The Guide To Choose A Right Guitar Store

A guide to tell if the music store you're planning to buy from is worth your money.

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If you live in a large urban center, and are a musician who makes frequent purchases, it can be confusing to find a music store that is both conveniently located, and has quality service. This is a guide to noticing signs where music stores will skimp on the quality. It is up to you to determine the convenience factor. When you first walk into a music store, you should notice several distinct things. The first of these being how organized the store is. You should see several distinct areas seperating different sections. Woodwinds and brass should be in one part, and the guitars should be seperated, so that when you're reaching for a fancy guitar to try out, you're not bumping into a sax player wearing shades, carrying an instrument far more expensive than you are. If you've never been to this particular store before, you should have a few quick "field tests" to determine how fair the pricing is. You could try any one or a few of the following: Start with a 'Base' product. This could be a pack of guitar strings, an amp, a certain guitar, whatever you want. Know what the manufacturer's list price is, and preferably what stores around it are selling it for. This works better with guitars. If you see that the price is ridiculously higher, even if its "on sale", get the hell out of that store. If you're going to be spending 20 bucks on a pack of guitar strings that should cost no more than 10, you shouldn't do so unless you have no other choice. I have personally been forced into a situation, spending thirty dollars on a pack of five reeds, which shouldn' t have costed more than 15. It's probably better to wait until other stores get that item in stock than to spend too much. When in the guitar or bass section, you should see at least 3 or 4 stools sitting next to amplifiers, with cords in them. Some music stores will require that you ask a staff to get a guitar down so you can play. This should be a good thing - it shows the music store is committed to not having stupid kids come in, fool around, and dent guitars. On the other hand, if the staff clerk seem to follow you around (especially if you're a teenager) and are very suspicious of you, it probably isn't the best store to be in. The staff should be friendly, and willing to help, but not overbearing. Another sign to look for quality control is in the acoustic guitar room. If you're going to be buying an acoustic, its just about a must that the store keep the acoustics in a seperate room. If you're ever seen cigar stores, they keep their cigars in a specially humidified room. The same goes for acoustics. There should be a sign on the door saying, "Please keep door closed at all times - humidified room". To keep the guitars in top condition, there has to be a certain amount of moisture in the room's air. This is especially true during winter, where the air gets especially dry. Seeing a humidifier that is on is a good sign that this particular store is committed to keeping their products in perfect condition for you to buy. Finally, you should notice the selection. If the music store seem to have a bunch of pianos, a few acoustics shoved along the wall, and has a pitiful attempt to appeal to woodwind players, with a sax and clarinet in a display case, you may not want to even buy guitars there. A music store should either try to make a clear specialty, or have three floors to cater to everyone. If the store has a moderate amount of guitars, amps drums, and a smaller woodwinds/PA department, they're trying to cater to everyone, without being pathetic. Generally, these stores are good for the casual musician, but their staff won't have such great knowledge for an individual instrument. If you're going to make small purchases, it's perfectly fine to do it at stores like above. However, if you're going to be buying an amp, and aren't perfectly sure of what you want, then you should make the big trip to the big downtown stores for advice. The type of stores I'm talking about are the ones which have a whole floor of nothing but electric guitars and amps, then a second room filled with acoustics and dedicated staffs for only the acoustics room, and an upper level with drums from floor to ceiling, and a walk-in closet sized room for woodwinds. The staff hired there are generally judged to a higher standard, as serious musicians will come in looking for advice. Higher end stores like these may have lower prices, due to the fact more people will go there to buy more gear. You should find most, if not all of the brands you know about in a store where you plan to make big purchases, including lesser known brands, and brands you've never heard of. Wide selection is the key, without going overboard at taking a little bit of every kind of instrument and cramming them into a small corner of a mall. If you don't see staff talking to players about the gear they're playing on (babble about, "this will bring out the single coils in the strat more" or "you probably won't get great distortion, but the clean is amazing"). If the staff are willing to point out a downside to something you're playing on, you're in the right place. If you're a beginner and looking for a new guitar, don't let them take an entry-level guitar and put you on a high-level tube amp. Even worse, don't let them suggest a Gibson when all you need is a Squier or Yamaha Pacifica. All in all, a music store's quality is a balance between staff and selection. If you walk into a store with a modest selection, but the clerk will say "Hi, how ya doin'?" when you walk in, you're probably in a better place than a store with a larger selection, but the staff will follow you around for fear you're going to set fire to the place. The decision of where to spend the money is up to you, but remember, its your money, and you shouldn't let anyone hassle you into spending money on something you're not completely comfortable with. Thanks for reading the article, and I hope the advice will serve you well. Peace Out, - Backup Guitar.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Emenius Sleepus
    awesome article dude, even though I've been playing for 2 years or so this is a major help, also cuz I have to move and find new guitar stores at the new place...
    alaskanbassist
    What is the point of writing this article? You seem to just be writing what kind of store you like. Besides everyone knows to leave the store when a pack of strings is twenny bucks. say stuff ppl don't know.
