Mitchakes Music First Annual Holiday Gift Guide for 2018!
Hey everybody! Tis the season for holiday cheer. That time of the year is upon us again where you’ll inevitably be asked to get a gift for the guitar obsessed among us. Lucky for you, I’ve broken down a great list of cool stuff that your guitar playing family member, friend, or significant other will actually use and more importantly help them sound better at playing guitar! The best part is most of these aren’t expensive and will do wonders for your loved one’s guitar tone! Get the guitarist you know a gift they will actually use!
1) Strings: This is the maybe the single most important thing every guitar player you know needs. All of us have suffered in the past from sticking with a particularly bad set of old strings just because we don’t want to get to the store for fresh strings. Strings can age and dull for a variety of reasons. Mostly, time, sweat, and natural oils from our hands corrode the metal around the string and cause the strings on your guitar to sound dull, lifeless, and dead. Find out what gauge strings your loved one plays and get them a few sets. Write them a kind note reminding them to change their strings, at the very least, once a month. You’ll notice how much better, fuller, brighter your loved one’s guitar sounds. As for what brand to buy, I always say you can’t go wrong with DR Blues. DR has been making traditional round core guitar strings since 1989, and I happen to think they are the best sounding guitar string in the market. I’ve been using them since 09’ and don’t plan on switching anytime soon. They are pure nickel wrapped strings that are wrapped around a round core. This is the OLD SCHOOL way of making guitar strings and it isn’t the least expensive method, but it simply creates a better string that delivers on better guitar tone. They have much more low-end clarity and thump than other brands, and also have much more sustain which is integral to bending and soloing on the electric guitar. They are made in the U.S. with the finest materials. Most importantly once I made the switch, I stopped feeling like I was trying to play guitar, and just was able to play effortlessly. I also stopped breaking guitar strings when I do large bends, which I did on a bi-weekly basis previously. They work for a wide range of styles which is evidenced in their endorsement roster which includes Derek Trucks, Victor Wooten, Gerard Butler from Black Sabbath, and Melissa Etheridge. Mitchakes Music is a DR Strings dealer, so contact us about buying a year’s supply of strings as a gift for your guitar player in your family! It will certainly be the most loved gift you can give this year! *DR Blues $7 a pack. Sold by the case by request.
2) String Stretcha: this is arguably the most ingenious use of plastic since take out sporks. The String Stretcha solves a very real guitar problem from changing guitar strings by allowing the player to evenly stretch new strings after putting them on. Why do you need to stretch new guitar strings? Well fresh strings haven’t had the opportunity to get used to the tension on your guitar, so usually you have to play a them for a few days for them to stretch out and stay in tune. The problem with playing them for a few days is they lose the fresh comfortable feeling just to stay in tune. But with the String Stretcha you can even stretch each guitar string so they lock in tune immediately after changing them, without losing the brand-new string feel. I’ve been using this product every other week since I’ve bought it and it has made a huge difference in my tone. Plus, at $15 it makes a great small gift, or stocking stuffer!
3) Dunlop 65 Guitar Polish and Cleaner: All that guitar playing can make a guitar super dirty. Get your loved one some superior cleaner to get through the grime. I recommend Dunlop 65 Polish and Cleaner. It’s safe for any type of guitar finish, including nitrocellulose lacquer which can sometimes get ruined by certain cleaners on the market. Just spray a little onto a micro fiber cloth, or an old t-shirt, and wipe away all that sweat, old fingerprints, dirt, and Cheeto prints. Remember a little goes a long way. Your guitar will look like it’s brand new!
4) Give the Gift of Setups: This definitely is a gift you probably haven’t thought of, but it will make a huge difference in your loved one’s guitar tone. Give them the gift of a professional guitar setup. Guitars are very finicky beasts. They react to changes in seasons and changes in temperature, and as such can start playing a bit off. Intonation can suffer and go out of tune, string height can change, pickups can lower and need adjusting etc. This is something I recommend doing at the minimum twice a year to keep your guitar in top playing condition. As for where to take your instrument, I recommend the Texas Guitar Workshop in Richardson, TX. The owner, Kenny Kranzow, is the best guitar tech in Dallas Fort Worth and was a close friend of Stevie Ray Vaughan. He has been repairing my personal instruments for years and his setups are as good as it gets. Setups are $50 on average (more if your guitar has a Floyd Rose bridge) and will let you give the gift of a perfect playing guitar!
5) Upgrade Your Cables: I love to harp on everyone getting high quality audio cables to move your signal effectively from your guitar to your amplifier. Most players will spend tons of money to get the perfect guitar and amplifier combination for them but use the cheapest cables to connect everything. That kills your guitar tone! Using poorly made audio cables will deliver poor signal to your amplifier. It will have tone with reduced bass, thin treble, and injected noise into your sound. Upgrading to high quality audio cables will make a HUGE difference in your overall guitar tone. Low bass will sound clearer and defined, treble will sound less harsh, and there will be no buzz, hum, or other unwanted noise in your playing. Make sure the cable you look at is shielded, has good connectors, and uses high quality sourced cable. I prefer Sabre Cable from Austin, Texas. Sabre Cable owner Matt Tapp makes the highest quality audio cables designed for studio use by professional players. I have used them exclusively since 2009 and don’t plan on switching anytime soon. Cables start at $40, so invest in some high-quality cables for your loved one!
