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When Was The Last Time You Were Actually In A Music Store?

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It's been almost a year for me but prior to that several years had passed.


I buy my strings online because they are cheaper and I don't have to drive anywhere.  The last 5 instruments I purchased were also online for conveinence.  It didn't used to be that way.


When I was a kid I'd hit many stores in a month.  Some of them were so inviting that I let the others go and simply shopped where my friends and co-workers worked.  Times were different back then.  One store had a bar with stools for the regulars next to the guitar tech's bench. We'd sit around talk about music and life and watch repairs being done. Much more interesting then birds in the part.


During the hieght of my musical career and financial success I would spend money like mad at guitar stores. Easily dropping over 1000 on music stuff.  It was free money. The bills were all paid I had a nest egg safely inplace and life was good.  I'm sure my 60+ guitars wouldn't have lasted long if I were married.  They didn't last but that is another story.


While my attention turned to trying to build a studio in the late 80's early 90's I'd still cruise the stores checking out guitars on the odd afternoon.  In the 2000's I even went back to an old music store haunt to take lessons again.  Simply to have a real jazz cat who could keep up with me and jam.


Last year while looking at jazz boxes (which later I decided against) I noticed something very odd.  There were only a quarter as many stores (maybe less) then there were not only 10 years ago.  Guitar Center had a little to do with that. And the internet moreso.  The other thing I notice is that stores where it was a time honored tradition to stand around and talk the talk were all about pushing a sale or pushing you out the door even though the store was near empty.


Do I feel guilty about putting guitar stores out of biz by shopping online?  The truth is I'm unsure. A lot of my friends who are now former teachers guitar store salesmen and techs are out of work. Because stores no longer could support them.

Then again "collecting" guitars used to be a rich mans game.  Most guitarists would have two guitars unless they hit the bigtime.


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I was in a "music store" (where instruments and associated paraphenalia can be found as opposed to a record store (where they don't sell records anymore!)) a few weeks ago when I found it on my way to a hairdresser. I had a good look around, and even bought a few new picks and a tambourine. I have my two guitars already, but still looked! I did see some nice ukes, including a 6 string uke I thought would be interesting to play around with.


I don't consider myself a performer, or even a player of any consequence, just enough to get by, but I still enjoy wandering around a store for us creatives.


Nice topic,



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Last year. The PA's speaker leads needed replacing. One jack was bent nearly 90 degrees, and both ends were held on with tape.


So I bought new ones. Month later I find the guys still using the old crap ones because they 'stretch a bit further'. Words fail me....

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I went to Guitar Center (instruments) David's Guitar Loft (instruments) and Euclid Records (actual records and CDs) in December. I never buy anything "musical" online. In fact, I only do some Christmas shopping online when the items I want aren't carried in local stores. I don't own a cell phone and I'm only on the internet during the day as it's my job. Both stores were a lot like they were back when I was a kid. Not to say internet shopping hasn't caused stores to go out of business and people to lose their jobs. Sadly, that happens just about every day. While I do have a growing disdain for the internet, it's the people looking to do things the easy way or wanting a discount that are putting people out of jobs. Easy versus Effort. Easy wins 9 times out of 10. 

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I was in a guitar store just two days ago. I use the internet to buy guitars but I don't buy guitars on the internet. I'll explain....


One of the biggest online guitar retailers in the UK is based near where I live. They also have a showroom where you can try and buy. I found the same guitar £50 ($75) cheaper on Amazon and then asked the local store to match the price. That way I get to try the actual guitar I will buy but pay internet prices. They agreed. Deal done and the local business benefitted.


The other reason that there are fewer stores is that the price/quality ratio is much more favourable to the consumer these days than it used to be. You either get more for your money or the price of guitars is falling so that stores have to sell more of them - and then they have to compete with the internet.


For my latest purchase I really wanted to buy from a small local store where I know the staff - but they had very little stock. Twenty years ago I would have had to buy what they had. Now I don't. They need to try harder.


But I don't want to buy a guitar online without trying it - different examples of the same model are all different from each other.


