For the un-initiated, going to and dealing with a music store can be a pretty intimidating experience. Many shops have attitudes that are of epic or legendary proportions, and they have literally become known for it! Many times, it’s really only meant as a joke, or in a lighthearted manner, but there are even stores that will have signs put up that say things like “no Stairway to Heaven allowed”, due to the fact that too many beginners sit down and play that as their first choice! I can recall sitting in a tiny Matt Umanov guitar shop on Bedford St. in Greenwich Village in the early ‘70s, and having them point to a sign for “no Anji” when I sat down and started playing that classic finger style piece! Talk about obscure!
Going into these shops, especially the hectic ones on 48th Street in NYC was a little intimidating for me in my early days, but I was always a lot better than my age, so I always knew that once I started playing, they’d show me some respect. In fact, I used to love to walk into a shop, grab a guitar, and then put on a show! Before you knew it, I’d have a ton of people listening to me. To this day, I love doing this, especially if I’m on the road somewhere and have no access to a guitar for some practice. I simply make sure to visit the local music store, and have a little picking session. Sometimes, it even results in a jam session with several other pickers!
The bottom line is to not be intimidated, and to go into a shop with a sense of purpose. This will make the salesman take real notice of you, and actually tend to your needs! I suppose they don’t really appreciate it if you just go in simply to play and not buy anything, but that’s the price they have to pay for having a music store; folks are going to come in, and they may simply end up playing as opposed to being a paying customer! In the end, you are always in charge, especially if you seem like you may want to buy something.
I remember being at the extremely intimidating and legendary Manny’s Music in Manhattan in 1967, and a guitar I had ordered and had a deposit on had finally arrived after 6 months. I came in, practically had to beg to play my own guitar, which by the way, came in the wrong color, bent a string, and the nut broke right out of the guitar! Needless to say, the nasty sales people suddenly gave me back the $200 hold I had put on it, and I went around the corner and found a wonderful 1952 Les Paul that was $250 less, and really introduced me to what a truly great guitar was!
So don’t be afraid to walk into those music stores…it should always be a positive experience. And remember, they are there to serve you! Have fun in your shopping sprees!