Mobile devices haven’t just changed the way people listen to music, they’ve also dramatically changed the way people make music. You can now use tablets and phones to record virtually any instrument, replace effects pedals, act as a midi controller, and read music. In fact, music-making devices are a rapidly expanding accessory category, and as a result, the quality and capability of these devices is better than ever. That inspired us to create and curate this list of the best holiday gifts for musicians. Enjoy, and get your jam on.
Get this for the guitar player on your list and we can guarantee you will be their rock star. The TronicalTune is a brand new piece of tech that you attach to a guitar’s headstock and tuning knobs. It then automatically tunes your guitar for you, and will even re-tune it to alternate tunings in seconds with just the press of a button. TronicalTune will also put an end to those awkward retuning moments on stage. That’ll make your recipient’s bandmates huge fans as well!
Mikey Digital ($64)
The iPhone has made pocket recorders all but obsolete. But its one weakness as a recording device is its built-in microphone which, while decent for a phone, doesn’t exactly scream high fidelity. That’s where the Mikey Digital from Blue Microphones fits in. It’s got two of Blue’s capsule-style microphones built in for stereo recording and three settings to accommodate anything from a rock concert to a rehearsal to a hushed interview. It bypasses an iOS device’s internal processors for its own advanced guts which also allow it to work with virtually any recording app available now, or into the future. It’s about the best $65 iPhone upgrade a musician could ask for.
iRig Mic ($60)
The iRig Microphone is perfect for those times when only a full-sized, hand-held microphone will do. It’s ideal for vocalists who need a quick and easy way to record tracks, or for someone who wants to get some acoustic recordings done from the back of a room using a mic stand. It’s versatile, light-weight and replaces your headphone jack with one of its own while plugged in. iRig Mic also makes a great interview microphone as well!
iRig Pro ($150)
As its name implies, the iRig Pro is designed to enable professional-level recording with iOS devices. Essentially, it allows musicians to connect any electric guitar, electric bass, keyboard, microphone (even pro mics) or midi controller directly to an iPhone, iPad or Mac for recording. To keep sound clean, it uses its own super-quiet preamp with input gain control to match the output of whatever it is connected to. Oh, and it provides phantom power as well, so even super high-end studio mics are fair game. It’s about the most flexible recording accessory for Apple devices we’ve ever seen, and our top pick for this list.
The iPad is quickly replacing paper sheet music in professional music circles. With apps like forScore available (listed below), hole-punching charts and lugging around a 25-lb. book of paper can be hassles of the past. As a result, several iPad music stands are now available, but this one from displays2go is something special because it is the first we’ve found to integrate a boom mic stand. This is perfect for any musician who wants a self-contained solution and a minimum of parts to carry around.
Digitech has been making programmable pedal boards for guitar players for years now, and now it is applying its expertise toward a model based around the iPad. Musicians can program patches and effects using any app they like and enjoy iOS’ intuitive, graphics-based interface. Then, at the gig, the iPad slips right in, giving the player quick and instant access to 10 sound presets and a volume/wah pedal. In terms of guitar toys, this is about the sweetest one available this year.
The iLoud might just be the slickest high-performance portable speaker system in existence right now. This portable studio monitor is remarkably full-sounding and, just as its name says, it is capable of reaching ear-splitting volumes with low distortion when called to do so. The iLoud will fit into just about any backpack or satchel, comes with a built-in rechargeable battery, Bluetooth for wireless connection to mobile devices and, of course ¼-inch TRS and 1/8-inch mini inputs for direct connection to guitars, keyboards and pretty much any other audio device. At $300, the iLoud is a little pricey, but we can assure you, you get what you pay for and then some.
MultiTrack DAW app ($10)
While Garage Band may reign as the most popular music recording app at Apple’s app store, most professional musicians will tell you what they really need is a multitrack recorder. Multitrack DAW often flies under the radar, but it is one of the most powerful available. This $10 app comes with the ability to record up to four tracks simultaneously, but an in-app purchase will bump that up to 8 or 16 tracks. In total, the Multitrack DAW can accommodate up to 24 tracks total, with the ability to add reverb or delay, edit within the app and mix recordings to perfection. Talk about a powerful music tool!
forScore app ($7)
There are scores of .pdf readers available for the iPad, but forScore was built specifically for reading music. Of course, it allows for easy importing of .pdf files, but a cool darkroom feature also allows users to use the iPad’s camera to snap a photo of a music sheet and catalog it immediately. A built-in metronome makes for a nice practice tool too, but if that’s not enough for $5.00, consider that forScore lets you scan through long scores of music in a flash. There’s even an autoturner feature for turning pages automatically. How slick is that?!
PageFlip Cicada ($90)
Turning pages while in the middle of a performance is a tough skill to master, and no matter how good you get at it, it remains a hassle. Thankfully, there are now Bluetooth pedals which, when combined with an iPad and a music reading app like forScore, make page turns as easy as stomping your foot. The Pageflip Cicada is a dual-pedal Bluetooth device designed to allow pedal stomps to emulate keyboard strokes and it works with most popular iPad apps, including forScore. You can plug it in if power is available, but battery operation will allow up to 200,000 page turns before it runs out. An auto-off feature puts the pedal to sleep after 10 minutes of non-sue to make sure battery power isn’t used up unnecessarily. To wake it up, just stomp and it will be active in three seconds.
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