I sold a guitar on ebay recently too - collect only. I would have given the buyer his money back if he the guitar wasn't as I had described it.

Edited by Alistair
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I learned a lifetime of things buy hanging out at music stores. Everything from basic's of guitar setup, fret dressing and polishing and more. Granted much of it I could learn in a short while surfing youtube for tech videos.


While most of my experiences in guitar stores have been favorable not every guitar store deserves my hard earned cash.  GC is a terrible place to work. Low wages, piss pour managers.  They buy the junk stock from suppliers. Then don't even inspect it on many occassions before selling it to the customer. This has actually happened to a friend of mine I was there at the time.  I tried to get him to check a few stores before making that all important second guitar purchase.  He says to me no he wants to buy from GC because it's an established brand name as opposed to the mom and pops.  We go in he picks up a guitar and says "I want this one" doesn't even play it.  Sales guy says sure.  I stop things in motion and sit down with the guitar and amp. I start to recognize irregularities in the guitar, and tell my buddy to actually play it before he buys so he can get a feel for the neck.  He thinks I'm being an arse.  He plays it...acknowledges that the frets are uneven and buzzing like mad.  So we go through a few guitars of the same model till we find the "right one"  The sales man takes the guitar in back to box up the guitar and draws up a reciept.  My buddy and I both don't bother to look at the reciept.  Cash out , go home.  We get to his place and.... It's not the same guitar. The sales guy swaps guitars in back and writes up a reciept for a different guitar.  A serious switch and bait.  The guitar he actually sold my buddy was a "close out" which meant no refund or exchange.


Not the only occurance of something like that happening at that Guitar Center in or guitar centers in general.  For a long time GC's were keeping ma and pa stores busy with repair work.  Because they'd pull turn and burns.  Customers would also get problem amps effects etc at "deep discounts" which weren't reall a discount the way GC used financing to rob customers blind.  \


When one buys from a reputable ma pa some things that don't seem important really tend to add up.  http://musiccastle.com/mainFrame-1.htm  lives up to its promise everyday.  They test everything before it goes out on the floor. They never pull a bait and switch. They set up every guitar before they hang it. New and used.  It's funny,  back in the 80's I bought this signature guitar from them on special order. I was there the day it arrived and paid for it in advance but they wouldn't let me touch it till they had gone over every inch of the guitar.  They also do a six month follow up on guitars. the climate goes through all sorts of changes here. the first year of a guitar the neck can bow and back bow.  Bring your guitar in after your first six months and they'll do a neck adjustment reset the action and intonate all for free.  They also offer a first free lesson with first time buyers.  This is good for the store, good for the teachers and good for the kid who just got a guitar but hasn't learned anything yet. They have a local amp tech commissioned out for all electronic repairs.  Very reasonable if you've invested a great deal of money into an amp, pa, keyboard and don't want to throw it out when something can easily be fixed.  They also have rentals.  If you are just starting out as a performing musician PA gear costs a fortune.  Rather then take out a huge loan for a slow career start you can rent equipment from them.  I've rented from them in the past and the equipment worked right as rain at very reasonable rental costs.  They have layaways. 90 days same as cash.  They also buy (though it's not a good idea to sell something to a guitar store) used equipment. They warn people up front first "you'll make much more money selling it on ebay then selling it to us,,,etc   Music Castle earns my respect every day.  It's a drive to go there and they are small.  They don't carry fender brand products and I really really wanted a tele.  If this same tele was available at Music Castle I would have bought it in a minute.


Music Castle is does things differently then other stores.  The sales staff are salaried, not commissioned and not minimum wage. They don't turn and burn costumers which is common with commissioned sales staff.  While I could go on and on singing praises about Music Castle I could go much much further about bad shopping experiences at other ma/pa retailers.  Lawsuit fake gibsons, fenders, prs, ricks that carry the brand name but were not manufactuered by them. Intimidation and much much more.  Those type of retailers don't deserve my or anyone else's business and I'm happy to say many are gone (though a few still remain)  Going to music castle used to be a bi-weekly experience for me.  Talk with the guys, play some guitars, buy strings and picks. Share knowledge.  I can't do that anymore.  I haven't lived anywhere near the store in over 20 years.  I pass Six other guitar stores just to get to them.  And when I'm in town I usually don't have anything else to do there.  As well I'm without car.  The nearest guitar store (which I'm not a fan of) is ten miles away. I'm not going to walk 20 miles in the snow for a set of strings.

