Ho ho ho - where did the year go!? All of a sudden, the festive season has snuck up onto us once again, and if you're anything like us here at Mixdown, there's a good chance that you're probably incredibly disorganised. To prevent you from having to endure the agony of Michael Bublé churning out another frostbitten rendition of a Christmas carol down the aisles of your local department store, we've put together a comprehensive guide of all the hottest musical gifts to keep your eyes peeled for this festive season. If you're simply looking for a last-minute stocking filler, here's a list of capos, tuners, straps, picks and little bits and bobs that will work some magic under the tree this December.
Gruv Gear Fret Wraps
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $19.95 each
Recommended for: Guitarists and bassists looking for a string-dampening utility to perform tapping, slapping and muted sounds more cleanly live and in the studio.
Sound/Versatility: When paired with correct technique, the Gruv Gear Fret Wraps really open up your fretboard to allow for a broader arsenal of tones. By removing overtones and sympathetic resonance, you’ll be able to slap harder, tap faster and bend bass strings without that annoying rumble of your strings vibrating above. They also sound awesome for slinky Motown bass lines when paired with flatwounds, or even for chugging out syncopated Nile Rodgers inspired disco phrasings.
Usability: Making use of the Fret Wraps is pretty self-explanatory: simply wrap one around the first fret of your bass or guitar (or even higher if you’re tapping intricate melodic lines), play a tune, and you’ll hear the difference it makes.
Construction: Made from a tactile fabric and featuring an elastic strap to easily shift position up and down the neck, Gruv Gear’s Fret Wraps are made to be played, and with proper storage, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t last a lifetime.
Overall: Gruv Gear’s Fret Wraps can add a lot to any professional recording or performance, and although they sound great on guitar, I’d consider them to be an essential gig-bag accessory for any gigging bassist.
Ernie Ball Music Man Instrument Cables
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $27.95
Recommended For: All audio professionals looking for a high-quality audio cable that’ll last a lifetime.
Versatility: Ernie Ball have long been recognised for their excellent instrument accessories, and their instrument cables are no exception. The legendary music company offer a range of professional-grade cables which aim to cover all of a musicians’ bases. The series includes classic PVC-jacketed instrument, speaker, XLR/microphone and patch cables, in addition to braided and vintage-flavoured coiled variants.
Usability: These cables are easy to handle and are instantly identifiable with Ernie Ball’s font etched onto each end. Multiple layers of shielding material ensure low handling noise while preserving the clearest tone possible. The braided cable jackets even provide tangle resistance to an extent.
Construction: Apart from the braided cable, the rest of the line-up is constructed from durable PVC and houses dual-conductors to produce the most natural and unadulterated tones possible. These cables are definitely built to last.
Overall: Ernie Ball’s products are all constructed with three things in common: superior components, reliability, and lifespan. It’s a perfect philosophy that extends across all their product lines. The braided cables even offer a staggering 22 colour variations, so there’s definitely something for everyone here.
Ernie Ball Music Man Picks
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $12.95 per ten pack
Recommended For: Beginners, intermediates, and pros alike.
Versatility: Ernie Ball offer a large selection of picks – or if you prefer to be fancy and technical, plectrums. These range from bog-standard cellulose picks, injection-moulded nylon picks, to their latest release – an updated selection to their Prodigy series. The Prodigy series is cloaked in a stealthy black finish and features a slightly sharpened point for increased articulation and accuracy. New to the line are a selection of different shapes and sizes that’ll easily find a home in every guitarist’s collection.
Usability: The most fascinating pair of newcomers to the Prodigy Pick series are the 1.5mm Black Shield and Black Large Shield. As tactfully described, the Black Shield features the same sharp vertex as the Black Standard, but mimics it on all three of its edges, forming a shield shape of sorts. It’s an interesting take on both conservation and economics – an enlarged surface area means more pick to grip on to, while three picking points provide more bang for your buck when one corner begins to eventually wear down.
Construction: These Prodigy Picks are constructed from Delrin, which is a kind of thermoplastic polymer. This material ensures high durability and a non-slip surface. Ernie Ball claim the machine-bevelled edges decrease drag and introduces extra control, allowing for more technical players to hit their notes with ease.
Overall: A guitarist can never have too many picks in their life. Besides – if you play with a pick, you already know how ridiculously easy it is to lose it in the blink of an eye. The more the merrier!
Ernie Ball Music Man Straps
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $15.95
Recommended For: Guitarists who want to add some style to their axe without sacrificing comfort or durability.
