Online shopping may be all the rage, but nothing beats going into a real guitar store to try your next instrument. Especially if you’re about to drop some serious money on a vintage classic.
In this article we’ve highlighted some of the best guitar stores around the world for you to discover.
Judging great guitar shops around the world is a challenging task.
Usually, when you judge the “best” stores, you are looking for stores that have the largest inventories, offer the most reasonable prices, and can get the items you want in the least amount of time.
However, guitar shopping isn’t always like that.
Sometimes, guitar aficionados are looking for their dream guitar and not just another serviceable instrument.
So, many of the best guitar stores on the planet do not really offer that Amazon-like convenience that many shoppers are used to, and there are no “price match” guarantees.
In most cases, a serious jazz guitarist is not going to find the guitars they are looking for at their local Guitar Center. Nor are they likely to find them at the local shop in town.
Many of the guitars that blues and jazz musicians are looking for can only be found in vintage guitar shops or are carried new by retailers who carry an extensive inventory.
Compiling this list, we tried to find those guitar stores that have the instruments and amps that players really want to play or offer unique shopping experiences that make guitar players rave about how great these stores are.
Gruhn Guitars, Nashville, TN
Located in famous Music City, USA, Gruhn Guitars is a must-see destination for anyone serious about guitar.
Whether you’re looking for rare vintage guitars, or brand-new instruments by leading manufacturers, Gruhn Guitars has them in stock, along with vintage amps and whatever other stringed instruments you can think of.
Just because they are located in Nashville, it does not mean that you cannot find a great vintage archtop hollow body here.
In fact, just a quick look on their website and you will see dozens of them from manufacturers like Gibson and Gretsch and a couple of Rickenbacker hollow body guitars as well.
Being in Music City means that Gruhn must be adaptable to changes in the music scene and they encourage customers to take time and get a feel for a guitar before they buy it.
We have the feeling that Gruhn really does want to sell you the guitar that inspires you to make your best music.
Nico Nico Guitars, Tokyo
A five-minute walk from Shibuya Station, Nico Nico Guitars has been in business for over 25 years, providing what their CEO calls the “thrill” of finding new and rare guitars.
“I am thrilled and take delight with the wonderful encounters of new attractive guitars, and I am very happy to share the experiences with all of our customers.”
Nico Nico Guitars has everything you could ever need, want, or dream about, from newly popular Japanese guitar brands, to vintage American classics.
Guitarist Marty Friedman once remarked that Tokyo has the best shops in the world, no matter what your interests may be. Nico Nico is that shop for guitar players!
Featuring new, used, rare and vintage instruments, Nico Nico’s impressive showroom and excellent website make finding the right guitar easy, and their attentive and courteous staff make your shopping experience a real pleasure.
Norman’s Rare Guitars, Los Angeles, California
Established in 1975, Norman’s Rare Guitars is located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, California, a suburb of LA.
And, for guitarists, no trip to southern California is complete without a trip to Norman’s.
Norman’s Rare Guitars is the place to go for vintage guitars and gear. In fact, if you’re looking for your dream, bucket-list variety vintage guitar, Norman’s probably has two or three of them, and several more that you forgot you wanted, too.
There are countless videos posted on YouTube of today’s best guitarists trying out vintage gear at Norman’s.
Just a quick perusal of their website yields a jazz guitarist’s delight of vintage Gibson L and ES series, vintage Gretsch and even a couple of Rickenbacker (that is not even mentioning all of the Les Pauls and Strats).
A bit of advice from the Guitar World article about Norman: “Don’t ever buy a guitar that is just for investment—enjoying playing the instrument is 90 percent of the fun.”
Rudy’s Music, New York
In business for over 40 years, like Norman’s on the West Coast, Rudy’s is an East Coast guitar institution.
In the 1970s Rudy’s was once part of New York’s legendary “Music Row,” but has since moved its location to the SOHO district. Rudy’s has been at its present Broome Street location since 2009.
Rudy’s is of particular interest to jazz players as it sports one of the world’s largest collections of archtops, but no matter what style of music you play, you are sure to find Rudy’s inventory nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Rudy’s inventory does not stop at vintage rarities, like Jimi Hendrix’s own Fender Jazzmaster, and a sea of vintage archtops. Rudy’s also offers a variety of custom shop acoustics and electrics from Martin, Ibanez, and Pensa, just to name a few.
Andertons, London (Guilford)
Established in 1964, Andertons is known for their top-notch online presence and their incredibly witty and fun YouTube channel, Andertons TV. However, their brick-and-mortar store is just as impressive as their virtual venture!
Andertons has everything that a modern jazz guitarist could need or want; it’s as simple as that.
Whether you are looking for the old stand-by brands like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez and PRS, or looking for a D’Angelico, Sire (Larry Carlton’s brand), Gretsch or Guild, Anderton’s has it in stock or can have it shipped.