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In regards to buying online.  I've bought four guitars online and I knew (for the most part) what I was getting into.


Parker P44 via Sweetwater.

This was new and reasonably priced. The "P" used to designate make in Korea. Absolutely amazing. It arrived completely setup no extended frets. Stainless Steel frets. The action and intonation was right as rain out of the box. And....And it was in tune.  Sweetwater is a musical instruments retailer that knows it's products and knows it's clients.  Amazon is really to big to give a crap. While it is a bolt on and doesn't have that super tech fretboard super slim neck profile and carbon graphite stuff going on... For the rest of it this thing is pure parker. It was propably 40% under conventional brick and mortar store pricing and it was and still is a honey sweet guitar.  For awhile I was jamming with like minded guitar collectors. We often try each others guitars out for a little.  Every one of them had the jaw dropping experience when they played mine.  One who had never played a parker before bought the identical model after playing mine.  None of the local retailers had it.


Raven West 450 - Direct


Mine has a vine inlay.


Again amazing guitar.  Raven West guitars is basically this small luthier shop that farms out the heavy lifting to Korea then adds the finishing touches here in the states. The action was perfect out of the box.  The thing was close to being intune.  The intonation was perfect out of the box. It did require a little break in time to polish the frets.  Nickel frets. Frets come in all types of strength from very soft nickel to harder composites up to hardened stainless.  I accidentially dropped it hard and I nicked the 24th fret.  It's a fix that could be handled at say... music caslte in short time for about $30


Rondo SX Furrian.

Umm yeah looks pretty.  Started off being okay and I thought I could fix what I saw as being no brainer smaill stuff but two months later all hell broke out on the neck.


Fender Telecaster Blacktop - Musicians Friend / Ebay.$319 USD free shipping.

I got mail order Musician's Friends catalogs back in the 70's For a lot of musicians especially those serving in the armed services musicians friend was the only way to get any equipment.  I've mostly shy'd away from Musicians Friend.  This guitar is new. It was being sold with a flaw.  The model I have msrp's for 700 and usually is sold around 600.  The neck appears solid.  The frets are stainless steel (which I love) and are flawless. The action is a bit high and I need to intonate.  For a guy such as myself who knows how to do this stuff it's fine. For someone that doesn't know all guitars are not created equal and having the finishing touches applied at a reputable guitar store it may not be.  For most manufactures it would be hell doing the final setup work.  And that would be expressed in the price of the product at time of sale from the manufactuers.  Retailers both online and brick and mortar would need to carry on that price to consumers.

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To the good old days.


Your stories are reminicent of the 70's to me.


In Royal Oak there were four guitar stores, Music Caslte, Royal Music, Gordy's and Junkyard Guitars. 


Last time I was in music castle it was hanging on by a thread.  No teachers to be found (I actually used to teach there for awhile) I talked with the owner briefly and he claimed business was slow because it was spring.  He was the only one there but it also was right around noon on a tuesday.Usually there are always two people working the front.  That's where all the kids used to go to look and sometimes buy guitars and learn how to play guitar for the most part.  Nice guys, afforfable guitars, the music hub.


Royal Music is gone for good.  Well intentioned with money have tried to save Royal Music but it drained them.  Royal Music was the downtown place to go with a button down look. They too offer lessons and guitars (not that many) but they cater to the band/classical/jazz instrument crowd. Strings, woodwinds, brass..  No one ever got to play the guitars there unless escorted by a parent.  The did have some amazing jazz teacher and for a time a fairly good library of sheet music.  We had an "open campus" during high school and during lunch I'd often go in and browse the books they had. Usually some gruff guy would grab us and yell "Hey shouldn't you kids be in school"  we'd expain then he'd let us go. Once you got past the guard dogs so to speak you'd enter the bookstore area.  Cats.  They'd have cats roaming the books section.  The cats were friendly.