    StratClap89
    man, good article, I have a place 15 minutes from my house called 'Guitar and Banjo Studio' they specialize only in guitars basses and amps, with a few keyboards and drum sets rolled in. The second i walk through the door i get service and they dont try to push me into buying something i dont want or dont need, its an awesome place. Now the other place i go is mostly brass and woodwinds and percussion with a few guitars and basses and amps, but lots of music. i mostly go there for my brass needs though, but when i make a trip all the way out there i cant help but take some time and sit down and play a little. Oh yeah, and one more thing, have you ever tried finding stores who surplus and do an almost warehouse type deal? alot of times you can get really awesome prices from places that overstock and buy in bulk, just check it out before you leave cause alot of places will deal warranties with you. My place gave me a 5 year warranty on my practice amp and free restringing, tuning, cleaning and minor repair on the guitar for as long as i own my guitar. Plus if my guitar ever breaks to the point where they have to mail order parts they will give me a guitar to use until mine returns. I love that place man, i really do.
    Riqz85
    lucky you guys... I have 3 music shops and all of them are shitty whith shitty employees that never help you and the prices are all high and all the same in all 3 shops... They probably get together and decide what price they are gonna put on something
    Bassist666
    there is about 4 stores near me 1 has wide rande of great guitars basses and amps and accesories but you cant realy move in it so you cant test out guitars or amps. another has great space great amps great guitars and basses but the problem is that its overpriced and they have no beginers stuff its all professional stuff and the employeesthink im gonna steal the fender jazz that i stare at every time i go in.
    JB-Punkrocker
    yeah there are like 3 music stores where i live. one is a pure guitar and bass shop with a seperate room for acoustics and drums upstairs, i like this one the best, its got loads of selection. one is a music shop with anything, a seperate room for guitars, acoustics and basses tho then a room with saxs and stuff and a spooky upstiars palce with classical instruments and stuff and drums. then theres a small shop that sells mainly guitars but its tiny. its packed. my fave is sams. www.samsguitargallery.com
    pidevice
    A very good article, I enjoyed reading it, you are right. I love the little store I frequent, they have Tony one of the best techs in Nashville. The Gibson tourist trap in the mall is a joke, their prices are three times what Tony's store asks. Though you can watch them make dobros at Gibson's store.
    boxcarblink41
    this ******* didnt leave me alone when i wanted to try out the avt 100, and see the goddamn volume! i wanted to tell him to get lost but didnt want to be rude to that mutha***en dickface. now i want more volume goddammit!
    Jessen
    I have a whole bunch of music stores in driving distance, and some I like, some I dont. But this is a pretty good article, I just wish I had $$ to go out to those nice stores to buy stuff
    simonparry
    where i live there are only 2 music stores, 1 has anything put anywhere and is basically a mess and doesnt have better quality stuff and will try and sell you crap things. the other, where i prefer to go, is more organised but do follow you around and try and sell whatever you pick up. once i needed a new strap and asked if i cud try it on and then to other ppl that work there came over and started to tell me haow great the guitar id picked up was ther booth over priced tho
    BibaLin
    Nice Article, u deserve a 4.5 out of 5. Nice figurative Language and good advice, I'm thinkin about getting a new guitar at a Guitar Center about 7 miles away from where I live. It seems they have a few flaws. I asked them for Fender, Ibanez, or Yamaha guitar string sets and they gave me a GHS Fatties set. I bought them anyway because i am a nice person, thinking i should try new things . They had like 1 or two acoustics out for display, but all the rest were in the humidified room like u said. Great Job Man!
    BibaLin
    Nice Article, u deserve a 4.5 out of ten. Nice figurative Language and good advice, I'm thinkin about getting a new guitar at a Guitar Center about 7 miles away from where I live. It seems they have a few flaws. I asked them for Fender, Ibanez, or Yamaha guitar string sets and they gave me a GHS Fatties set. I bought them anyway because i am a nice person, thinking i should try new things . They had like 1 or two acoustics out for display, but all the rest were in the humidified room like u said. Great Job Man!
    BassyGuitarist
    This makes more sense than most of the inane (not insane, inane) pyschobabble that I get out of most *******s. 5 outta 5.
    bigone_252005
    This is so true when ever I go into a guitarcenter they ask what I want to spend on a guitar, they say hello how are you doing when you walk in, and their are people that go around and ask if you have any question and they ask what do you want in a guitar or what you are looking for.
    greenguitargirl
    well...there are no guitar/music shops for about an hour and a half's drive..cept the place where I can get strings..so it kinda sucks