2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Guitar
Here is a list of my favorite guitar-related items I found this year that should be on any guitar player's wishlist. Hopefully you'll leave some things in the comments for me to check out as well.
I bought a set of Neo Tortoise picks made by Snark and I'm pleasantly surprised at how often I've used them this year. I've never actually used real tortoise shell picks before, so I'm not even going to try to pretend like I know that these sound authentic. But they sound and feel great to me. They're definitely not like my usual nylon picks that I gushed over in this post on my blog. They have a more rigid feel to them, but not as flimsy and breakable as a regular celluloid pick, which actually was the first faux tortoise shell on the scene. Give them a try. You've probably never played with a pick that feels quite like this.
If fingerpicking is more your thing, here are a couple of books that you should not be without. Rob MacKillop's The Scottish Guitar has been out for about a decade and is a wonderful introduction to DADGAD tuning as well as open G and open D. Most of the arrangements are simple and accessible to most players who are familiar with tablature and basic notation. These are classic Scottish tunes from the 16th and 17th centuries transcribed from the original lute books and arranged by one of the true masters of Scottish music. Make sure you follow Rob's blog and YouTube channel. Have a listen to him play one of my favorites from this book.
Glenn Weiser's Favorite 19th Century American Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar came out in 2019. The free preview on Amazon sold me on this one because it includes quite a beautiful arrangement of "Darling Nelly Grey". I've spent many afternoons playing through this book. The skill level leans towards the intermediate players. There aren't any tunes that will be instantly accessible to beginners but in the case of many of these, you will probably be familiar with the melodies. That might be all you need to get your playing up to the next level. These are all in either standard or dropped D tuning. Mr. Weiser never wastes a note, they all seem to be perfectly placed upon the fretboard in his arrangements. The newly released Tin Pan Alley Favorites for Fingerstyle Guitar is next on my Weiser-wishlist.
I recently spotted these Extra Light D'Addario Chrome Flatwound electric guitar strings. I've never played flatwounds that were this light before, so they're definitely on my radar for a future review. For now, if you haven't tried their Half Round strings, I highly recommend a set. They're semi-flatwound so they give you a slightly less slippery feeling than regular flats but they still retain a warm tone. They're not just for jazz either. Try them out if you're looking for something different under your fingers.
For the acoustic players out there, D'Addario comes through with their Nickel Bronze strings. They're right in the middle of the mellow/bright spectrum. I feel like they give me the power to control which direction I want the tone to go. I've had these on my Gretsch Jim Dandy parlor guitar and my Washburn Cumberland jumbo and have been very happy with both. With such a drastic comparison between two guitars like that, I felt like these strings let the guitars sound more like themselves and less like the strings. I've restrung several students' guitars with these as well.
I think I saved my favorite classical strings for the end. Aquila Corde's Ambra 2000. You certainly do not need the fanciest luthier-made guitar for strings like this. And they're really just about the same price as a nice set of steel strings. These strings are meant to emulate the gut and silk strings of the 19th century. Only this time no animals were harmed in the making of these strings. I have Aquila strings on my lute, two guitars, and three ukuleles (soprano, baritone, & bass). The Ambra 2000s were definitely my most-played strings in 2020. What were yours?
Is there anything else that I missed this year? What's something you found essential during this year with your guitar playing? Since you made it this far in the post, click here for a free PDF of my newest arrangement. Since winter is upon us, Frosty The Snowman demanded to have a chord melody arrangement made. This is in the old-time plectrum guitar style. Have fun with it and please tag me on social media if you make a video! I'd love to feature it on my website. If you would like to help support my site and purchase the arrangement for only $1, please visit my sheet music shop here. Thank you so much! Happy holidays!