TUAW's Holiday Gift Guide: Music gear for the Mac musician

Welcome to the TUAW Holiday Gift Guide! We've sorted the treasure from the junk and are serving up suggestions to make your holiday gift-giving a little easier.

Choosing the right gift for an Apple-loving musician can be very tricky. Usually, they've got everything they want already because they can't wait for the latest and greatest -- they just get it for themselves as soon as they can. Or they are so overwhelmed by the choices presented to them that they can't make a decision and therefore obsess about it for months on end. To say the least, it can be very difficult to give the Apple-loving musician the right gift.

Ironically, to top it all off, the gift-giver is usually not a musician, nor do they understand the gear and tech that most commonly goes with being a musician. For instance, when I start talking about music tech to a fellow musician in the presence of my wife, she looks at us as if we're speaking an alien language, and try as she might, she can't help but get extremely bored very quickly.

So, to help you (the musician / beloved gift-giver) make the right decision, we've gone to the trouble of putting together a list of some of our favorite music apps and pieces of music tech from the last year. You'll definitely find something here that an Apple-loving musician is sure to be pleased with this holiday season.

iPhone, iPod touch and iPad apps

Guitar World Lick of the Day. Agile Partners and Guitar World Magazine introduced this app only a month or so ago, but for the budding guitarist, or those wanting to brush up on their guitar skills, this app is a gift that will keep on giving. Providing video guitar lessons from professional and recognized guitar players, with a comprehensive and intuitive practice mode, this app is perfect on the iPhone and even more engrossing on the iPad.

Lick of the Day is a free download from the App Store. It comes preloaded with a few sample lessons, but the idea is that you subscribe to the lessons for either one-month (US$4.99 / £2.99), three-months (US$12.99 / £7.49) or six-months (for US$19.99 / £11.99).

Propellerhead ReBirth. This is the perfect app for those that love to play and make electronic dance, synth and drum machine sounds. Propellerhead says, "ReBirth faithfully emulates dance music's three backbone devices: The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines. Combine these with FX units, fully featured pattern sequencers and a gorgeous-looking interface and you're ready to make killer tracks on your iPad."

At £8.99 / US$14.99 for the iPad version and £3.99 / US$6.99 for the iPhone version, this is an awesome stocking filler. Here's a video to give you a further idea of what the app can do.

Amplitube iRig.
Another one for the guitarists out there, this app is a comprehensive electric guitar, virtual stomp box and amp setup with additional recording features. We looked at this app back in November and found it very impressive.

First off, you need the iRig hardware adapter -- this enables the guitar to be plugged into the iPhone or iPad (and will cost you around £23 / US$40). Then, you can download the free Amplitube app off the App Store. However, to get all the sounds and features out of the app, additional in-app purchases are required -- up to around £25 / US$40 for all the amps and pedals.

AmpKit is a similar product which is also worth checking out.

If you wanted to take this idea to the next level, you could purchase Amplitube for the Mac. Ranging from US$139.99 / £99.99 - US$349.99 / £269.99 depending on the version you go for, Amplitube for the Mac is for the recording guitarist enthusiast who has or wants to set up a home recording studio.

Like Amplitube for the iPhone, Amplitube for the Mac will require a separate audio interface, like the Apogee Duet or an Mbox.

Other iDevice apps worth checking out for guitarists are TabToolKit and GuitarToolKit, both from Agile Partners.

Seline HD. Amidio has produced some fantastic apps over the last couple years. One of their main focuses is to create new and novel musical instruments for the iPhone / iPad. One of their more recent apps is Seline HD for the iPad.

Seline HD is a musical instrument designed for performance and composition of music on the iPad. One of its key features is to make the creation of complex melodies easy, while accompanying those melodies with big sound scape type pads. This is an app that anyone can pick up, play and master. You don't need to know how to play an instrument to pick up Seline HD and make some satisfying music with it.

Seline HD is available on the App Store for £5.99 / US$9.99.

Home Recording and Studio

Blue Microphone's Mikey. The Mikey is a high-quality recording mic that plugs straight into your iPhone or iPod Touch. Using Blue FiRe, a free recording app from the App Stpre, the Mikey is perfect for the song writer wanting to record a few simple demo ideas or songs with ease. Although you can use the Voice Memos app with the iPhone's built in mic, the Mikey will provide a much higher quality of recording - especially when music is involved. One note: the Mikey doesn't yet work with the iPhone 4, so if you have the latest iPhone, look elsewhere. Blue is working on a hardware update to make it compatible with the new dock port.

The Mikey is available from the Apple Online Store for US$79.95.

Apogee ONE or Duet.

Apogee is the maker of audio interface hardware that enables you to record real instruments and voices using a microphone. The microphone is plugged into the Apogee unit which then hooks up to your Mac. Apogee has two entry level audio interfaces: Apogee ONE and Apogee Duet.

The ONE has a basic built-in microphone as well as a single pre-amp for one microphone to be plugged into. This means you can record one item at a time through the Apogee ONE

The Apogee Duet does the same thing, but it has two mic pre-amps, allowing you to record two items at a time with two microphones -- like a guitar and a vocal.

These audio interfaces are perfect for those wanting to take music recording more seriously by starting up a home studio.

Apogee ONE is priced at US$249.95 and Apogee Duet is priced at US$499.95 on the Apple Online Store. However, it's definitely worth shopping around for these kinds of items.

GarageBand, Logic Studio and Express 9.

When recording on your Mac, you'll need some software to help you do it. This software is known as a digital audio workspace, or more commonly referred to as a DAW.

GarageBand is a basic DAW with which you can record and edit audio, but it is limited in its capabilities. However, Apple has recently released a new version of GarageBand in iLife 11. If you, or someone you know, loves GarageBand, then you may want to consider giving them the latest version, which comes with a whole new range of features and improvements. iWork 11 is available on the Apple Online Store for US$49.99.

Again, taking things to the next level, you could consider Logic Express or Logic Studio. These applications expand on the abilities of GarageBand with Logic Express being somewhere in between GarageBand and Logic Studio -- Apple's flagship professional DAW.

Another DAW you may want to check out is Propellerhead's Record.

Logic Express is priced at US$199.99 / £163.00 and Logic Studio at US$499.99 / £408.00.

Again, it's worth shopping around for this kind of software. You may come across special deals or bundled packages that could save you a lot of money. Or if you're not sure which version your musician will want, a gift card is sometimes a good idea as well.

Native Instruments Komplete 7. A few months ago, Native Instruments released the latest version of their audio production software, Komplete 7. It's vast, epic and huge, with loads of high-quality virtual instruments, samples and audio editing software. You can find out more about Komplete 7 over at Native Instruments' website. At US$450, it's not cheap, but it's certainly a huge package that would bring a smile to any musician that loves to make music on their Mac.

There's plenty more out there, so we recommend you try and get your Apple-loving musician to drop you a few hints. Better still, just have them write a list out -- especially on some of these high-end items, you'll want to make sure to get the right thing.

If there's some music creation software or hardware out there that you'd love to receive this holiday season, go ahead and share it in the comments below. Happy holidays!