5 Great Holiday Gifts For The Classic Rock Guitarist

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The holidays are right around the corner and if you’re worrying about what to get for the musicians in your life then fear no more, because musicians always want something. Obviously, buying someone the guitar of their dreams will simultaneously drain your bank account and win their undying affection, but there are plenty of other options that are just as appreciated to help keep the music playing.

    1. Picks
      Picks are made for the sole purpose of being lost. They escape into separate dimensions of time and space and there is no hope of finding them. So if you want to help a guitarist out, get them as many picks as you can. Martin makes some nice picks for a very reasonable price and will be greatly appreciated by anyone who loses as many picks as I do.
    2. Strings
      Strings are one of those hidden costs of music that nobody talks about. Before buying strings as a gift, make sure to find out what kind of strings the person you have in mind prefers. For the best deals on strings, hit up reverb.com and you’ll find no shortage of choices.
    3. Cables
      Again, we’re looking at the mundane side of music that actually goes a long way to help make the life of a musician easier. Guitarists lose cables as often as they lose picks, so gifting a good pack of ¼ inch instrument cables will be a godsend for any musician to unwrap. Orange makes their own high quality cables that will make any guitarist’s day to receive.
    4. Starter Guitars
      You’ve talked it over with your kid and you’re 90% sure they’re committed to learning guitar. But you don’t want to go and drop a bunch of money on something they might give up in a month, or possibly even damage. Turn to the Baby Taylor BT-1. These acoustic guitars are well made and easy to play, perfect for beginners. Worst case scenario, if your kid doesn’t want to keep playing they have great resale value. For your electric-minded prospective players that want a Les Paul but you’re not willing to put down $1,500 dollars,  Epiphone  (which is to Gibson what Chevrolet is General Motors) makes very high quality guitars that are durable and great for beginners.
    5. Starter Amps
      What good is a guitar if you can’t hear it? The right amp can make the life of a beginner guitarist much easier and, if chosen correctly, can last them years before they’ll need an upgrade. Take my advice, get something simple and effective. A lot of amps nowadays come with a gazillion effects that
      you’ll almost never use. Marshall’s MG15R is a perfect beginner amp for any guitarist wanting to go the classic, hard rock route. The Orange Crush 20RT is also a great choice and frankly will make any beginner at least look like a professional. These amps are no joke and with 20 watts of power they’d even be good for small gigs.

They say it’s the thought that counts, and when it comes to gear that’s true. Most musicians have to contend with some extent of self-doubt. By getting them a meaningful, useful guitar gift for the holidays, you’re supporting them both physically and emotionally and that means more than anything. 

That first guitar can set them on a path in life they’ll never regret, so make it count.

Photos by ROMBO from Pexels

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Gear Guide: Getting the Classic Rock Sound

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At some point in our lives as musicians, we’ve all gone down the rabbit hole when it comes to gear. It starts with learning about pickups, string gauges, pedals and then winds up spending seven hours researching speaker sizes on the verge of tearing your hair out.

Listen. Gear is a means to an end. Gear gets us to the music. The less time spent thinking and worrying about gear, the more time you can spend thinking and worrying about music. 

Let’s look over the basics of capturing the classic rock sound and explore the fundamentals of that sound and what you should look out for when buying gear to get you there.

How about a quick gear 101 to help you maximize your gear to make your music come alive? 


We always start here on our quest for our sound, and rightly so! Besides your fingers and your amplifier, nothing else will mold your sound more than your guitar, so choose wisely. 

If you want to sound like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, or Jeff Beck, look into what guitars they play. Get detailed with it. Find out what kind of necks they use. For instance, a long scale neck such as on a Stratocaster will give you a brighter, elastic sound. A short scale neck on the other hand, such as a Gibson Les Paul will lend you a warmer, broader sound.

Strats and Telecasters and realize they buzz or “hum” when plugged in. That’s why we have humbuckers (they “buck” the hum). What humbuckers lose in the clarity of single coils, they make up for with grit and warmth.


Amps are scary. Amps are heavy. Amps are confusing. Amps are expensive. Let me lend you some advice that applies to all significant purchases in life, not just limited to gear.

You have to do your research.

Use internet forums like reddit and scour the comments reading people’s reviews of the amps they’ve bought. Find some old players and ask them about what they use. Go into stores and play around on as many amps as you can to get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like.

For classic rock, people will usually point you to Marshall, and with reason. Marshall’s been providing the sound to the best guitarists for generations. Marshall definitely has its own sound though, but if you like that sound then, why worry?

Orange amplifiers and Mesa/Boogie are also popular amp choices for rock. They have no problem accessing that edge of classic rock though they do tend to fall on the more expensive side.

Ready to get the classic rock sound you want? Here’s a look at how to set up your amps.


I have a love-hate relationship with pedals. Too often they’re used as a crutch for a lack of creativity and practice. I say that because I used to abuse pedals that way. But pedals can be amazing tools in the toolkit of musicians and they are great for classic rock.

Usually what you’re going to be dealing with are a lot of boost, distortion, and overdrive pedals. Basically they’re there to make you sound loud and dirty. Mesa/Boogie makes a great line of these types of pedals as does Boss and Electro Harmonix. I would truly be doing you a disservice if I failed to mention the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. 

