Tuesday, November 25, 2014

7 People You Might Meet at a Guitar Store

Posted By on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 3:38 AM

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Photo by H. Michael Karshis
Fact: All American guitars made before 1968 are magical and were blessed by wizards. Paying $25,000 for one makes total sense when viewed in that light.
Any guitar player will occasionally venture into a guitar shop or musical-supply store that specializes in guitars. They can be wonderlands to anyone who likes to play guitar and wants to see firsthand what kind of gear is available. Like a comic-book store is a playground for comic fans, a guitar shop is a similar experience for guitar players.

But these paradises of gear-lust are also weird environments with their own social order and rules of conduct. There are also quite a few characters you're likely to encounter if you spend much time there. Some of them are fun people to be around, and others will make you wonder if they have a secret doll-themed torture room in their homes. Proceed carefully.

In my neck of the woods, there are really only a couple of different basic types of guitar shops, but they're different enough to make note of those differences.

First, there are the small, independently run shops, which were common until the big places like Guitar Center began encroaching into most larger cities. You can still find some version of these mom-and-pop stores in a lot of places, many being the "all-around music shop" that sells a little of everything from school band instruments to guitar gear. Usually they don't specialize in the really expensive stuff.

Then there are the expensive vintage and boutique-style stores, which generally have pricey vintage gear and high-end newer stuff. Some of them feel like museums, and a person might experience sticker shock the first time he or she walks around one. It's disconcerting to realize that the guitars you're brushing past are all more expensive than a new car.

Most of the people working at either of these places are similar to the types of people you'll find at the big stores (more on them shortly), but you're much more likely to encounter one type of individual at the mom and pop stores:

7. THE MOODY OWNER PERSON It seems like a lot of independent guitar shops are owned by moody older guys. That's just been my experience; I'm sure it's not universal. But with places like Guitar Center breathing down their throats, I'm sure keeping a small music business afloat is a cutthroat and stressful endeavor.

I've been in several guitar stores where some gruff owner-person started yelling at his employees or just was an unfriendly ass to customers for whatever reason. Again, I'm sure these folks are probably having to make blood sacrifices to Dark Gods just to stay in business, so maybe the twitchy eye and mean temperament just goes with the territory.

Now, on to the Guitar Centers of the world, the giant "big box"-style stores that seem to have a little bit of everything available. Some people love those places, and others hate them. I've personally found that Guitar Centers vary in quality depending on location. Some are like navigating the nine levels of hell just to get in and out with a new set of strings, and others are fairly nice to shop at.

I have one tip for shopping at any big guitar chain, or small shop, for that matter: Shop during off hours. There's no reason to ever go to a Guitar Center on a weekend, for instance -- or anytime around a holiday, for that matter. You're setting yourself up for an unpleasant experience, as it's almost certain to be stuffed to the gills with soccer moms and kids.

The cacophony of twenty thirteen-year-olds simultaneously trying out high-gain amps playing badly and out of tune is not something easily forgotten. But go into the same store at 10 a.m. on a Monday, and you're probably going to be the only geezer walking around the place.

These stores also vary in the quality of their employees for some reason, and you're likely to encounter a few basic character types. People like:

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6. THE SALES PRO These guys are pretty common in the big stores, it seems like at least a couple of them work at each big guitar retailer I've ever been to. I guess they get paid on commission or earn bonuses or something, because they're the music-store equivalent of the used-car salesman.

Once you're in their clutches, good luck, because there's a pretty good chance they're going to give you the hard sell on something. You walked in knowing you just wanted an entry level student guitar for a niece of yours, but the Sales Pro knows that what you really need is that $2,400 Les Paul hanging on the wall. Then there's...

5. THE KNOW-NOTHING This employee is common in the big music stores. Since it's probably an entry-level retail job with high turnover, many people working at these places just don't know much about the gear they're selling. You ask a few specific questions, or have a certain amount of knowledge already, and it will become obvious that these guys don't know anything about the stuff they're trying to sell.

It's understandable in a store with thousands of different items, but you aren't likely to get much good info from some guy who only knows electric guitars are stringed instruments that plug into squarish speaker-box things, and they make sound. But the Know-Nothing is still better to deal with than...

4. THE SALES LIAR The Sales Liar is often just a more ambitious version of the Know-Nothing. Sometimes these guys actually think they know what they're talking about, and in other cases they'll just spin any old line of bullshit in order to make a sale. Ask one of them anything specific about a guitar or manufacturer, and you will hear all sorts of bogus information.

That Fender Squier that is marked as being made in Indonesia is really "better" than the American Strats being made these days, at least according to the Sales Liar. You'll discover that great guitars are still being built today, but only if you're willing to spend at least $1,000. Inconsistencies and obvious misinformation will be passed off as fact by these folks, so beware.

These days it's relatively easy to research gear before ever setting foot in a store, which is the best way to counter these people's dishonest tendencies. You're also likely to meet...

Story continues on the next page.

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