The Bay Area is blessed with a surprising number of unique and independently owned guitar shops. These stores serve as a community hub for the musicians they serve, which is perhaps why they’ve so far been able to survive in these tough times for small Bay Area retailers. Here is a list of a few of our favorite places to shop. We hope this inspires you to visit your local music store, or spend a day exploring new neighborhoods you’ve yet to visit.
GSP – Guitar Solo
GSP is a recognized resource for both professional guitarists and guitar enthusiasts. Located near the At&T/Giants Ballpartk, they stock an ever changing inventory of new and used classical guitars, steel strings guitars, mandolins and ukuleles. They also house an incredibly comprehensive selection of sheet music, with over 12,000 titles of classical guitar methods, studies, music and folios. You can also find a large selection of jazz, blues, pop, folk, country, and rock methods and songbooks. For those who love to browse musical literature, it’s worth a trip to spend some time hunting through their racks and filing cabinets. GSP publish their own Editions and Recordings, introducing new players and composers to the guitar world. They also sell their own brand of custom-made guitar strings. Their online mail order service is equally extensive. Their repair shop does everything from basic set ups to full restorations. GSP is a wonderfully intimate shop that supports the Bay Area guitar community.
Address: 230 Townsend Street (between 3rd & 4th Streets, San Francisco
Hours: Mondays – Fridays from 12pm – 7:00pm • Saturdays from 11am – 6pm • Sundays from 12pm – 5pm
Mighty Fine Guitars
Mighty Fine Guitars is a mighty fine place to shop for high end acoustic guitars built by local and nationally known luthiers. This shop has the look and feel of a salon – the perfect atmosphere to try an instrument before making that big investment. Owner Stevie Coyle also offers lessons, specializing in fingerstyle guitar. This is another great example of a shop owned by a musician, for musicians. You can find the shop’s stock online. They’ve got really good photos of their instuments, along with all the specs. As an added bonus, Coyle posts webcasts about the instruments and sometimes featuring special guest artists on his Facebook page. There’s a lot of great content online, but this is also a shop you’ll definitely want to visit in person.
Address: 85 Lafayette Cir, Lafayette
Hours: Wednesdays – Fridays from 10am – 6pm • Saturdays from 10am – 5pm • closed Sundays & Mondays • Open Tuesdays for lessons only.
Gryphon Stringed Instruments
Gryphon Strings is a leading source of steel-string acoustic guitars, mandolins, nylon string guitars, and banjos. They are as much a music school as a retail store, with a packed calendar of workshops, group lessons, and private instruction. They make an effort to carry instruments built by individual luthiers, and you can also find some very interesting vintage instruments like old Martins and banjos from the early 1900’s. Where this store stands out is in their calendar of events. They get an incredible array of talented Bay Area musicians to come in and give workshops on everything from beginner basics, to improvisation, to playing in alternate tunings, to fingerstyle jazz for “folkies”. Looking to get into a new style of playing or technique? Gryphon Stringed Instruments is the place to go!
Address: 211 Lambert Ave, Palo Alto
Hours: Mondays – Thursdays from 10:30am – 7:00pm • Friday – Saturday from 10:30am – 5:30pm • Sunday closed
Real Guitars – used and vintage instruments
Specializing in used and vintage equipment, Real Guitars sells an ever changing inventory of interesting guitars, bases, amps, speakers, and gear. As San Francisco’s oldest guitar shop, (they’ve been in the same location since 1986), it feels a little like you’re back in the 80’s when you visit this shop. A lot of legends have come through this space. Need quality repair work done or looking for a vintage or custom part? This is the place to bring your axe. If it’s good enough for Bay Area musicians like Jerry Garcia, Joe Satriani, Neal Schon, and bands like Metallica,Green Day, and Hellfire, it’s good enough for us!
Address: 15 Lafayette St, San Francisco
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays from 11am – 6pm • closed Sundays
Broken Guitars, owned by Billy Joe Armstrong from Greenday, and his business partner and former bandmate of Pinhead Gunpowder, Bill Schneider, serves Oakland and the East Bay specializing in all guitar and luthier work. The store may be small, but it carries a well curated selection of electric and steel string guitars, and amplifiers. While there is some impressive gear, the store strives to be a shop for musicians, not just hobbyists with money. Their repair shop does quality work with a fast turn around. The musicians that work there are super friendly, and will communicate with you through the entire process of a repair from quote to finish. To top it off, the storefront is located across the street from 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, an independent record store, label and venue. Close to the McArthur Bart Station, this is a great destination shop to visit.
Address: 423 40th St, Oakland
Hours: Tuesdays – Saturdays from 11am – 7pm • Sundays from 12pm – 5pm • closed Sundays
The Starving Musician
The Starving Musician has been serving the community since 1985, selling, trading, and renting new and used instruments, as well as offering music lessons, repair services, and school band rentals. They’ll trade gear for cash or consignment (for rare or valuable gear). Their store houses a wide selection of guitars, amps, pedals, drums and other instruments from beginner models to higher end instruments. This shop has a bit of everything, so even if you’re just there to pick up some strings, you’re going to want to walk around, and likely find some cool instrument or accessory you didn’t know you needed. The Starving Musician also sells some of their stock online through their website and on Reverb.
Address: 2474 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
Hours: Mondays – Fridays from 11am – 7pm • Saturdays 11am – 6pm • Sundays 12pm – 6pm