We’re right in the middle of the holiday season and it’s Christmas Eve! If you’re anything like me, you’re still running around trying to find last-minute gifts. Shopping for friends is particularly difficult because I want to get something for everyone, but my holiday budget will not let me splurge on a new set of strings for every cellist I know. So, what do you do when you’re strapped for cash, but loaded with a friends list that’s a mile long? For musicians, try combining thoughtfulness and practicality with this list of stocking stuffer type gifts.
Cough Drops: Yes, there are SO many brands out there, but here are a few that seem to work well for vocalists.
- Fisherman’s Friends Cough Drops
- Luden’s Throat Drops Wild Cherry
- Ricola Original Cough Drops
- Thayers Original Slippery Elm Lozenges
Tea: Who doesn’t love tea?? It’s warm, smooth, healing powers are great for your soprano roommate. These brands/types are particularly helpful and soothing.
- Throat Coat
Honey: Winnie the Pooh hasn’t lost his voice yet.
Singer’s Saving Grace Throat Spray: Dry throat, begone!
ChopSaver: Or as one friend put it, “ChopSaver!” This particular lip balm is designed specifically with brass and woodwind players in mind. If you’re debating between the regular or gold versions, go with the regular. It doesn’t contain sunscreen and is less greasy.
Al Cass Valve, Slide and Key Oil: A handy and standard lubricant.
Roche Thomas Mi-T Mist Mouthpiece Cleaner: Get a couple bottles for your brass buddy. It’s nice to have these spread out between his/her case, practice room, and locker.
Cheesecloth: No, your trombonist friend isn’t going to make cheese with it, but he/she will use it to clean out his/her slides.
Polishing Cloth: As one trumpet player reminded me, silver instruments need to be polished.
Packets of Cigarette Paper: No, I’m not suggesting woodwind players smoke, but that they use these beauties to dry their waterlogged keys.
Earplugs: This gift can apply to everyone, but due to their seating location in orchestra, wind players especially need these little foam plugs.
Lip Balm: ChopSaver! (see above)
Cleaning Swabs: Your friends are always going to need these and some extra on hand will be much appreciated.
Cork Grease: Make sure to find the “good” stuff. Your next-door neighbor clarinetist wants to take the best care of his/her instrument and probably won’t use your gift if it’s something he/she wouldn’t get.
Chocolate: I mean, everybody loves chocolate, but since pianists spend the most time alone, they need a little extra food love.
Hand Warmers: Again, these could be given to any instrumentalist, but were specifically suggested to me for pianists by a pianist. If you suffer from cold clammy hand syndrome before a lesson, audition, or performance, these are very handy to have on hand.
3-ring Binders: Have you noticed that pianists (particularly accompanists) cart around binders stuffed full of music? You can find these everywhere and so inexpensively. Stick to neutral or dark colors though, it might be a little distracting to see a pianist walk on stage with a bright red Marvel Avengers binder.
Hole Punch: Yup, for those sheets of music to go in those new 3-ring binders.
Mutes: I never seem to have one when I’m in orchestra, or if I do, it gets lost between one orchestra rotation and the next. An extra one (or three) would be really nice. Then, I can share with my stand partner, so he/she doesn’t have to resort to the dollar bill mute (convenient, but not super professional).
Rock Stops: Cellists and bassists have to deal with some tricky floors and these rubber stops or black straps help keep endpins in place.
Microfiber Cloths: The rosin build-up on strings requires a little extra wipe-away effort and these cloths get the job done. Find your friend a couple of bright colored or patterned cloths to lighten up the dark depths of his/her case.
Shoulder-rest Sponges: Some violinists and violists use sponges as shoulder rests. Make sure you check what kind your violist BFF uses so you can make the appropriate gift choice.
Dampits: Wooden instruments shrink and swell based on temperature. In winter, the constant movement between outdoors and indoors can wreak havoc on the instruments and result in cracks. Dampits help maintain a level of humidity (albit a small amount) within a string instrument. They’re also removable, which means they can get lost. So, extras are always nice.
Pencils, Pencils, PENCILS: When it comes to pencils, there’s a “finders, keepers” mentality within the music community. When you most need one, you inevitably don’t have one. A pack of mechanical pencils is probably the best gift you can give.
Fingerless Gloves: At some summer music festivals, the indoor rehearsal rooms are a good twenty to thirty degrees cooler than the outside. For everyone, except perhaps vocalists, cold hands do not make good music (or at least comfortable music). Fingerless gloves bring the warmth back a little bit faster while still enabling musicians to play with a full range of motion. There are many different styles out there, and if you’re gift recipient is a fashionista, a couple different types won’t harm his/her closet stock.
Clothespins: Remember the last time you played a wedding outside and the wind kept flipping your pages at the wrong time? Yeah… If you’re the creative type, glitz up those plain wooden pins with some paint, markers, or a Bedazzler. Or, if you’re having trouble finding clothespins, try big binder clips. These work just as well and blend in better.
Gig Music: Everyone needs gig music and it can be quite stressful trying to find free sheet music online and a working printer with enough toner to print off music for everyone in the gig ensemble. Why not make a copy of some (or all) of the gig music you’ve collected and give it to a friend who plays the same instrument or in the same kinds of ensembles as you? This is a gift that will be remembered.
I hope these items provide some helpful last-minute gift inspiration. So, to all you Credites out there, Happy Holidays and have a very Merry Christmas!