6) The Perfect Leather Strap: Make your guitar look as good as possible with a custom leather guitar strap from Christian Brooks, DFW’s finest leather smith. Christian Brooks made Stevie Ray Vaughan’s iconic “SRV” guitar strap for Stevie in the 1980’s and Stevie wore it on his Number One Stratocaster until his untimely passing. Christian has also made straps for B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Billy Gibbons, John Mayer, and Buddy Guy just to name a few. I have several of Christian’s guitar straps and I use them every day when I pick up my personal instruments to play. They look amazing, and most importantly they are measured to fit me personally! No more struggling to adjust a guitar strap at a gig, or in the studio! Christian’s straps are unique works of art that you get to play! All straps are made custom to the buyer. Straps start at $100 and increase in price depending on materials used, and the design you have in mind for your ultimate strap! These are made to last a lifetime!
7) Strap Locks: If you’re going to invest in giving the gift of a perfect guitar strap make sure you buy Strap Locks to hold your new strap to your guitar. Too often as the leather wears, the holes that go through your strap buttons will stretch and your guitar could potentially fall out and get damaged. Strap locks are a touring solution for keeping a guitar strapped to the player as they rock around a stage. They install through the holes on your strap, and then lock to the guitars strap buttons. Invest in a set of Schaller strap locks. They only release if you pull the button on the lock when removing your strap from your guitar. Meaning there is no accidental way your instrument will be falling precariously to the ground. Do not buy Dunlop Strap Locks. They can release unintentionally and you’ll risk your guitar taking a nasty fall!
8) The Pocket Drummer: Get your loved one the gift of playing in time. DrumBeats+ is the ultimate drum machine application for iPhone and Android on the market. The program has hundreds of drum beats on tap that you can adjust by 5 beat increments for the ultimate jam or practice session. There is even a tap tempo feature so you can program the drum machine to play with you and your original music. The app is $5 in the app store which I think is a steal!
9)Reading Material: Want to know how I have such knowledge of vintage guitars always going around my brain? I am always reading and researching to try and learn more about the guitars I love. Since I’m such a vintage Fender junkie, I really love the coffee table book “Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970” by Kelly, Foster, and Kelly is the perfect gift for electric guitar lovers. The authors delve into all things early Fender, including Leo Fender’s early start in radio, the development of the Fender Telecaster (the first solid body electric guitar), the release of the Fender Stratocaster, as well details of amplifiers and early ad copies. This book really is a treasure trove of information that the guitar lover in your life will love for the rest of their lives. It has even gotten me better at recognizing vintage pieces and better dating them based on small details that I wouldn’t have noticed before!
10) Guitar Album of the Year: Check out Doyle Bramhall ii new album “Shades”. Doyle is an amazing electric guitarist who plays left handed upside-down guitar playing like Albert King. He has been playing with Eric Clapton for roughly the last 20 years and has brought the serious heat with his last two albums “Rich Man” and “Shades”. The album is a masterclass in guitar tone, with a heavy late-sixties Beatles influence and plenty of Fuzz Face tones! You can get the album directly from Doyle’s artist website at db2music.com or get it at a local record store near you on either vinyl or CD!
11) My Pedal Picks of the Year:
Old School: The Fuzz Face. Lately, I’ve just been plugging into my guitar into a Fuzz Face ala Jimi Hendrix straight into my amp and turning it up. With the turn of my guitar’s volume knob I can go from a beautiful clean tone, to an overdrive grind, to an all-out fuzz raunchy rock tone. It’s elegant in its simplicity and like a great pair of Levi’s will never go out of style. I prefer the germanium Fuzz Face because I can clean up the sound with my volume knob but there are also silicon versions that are brighter, more aggressive, and lack clean up. For modern versions that you can currently buy, Dunlop makes decent reissues for about $100. But if you really want the mojo, buy a Dunlop Fuzz Face used and ship it off to Analogman in Connecticut. AnalogMike can rebuild your Dunlop shell into a Fuzz Face that looks, and sounds like what Jimi Hendrix would have used in his heyday with new old stock transistors used in vintage original Fuzz Faces. All in all, Mike’s units are about $250 after all the mod work is done, but the tone speaks for itself. Absolutely unreal sounding. This is my favorite sound right now!
New School: The Source Audio Nemesis Delay. This pedal is for the player who has quite literally everything. This delay pedal may look small, but it’s digital engine can simulate any famous delay every made with stunning authenticity. This includes drool inducing tape delays like the Echoplex, the Roland Space Echo, Bucket Brigades like the Electro Harmonix Memory Man, Ibanez Analog Delay etc, Digital Delays like the Boss DD7, as well as modern delay sounds like reverse delay, swells, and shimmer. Brand new these things are pricey at $300, but you can always find one used on Reverb.com for $225. This thing will live on your pedalboard and all other tone hounds will quiver at the sight of your mighty Nemesis Delay!