Music Store (credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The art of the musical instrument store is a dying breed, much like the almost non-existent record store. Thankfully, even though the online choices are immense, choosing the right musical instrument is a tangable find, with the feel of the instrument just as, if not more important than the look. The San Francisco Bay Area, with an entire musical genre born and breed in the ’60s, has produced modern acts such as Metallica and Green Day, with some of the best musicians residing here including guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani and Carlos Santana. So it’s with little surprise some of the best music stores in California, if not the nation, live in the Bay Area. We take a look at some of the best, no matter what skill level you are, whether you are looking for your first instrument, a gift, or looking for something vintage and unique.
182 Northgate One
San Rafael, CA 94903
One of Marin County’s premier destinations for musical instruments, The Magic Flute has been serving the San Rafael area since 1976, having settled into its home two years later in the Northgate Shopping Center. The Magic Flute has always been the go-to shop not only for school rentals, but also for an extensive library of sheet music and top quality musical instruments. The knowledgeable staff makes even the most novice shoppers feel comfortable and can answer any question from the professional musician as well.
1540 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
With walls of guitars, accessories galore, and a location in the heart of a legendary scene, Haight Ashbury Music Center will not disappoint. Offering a large selection of guitars and recording equipment, the independent store also has an array of ethnic percussion, drums, microphones and more for all your shopping needs.
2474 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Not everyone can afford a 1970 Fender Telecaster, or even a replica one. When you’re on a budget and need your musical gear fix or looking to sell or trade gear, the aptly named The Starving Musician in Berkeley is the perfect choice. With hundreds of new and used options at your disposal, there is something for everyone no matter what your skill level or taste. The knowledgeable staff can also help if you need to trade or even consign your well loved instrument that may be gathering dust in the corner of your home. Conveniently, The Starving Musician also has locations in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.
1504 Fourth St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
Located in downtown San Rafael with a sister store in downtown Santa Rosa, Bananas at Large is a hot-spot for your musical needs, specializing in pro audio equipment coming with a variety of instrumental choices. Bananas at Large offers an extensive array of lessons in everything from guitar and voice to keyboard/piano, drums and even harmonica. The store also offers used instruments to fit your budgeting needs.
3090 S. Bascom Ave.
San Jose, CA 95124
With several stores having boundless instruments, recording equipment, and accessories at your disposal, what really sets Guitar Showcase apart from the rest is its vintage collection. Owner Gary Wineroth has been a guitar collector since the 1950s, and turned his love into a successful business in the mid ’60s. Featured guitars for sale include the Taylor T-5 Liberty Tree, at a value of $10,000, and limited edition replica of Jeff Beck’s ’54 Esquire from his Yardbirds days for $15,000, and those are just two from the awe-inspiring collection.
Andrew Wilson started a music webzine to photograph and write about his favorite artists. He quickly notoriety as both a writer and photographer, and has since been published to a variety of national news sites. Andrew resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is pursuing a degree in landscape photography.