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WORST Gifts for Guitarists

We try to keep things positive around here, but as we were researching to put together the list of the BEST gifts, we just saw so many bad recommendations out there that we felt we had to make this post. So many "best gifts for guitarists" are lazy product roundups that just find gimmicky items on Etsy or Amazon and throw those in a list. It almost seems like they aren't even written by guitarists! So in this post, I'll explain why I think some of these commonly recommended items make poor gifts for guitarists. 

 

Gimmicks

1. Guitar slide

This is on almost every "best gifts for guitarists" roundup, probably because it's a low-cost item for people on the smallest of budgets. But here's why it's a bad gift. A slide is a very specific item for a very specific style of playing. It's neat, sure. But if your favorite guitarist is interested in playing slide, they probably already have one. If they don't have a slide, it's probably because it's not useful for their style of playing. It's a neat item, but for most guitarists, they'll play with it for a few days and then stuff it into their guitar case, never to be used again. 

2. Drill bit peg winder

Again, this is likely included because it's cheap. But it's also pointless. If you and I raced to unwind our strings, by the time you walked to the garage to get the drill, walked back and attached the bit, and got started unwinding, I would have finished getting my strings off with the D'addario Pro-Winder which costs $3 more and lives in my guitar case. Besides, using a drill could damage the pegs if you unwound too quickly, and if you tighten too quickly you could snap the neck. Skip this gimmick and get the Pro-Winder instead. 

3. Pick punch

This seems like a neat idea. You can take things around the house (old credit cards, IDs) and make guitar picks out of them! But the reality is that most people only have so many old credits cards laying around, and once you've punched them all, you're out of material. Plus, the novelty of playing with your homemade pick wears off quickly and you realize why the major guitar pick companies don't make picks out of credit cards. This tool will also end up relegated to a junk drawer after the initial novelty wears off. 

4. Portable guitar practice neck

This also seems like a neat idea, but only someone who doesn't know much about guitar (maybe a parent or beginner) would fall for it. The truth about playing guitar is there's more to it than holding a chord shape! It's the ability to move up and down the neck, to coordinate strumming and changing chords at the same time, and playing in time. This tool only trains one static element of guitar-playing and is not really translatable to playing guitar. Unfortunately, the best way to get better at playing guitar is to play a real guitar more! Skip this gimmick, or any other item that seems like a quick-fix to improve playing. 

5. D'addario hand exerciser

Again, the best way to build the strength relevant to playing guitar is...playing guitar more! Guitar does NOT require significant strength, and really require efficiency more than strength. When you start playing guitar, it feels really hard, but not because you lack contractile strength in your muscle fibers. It's because your hands aren't used to making the chord shapes and press down on the strings in that contorted position. Do you really think pressing down on this tool, which is nothing like the chord shapes you make when playing, is going to help with that? Take it from me (and anyone else who can play guitar), just practice everyday and in just a few weeks, finger strength won't be something you even think about anymore. Skip this gimmick and buy a lesson instead!

6. Resistance training bands

Just...what even. No. Stop. 

7. String cleaners

The best way to keep strings sounding great is to simply wipe them off with a microfiber cloth after playing in order to remove any grease and dirt deposited during playing. These things often leave a bit of silicone on the strings making them more slippery, leaving the illusion of being more clean but in reality depositing more chemicals on the string. Skip this item. A better option would be the guitar care kit we recommended in the "best gifts for guitarists" guide. This includes a fretboard cleaner, which you do want to clean when you change your strings!

Hyper-specific items

There is a lot of truly great gear out there, but I can't help but shake my head when I see guitar gift guides recommending a list of random highly-specific pieces of gear. Some of the common ones are below, and they are not necessarily bad gear, but just because someone likes guitar doesn't mean they are interested in these items!

8. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

This is the most highly recommended beginner audio interface, and it is a great piece of gear. But home recording and playing guitar are two different hobbies. Now, it's true that there are many guitarists out there who do also enjoy home recording! But unless the person you're shopping for has an expressed an interest in home recording, I would not consider this a general "gift for guitarists". 

9. Electro-Harmonix Mel9 Tape Relay Machine Pedals

I had to roll my eyes when I saw this one on a large blog I won't name. Again, this is a fantastic piece of gear, but it's such a specific pedal. Guitar pedals, in general, all perform very specific functions. If you don't know much about pedals yourself, most likely they'll just return what you got them for credit to buy something they really want. In general, I say skip pedals (unless they have told you a specific pedal they want, then go for it!). 

 

10. Shure 215 In-ear monitors

(This one might be a hot take...) I have a pair of these and they are fantastic. BUT, I play in a band that uses an in-ear monitoring system on stage regularly. Most hobbyists guitarists would have no need for this item. Even many gigging guitarists are playing in venues that don't have an in-ear monitoring system and would not have anything to plug these into. They are a great product, but they are a very specific-use item that I don't think belong on general gift guides for guitarists. 

Summary

This post is not meant to bash all of these products! Some of them are truly great products. But when thinking about gifts for guitarists, you want to gift something that they will truly enjoy using so that they think of you every time they pick it up! Hopefully this guide isn't just a list of 10 products to avoid, but helps you understand how to evaluate what the gifts you see on Amazon/Etsy/guitar blogs and think about how it will be received from a guitarist's point of view. Of course, if you haven't read our post on the best gifts for guitar players, you should check that out! It has some of the top things we think would be well-received by any guitarist!

 Best gifts for guitarists