Versatility: A quality strap can add that extra bit of definition some guitars desperately need to stand out. Thankfully, Ernie Ball has a huge range of extendable guitar straps that will suit guitars, basses, and even ukuleles. The series includes a wide variety of colours, patterns, and construction materials to choose from, and will undoubtedly be a perfect gift for your muso mates this Christmas.
Usability: There are over 11 plain colours in Ernie Ball’s classic Polypro Straps, and 20 different variations in their Jacquard Straps. These nifty designs could be considered art in their own right. You can pick from various clusters of ornamental flora, waves of psychedelic paisley, or even stark tribal or Persian carpet-esque designs. If those don’t tickle your fancy, there are straps made from Italian leather coupled with synthetic fur lining, or even heavy-duty locking straps that don’t require any extra parts.
Construction: The standard Ernie Ball straps are 2” wide and are constructed from a durable polypropylene webbing, with the exception of the PolyLock Neoprene series, which are additionally available in a 3” width. Neoprene is a particularly comfortable material that is equally flexible and sturdy, allowing for extended playing sessions without added strain.
Overall: A faithful and reliable guitar strap is absolutely essential if you occasionally play while standing, let alone bouncing around on stage. You can spend mountains of money on your guitar, but all it takes is one nasty fall from hip-height to kiss all that goodbye.
Klotz ‘59er Vintage Instrument Cable
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $41.95
Recommended For: Musicians looking for nothing short of a premium instrument cable.
Versatility: The German audio company Klotz pride themselves on constantly revising their products to suit the everchanging demands of modern musicianship. Clad in a vintage tweed textile jacket, Klotz’ ‘59er Instrument Cable is a throwback to days gone by, combining old-school looks with present-day technology. This luxurious cable is offered in three sizes: 3m, 4.5m, and 6m, and is also available in straight-to-straight or straight-to-angled configurations.
Usability: This particular cable boasts a low capacitance of 115 pF/m, and features both a conductive plastic shield and a bare copper spiral shield to minimise interference. Its hybrid PVC and textile jacket ensures life-long ruggedness and longevity, while its anti-kink shrink sleeves makes coiling a breeze.
Construction: The manufacturing process of each Klotz cable involves precise machine-work, followed by manual inspection, assembly and testing, ensuring each product is absolutely flawless before being exported overseas. In addition to its stellar build quality, the ‘59er Vintage Instrument Cable features dual gold-tipped connectors at each end to prevent corrosion, all while adding to the cord’s good looks.
Overall: This is the perfect gift for the audio professional looking for one of the best instrument cables currently available on the market.
Klotz KIK Instrument Cable
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $29.95
Recommended For: Musicians of all calibres looking for a great instrument cable that won’t break the bank.
Versatility: The Klotz KIK Instrument Cable retains their signature high-quality German craftsmanship, but with a wallet-friendly price. These cables are a perfect choice for bedroom practice but can serve equally well in a recording studio, or even as a backup alternative. Plus, they’re also available in a variety of different colours and lengths.
Usability: These are Klotz’s best-selling cables due to their excellent reliability. Their design involves a combined soldered and crimped conductor connection, which increases mechanical resistance and renders the sturdy cable more or less unbreakable with proper use.
Construction: The KIK Instrument Cable has a capacitance of 115 pF/m, and features a double screened cable fabricated from a bare copper spiral shield with conductive plastic, which provide fantastic protection from noise and interference. The connectors are gold-tipped to both maximise their lifespan and minimise corrosion, while the rubber sleeves are flexible enough to accommodate a short bend radius.
Overall: Apart from being a great all-round cable, the KIK Instrument Cable is a wonderful option to have in the pouch of your gig bag or in the trunk of your car for when everything goes wrong.
Kyser Care Kit
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $34.95
Recommended For: Guitarists looking for an all-encompassing cleaning and care kit for their instruments.
Versatility: Kyser’s infinitely useful care kit makes an excellent gift for all every single guitarist out there. The pack includes a bottle of lemon oil fretboard conditioner, string cleaner, instrument polish, and three Ultra Opper Fiber cleaning cloths, effectively covering all day-to-day maintenance requirements.
Usability: Each attractive bottle is immediately intuitive in its use. The lemon oil conditioner excels in hydrating dried boards without adding stickiness, while the instrument polish easily wards off oil and grime. The included cleaning cloths are even conveniently colour-coded to match each bottle’s sprightly design, eliminating the chances of cleaning mix-ups or mishaps.
Construction: The trio of cleaning products come plastered with their own colourful and stylish font and are easily applied via a fool-proof spray bottle. Each individual bottle contains 4 oz worth of cleaning goodness, and along with the cleaning cloths, are all made in the USA.
Overall: An absolutely unbeatable package for guitarists who love their instruments spick and span. Special mentions go out to the string cleaner; apart from improving playability, this little guy will save time and money spent on restringing by increasing string longevity.
