If you’re like me, your family hates shopping for you. You’re into all this weird music stuff, and they wouldn’t know where to begin. So your presents consist of envelopes with cash and gift certificates. Your grandmother apologizes for such an “impersonal” gift, but you love it. Now you can get exactly what you want.

Are you unsure what to get? The problem with Christmas cash is that it’s usually not enough to get a $2,000 preamp or guitar, but it’s still enough to get some REALLY handy items for your studio.

Here are some ideas to help you burn a whole in your pocket. 😉

1. Earbuds – This may seem odd for a home studio, but I’ve found myself using earbuds more and more for tracking instruments. Why? Well, for one thing they’re low profile, so I don’t have to have this big old pair of headphones on my head. Secondly, they isolate really well. If you’re worried about headphone bleed, in-ears can cut that down to almost nothing.

Also, just recently I’ve been toying around with using earbuds to find the right mic placement. Since they seal the ear and block out a lot of sound, I can place a mic in front of a guitar amp and move it around, all the while listening to the signal coming through my in-ears. It lets me try 10 different mic positions in just a matter of seconds, honing in on the right placement without having to resort to a bunch of trial and error recordings. Pretty fun stuff.

I own a pair of the Sennheiser IE4’s. Fairly inexpensive and sound pretty decent.

2. Percussion Instruments – Percussion adds so much life to your recordings its unbelievable, but maybe you don’t actually own any percussion instruments. I’d jump on that bandwagon if I was you. For example, you can get a simple tambourine and shaker for under $30. You might also want to check out something like a djembe or a cajón. Each percussion instrument can add a new texture to your mixes and keep them from being boring.

If you want some free cymbal swell samples (my Christmas gift to you) click here.

3. Headstock Tuner – I don’t yet own one of these, but if you record much guitar or bass in your studios, this makes a lot of sense. Sometimes guitarists (especially acoustic guitarists) don’t bring their own tuner, or it’s simply just too much hassle to power it up, find a cable, plug it in, etc.

I’ve heard good things about the Snark tuner, might have to grab one myself.

4. Music Stand – This one’s not very sexy or exciting, but if you’ve ever had to play the “balance the chord chart on my knee while I’m playing guitar” game, you know how lame that is. I’ve never bought a new music stand. I got used here. As long as it works, I’m happy.

5. IKEA Rack – What? IKEA makes racks for your gear? No, but they do make a nightstand that’s EXACTLY 19″ wide and 6U tall. It’s called the Rast. All you need to do is buy that and a pair of rack rails, and you’ve got a nice, solid wood rack for a fraction of what you’d pay at the music store. I bought one and LOVE it.

6. Re-amp Box – This is another item on my “to get” list. I’ve never played around with re-amping, but the possibilities are endless. Want to dirty up that vocal track? Send it out to your guitar amp and record that. Want to add more grit to the direct bass track? Run it through your guitar amp and blend it back in with the DI signal.

There are several re-amp boxes out there, but from the folks I’ve talked to, the $99 ProRMP from Radial works just fine.

7. Headphone Amp – If you have a musician in your studio, are you constantly using a headphone splitter cable so you both can use headphones? That’s silly. Grab a headphone amp. I use the HP4 from Presonus. 4 Channels and it even has a mono button and outputs for your monitors, too.

8. Zen & The Art of Mixing – If you’re the reading type (I got a Kindle for Christmas), I recommend picking up Mixerman’s book Zen & The Art of Mixing. While you’re at it, pick up The Daily Adventures of Mixerman, too. Fun stuff.

9. Don’t forget to invest in YOU

If you’re fairly set on gear this Christmas, may I suggest investing in yourself? Learning how to develop your skills as an engineer is the absolute best way to improve. A truckload of gear won’t make you a better engineer or musician, but learning from others can.

That’s why I’m doing my end-of-the-year sale. You can two of my products for the price of one. The deal only goes through the end of the year. Once the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the sale is over. Here’s the link with the details:


Kick off 2012 with some great new goodies, and tell us what you got in the comments below!

*Most of the product links above are affiliate links, just so you know.