5 Christmas Stocking Stuffer Gift Ideas for Musicians

I've got five great affordable holiday stocking stuffer gifts for musicians I'm gonna recommend to you guys today this can either be to stuff your own stocking or to stuff somebody else's stocking.

Now all of these are great for most types of instruments (I've done things before that
focus more on guitar players or like home recording people) but I think that these gifts are gonna be welcomed by any musician. ‚Äč

Christmas Stock Stuffer Gift Idea for Musicians 1 - Nice Earplugs

The first one is a pair of good ear plugs. I recommend these Eargasm earplugs.  I've done a review of these previously and they are quite the best all-around ear plugs I've owned.

 They're very comfortable they're portable they sound really musical and these are great because they're not only good when you're practicing if you're in a band but they're also good for going to live shows because they still maintain a lot of fidelity.

No joke - musicians really need to protect their hearing so that's why I would totally recommend these.

Christmas Stock Stuffer Gift Idea for Musicians 2 - Cable Stays

The next thing I'm going to recommend is these cable stays.  These are basically pieces
of velcro color-coded that you can use to wrap around your cables.

If you're a musician you basically you have nothing but cables. It's just a horrible, infuriating mess.  A rat's nest of cables.

If you've ever seen a musician's gig bag (unless you're a drummer in which case you don't need this) you know how frustrating cable management can be.

And not only do the musicians have many cables that they need to keep together so that they don't go to all over the place, they also have different types of cables. And that's why I think the color-coded velcro works way best. Because you can at a glance know what type of cable you're picking up instead of having to fumble around and see it so those have made my life way easier and they're fun to have in the stock and you can also use them for other things.

Christmas Stock Stuffer Gift Idea for Musicians 3 - Consumables

The third thing I'm gonna recommend is basically some new consumables. If it's a guitar player you know something like new guitar strings. Now, everybody's got their own personal preference so just maybe snoop around and see what brand they like. 

If you know the person you care for is a drummer maybe new drumsticks or new drum heads.

If it's a piano player you know maybe get a somebody to come and tune it up for them

These sorts of things are kind of like the equivalent of socks you always need them and want them but you never buy them for yourself so they make great stocking stuffers. Like guitar picks as well that you never seem to have enough but you know you always want.

Christmas Stock Stuffer Gift Idea for Musicians 4 - Portable Digital Recorder

The next thing I'm gonna recommend is a portable digital recorder. Something like the Tascam DR-05. 

It's way better than just astandard phone because it can handle much louder sounds the problem with your phone is if you're like recording a live band it just goes basically like "#$#@$@$%!%%$$%" because the microphone gets overwhelmed and so you lose a lot of the detail.  Whereas a recorder like this is designed for much louder sound.

So if the musician you're interested in buying a gift or play is in a band this makes it much easier for them to record the practices and sort of get things going.

Christmas Stock Stuffer Gift Idea for Musicians 5 - Fun Percussion

The final thing I'm going to recommend is some percussion. You know a tambourine, shakers, maybe some claves. It's these sorts of fun percussion instruments that not only can people use when recording but if a friend (or you!) comes over that's not really talented musically they can still jam with you if you've got a tambourine or some shakers. This makes it more fun and participatory.

Nektar Panorama P4 Review – the Best Keyboard?

Is the Nektar Panorama P4 the best keyboard for Reason? This review of the Nektar Panorama P4 tries to be nuanced, because the keyboard really does succeed in most ways. But it's not going to be for everybody. I really respect what Nektar was trying to do here, and if you're more of a producer than a musician, I think you'll enjoy it. 

It depends on your needs. It does a great job acting as a DAW controller, and if you're just using stock Reason devices or the occasional Rack Extension, you're probably making a good choice. But its basic keyboard functions are average. And if you're mainly using VSTs, like those by Native Instruments, it leaves a lot to be desired.

So I'd give it a 4 out of 5.

Why does the Nektar Panorama Get a 4 Star Review?

My honest review of the Nektar Panorama is that it saves me a lot of time, but it still has a lot of short comings. Once you integrate it into your workflow, using it to mix, tweak effects, and even record becomes much more streamlined. I especially like that it has 9 faders that easily map to a mixer. Or to instrument controls - like on a draw bar organ.

I honestly believe that the Nektar Panorama is probably the best keyboard for Logic or Reason if you're focused more on controlling your whole DAW. It takes about five minutes to install the firmware and drivers, and the process is very easy. The LED screen in the middle of the keyboard, while not super HD, is clear and conveys useful information even in bright sunlight.

But as a physical keyboard, the Panorama has some issues.

But the drum pads on the Nektar Panorama are garbage. So bad as to be nearly unusable at anything other than fixed velocity, and even then, it just doesn't feel right.

The keyboard keys are good on the P4, but I would't say they're inspiring. The entire unit is very deep, which makes it impossible to access all the controls when its under my mixing desk. I'd definitely think that it is too bulky for gigging, though it's not too heavy.

