We sent our man back downtown to visit some more shops and see what Tin Pan Alley has to offer. Here's what he found...
With a full-length window display that covers two whole sides of the store, you already have an idea of what Chris Bryant’s will offer before setting foot inside.
A friendly greeting before I’d even had a chance to survey my surroundings was a good start, and I was offered assistance almost as soon as I’d made it to the acoustic guitar section. As I was searching for a nice mid-range Folk model, I was pleased to see an excellent array of Crafters, including several options that fit right into the category of guitar I was looking for.
I was encouraged to pick up, feel and try out any instrument I wanted, and although if I was after something other than a Crafter there wasn’t a huge choice, I certainly felt there was enough variety on offer here.
I wasn’t even aware of the existence of an independent drum shop – Tom’s Drum Store – in the basement, until the sound of a booming snare alerted me to it. Tom’s isn’t the roomiest retail outlet, but there’s plenty of gear here to whet the appetite of your average drummer.
Lots for musicians of all kinds to choose from – especially acoustic guitarists – but a wider selection of brands would’ve been nice.
I had been wanting to visit this store since it was announced last year, and I had high hopes after a brief browse around the store. Instead of going for a vintage feel, like many of the other Denmark Street dealerships, Westside MI is presented in a very clean and modern fashion.The first floor is home to the acoustic area, featuring a plethora of models from Recording King, Sigma Guitars and, in the brand’s very own swanky demo room, C.F. Martin.
Downstairs is where you’ll find equipment from Schecter and Mesa Engineering. It was all very impressive, but after an extensive period of loitering on both floors, I’d barely even been noticed by a member of staff, let alone approached. Just when I began to feel impatient, I was finally seen to by a fella who was able to give me just the sort of service I was expecting.
Having set my budget at around £500, I was shown a variety of models from Recording King and Sigma, and I was also told that if I coughed up a little more cash, I could even take a Martin home, which would have been very tempting.
Home to all of Westside’s top brands, this shop is home to some lovely gear. However, it was close to getting marked down further for the lack of service, until one man saved the day.
If you need a new saxophone, there can’t be many better places in the world – let alone the UK – to shop for one, than in here. It’s not just the sheer volume of instruments on offer – and there are countless saxes to pick from – but the all-round experience that makes Sax.co.uk such an excellent store.
There were so many customers around at first that I struggled to attract the attention of the staff, but it meant I was able to see how others were being treated by the sales team. One chap in particular was being given a highly detailed run-through of the available mouthpieces, and appeared very satisfied.
I thought I’d see what Sax.co.uk could recommend as a good tenor saxophone case for a reasonable price. I was given a thorough explanation as to why some other cases were surprisingly affordable, like the Rosetti range, whereas others offered the highest levels of protection, but at a much higher cost – the Reunion Blues bags being a good example.
It was the little details that also set this store apart. The walls are adorned with photos of big-name players that have visited over the years, posing with store personnel. It’s not the first shop to do this, but it definitely gives the place a bit of added personality.
A model specialist MI store, Sax.co.uk is certain to have what you want in stock, along with all the help and advice you could possibly need.
At first glance, Rockers came across as an immaculately laid out rock n roll store, but didn’t seem to offer much originality in comparison to other stores on the street. This turned out to be nothing more than a fleeting thought, however, as I barely had a chance to check out the guitar displays before a helpful chapped popped up next to me to ask of I needed a hand.
I thought I’d see if he had any SG-style electrics on sale for no more than a few hundred quid. I’m glad I asked this, because he went on to not only show me a few suitable Tokais, but he told me, in great detail, why buying copy models is only a good idea from certain brands, before explaining where many of the instruments were made, and why some should be avoided (I can only assume he was talking about brands not stocked by Rockers).
As well as being very likeable and friendly, he also ran through what he could ‘throw in’ as part of a deal, and that the line had recently been reduced as well.
Another top Denmark Street store, which uses excellent service to ensure it can compete among the big boys on Tin Pan Alley.
Having been to four more terrific stores, I once again find myself in a difficult position trying to pick a favourite. I enjoyed the experience that each one offered, but overall I was probably most impressed with Sax.co.uk.
This may come down to the fact that I haven’t visited many brass specialists before, and therefore coming across a truly brilliant one was more of an eye opener for me than visiting more top guitar stores, of which there are a great many in the UK.
Of the three shops where I went in search of a guitar, I was most satisfied with the service I received in Rockers, but Westside delivered that day’s biggest helping of eye candy.
All things considered, Denmark Street deserves its reputation as perhaps the UK’s most iconic MI destination, and it’s no wonder musicians travel from far and wide to visit.
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