Fret Zealot 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are almost here, and we’ve made our list of all the best gifts for everyone you’re shopping for this year! 


For everyone: 

Fret Zealot All-Access Pass Subscription

Forget struggling to learn from books or visiting a guitar teacher once a week – the Fret Zealot All-Access Pass puts learning guitar in your hands. Choose from hundreds of courses by top-rated instructors that will take you from the basics to learning advanced guitar techniques. Browse through song lessons and guitar study courses to learn what YOU want to play. 

Add on the Fret Zealot LED system (fits any full sized guitar) to speed up the learning process even more! You can buy the LED system by itself, or get it pre-installed on any of the guitars from our shop. 


For the young first-time learner: 

Epiphone DR-100

This acoustic guitar is perfect for the young musician in your life – it’s a great starter guitar, but its quality will ensure that they’ll have it for a long time. The DR-100’s tone will improve with age as the wood matures, and the Epiphone SlimTaper neck design makes it a comfortable fit for growing fingers. 

For the “Paradise City” resident:

Epiphone Slash “AFD” Les Paul Special-II Performance Pack

Slash’s signature style is all over this hot Les Paul guitar – it was designed by Slash himself! Topped with AAA flame maple, this guitar also features a dark cherry mahogany body and neck, ivory binding, and a silk print of Slash’s Snakepit logo on the headstock. Check out a full review here. This pack comes fully equipped with a gig back, picks, a guitar strap, and a mini-practice amp, so your rock enthusiast can get right to playing.

For the gigging musician:

ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256 

 This solidbody electric guitar is a great choice for musicians who need a reliable instrument to take out on the road. It features fast playability, flexible tone, and quality construction with a snappy tone. It comes in six colors – and if you buy now, you’ll get the matching hard case FREE.

For the alternative rocker:

Yamaha Revstar Element RSE20

Yamaha’s Revstar guitar, favored by guitarists like Dave Keuning of The Killers and Jeff Schroeder of the Smashing Pumpkins gets an update in this model. It features a lightweight, chambered mahogany body, loaded with two Yamaha Alnico V humbuckers that deliver a versatile tonal palette with a rich midrange punch. Available in four eye-catching colors, this guitar is sure to please. 


For the tone enthusiast: 

Maestro pedals

If your person is always talking about getting their tone just right, give them a hand with the Maestro series of pedals. With Comet Chorus, Fuzz-Tone FZ-M, Discovery Delay, Invader Distortion, and Ranger Overdrive, guitarists can create exactly the tone they’re looking for. Check out the full lineup of pedals here. 

For the world traveler:

Yamaha SLG200N Silent Guitar 

Finally – a guitar that can fit easily into an airline overhead bin. This guitar features nylon strings and a minimalist body design that can be broken down to fit into a special, compact travel bag. It also has Yamaha’s SRT Powered pickup and preamp system, allowing users to plug in their headphones and hear studio-quality guitar tone. 


For that person who “really wants to learn bass”: 

Yamaha TRBX174EW Electric Bass Guitar

There’s no time like right now to start learning a new instrument! This bass is perfect for brand-new players – and with Fret Zealot LEDs pre-installed, your person will be on their way to playing like a pro in no time. Check out the other bass guitars we have available. 


For the guitarist who has been really good this year: 

Epiphone Les Paul Custom Koa

With a koa-topped mahogany body, your favorite guitarist won’t believe the warmth and richness this electric guitar provides.  Showcasing gold hardware, premium Grover tuners, and a LockTone Tune-o-matic/stopbar system, the Les Paul Custom Koa exudes a high-end attitude.

For the guitarist who has been really, really good this year. 

Gibson SG Standard Tribute

The Gibson SG is a rock icon. It features a pair of toneful humbuckers, a fast, comfortable rounded-profile neck, and a silky Plek’d rosewood fretboard with action that’s almost nonexistent.


Need some stocking stuffers?

You can never go wrong with getting the guitarist in your life some of the essentials. 

Gibson Brite Wire Electric Guitar Strings (Ultra Light Gauge)


Gibson Lightning Bolt Guitar Strap

Gibson Medium Guitar Picks – 12 Pack

Signature songs of famous bands – and their stories

What makes a song a “signature song” for a band or artist? It’s a hit that the band/artist is best known for – to the point where it’s the first song you think of when you hear their name! Even if the artist has many other hits under their belt, they’ll always be expected to perform their signature song. 

