Review of Music Stores: How to Pick the Right One for Your Needs?

Isaac Franzke, Student of Journalism

Learning how to play an instrument is hard but choosing the right music store can greatly help you when starting off.

Locally, three main music retailers exist that you might think of: Guitar Center, Heid Music and Island Music. Knowing what you are looking for and how far you are in you musical journey will determine what music store is best for you.

I based my judgment on three criteria: price range, selection and customer service. 

First, I visited Guitar Center of Appleton. As the name states, it truly is the guitar center. They have a wide selection of guitars ranging from $100 to over $3,000. But if you are looking for drums, they have a very wide selection from acoustic and electric drums to cajons and a dedicated cymbal room. On top of having the largest selection of drums out of the stores, they have the largest selection of electronics from keyboards to microphones and all the recording hardware you need. According to  Guitar Center’s website: “Guitar Center is a leading retailer of musical instruments, lessons, repairs and rentals in the U.S.,” which makes them the perfect choice for any new musician starting on his or her musical journey. While they might not be the most knowledgeable workers out of the three stores, they are kind and helpful nevertheless. 

After Guitar Center, I visited Heid Music of Appleton. What sets Heid apart from other music retailers is just how wide of a selection of every type of instrument they have. With dedicated, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, band, and orchestra rooms you are almost guaranteed to find what you are looking for. Heid is not a run of the mill music shop,  but it is involved in local music programs in order to bring the joy of music to more people. “Heid Music understands the importance of giving back to the community. My students, fellow music teachers, and I are indeed fortunate to have this valuable professional resources so close,” said Scott Teeple, a music professor at UW-Madison. Due to the nature of being a retailer that sells cowbells to grand pianos, you are going to be spending $200-$5,000 and up depending on what you are looking at. That is what makes Heid such a great choice because they have everything you need in every price range. Want an acoustic guitar under $200? Heid’s got you covered. Want a $40,000 grand piano? You bet your top dollar they have it. Along with a great selection and vast price range they have amazing workers. If you go to Heid music with a question and leave as confused as when you came in, then chances are you were not at Heid music. Whether your guitar is rattling or you do not know what violin is best for your daughter beginning to play, they will have exactly what you need.

Finally, I went to Island Music of Neenah. Island Music stands out from the other stores because of how specialized its selection is. They have some ukuleles and some orchestral instruments.  If Island was to be defined in one word, it would be guitars.  According to Island Music, it is  “Locally owned and operated by musicians for musicians.”  After shopping and talking to the workers, the fact that the workers are also musicians is prevalent more so at Island than in any other store. The store is not really a store — more like a guitar collector’s personal collection. Many of the instruments have their own story, which is why Island is the place to go if you are a more seasoned musician. From a 1930s electric four-string plectrum banjo guitar crossover to 1970s Japanese lawsuit guitars. The workers at Island will get in any cool guitar they can get their hands on, and they will know everything about it from the year it was made to the factory where it was made. Island music has a selection like no other. While they do not have everything the other stores have, they have an upper hand on the other stores because of its amazing guitars. My personal favorite guitar that Island carries would have to be the Cole Clark brand of guitars. They are one of if not the only retailers in Wisconsin to sell these beautiful instruments. Cole Clarks are played by many famous bands from Jack Johnson and Five Seconds of Summer, to Sublime With Rome to name a few. And that is one of the examples of the rare guitars that Island Music has. At Island, you can find many cheaper guitars and ukuleles around the $100 mark, but you are likely to spend $500-$3,000 for many instruments.

While every store had something that made them stand out, Heid Music is the best option for the average person. From a huge selection of different instruments at many different price points to knowledgeable workers that will make it their duty to make sure you have no unanswered questions and no doubt you are making the right purchase.

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