Sweetwater, Fort Wayne, Indiana
If you have shopped for guitars online you are sure to have visited Sweetwater’s massive online store.
Their brick and mortar store, though, is equally as impressive.
It’s the American equivalent of Andertons in London, offering everything a guitarist – or musician for that matter – could want or need to make music.
Located on a sprawling campus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sweetwater Music boasts the largest inventory of any music store in the United States. In terms of guitars, the store has everything you can find on their website plus a massive used inventory.
Sweetwater carries almost every brand of guitar or amp that you can think of many of which are great for jazz, including Gibson, Fender, Guild, Gretsch, D’Angelico, Reverend, and PRS, and amps by Fender, Marshall, Roland, and many others.
Aside from offering the largest inventory of new and used guitars just about anywhere, the Sweetwater Campus offers an unparalleled array of amenities including an arcade, diner, salon and spa, and a cafe.
While Mum or Dad are shopping for their next Gibson, or trying a PRS on for size, the kids can play at the arcade or grab a bite at the diner or cafe.
This is not the place to go for vintage rarities, but Sweetwater does provide an incredibly helpful and family-friendly shopping environment.
Matt’s Guitar Shop, Paris, France
Matthieu Lucas of Matt’s Guitars in Paris sums his vision up simply as “sound is more important than the serial number.”
Therefore, in addition to curating one of the finest collections of vintage instruments in Europe, Matt’s also offers an array of new and used guitars suited to the average player as well.
Of course, if you want to find a Les Paul that was once owned and played by Joe Bonamassa, Matt’s has it (at least they did at the time of this writing) but you can also find new guitars by Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, Guild, Ibanez, PRS, as well as boutique guitars by companies like Nash.
Any make or model you can think of, Matt’s either has it or can get it.
With what is essentially the perfect combination of new and vintage guitars and gear, Matt’s is a great store for every kind of guitar shopper, whether they are an enthusiast, serious student, professional, or a collector.
Chicago Music Exchange
Walk into Chicago Music Exchange’s vaulted showroom and you will feel that you have entered a holy cathedral dedicated to the guitar.
Whether you’re looking for a hollow body, solid body or semi-hollow, Chicago Music Exchange has an unrivalled selection; new, used and vintage.
Unlike shops that deal exclusively in rare and vintage guitars, Chicago Music Exchange has its share of less expensive new instruments in stock from brands like Gibson, Gretsch, Guild, and Ibanez.
Chicago is the home of great electric blues and Chicago Music Exchange’s inventory reflects this with a huge inventory of vintage Les Pauls, Strats and hollow bodies.
While being known for its vintage and collectible gear, Chicago Music Exchange also stocks more affordable new and used gear for those who are not looking for a collectible guitar to hang on the wall, but rather a serviceable axe that they plan to wield every day.
[In town? Check out our pick of the best Chicago jazz clubs!]
Guitar Point, Frankfurt, Germany
Known as the place to go for vintage guitars on the continent, Guitar Point in Frankfurt, Germany, actually offers one of the best selections of vintage instruments on the planet.
Whether you are looking for a vintage Les Paul, a Pre-CBS Strat, or a classic jazz box, CEO Simon Gauff and his staff have curated one of the best collections of vintage gear that you can find.
Prior to becoming CEO, Gauff worked in Gibson’s custom shop and oversaw some of the limited-run models, so he knows exactly what makes a great vintage instrument.
The staff at Guitar Point buy most of their vintage instruments from players and collectors and painstakingly go over each instrument to verify its authenticity.
All the processes that the vintage instruments are put through are carefully documented and photographed. When you buy a vintage instrument at Guitar Point, you get a detailed history and profile of the instrument that documents the instrument’s authenticity.
Guitar Point is a unique guitar buying destination. Blues great Jared James Nichols says Guitar Point is “Hands down one of my favorite guitar shops on the planet!”
Hanks Guitars, London
Is it just me or is there some kind of vitamin in British water that gives them the most incredible skills on the guitar?
From the British invasion guitarists like Beck and Clapton to Fusion greats like Holdsworth and Guthrie Govan, the British have a special relationship to the guitar. And they also have great guitar stores, too many in fact!
We could fill the space of this article with British guitar stores alone, and though we mentioned Andertons earlier, we cannot close this article without telling you about Hanks Guitars in London.
Hanks features the largest inventory of new, used, and vintage guitars and amplifiers in the UK. Located on Denmark Street, in famous Tin Pan Alley, Hanks has supplied guitars to Londoners for generations.
Hanks also offers a unique finders service: they guarantee that if they do not have the guitar you’re looking for, they can find it for you within 48 hours!
Round up – Iconic Guitar Stores
There is our list of some of the world’s best guitar stores.
Of course, it’s not totally comprehensive (how could it be?!) but we hope it’s a useful starting point for avid guitarists of all levels.
No matter how bad your case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) may be, remember Norman’s advice and buy a guitar you are going to love playing!
International jazz booking agent, manager and host of Jazzfuel.
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