Here are some notable signature songs – and the stories behind them. 

“Dancing Queen” – ABBA

“Dancing Queen” became a worldwide hit for Swedish band ABBA, and they wanted it to be the follow-up single to “Mamma Mia” – but their manager insisted that the more mellow “Fernando” should be next instead.

“House of the Rising Sun” – The Animals

Although AC/DC found success with songs like “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, “The Jack”, and “Highway to Hell”, and “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” before 1980, their 1980 hit “Back in Black” was a milestone moment for the band. With an unmistakable opening riff, “Back in Black” was written in honor of AC/DC’s former singer Bon Scott who died in 1980.

“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

American jazz great Louis Armstrong recorded his iconic 1967 single  overnight following a midnight show in Las Vegas, wrapping around 6 a.m. 

“Back in Black” – AC/DC

Although AC/DC found success with songs like “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, “The Jack”, and “Highway to Hell”, and “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” before 1980, their 1980 hit “Back in Black” was a milestone moment for the band. With an unmistakable opening riff, “Back in Black” was written in honor of AC/DC’s former singer Bon Scott who died in 1980.


“I Want It That Way” –  The Backstreet Boys 

The 1999 ballad “I Want It That Way” is the signature song for American boy band Backstreet Boys. However, the song’s memorable arpeggiated riff was inspired by a completely different group. The song’s co-writer, Swedish music producer Andreas Carlsson, said the riff was written at the end of the song’s recording session and was inspired by “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. 

 “Livin’ on a Prayer” Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi actually didn’t like the original recording of the band’s smash hit – it can be found as a hidden track on their album 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong. Guitarist Richie Sambora convinced Bon Jovi that the song was good, and they reworked it with a new bassline and different drum fills, as well as a talk box to include it on Slippery When Wet. 

“Layla” – Eric Clapton

“Layla” was inspired both by a 12th century Persian poem and Eric Clapton’s  secret love for Pattie Boyd, who was married to his friend George Harrison at the time. 


“School’s Out” – Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper’s signature song was inspired by the feeling of the last day of school. Cooper said he was asked “What’s the greatest three minutes of your life?” and his thoughts were Christmas morning and the last three minutes of the last day of school. The song became the band’s first hit single, but it was banned from some radio stations whose management thought the song would incite rebelliousness in kids toward their education. 

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard

English band Def Leppard’s signature song was created toward the end of the recording of their 1987 album Hysteria. The band had already been working on the album for two and a half years when lead singer Joe Elliot said he showed their producer a hook he had been playing around with. Within two weeks, the song was completed and added on as the 12th track of the album. 

“Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple

Deep Purple was in Switzerland to record an album in 1971 in a casino. The casino was holding its last concert of the season before Deep Purple would be able to play there. Unfortunately, a member of the audience shot off a flare gun, causing a fire that destroyed the entire casino and left Deep Purple without a place to record. The title of the song refers to the smoke over Lake Geneva resulting from the fire, which the band watched from their hotel room window. 

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver  

Songwriting team Taffy Nivert and Bill Danoff were driving through Maryland when the inspiration for “Country Roads, Take Me Home” struck. They were originally going to sell the song to Johnny Cash, but John Denver “flipped” when he heard that news, and had to have the song for himself. The song is one of West Virginia’s four official state anthems. It was selected to go in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2023. 


Hotel California” – The Eagles 

Hotel California Fret Zealot

The original working title for the instrumental demo of “Hotel California” was “Mexican Reggae”. The band decided to theme it “Hotel California” as a nod to The Beverly Hills Hotel, which was symbolic of Beverly Hills’ mystique to them at that time. 

Imagine” – John Lennon

John Lennon was inspired to write “Imagine” by several poems from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book “Grapefruit” – so much that he later was quoted in a 2007 biography saying the song should be “credited as a Lennon/Ono song. A lot of it—the lyric and the concept—came from Yoko, but in those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted her contribution, but it was right out of Grapefruit.”

Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

The first line for “Free Bird” came from Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins’s girlfriend, Kathy, who asked Collins “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” The question became the first line of the band’s signature song and the band performed it for the first time during the reception at Collins and Kathy’s wedding. 

Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana 

The title for Nirvana’s 1991 grunge anthem came from a graffiti scrawl that Kurt Cobain’s friend and Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna put on his wall, “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”. Hanna meant to make fun of Cobain for wearing his girlfriend’s Teen Spirit deodorant, but Cobain didn’t know what “Teen Spirit” meant and took it as a compliment. 

Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show

This song, popularized by Darius Rucker, is made up of a simple four-chord progression. The chorus and melody were written by Bob Dylan in the 1970s, and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the verses 25 years later. 

Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

Guitarist Greg Leon (Motley Crue/Quiet Riot) said he helped Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, Randy Rhoads, come up with the riff for “Crazy Train” after showing him the riff for “Swington” by Steve Miller.  “I said: ‘Look what happens when you speed this riff up.’ We messed around, and the next thing I know he took it to a whole other level and end up writing the ‘Crazy Train’ riff”, Leon said in a 2012 biography on Rhoads. 

Every Breath You Take” – The Police

The Police and Sting’s signature song, “Every Breath You Take” swept the summer of 1983, sitting on top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks. Sting penned the track in the Caribbean at James Bond author Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate. 

He told The Independent in 1993, “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it was. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

In May 2019, Broadcast Music, Inc. recognized the song for being the most-played song in radio history.

Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury began working on what would become “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the late 1960s. Mercury called the song a “mock opera” – it resulted from three separate songs he had written. 

Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden

“Black Hole Sun” originated during a car ride. Released in 1994, it’s considered to be Seattle-based grunge rock band Soundgarden’s signature song. Lead singer Chris Cornell wrote the song – he said in 2014 that he came up with the concept and the melody while driving home from the studio after he thought he heard a radio news anchor say “Black hole sun”.

Five guitar songs that sound harder to play than they are

Are you still new to guitar, but need something that sounds cool to show off your skills? Check out this list of songs that sound way harder to play than they actually are. 


“Back in Black” – AC/DC 

The verse and chord riffs for “Back in Black” rock pretty hard – but they’re based around power chords with an E minor pentatonic lick – meaning if you’ve mastered our 30 Day Beginner Challenge, it should be easy for you!

“Thunderstruck” – AC/DC

“Thunderstruck”’s iconic opening riff sounds like something only a seasoned guitar player could pull off – but it’s all played on one string. Play with a metronome and slow it way down at first, then build up speed as you get better! (If you’re using the Fret Zealot app, you can slow down the guitar tab as much as you’d like). Check out our Angus Young Player Study Course to really nail Young’s signature style.

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd 

The chord progression for this Pink Floyd fan favorite is fairly easy, and repeats itself. The opening solo may take you a couple of tries, but should be achievable for most beginners!


“Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles 

This Beatles song can be played with only C and Em (with the option to add Em6 and Em7). Lock down the correct rhythm and you’ll be sounding like a Beatle in no time. 

“Come As You Are” – Nirvana

Playing the iconic, bass-like guitar riff of “Come As You Are” involves some picking and tuning a whole step down, but it repeats, making it a fairly easy line to learn. 


These are some of the most memorable riffs of all time

Some songs have riffs that are so iconic, they’re instantly recognizable for even the most casual of music listeners. You might find yourself singing the riff, rather than the words! 

Check out this list of what we think are some of the most memorable riffs of all time. 


“Back in Black” – AC/DC 

 “Back in Black” was AC/DC’s tribute to their former singer, Bon Scott, who died suddenly in the same year the album was released. It was AC/DC’s first album with Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson. 


Purple Haze

One of The Hendrix Experience’s best known songs, “Purple Haze” features Jimi Hendrix’s use of his signature chords and a blend of blues and Eastern modalities.


Sweet Child o’ Mine

Famously, Guns ‘n Roses guitarist Slash came up with the riff for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as a joke, playing what he called “a circus melody” during a jam session warm up. Lead singer Axl Rose wrote lyrics for the song by the next day.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain said that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a result of trying to write a song that sounded like The Pixies. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band,” Cobain told Rolling Stone in 1994. “ We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”

“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

Guitarist Greg Leon (Motley Crue/Quiet Riot) said he helped Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, Randy Rhoads, come up with the riff for “Crazy Train” after showing him the riff for “Swington” by Steve Miller.  “I said: ‘Look what happens when you speed this riff up.’ We messed around, and the next thing I know he took it to a whole other level and end up writing the ‘Crazy Train’ riff”, Leon said in a 2012 biography on Rhoads.


“Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine 

RATM guitarist Tom Morello wrote this iconic drop D riff while giving a guitar student a lesson in Drop D tuning. He told Triple J in 2009 that he briefly paused the lesson to go record it. 

“Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

White Stripes singer and guitarist Jack White wrote the riff that would become “Seven Nation Army” while on tour in Australia. White originally wanted to save the riff in case he ever was called on to write a song for a James Bond movie – but thinking that the chances were slim, he incorporated it into a White Stripes song instead. Five years later, he did write a song for a Bond movie (“Another Way to Die” with Alicia Keys).

“All Right Now” – Free

English band Free’s drummer, Simon Kirke, said that their hit “All Right Now” was written following a lackluster gig. “. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser,” Kirke told a newspaper in 2008.. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows.”


“Beat It” – Michael Jackson

Jackson and producer Quincy Jones tapped Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen to add a guitar solo for a “rock song” for Thriller. The resulting riff is not only “fire” for how cool it is – according to a 2010 BBC piece on Jones, while Van Halen was recording his solo, the sound of his guitar caused the control room’s monitor speaker to catch fire. “This must be really good!” one of the sound engineers exclaimed.

“No One Knows” – Queens of the Stone Age

According to Queen of the Stone Age founding member Josh Homme, although the song “No One Knows” came out in 2002, the song’s iconic riff was created about five years prior. “We have patience with music, a year or five years down the road it may kind of rewrite itself and become what it’s supposed to be,” Homme said in a 2005 biography of the band.

“Can’t Stop” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

RHCP guitarist John Frusciante utilizes a reggae style – strumming only on the upbeat – during the bridge of this 2002 hit.

“Alive” – Pearl Jam

The riff for Pearl Jam’s debut single predates the formation of the band. Guitarist Stone Gossard, who was then playing in a band called Mother Love Bone, wrote the music for the song, which was then called “Dollar Short”. The band unfortunately dissolved following the overdose death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Gossard, bandmate Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCreedy recorded the song along with four other tracks on a demo in hopes of finding a singer and drummer. Vocalist Eddie Vedder, who was then working as a security guard, got a hold of the tape, recorded some vocals, and sent it back to the band in Seattle. The rest is rock history. 

“Walk This Way” – Aerosmith

“Walk This Way” was created during a soundcheck, while Aerosmith was opening for The Guess Who in Honolulu in 1974. Guitarist Joe Perry was fooling around with riffs, and singer Steven Tyler began scatting over the groove. They had the basics of a song by the time soundcheck was over. 

“Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream

Cream bassist Jack Bruce wrote the riff that would become the basis for “Sunshine of Your Love” after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform.  “I don’t think Jack [Bruce] had really taken him in before … and when he did see it that night, after the gig he went home and came up with the riff,” Cream guitarist Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone in 1988. “It was strictly a dedication to Jimi. And then we wrote a song on top of it.”


Guitar milestones to look out for

Are you starting to play guitar?

You’ll know when you’ve achieved these breakthroughs that you’re making progress. 


Having scales memorized  

If you’re learning guitar from scratch – with no prior musical education – learning and memorizing scales can feel like learning a foreign language. When you can start playing scales from memory with no help, you’re well on your way to mastering the guitar. 

Course: Learn Every Scale In 60 Minutes with RelationShapes!

Having chords memorized 

Chords are the building blocks of songs. Memorizing the shapes and names (and variations!) of chords takes time and practice – but when you’ve got them down, you’ll be able to play most songs. 

Course: 50+ Chord Progressions and Styles: Strumming Simplified

Learning your first song 

One of the most satisfying moments of learning guitar is when you can play a real song, start to finish. Here are some of the easiest songs you can learn on guitar. Most people start with “Smoke on the Water”. 


Lesson: Smoke on the Water


Mastering your first riff 

Once you’ve played through your first song, it’s time to start working on mastering riffs and licks – your first foray into playing leads. 

Course: 10 Must Know Rock Guitar Licks

Showing off your skills! 

Once you’re confident in your playing abilities, it’s time to show them off! Playing at a local open mic night in your city is a great way to get comfortable playing in front of other people, as well as to meet other musicians to play with!