Tired of the same old books, iTunes gift cards, and music-note embroidered accessories? Try some of these inventive gift for the musical young people in your life.
Dreams are Made for Children, by Misja Fitzgerald Michel; illustrations by Ilya Green
Ages 0–3; $16.95
This book/CD set collects a dozen jazz “dream songs” recorded by legendary performers. The CD features classics like Sarah Vaughn’s “Lullaby of Birdland,” Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” Frank Sinatra’s take on Brahms’ “Lullaby,” and the set’s title track is performed by Ella Fitzgerald. The hardcover book includes lyrics for the songs as well as historical information about the music. The illustrations feature a sharp contrast between the dark nighttime colors and the vivid colors of dreamland.
What is Punk?, by Eric Morse
Ages 0-3; $15.95
This book surveys the early history of punk rock in delightful rhyme. Morse provides a through, detailed history of the movement in New York City and London, and even touches on smaller scenes and lesser-known bands. The details of Anny Yi’s 3-D clay illustrations complement the prose: she’s recreated the figures of Johnny Rotten, the Ramones, Henry Rollins and many others, and presents them in action. Fair warning: There are a few words in the book (mostly band names) that might require a bit of explanation down the road.
It’s very easy to listen to local children’s music: Concerts are inexpensive and nearby, and CDs are on display in stores around the area. But it can be hard to find great independent music happening elsewhere the country. This was the impetus behind Smiles Ahead!, a compilation CD on the new Mighty Mo label. The disc showcases top artists from around the country. Johnny Bregar and Caspar Babypants represent the Pacific Northwest; Brady Rymer, Kira Willey and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo are among the other artists featured on this wide-ranging collection.
This cute-looking, easy-to-play instrument will keep kids of all ages making music. The electronic instrument looks like a happy-faced music note: A ribbon on the stem of the note controls the pitch, squeezing the happy face creates a wah-wah effect, and shaking it creates vibrato.
$3.99 for Chordion; available in the Apple App Store
This locally developed app (made in Olympia) allows users to make sophisticated music right away thanks to its visually intuitive interface (it looks a bit like a button accordion, hence the name). The app includes an arpeggiator for creating background harmonies, a drum machine. The learning curve is quite small: even the least musical person in the room can put together professional-sounding beats with a few flicks on the iPad screen. The company’s other apps — Patterning, Ondes, and Dot Melody — are also easy to use, and Chordion and Ondes can be purchased as a bundle for $8.99.
Ages 12-plus; $22; $6.50 for refills
If electronic music is not your cup of tea, Music Box Maker is the perfect antidote. An old-fashioned hand-cranked music box (with most of the mechanism exposed for curious eyes) comes with blank strips of paper and a hole punch so that aspiring composers can “write” their own music for it. A pre-punched strip with “Happy Birthday” is included as a sample tune. Refill strips are also available in sets of five.
A set of crocheted black cat headphones is the perfect accessory for any young music fan. Artist Stacy Underwood creates a cute, functional piece that blends the handmade and traditional with the high-tech.
This songbook, contains the lyrics and chords for nearly 1,200 songs, ranging from “Greensleeves” to Green Day’s “American Idiot.” The book, created by the same people who compiled Rise Up Singing is designed to get anyone making music quickly. The accessible format is good and bad: You don’t need to read music to be able to use this book, but you do know how to be able to play chords, and it assumes that you already know how the songs go. The book would be a perfect companion gift for someone who’s getting a keyboard, ukulele, or autoharp or who might have some musical experience.
Is Santa leaving an electric guitar under the tree? Parents will be happy to know that the Vox amPlug 2 (available for guitar and bass) is the easiest way to play the new instrument through headphones: Plug the amPlug into the guitar jack — it rotates 180 degrees to accommodate any guitar — and plug a pair of headphones into it. Three guitar models, each mimicking a different classic amplifier, and one bass model each come with a variety of built-in effects to simulate as closely as possible the sound of playing through an amplifier.
Aspiring musicians and engineers alike will enjoy tinkering with the Little Bits Electronic Synth Kit. The kit, produced in conjunction with electronic music pioneers Korg, includes modular oscillators, effects, and amplifiers that allow people to create their own electronic music instruments by snapping the different parts together. The newly created gizmos can be hooked into any kind of speakers or computer, or they can have a guitar, keyboard, or other electronic instrument plugged into it.