Loud and dirty my friends, loud and dirty.

Want to use effects to create the classic rock sound? Watch how. 

The JamPlay Electric Essentials Toolkit includes the Maximize Your Gear Pack with 15 videos covering everything from simple guitar setup and changing strings to basic amp setup and gain stacking. Get this toolkit or others of your choice FREE with the annual membership to JamPlay. 

A Question of Money

I haven’t met a musician yet who didn’t spend an inordinate amount of their income on instruments and equipment. We can’t help it, we tell ourselves. So when you’re looking at the price tags of your dream gear I want you to keep a few things mind.

  • Cheap doesn’t equal bad, Expensive doesn’t equal good.
  • You’re making an investment in musical real estate. Make what you buy count.
  • If you feel uncertain, and you’re not on a time crunch, walk away.

Buying gear is a lot like gambling. The stakes are high, it gets your pulse up, narrows your field of vision and your sense of time. So take a deep breath, do your research, and remember: it’s a means to an end.

Once you have that new gear make sure you know how to use it right! JamPlay.com can help. 

Join the more than 500,000 guitarists who have experienced JamPlay. Guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill. Become a member today at JamPlay.com.

Photo credits in order of appearance:
Header Photo by Krys Amon on Unsplash
Photo by Giancarlo Duarte on Unsplash
Photo by
José Pinto on Unsplash
Photo by
Cristian Guanipa on Unsplash

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3 Famous Guitarists You Didn’t Know Served in the Military

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When you think of your favorite rock and roll legends, you might think of rebels who didn’t quite fit in — misfits who marched to the beat of their own drummer. You probably don’t imagine them literally marching in unison and taking orders from drill sergeants. But the reality is, some of these famous musicians actually served in the U.S. military before, and even during, their ascent to rock hero status.

Here are 3 guitar legends who were also U.S. veterans, and the guitar styles that we’ll always remember them for: 

Jimi Hendrix 

Jimi Hendrix has always been a rebel, which played a pivotal role in his entrance into the military, as well as his exit. 

Hendrix enlisted in the Army in 1961, the start of the Vietnam War, but only because the options were limited. After running into some trouble with law enforcement, he was given a choice: “he could either spend two years in prison or join the Army,” says Military.com.

So, that’s what he did, but the famously anti-war Hendrix wouldn’t last long. The Army could never bottle up the rebellious nature inside that made Hendrix the ground-breaking guitarist many still worship even decades after his 1970 death.

True to his nature, Hendrix would play guitar while off duty, which “didn’t endear him with the other men in the barracks,” according to Military.com. He became such a nuance to his commanding officers that they decided to discharge him. Needing an excuse, they claimed he injured his ankle, and Hendrix received an honorable discharge. 

Join JamPlay to learn how to capture the truly unique and trailblazing style of one of rock music’s greatest artists. Experience how in our beginner series, In the Style of Jimi Hendrix.

Elvis Presley 

The so-called “King of Rock and Roll” had a much different experience than the aforementioned Jimi Hendrix, though both weren’t given much of an option.

Presley didn’t join the Army voluntarily, instead, falling victim to the draft in 1957, when he was one of the most famous people on the planet. According to the Chicago Tribune, his fame begged the question: “Could the most famous person in the United States be useful or would he just get in the way?” But it wouldn’t take long for Presley to prove his worth. He would go on to serve in two different armor battalions and he served overseas in Germany for 18 months. 

Presley’s time in the Army was a dark one though, according to the Chicago Tribune. It was a time where he lost his mother and he began his addiction to drugs, that likely ended his life. After his year and a half stint, he was discharged from active service in 1960, then from the reserves in 1964. His fans would no longer have to wait for new music from the King.

Honor Elvis as a veteran and a great musician. Join JamPlay.com to learn Elvis’s classic “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was released just a year before he started service, and others.

Johnny Cash

Shifting away from Rock and Roll to Country, Johnny Cash is the only man on our list who voluntarily enlisted in the armed forces. Cash was an interesting person, who did a lot more than make country music to be enjoyed for decades. His military experience may be the most fascinating.

He enlisted in the Air Force in 1950, during the Korean War. Cash felt lonely during his service, leading him to learn the guitar and write songs, some of which would soon become famous. Star and Stripes said Cash’s time in the military “influenced the history of rock ’n’ roll and country music” more than any other.” 

Cash’s service didn’t just benefit the music community though, he also intercepted some very important information that highlighted his 3 years of service. Believe it or not, Johnny Cash decoded a morse code message from the Soviets and became the first American to learn of Joseph Stalin’s death. 

Join JamPlay to gain access to learning Johnny Cash’s hits as you celebrate Veteran’s Day honoring a great veteran and legendary guitarist. 

Want more? Rock legend, Jerry Garcia was also a veteran. What better way to celebrate all veterans than tapping into your inner Grateful Dead with a free lesson in the style of the Grateful Dead at JamPlay.com.

Veterans Day is a great time to learn something new on guitar and pay tribute to one of these legendary guitarists / veterans. 

Happy Veterans Day!

Join the more than 500,000 guitarists who have experienced JamPlay. Guitar lessons from world class instructor artists in every genre and for every interest to power up your guitar skill.  Become a member today at JamPlay.com.

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