The Guitar Gallery is a small independent musical instruments shop, located in the heart of Melbourne’s Fitzroy district
Owned and run by me, Gerry Hale. I am a professional musician, who now sells musical instruments. Originally from a small town in the UK, I emigrated to Melbourne in 1987.
All our customers are important, whether you are a new player, hobbyist or professional wanting technical advice about amplification. You will come away with questions answered. If you’re in the shop, we’ll give you breathing space to think and play, unless of course you need or ask for assistance, then we are here to help. No-one likes to be stalked when shopping. If you are a distance customer, we are just a phone call or email message away, to answer any question you may have.
Many of our customers are beginner players, looking for their first musical instrument. A common question I’m asked is ‘which guitar should I buy’. To that I’d say, whatever your budget, buy the best instrument you can afford. Think about the type of music you want to play. Forget about brands. At entry level, they can be a waste of money. I prefer the smaller boutique brands. The smaller companies tend to make a better entry level product. They don’t try to compete with the big brands and so their aim is to capture that part of the market.
If you don’t know what you want, a music shop can be very intimidating. This, I can relate to. It is how I am with IT! I can talk to an IT person and what they say goes around and around my head, and I just don’t know what they’re talking about! I want my customers to come to my shop and not feel like that. They should feel welcomed, listened to, and leave understanding the information they came in for.
All instruments will be set-up and shop adjusted to suit the player. This is what sets us apart from others. I will always ask if the customer is a beginner, because the instrument needs to be adjusted to suit their level.
The playability of an instrument can be adjusted to suit the needs and requirements of the first time player. A poorly set-up instrument, or one that’s just come off the factory floor without attention, can be very hard to play. The Guitar Gallery will never sell an instrument straight out of the box.
I have been a professional musician since I left school way back in 1973. Actually, I did my first paid gig in 1972 while still at secondary school. My first overseas gig was in Sweden at 17 years old. So I guess you could say I have some experience when it comes to stringed instruments, be it violin, mandolin, banjo or guitar, and the amplification of them.
My first taste of Australia was in 1986 when I did a gig at The Last Laugh with the Bouncing Czechs. Eventually I stayed here, and have since worked in the Melbourne Theatre Company Productions, as well as some musicians you may know such as Colin Hay, Paul Kelly, Vika and Linda, Paul Norton and Wendy Stapleton, Deborah Conway, Broderick Smith, and others.
The shop was never something I’d planned for. I was a professional musician travelling the world, when what had previously given me joy and excitement, slowly became unexciting. I guess I just became road-weary, and needed something new.
In the early days, an awful lot of travel was par for the course. When visiting somewhere new, like all musicians, the first port of call was the local music shop. There weren’t too many that were memorable, not in a good way at any rate. One stood out however, and it still is very special to me.
Back in the day, when I worked with Colin Hay, we were in LA recording for MCA Records. LA is famous for its music stores, so the hunt was on. An obvious destination, Sunset Boulevard. However, very much an acoustic musical instrument guy, I wasn’t satisfied with the merchandise or presentation, which was very much aimed at rock musicians. After many disappointing outings, finally I struck gold – McCabes Music Shop on Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica. Straight away I knew this was my kind of store.
First, there was an amazing selection of mandolins, banjos, acoustic guitars and charangos, and other interesting instruments for that matter. Second, it wasn’t a blokey store, and welcomed women as well as men. And third, the staff didn’t pester their customers with unwanted attention. In other words, I was left to browse through all the rooms that specialized in each of my favourite tools of trade. And to sip the free coffee provided. The coffee was my only disappointment, but I had come from Melbourne after all.
The staff provided assistance only when I needed it. In the end, I did purchase a Flatiron mandolin, Flatiron mandola, plus a fine squareneck dobro and my first charango. I did this on my own without the sales pitch which was delivered without fail in other stores.
McCabe’s left a big impression on me. And so years later when the opportunity arose to open a music shop, the template I used was McCabes. The Guitar Gallery has been in business for 13 years now. Throughout this time, our main objective was and still is, to listen to our customers and concentrate on their specific needs.
All the musical instruments in the Guitar Gallery are chosen by yours-truly. We’re not beholden to big brands here. I won’t be seduced into buying the biggest, shiniest toy, unless I want the biggest, shiniest toy!
I’m always happy to share my time, knowledge and the experience I’ve picked up along the way. Having said that, before I moved into retail, I didn’t know why I liked an instrument, I just knew I liked it. However, after 13 years running a music store, I now know why! I have a deeper understanding about the whole process … from design, materials and manufacturing. And anything in between.
So, if you decide to call or drop in, I hope you enjoy your experience. I have even been known to make customers a coffee.