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Chicago Music Exchange
Photograph: Chris Hershman Chicago Music Exchange

The best music stores in Chicago

Garage bands, classical music or whatever you fancy–you’ll find what you need at these Chicago music stores

By Jess Keys

We're surrounded by song, from concerts in Chicago to a growing list of record stores. The city's list of great music stores is lengthy too. You can find just about anything you need–from fine violins and vintage guitars to sheet music and traditional musical instruments. Who knows. Maybe you'll be taking the stage at one of the city's best rock music venues soon.  


Best Chicago music stores
Photograph: Ian Spula

1. Old Town School of Folk Music

Things to do Cultural centers Lincoln Square

One of the pioneers in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, the Old Town School has since expanded to several buildings on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue and opened other locations throughout the city. It remains the best place in town to expand your talents by learning how to play guitar, Irish stepdance, draw comics and more. Its early-childhood music class, Wiggleworms, is a rite of passage for growing up in Chicago. Plus, its music stores stock musical instruments, accesories and more.

2. Andy's Music

Shopping Musical instruments Avondale

If you never thought it was possible to "run out and pick up a Tibetan singing bowl," you thought wrong. Sure, Andy's stocks a lot of what you might need for your everyday music needs, but its specialty really lies in world instruments–we're talking sitars, giant gongs, and things you've never even heard of, along with a knowledgeable staff who is happy to educate you on any mysterious objects you may find. Go ahead, knock yourself out.


3. Flatts & Sharpe

Shopping Music and entertainment Rogers Park

Need a sax or sheet music, quick? The Rogers Park shop remains one of a handful of places to pick up traditional (read: the stuff you hated to learn in high school band but now wish you'd stuck with) instruments and sheet music. Plus you can enroll in a music lesson or two and really drive your neighbors nuts. 

4. Vic's Drum Shop

Shopping Musical instruments West Loop

When he was a kid, Victor Salazar would fall asleep each night in a pile of drum magazines, dreaming of fulfilling his destiny as a drummer. Fast-forward 30 years later, after rubbing elbows with some of the industry's best musicians, it was only fitting that he open his own shop, Chicago's only percussion-dedicated store. Located in the Music Garage, it covers pretty much all the drumming bases: drum sets, snares, cymbals, hardware, accessories, and apparel. Vic's also hosts a variety of workshops, master classes, lessons and events. 


5. 312 Vintage Guitars

Shopping Musical instruments Bridgeport

Local musician Bob Dain brought music to the South Side with the opening of this specialty guitar shop. On any given day, you can find a rotating mix of hundreds of new and pre-owned rare amplifiers, effects and guitars—including brands like Supro, Harmony, Kay, and Airline, made right here in Chicago. The store offers a wide variety of price points, as well as repairs and lessons. 

6. Shake Shop

Shopping Musical instruments Logan Square

After finishing his MBA and searching for work for a year, local drummer Tom Cassling decided to pursue what he knows and loves best: music. Cassling considers Shake Shop a "rock-and-roll general store" of sorts, and he has since established a name in the realm of guitar repairs. Customers go for quality tune-ups and keep returning for Cassling's laid-back, friendly and helpful service at a fair price. Get a deal on consignment guitars and accessories. You can sign up for lessons, too. Also worth noting–while it took a temporary amp repair hiatus, Shake Shop will once again start servicing amps in fall 2015. 

The Music Store
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

7. The Music Store

Shopping Musical instruments Irving Park

This friendly, North Side neighborhood shop is jam-packed with guitars, amps, drum sets, keyboards, and more. The Music Store also specializes in repairs, equipment rental, and offers lessons. Probably not the scene for upscale guitar enthusiasts, but for the everyday musician or student, it's a solid, one-stop shop. 

8. Midwest Buy & Sell

Shopping Musical instruments Dunning

Self-dubbed a "no BS" guitar store, this straightforward store makes has charm. Whether you're looking to buy, sell or trade, Midwest Buy & Sell stocks a well-curated selection of new, used and vintage guitars, amps, and other instruments at different price points. 


9. PianoForte Chicago, Fine Arts Building

Shopping Musical instruments Near South Side

Chicago's piano-centric destination for those looking for upscale ivory keys of their own. The showroom contains several new and pre-owned models from makers like Fazioli, Kawai, Feurich and Yamaha. The showroom also offers rental spaces for practice and recitals as well as a recording studio. 

10. Performers Music

Shopping Music and entertainment Loop

The oldest sheet music purveyor in the city, this downtown shop is fittingly located in the historic Fine Arts Building, boasting a wide selection of—what else?—classical sheet music. Since the early '80s, the store has been a go-to for students, artists and teachers. The business also stocks smaller sections of genres like jazz and showtunes, as well as recorders and accessories (think stands, reeds, lubricants, strings, and so on.) If you don't find what you're looking for, just ask–they'll find it for you. 

Chicago Music Exchange
Photograph: Chris Hershman

11. Chicago Music Exchange

Shopping Musical instruments Lake View

With 25+ years in the music biz, Chicago Music Exchange has earned a reputation for its savvy staff of musicians and wide selection of inventory–whether you're seeking a 1920s banjo, a bargain on a used Gibson, a new drum kit, or just some accessories, this shop is great. Don't want to deal with the train ride? Order from the website instead. Easy peasy. 

Bein & Fushi
Photograph: Martha Williams

12. Bein & Fushi

Shopping Musical instruments Loop

Let's just start out saying Bein & Fushi is not for novices. If it were a restaurant, it would likely be in line with Alinea. But if you're looking for a world-class selection of violins, violas and cellos, you're probably not going to find a better one anywhere else. (Just, you know, expect to pay the price for it.) The shop also offers expert repair and restoration services. 


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