Gearhead: The Stocking Stuff of Legend

Sensible gift tips for the musically inclined

Choosing holiday gifts for the musicians in your life is always a bit tricky. We in the Gearhead department have been known to deliver some Oscar-worthy performances after unwrapping various … items … selected by well-intentioned non-musician friends and family members. To avoid such moments, you could of course cop out and hand over a gift certificate. But what fun is that?

Our advice: Unless you like embarrassed silences, stay away from novelty and get something useful. Renewables (strings, reeds, cleaning supplies) are always appreciated—provided you can discreetly discover players’ preferred specs. Don’t guess; spy on them instead, or use intermediaries to find the information.

If you’re squeamish about espionage—or simply think of strings, reeds, and cleaning spray as the musical equivalent of socks and underwear—all is not lost! Books, tools, small (but decent-quality) instruments, and useful tech could stock our stocking any day. For example, take any of the following 10 nifty products.

YVS-120 Alto Venova
YVS-120 Alto Venova

Casual Cool

Yamaha calls its newly updated YVS-120 Alto Venova a “casual wind instrument,” but let’s keep personal habits out of this. Instead, focus on the Venova’s light ABS resin body, designed to withstand the abuses of travel and weather, which makes it a capable companion for outdoor jamming and other rough trading of licks. The keys are laid out recorder-style, yet Yamaha describes the tone as sax-like. I’d be skeptical of such a claim had I not heard Grace Kelly sound amazing demoing the original version a couple of years ago. A fun gift for serious players that can also give the wind-curious a chance to explore.

$212.99 MSRP  usa.yamaha.com

Emile Menasché

Musician, journalist, and author Emile Menasché has composed soundtracks for Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentaries. He is jealous that his dog Hudson gets more attention from passersby whenever they’re seen in public together.