.), and this online software helps to manage all of that in one place. It’s practical, affordable, scalable, and dependable. It can greatly reduce the stresses of building a musician’s private teaching practice, and I highly recommend it.
As always, I hope this is helpful to you and that you and the other musicians in your life have a wonderful holiday! ❤️