The knobs on the Nektar keyboard all feel pretty good with a nice amount of resistance, as do the sliders. The Nektar Panorama also features a great mechanical fader for more detailed mixing rides. It does inspire nice mixing performance.

Nektar Panorama Review in Conclusion

I mainly use Native Instruments sounds, so if I was starting over again, I would seriously consider getting a Komplete Kontrol. The difference in Komplete Kontrol vs Nektar Panorama, it seems to me is, that Komplete Kontrol gives you a much sleeker way to interact with instruments based on Native Instruments platform, but not nearly as much power to interact with your DAW.

Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Review

Spitfire Audio's Studio Strings Pro has quickly become my go to string library. It's full of lush, playable string articulations, and provides a wide tonal palette that any musician can start using immediately. More importantly, it is super easy to play.

You don't need to do a ton of programming to get realistic life like strings. This quick tutorial will show you how quickly you can start to make Neo-Classical music.

This review of Studio Strings Pro by Spitfire Audio is going to cover the following topics: sound quality, playability, what's included, and how it compares to other string libraries. 

Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Review Video

For those of you who prefer to watch a video instead of reading, here's a video review.

Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Sound

The sound quality of Studio Strings Pro is phenomenal. These are some of the best musicians playing some of the best sounding instruments in some of the best spaces being record by some of the best gear. And they're also expertly sampled.

And it shows.

I made a demo video of a lot of the different sounds, articulations, and mic positions that are available. Start streaming it while you read the rest of this review so you can hear how incredible these strings sound.

One of the great things about Studio Strings Pro (versus the non-pro version), is that it comes with a host of different microphones that you can mix together to create your ideal sound. While this sounds like a gimmick, I promise, it's not. 

As you can see in the demo, mixing between the various close mics, tree mics, and overhead/ambient mics gives you and incredible amount of control of your sound.

Want more reverb? Add in some more overhead mic. Want more string attack? Try close mic 2. 

Unlike other Spitfire products, which are recorded in a performance hall, this was recorded in a studio space, given the strings a much drier sound. This allows you to bake in just the right amount of reverb for a particular project.

It also includes an onboard reverb which sounds great. However, you'll likely find yourself wanting more reverb, so having a good third party reverb plugin handy will help you get the most out of it. 

Spitfire Audio Studio String Pro Playability 

Studio Strings Pro is a joy to play. I'm a terrible piano player, but even I can quickly get realistic string sound out of this well-programmed, well-designed VST.

Each of the instruments - and more importantly each articulation - play subtly differently, in a way that naturally, unconsciously, drives you play they realistically. Harnessing these subtle differences is really, intuitive, though.  Just like a playing a Stratocaster is different then play a Les Paul, but they're both just electric guitars. 

To get the most out of your sounds you'll usually need to automate one or two parameters. Usually you'll want to automate the expression of the strings to give them a more natural swell. You'll also want to consider automating the vibrato so that they strings peak at the right point.

Spitfire also gives you the ability to tweak a few other parameters, like tightness and release. I don't recommend automating these, but they do need to be set at the right spot to make the strings sound more realistic depending on the tempo and style of performance.

All in all, the interface is straightforward, full of pop up help tips, and easy to navigate. If you've ever used another Spitfire string VST before, you'll immediately be at home, since it's the same.

Spitfire Audio Studio Strings Pro Interface

The 3 interface panels of Spitfire Audio's Studio Strings

What's Included in Spitfire Studio Strings Pro

Spitfire Studio Strings Pro is ginormous. More than 200GB installed, and it needs something like 400GB of space while installing. 

The non-pro version includes a lot of the same sounds, but not as much detail. Additionally, the Pro version includes samples from way more microphone placements.

According to Spitfire: The Core version of Studio Strings features a standard (8, 6, 6, 6, 4) player setup, with access to the default Tree microphone position. With Professional, you have access to 7 extra unique microphone positions, a large band section (16, 12, 12, 12, 4) and 2 divisi sections (4, 3, 3, 3), on top of what is offered in the Core version. You can use these divisi options to create a chamber section, or even layer them with larger sections.

How Spitfire Studio Strings Pro Compares

Studio Strings Pro is going to be my new go to strings library. I've got Albion, which is great for big dramatic stuff, but it's got a huge, unfocused sound that doesn't lend itself to intimate moments. I've also got Spitfire's Solo Strings, which is also lovely, but it's very granular and is more of an icing on the cake type of library. 

Honestly, Studio Strings Pro does the overall "strings" thing better than either of these, but used in conjunction, they create something amazing. Studio Strings could form the backdrop while  a Cello from Solo Strings plays a stirring lead. Or Albion could form the gut punching backdrop while Studio Strings added a layer of harmony and melody.

I've also used all the Native Instruments Strings sections, and while they sound nice, they don't compare to the richness and flexibility provided by Studio Strings. And they sound a bit more unfocused and artificial. Though I think NI has an even easier to use interface.

I've also used East West Libraries Hollywood Strings and prefer Studio Strings Pro hands down. 

Note: this review is based on a promotional copy of Studio Strings Pro I received.