A music store or musical instrument store is a retail business that sells musical instruments and related equipment and accessories. In United States and Canada, most music stores in the 2010s sell a range of electric instruments (e.g., electric guitars), instrument amplifiers (e.g., guitar amplifiers); electronic instruments (e.g., synthesizers); drum kits (including drums, cymbals and percussion instruments) and acoustic classical, concert band and jazz musical instruments such as saxophones, trumpets and violins. In addition, stores typically sell (and sometimes rent) the sound reinforcement system and PA system gear used in live concert performances and the sound recording equipment used to record music, such as microphones and digital recorders.
In the 2010s, music stores can be "bricks and mortar" stores (either individual small businesses or chain stores, which may be a regional or national chain); online musical instrument stores, which consist of a website describing the merchandise, various online payment systems, and shipping or delivery systems; or hybrid stores that have both "bricks and mortar" stores and an online store. Some "bricks and mortar" music stores also provide services for a fee, such as music lessons, musical instrument repair and guitar amplifier repair.
In the 2010s, general music stores typically carry a range of instruments used in popular music and traditional music such as the electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, guitar strings, instrument amplifiers (guitar amplifier, bass amplifier and keyboard amplifier), electronic effects (e.g., distortion pedals), electronic keyboards (including digital pianos, stage pianos, clonewheel organs and synthesizers), drum kit components, which include drums, cymbals, drum and cymbal stands and drum accessories (drum sticks, drum heads, etc.) and percussion instruments (e.g., tambourine, shakers, etc.). Some stores carry other types of stringed instruments, such as mandolins and ukuleles.
General music stores also typically carry sound reinforcement system gear such as microphones, small-to mid-sized mixing consoles designed for live sound, speaker enclosures, PA systems, power amplifiers and mic stands and sound recording equipment such as studio microphones, recording-oriented mixing consoles, digital recording systems, digital audio workstations and digital audio software (e.g., softsynths, virtual instruments, ProTools, etc.).
General music stores may also sell brass instruments (e.g., trombone, trumpet, etc.), woodwind instruments (flute, clarinet, saxophone, etc.) and instruments from the violin family (violin, viola, cello and bass), but there is usually a smaller selection of these instruments, as compared with the guitar, bass and drum sections.
Some music stores also sell sheet music, including popular music, traditional music and Broadway songs, movie soundtrack scores, classical music pieces and instrument methods and studies ("etudes"). In the 2010s, some stores also sell instructional music DVDs and play-along CDs, which typically contain sheet music with the written melodies, which the performer can play or sing while a recording of each song or piece's accompaniment plays on a CD player.
Some music stores also provide services to customers for a fee, such as instrument maintenance and repair, amplifier and sound gear repairs, and/or music lessons. Some music stores rent guitars, basses, amplifiers, stage pianos and PA system equipment.
Larger cities may have a large enough population to support both general music stores and specialized music stores. Music stores in smaller towns tend to be general music stores, because there is not enough of a customer base to support specialized music stores. In the 2010s, general music stores have had to face competition from online music stores, which offer a huge selection of instruments and equipment.
One common specialty store is the piano store, which typically sells a range of upright pianos and grand pianos. In the 2010s, some piano shops also sell grand pianos equipped with a digital player piano mechanism that can play back a recorded performance by activating the hammers. In the 2010s, some piano stores sell high-end digital pianos.
Another specialty shop is the "violin shop", which, despite its name, often sells various violin family instruments (violin, viola, cello and often double bass, and the bows, strings, rosin, chinrests, and other accessories used with these instruments). Violin shops are often operated by luthiers (violinmakers) who make violin family instruments and bows for sale. Luthiers also do maintenance and repairs on violin family instruments and bows.
Sheet music stores sell printed classical music for songs, instrumental solo pieces, chamber music, and scores for major symphonies and choral works, along with instrumental method books, "etudes" (studies) and graded musical exercises. Many sheet music stores also carry printed music songs for popular music genres such as rock, pop and musical theatre including individual songs and collections of songs grouped by artist, musical, or genre. Music for guitarists or electric bass players may be in tabulature notation, which depicts where on the instrument the performer should play a line. In the 2010s, sheet music stores often sell legal, copyright-compliant jazz fake books. Sheet music stores often carry some practice accessories, such as metronomes, music stands and tuning forks.
Other single category stores
Specialized music stores that sell only guitars, only basses or only drums are more likely to be found in major cities. Guitar and bass-focused stores typically sell instruments and the amplifiers and effects pedals used with these instruments. Near Orlando, Florida, there is a bass guitar specialty store. Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, has a specialty music store that only sells drums and percussion equipment.
Pro audio stores sell and in many cases, rent sound reinforcement system components, PA systems, microphones and other audio gear. Some stores also rent "backline" musical gear, such as stage pianos and bass amps.
Prior to the widespread availability of lightweight electronic clonewheel organs in the 1980s and 1990s that emulate the sound of a heavy, electromechanical Hammond organ, many cities had organ stores which sold large electric and electronic theatre organs and spinet organs made by Hammond, Lowrey and other manufacturers. These organs were sold for use in private homes and in churches; electric and electronic organs were popular for churches, because they cost significantly less than a pipe organ.
Some music stores sell used, vintage or collectible instruments and sound gear, often using a consignment model, in which the store only pays the seller for her instrument when it is sold. Even though there has been a major shift towards the use of electronic and digital instruments and sound gear in the 2000s, there is still a strong interest in vintage instruments amongst musicians who play blues, roots rock, Americana and indie rock. Vintage instruments that are sought out include 1950s and 1960s Hammond organs, Fender Bassman amps and electric guitars, 1970s Fender Rhodes electric pianos and old analog effects, such as 1970s and 1980s stompbox pedals. Stores that mostly sell used equipment may also sell some new merchandise, such as new guitar strings, patch cords and mic cables. Conversely, some stores that mostly sell new equipment may also sell some vintage, used equipment (typically a small number of high-priced collectible instruments).
In the 2000s, some music stores sell their instruments and sound gear through a website that contains digital photos of the equipment, which are grouped into categories (e.g., electric guitars, amplifiers, PA gear). Each photo of a product is accompanied by the name and model number of each item, a description of each product's features and the price. The sophistication of online music stores varies. Some online music stores have a single photo of the item, the product name and price, and a few bullets about the features. On the other hand, some online music stores have interactive Web 2.0 features, such as 360 degree virtual reality-style images of the products, in which the viewer can "turn" the product around to see the back and sides, online comments sections where customers can review their purchases and additional music-related content, such as articles on musical instruments or sound gear written by store staff. Patrons pay electronically at online music stores using a credit card, PayPal or other electronic payment systems. The goods are shipped through the mail or by express delivery companies such as FedEx. Some music stores sell their products solely online. In other cases, some stores operate both a "bricks and mortar" store (or chain) and an online store.
- eBay sells used instruments and sound gear
- Electronics stores may sell some instruments, typically entry-level electronic keyboards and electric guitars and guitar amps
- Pawnshops often sell used instruments, amps and sound gear
- Professional audio stores primarily sell sound reinforcement system equipment, but some also rent "backline" instruments such as stage pianos and bass amplifiers