Listen close dear reader, for today I have an important message for any new or aspiring musicians looking to buy their first instrument. Are you ready? Here it is:
Avoid the flea market like it’s the plague.
“But Curtis, I love the flea market, they have so many cool, random things for great prices,” you might say without a hint of irony. “Shouldn’t I buy instruments there, too!?”
No Virginia, no you should not!
Look, I like a good flea market as much as anyone. I think it can be a fun way to spend an afternoon, haggling and window shopping and applying liberal doses of sunblock between the home made shoes, ninja stars, bongs and organic olive oil stalls. But when it comes to buying an instrument, nine out of ten times you’re going to get fleeced. Hard.
“But what do you mean, Curtis?”
Well, here’s an example: The other day someone came into the shop with a guitar they had bought at a local flea market. They were on vacation and just wanted something to play for the couple days that they were here in our beautiful city of Santa Cruz. I only wish that they had come to Sylvan Music first.
This gentleman thought he had gotten a sweet deal; $60 dollars for a used steel string acoustic guitar might sound good to anyone. Unfortunately, the guitar was more groan than tone. It wasn’t worth $6 let alone $60, it was virtually unplayable. For starters, it had plastic tuners that had been spray painted to look metal. One of these tuners was already broken off (big warning sign) and another broke while attempting a re-string. Mark my words, no one wants to use pliers to tune their guitar. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.
That wasn’t even the worst part! Its action was so high it was patently absurd. The strings were so far off the fretboard you could have sailed a barge under them, with room to spare, making it infinitely hard to play for even a seasoned guitarist to play, not to mention a beginner.
The guitar was in dire need of what’s called a “setup” in the guitar world, which would have solved all of it’s high action problems quite easily for about $75. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to pay more to repair a guitar than what they paid to get it in the first place, and this poor fellow was no exception. Suffice it to say, he left the store that day a sad, sad man, with an unplayable guitar and all his hopes and dreams of rock n’ roll glory dashed under the inscrutable wheel of flea market injustice.
Fear not dear blog reader, for you can avoid the pitfalls of that customer, and all of those like him. First off, if you need an instrument, go to a real music shop, preferably Sylvan Music. Here you can get a brand new guitar, already set up by a professional luthier, starting at $125! No sterilization needed, no weird smells, no broken parts and costly repairs, and no small woodland creatures living inside.
Need something used? No problem, most guitar shops have something in that world too, but the difference is they know what they are selling and aren’t looking to take advantage, so even if it is used, you’ll generally still be walking away with a quality instrument. In closing, don’t try and find a secret treasure and don’t make a rookie mistake. Heed these words:
BEWARE THE DUBIOUS FLEA MARKET.