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $39.95
Recommended For: Almost all stringed instrument players – guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, you name it.
Versatility: The Kyser Quick-Change capo is where it all began for the Texas-based, family-owned company. Kyser offers a myriad of clamping options to pick from, and each capo performs their function to an exemplary standard. Apart from capos tailored for different instruments, Kyser also offers capos that only cover three to five strings for alternate tunings. Most of them come in a wide range of colours too.
Usability: Kyser capos are known for their elegant yet simplistic design. Only a single hand is required to operate the accessory; an appealing notion to both beginners and professionals alike. Each capo delivers sufficient pressure evenly distributed across its clamping surface, resulting in buzz-free transposition every time.
Construction: Each Kyser capo is forged from sturdy, lightweight aluminium, then hand-drilled, assembled and finished in Texas, USA. Kyser’s Quick-Change capo is a definite crowd favourite with its stately top arm furled upwards into a spiral, mirroring the snazzy ‘K’ in the Kyser brand logo.
Overall: Every guitarist needs a capo at some point in their life, so why not get one that’ll last you for years to come?
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: From $35.95
Recommended For: All acoustic guitarists who either travel constantly or live in a dry, arid climate.
Versatility: Guitars are often hefty investments. As such, they definitely need to be protected at all costs. If a guitar dries out, the body will eventually crack. Kyser’s Lifeguard Humidifiers ensure your instrument’s wooden body is properly moisturised and hydrated at all times. This particular humidifier comes in a range of sizes, befitting most conventional acoustic and classical guitars, and even exists in a special miniature version suited for ukuleles.
Usability: The Lifeguard Humidifier is extraordinarily easy to use. Simply immerse it in water, shake off the excess, then plug it straight into your instrument’s sound hole before storage – that’s really all there is to it.
Construction: These humidifiers are made from a durable rubber material that is flexible enough to fully seal an instrument’s sound hole. An enclosed absorbent sponge ensures no water drips into the instrument’s interior itself.
Overall: Parts of Australia are prone to year-round dry weather and can lead to unforeseen, gut-wrenching damage to your favourite instruments. In order to properly protect your musical companions, make sure you’ve got the proper tools on hand to do so.
Ernie Ball Axis Capo
Distributed by: CMC Music | Expect to pay: $29.95
Recommended For: Six or seven string guitars players looking for a final solution to their capo needs, without needing multiple capos for different instruments and string counts.
Versatility: The Axis Capo is designed to be used with both flat finger-boarded instruments and curved radiuses alike, without frets buzzing out because separate capos are needed. The capo features a dual radius design, as well as single-handed operation so it can be quickly pulled on and off during songs easily.
Usability: The inconspicuous looks, ergonomic and practical design make the Axis one of the most usable capos I’ve had the pleasure of using. Whereas some capos need to be fine tuned a little to ensure all strings are fretted cleanly, the Axis frets quickly and accurately.
Construction: As with most Ernie Ball products, this is not only well constructed, but also designed to meet the needs of the player. Easily placed and removed with a single hand, as well as handles that won’t get in the way, and available in four colours to match your instrument and aesthetic.
Overall: Not only will this be the next capo you’ll buy, but it’s the last capo you’ll buy. The width and reach of the capo makes it usable for both six and seven string acoustic and electrics alike.
Peterson HD Clip On Strobe Tuner
Distributed by: Amber Technology | Expect to pay: $109
Recommended for: It’s great for guitarists, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t utilise the Peterson HD Clip On Strobe Tuner on a cello, violin, mandolin or even an Oud – if that’s your kind of thing.
Sounds/Versatility: With 28 sweetened tunings and alternate temperaments to suit an array of string and wind instruments, Peterson’s HD Clip On Strobe Tuner sets a high benchmark for the clip on tuner market. The Sustain mode, which holds the display of your tuning image for three seconds, is also suitable for tuning instruments with a short decay, such as banjos or ukuleles.
Usability: The concept of strobe tuning is a bit different from your traditional tuner, but the Peterson HD Clip On really isn’t hard to figure out. The rotating strobe allows you to tune your instruments within +/- 0.1 centime – which equates to 1/1000th of a fret. If you’re picky about pitch, this is the tuner for you.
Construction: A carbon-fiber hinged clip makes sure your tuner won’t fall from your headstock, while the stainless steel chassiss and metal carry case ensure that the Peterson won’t cop any damage on the road.
Overall: Don’t be that person playing out of tune on stage. Grab a Peterson HD Clip On Strobe Tuner, and you’ll enjoy pitch perfect performance at all times!