Sometimes being a musician can feel like an arms race – there's always new gear, new software, and new instruments coming out. While sometimes the changes are incremental (you might be able to get away for a couple of years without upgrading certain things, for instance), sometimes you can miss a lot.
It's good to remember that although great gear is important – depending what you do, maybe quite important – it can't substitute for great musicianship. If you can't play guitar, a $5,000 instrument isn't going to suddenly make you sound better.
That being said, here's a quick list of five of the latest and greatest products we've seen emerging onto the scene for 2019!
Although I'm not a drummer myself, I grew up with one – and nobody should have to tell you just how loud they can be. What's more, they're a bear to set up and tear down (I have helped lug many a set during my time in bands).
Aerodrums aims to change all that using the latest technology. The core of it all is the sensors in the sticks and pedals, which feed information to a motion-capture camera. The camera then sends the info to the digital drum set (which resides on your laptop) to make the sounds you're playing.
If you've got neighbors, you no longer have to worry about keeping them up with late night practices. Even better, setting up and tearing down is a breeze – everything can fit in your backpack. Currently retailing for $199 (plus tax, shipping, and handling), it's easily affordable even for a cash-strapped musician!
Related: 5 Free VST Plugins That Will Give You Professional Drum Sounds
2. Marshall Origin amps
If you're a guitar player, amps and pedals are a probably huge part of your sound. Many players try to get their hands on vintage amps, which are well known for their signature sound. Unfortunately, these can be somewhat cost prohibitive for the average musician.
Thankfully, Marshall has come to the rescue with a new line of amps that are modeled after their classic tones. The sound is also highly customizable, with adjustments available through gain boost and the new Tilt knob, a powerstem switch, and an effects loop. With models starting at $449, you're bound to find one that suits your needs.
Related: 5 Old Junk Amps That Can Still Melt Faces
3. Korg Prologue
With their long history of making solid products, you can't go wrong with a name like Korg. Their latest entry is no exception – the Korg Prologue, a polyphonic analog synth.
Boasting a newly developed multi-engine and high-quality digital effects, this synth gives you the ability to sculpt and mold your sound as you see fit. You can even sync with another groove machine, allowing for even more interesting possibilities.
You're not sacrificing style either – the Prologue has a clean but snazzy look to it that is as at home onstage as in your studio. Currently retailing for $1,499, don't let this Best In Show of NAMM 2018 winner pass you by!
Related: The 10 Most Widely Influential Synths Ever
4. Strymon Magneto
If soundscapes are more your thing, you might be interested in the Strymon Magneto. This stereo multi-head tape delay is a looper and phrase sampler. Not only delivering the well-loved warm analog sound, its highly customizable signal allows you to choose the type and amount you need. It also boasts a completely analog dry path – no more digital latency and excess conversion noise!
This little machine is even flexible enough for the stage – according to their site it responds “musically and smoothly, even during the wildest live modular improvisations.” Plus, it's called a Magneto. As an X-Man fan...that seals the deal for me. This baby retails for around $600, but it could be just the thing you're looking for!
Related: Get the Guitar Sound You Want: Cheat Sheet for Modulation Effects
5. Cling On pickups
What happens when you find the perfect guitar but it doesn't have a pickup? That means shelling out another $150 just for installation – more if you're wanting onboard EQ and controls. Those days are now a thing of the past thanks to Cling On Pickups.
This neat product solves the entire installation problem via a magnetic base. Just pop your Cling On wherever you want it to go, plug in the cable...and you're set. No modifications required to your guitar! You can even move the pickup anywhere you want on your guitar – the bridge, the top, wherever. They even have onboard volume control complete with mute!
You don't need to be a guitar tech (or pay one!) to set this up either – it is plug and play ready right out of the gate. Best of all, the price point is light on your wallet - $69.99! This is an amazing leap forward in instrument pickups that every musician should know about.
Related: Guitar 101: Everything You Need to Know About Pickups
Even if none of these strikes your fancy, it's important to stay up to date on the latest innovations in gear. Start surfing the net, checking in with your local music store, and keeping your eyes open. Not only does this give you a little street cred when talking to other musicians, it keeps you from getting too comfortable and slipping into a rut. A great musician is someone who's always looking to fine tune their sound!
Daniel Reifsnyder is a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated songwriter, having started his musical journey at the age of three. In addition to being an accomplished commercial actor, his voice can be heard on The Magic School Bus theme song and in Home Alone 2. Throughout his career, he has had the honor of working with the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Richard among many others. He is a regular contributor to several music-related blogs, including his own.