Gordy's.  Gordy originally worked at a long defunkt place called Meier's Music. It was a commisioned sales staff and they were very turn and burn. If they didn't smell the money when you walked in the door out the door your went.  With the exception of Gordy.  Gordy would lose money on a sale if he thought it would earn loyalty.  I bought my first amp from gordy.  A young fella shy on cash who needed an amp bad. Gordy dug out this broken amp sitting in the back. He opened it up and fixed it on the spot. He turned around and sold it to me for $30 back then you couldn't touch the ckeapest of amps new or used any quality for less then $150.  But that was Gordy.  Gordy had a virtual inventory of everything he had in stock and most of the competitors. If he didn't have it he'd tell you where you could find it and about how much it costed.  Gordy knew everyone and Everyone knew Gordy.

People would like up only to deal with Gordy at that store and ignore the other sales staff.  Gordy was fired from Meier and with a little financing he started his own store just out of town.  His store put Meiers out of business.  Eventually Gordy moved Gordy's Music back into Royal Oak.  The store is extremely small compared to his former ones.  


Because everyone knows Gordy and I mean everyone in the Detroit area. And most of the other stores are friendly with Gordy.  He started "The Guitar Show"  It's not namm.  It's started off as a classic / rare unique show where dealers would come from everywhere to peddle there stuff and people wanting to sell thier collectables.  Stores from all over the country will set up shop for the Guitar Show.  Japanese investors come with body guards and suitcases of cash to buy collectables to take home and store in a vault.  Guitar Heroes (real ones) would come to the event. Some would do seminars and some would just shop and talk.  I had a Gibson 335 that I brought to the show one year that was signed by B.B. King.  I wept. I met several big names like Joe Satriani, Stu Hamm, Paul Gilbert, Alvin Lee, Robin Trower and on and on and on.  Simply walking around the floor looking at guitars.  The guitar show still goes on but it's not the same. It's all flea market first act guitars and it's moved about a half hour away.  But only Gordy could have made the Guitar Show happen.


As for Junkyard.  They came to the scene later and... I have less then favorable things to say about them on a wide range of subjects. Including and most especially selling fakes as real instruments..  They are all but dead and the owner must have an alternative source of income to keep what little of a store there is alive.

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Personally, I think that there are four kinds of "retail stores" on this planet now:

  1. Mass-market.  Doesn't matter where you shop.  Thank god you're here.
  2. Those that cater to people who don't give a damn what the store sells, nor how good or bad the stuff inside actually is, as long as they can be seen making a purchase.
  3. Those that cater to people who not only don't know how to actually do something, but who also don't know that they don't know.  "Home Depot," for example.  Where else could you find someone telling you, with a perfectly straight face, that you can reliably break a ceramic tile at just the right spot, instead of cutting the damn thing with an appropriate saw?  Where else could you find seven different power drills, each at different price-points, accompanied by bits that will break off in the hole the first time you try to use them?
  4. Those that actually cater to the trade.  The buyer knows the product line, knows what he wants, has the money with which to buy it, and cannot be B.S'd.

For a very long time, music was "mass-market."  You walked into the store, picked up an 8-track tape that you liked, and bought it and walked out.  Now that this business is no longer hard-linked to physical media, the "physical media-oriented" outlets have all dried up.  (The only ones left are General Merchandisers who also sell physical media, right alongside magazines, books, and game-cartridges.)


What's left is:  "the trade."  You know what you want, you know where to find it, they don't have to advertise.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I see a lot of luthier shops online and I have to ask myself "How do they stay in business?"


I wish I had mad skills like the guys in the stewart mac videos.... and tools.  Actually I'd just settle for a girlfriend/wife with the skills and have that be her hobby. I did date a woman who had a knack for refinishing and upholstery. I always tried to get her into guitar repair but she wouldn't budge.

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