Whether you shop at a place like Andy’s Music in Chicago, Corner Music in Nashville, or a Guitar Center in your hometown, it’s good to know the best ways to shop as well as the unspoken rules of guitar shops. With some basic tips and guitar shop etiquette, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip to the music shop while also keeping your name off the “Do Not Enter” list.
Tip: Don’t Underestimate The Employees
Let’s get something straight: Most music shop employees are either musicians themselves or mega fans. So, next time you’re in your local music store, seek out the salesperson for advice. Of course, it’s also good to be upfront with them if you’re just perusing.
Most guitar store employees tend to keep up on industry trends as well as new equipment and solutions to common problems. These are the people who have all the knowledge on the latest gear, gadgets, and instruments, so don’t be afraid to talk to them!
Don’t Blast Amps in the Main Room
Ever enter a music store and hear somebody just whaling terribly on an electric guitar? You know the person — They have the amp up all the way and are either blaring some blues riffs or the one lick of death metal they learned five years ago.
This person is annoying, and you should try not to be this person. But what if you really need to test out a guitar or amp’s capabilities? Read on!
Tip: Ask About Private Rooms
If you need to test an amp or guitar to really get a feel for sound, most music shops have small soundproof rooms where you can really crank it up.
If your local shop doesn’t have this, ask the salesperson if they mind if you cranking up the amp. Chances are, they’ll be fine with it if they know you’re interested in purchasing. The key is to ask first!
Etiquette: Turn Down the Amp Before Plugging
Ever hear a loud pop while in a music shop? That’s the sound of somebody plugging in or unplugging a guitar without taking the proper steps. That’s the sound of somebody breaking rule # 4.
The way to avoid this loud pop is to either turn down the volume on the amp while plugging in the guitar, or to simply put the amp into Standby Mode while plugging in. Once you’re plugged in, turn the amp back to On, or slowly turn the volume back up. Remember this, and you’ll never be that guy.
Etiquette: It’s a Music Shop, Not Your Private Show
Soooo you’re super good at guitar. And woah, you have a killer voice too, huh? That’s great, but I’m just here to pick up some strings, not for your one-man rendition of Mumford and Sons’ latest album.
There’s nothing wrong with playing instruments at the guitar shop, but when your only reason for playing is to gain listeners or to show off, then maybe it’s time you get a YouTube channel, a SoundCloud channel, or some gigs. Those are legit audiences and will always appreciate your tunes more than passive customers.
Tip: Take Your Time
When it comes time to purchase an instrument, it’s really important you dig what you’re playing. Especially when you’re about to lay down some major cash, it’s perfectly acceptable to take the time to make sure you like the instrument or gear.
There’s no need to rush this process, and any good salesperson will be totally cool with you taking all the time you need to decide. You can even bring your own amp if you want to test out sound quality!
Etiquette: Put It All Back After Playing
Once you’re done jamming out, don’t be the person who leaves that super expensive Taylor or Fender leaning precariously up against a swivel-stool. We’ve all seen act two. Spoiler alert: The guitar falls over.
If this is your local shop and you’re sloppy with other people’s instruments, you’ll quickly be labeled as that person. Take the extra time to put back every instrument you’ve played. It takes two seconds and shows that you respect the shop.
Tip: Software Over Hardware
Next time you’re in the market for pedals, effects pads, and other equipment, consider the option of an iPad in combination with music apps. What’s quickly becoming the new wave of effects and looping, iPad music docks like Alesis iO Dock II transforms your iPad into a fully functional interface.
With a variety of inputs such as Midi, XLR, and ¼ inch, you can plug all your instruments right into the dock. Grab an app like Lemur, slide your iPad into this dock, connect an instrument, and you’re set to record or play live. Most music shops will have an entire section devoted to iPad recording equipment.
Etiquette: Close The Door!
Most likely, your guitar shop has a super decked humidity-controlled acoustic guitar room. These rooms exist to keep these acoustic guitars in their optimal condition. Playing music in these rooms is great — the acoustics are unlike anywhere else making for a super bright, reverb-filled sound.
But make sure, when you enter this room, that you shut the door. It’s very important the temperature stays regulated and that the humidity is controlled. Plus, if you close the door, you can play to your heart’s content knowing you’re in your own little acoustic paradise.
The Etiquette of Etiquettes: Don’t Play Stairway To Heaven
The reason so many music stores have a silent ban on this song is because it’s the first riff many people learn. So therefore, it’s one of the most common songs heard in the shops. In the 1970s, many British guitar shops actually banned the song. This, of course, is also where the classic Wayne’s World bit comes from.
But for real, if it’s all you know, them jam on my friend. It’s a cool song, and you should be glad you can play it. And, in a way, it’s almost a rite of passage to play Stairway to Heaven in a guitar shop. I say, do it once, and get it out of your system.
Well there you have it. Tips and etiquette that will, no doubt, make you a superior music shop customer. Now it’s your turn. What did I miss? Can you think of any other tips or bits of etiquette? Maybe other songs guitar shops should ban? Let us know!
By John Lombard