If you know anyone like me, I have a small stockpile of expensive synthesizers, drum machines, guitar pedals, and noise makers that defy description. One of the most difficult things for friends and family to do, when it comes to Christmas or birthdays, is to find gifts that interest me that don’t cost hundreds of dollars. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a great list here of very fun synth and electronic based music gifts that are affordable, fun, and will be sure to delight any musician or synthesizer nerd like myself.
First up is a miniature ribbon synth and effects box that I have demo’d previously on this site…the Korg Monotron Delay! The Korg Monotron Delay is a very fun and compact little ribbon synthesizer that also includes an amazing delay feature. With a headphone jack and an audio in, you can use it with your existing electronics and create some truly wonderful chaos. It runs on batteries and can be used with or without other gear . The Korg Monotron Delay retails for under $50.
Next up is another amazing little piece of art called the Stylophone pocket synth. The Stylophone is a recreation of a synth from the 60’s but now in convenient pocket form! This is a fantastic little synth also runs on batteries and includes three different sounds. You use the attached stylus to play. There’s a tuning knob that allows you to play with alternate tuning and do pitch bend effects. This one also includes an audio in, so you can run additional instruments through it! The Stylophone is tons of fun and retails for under $30.
The next one is from the makers of the Stylophone, this one is called the Stylophone Beatbox. This is a unique handheld, battery-operated, synthesizer and drum machine hybrid. This one includes a beatbox, percussion, bass and a new scratch function. There is also tuning knobs and a tempo adjust control to produce endless possibilities . The Stylophone Beatbox retails for under $40.
Going down the Stylophone product line, next one up is the Gen-X1. This is another portable synth box with two ways to play and can also be used as an effects box. What I like most about the usability of this one is that you can hook any other electronic instrument into the audio in and manipulate those sounds to your hearts content. The Gen-X1 has a built-in speaker for playing around on the spot and is run off batteries. It includes an LFO and filter cutoff, tons of delay options, sub-octave switches, and Pulse Width Modulation button which can be used to create a chorus effect . This one costs a little more than the other two types of Stylophones but that’s because you can do so much more with it. The Stylophone Gen-X1 retails for under $70.
If you really want to see someone light up during a gift exchange, check out the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line. There’s multiple Pocket Operators, each one that specializes in different sounds, leads, and styles. There is an Arcade, Bass, Speak, Robot, Office, Rhythm and more. They are all battery operated and can be used as standalone grooveboxes , chained together to form a battery operated army, or synced up with other instruments to play a part in your next song. They all have sequencers built in that are easy to use and can create entire songs in the palm of your hands. Arguably, the most popular Pocket Operator is the PO-33 Fight. The PO-33 includes a built-in sampler which means you can sample you’re own sounds, noises, quotes, basically any sound you want into it. The PO-33 does cost a little more but you can do so much more with it! The Pocket Operators range from around $59 to $100.
Want something a little more traditional that doesn’t need a power source? One instrument that seems to be making a lot of noise on social media right now is the Kalimba. The Kalimba is a small handheld thumb piano that uses metal keys mounted to a sound board. Once you hear the sound that it creates you’ll immediately recognize it. The Kalimba has a soothing music box or lullaby type sound that you will instantly fall in love with. You will immediately be making beautiful sounding music with this device and it will be the hit of anyone’s gift giving experience. You can get an exquisite looking high-quality Kalimba for under $30.
After all this, there’s tons of other cases, cords, or additional accessories that you can add to round out these gifts. I can honestly say that any of these items will brighten up your Christmas or Birthday. Make sure you have some AAA or AA batteries on hand as most of these pocket synths require one or the other. Do you have any other additional ideas? Let me know in the comments!
If you aren’t familiar with Welcome To Space Lounge on Instagram you are definitely missing out on one of the best collections of talented artists making music on the Internet. They use the tag line “Keep your head in the clouds” and when you hear the atmosphere and layers that these artists create, it’s incredibly easy to feel yourself start floating up, up, and away. There is no denying that Welcome To Space Lounge is an absolute juggernaut of Instagram.
When I first started making music on Instagram, I couldn’t help but see that most of my favorite accounts were constantly tagging Space Lounge in their posts. Naturally, I combed through their posts and was blown away by jams that populated the submissions. I made it a goal of mine to try and be featured on their account.
It actually helped me branch out and change the way I made some of my songs. I started experimenting with lower BPM’s. It absolutely pushed me to take some steps and leaps into sounds and vibes that I had never created before. It made me experiment with drumless tracks and even pushed me to try and make some ambient jams. It took a lot of submissions and a lot of experimentation but eventually I was featured on the page. I couldn’t believe it. It was, at that time, a huge goal achieved for me. After that, I began to converse more with the Space Lounge founder and learned that his passion and excitement for music was beyond inspiring.
A few months after I was first featured, I was approached by Space Lounge and extended an invitation to provide a song for their second cassette release entitled “Welcome To Space Lounge Volume II” I was beyond excited and immediately accepted the invite . This is definitely a dream come true and I couldn’t be happier with my submission entitled “Andromeda’s Brain” The cassette will be released for sale on Monday 11/11/2019. You will be able to order it from their official website and I will update this article with the link once it goes live.
These cassette releases are extremely limited and usually are only offered in one shot. If you are interested in getting one, I suggest trying to buy it the second it goes live. Otherwise, it may be out of touch and float slowly away from your grasp, into the atmosphere and beyond.
I’ve always been interested in making music, however, I was missing that one important skill that so many musicians rely on…talent. My dream was to be in a band, or writing songs, or creating music. As I got older, I honestly thought that it just wasn’t going to happen.
Then, in the summer of 2018, I came across some people making jams on Instagram with synthesizers and drum machines. I was enamored. It was awesome! Within the hour I was on Sweetwater and I bought my first two pieces of gear. I got the Korg Monologue and the Korg Volca Sample. The sample seemed like it would be a great way to jump into a drum machine without spending a ton of money if I didn’t like it.
With Sweetwater’s super fast shipping I got my two pieces quickly and within the hour I was up on IG posting my first jam. It was rather underwhelming but I could feel the potential starting to bust open with it. Here’s my first jam in all it’s unspectacular glory.
Since July of 2018, I have now released 4 full albums (1 as Black Zinda) and an EP. I have released music on all major streaming platforms, sold digital albums and cassettes and even shipped them worldwide. It’s been an absolute dream come true. The IG community is incredibly supportive and helpful. I have made so many real life friends and I have never met one of them in real life (yet.) If you are thinking of jumping into the electronic DAWLESS hardware game, get on there and get at me! I’m currently the most active on IG with near daily posts. I also upload full versions of the shorter IG jams onto YouTube when I make them. You can find all my links on the top or bottom of any of these pages.