No matter whether you shop for a new guitar, test a drum set, buy a new panflute or pick up a precious set of harp strings (47 strings, in case you're wondering), it's good to know the unwritten rules of music store etiquette. Follow these rules and you'll be much appreciated by your music friends and store employees.

Do take your time when visiting a music store. If you're planning on finding a new instrument, gadget or upgrade, it's best strolling around without the fuss of other things scheduled later in the day. Have a calm look around, pick up a couple of instruments and take your time testing their ins and outs. Your editor prefers to go alone. Always. Unless dad has offered to pay, that's a different story.

Don't walk around wearing your sunglasses. We can't emphasise this enough. You may think you're the only cool cat in town, but quite frankly chances are folks at the music store will remain unimpressed by your seemingly epic guitar chops (we'll get to that one later) behind those pair of shades. Take them off if you don't want to look like a pompous idiot.

Do set yourself a budget. A life's worth of savings can be spent on a bunch of guitars alone (fun fact, Jimi Hendrix' s 1968 Fender Strat sold for  $2,000,000 - not that you'll find it in a dusty corner at your local store down the road, but you get the point). Setting a budget is crucial: knowing what your limit is will avoid the later regret of buying those worthless-although-actually-I-could-use-another-one-of-those items on the shelf right before the check out counter. This brings us to the next point:

Do test out the instruments, and don't be afraid to try out expensive versions, even if you know beforehand you won't purchase them. That's the fun thing about music stores: so much is on offer, so feel free to go ahead and experiment with different models, brands and sounds. Most important here: don't be afraid to ask for advice from store employees.

Don't turn up the amp to 11 in the main hall while shredding your new telecaster. You are not alone on this world and others may want to try out a guitar or two, too. Who is looking out for the old man testing a panflute in the corner? Poor sod. If you're lucky, high-end music stores will have practice booths that you can enter, but most don't have this on offer. Respect thy neighbours and keep it down.

Watch this video for a perfect summary:

Don't enter a occupied booth if someone else is already playing and testing an instrument. You're just being weird and invading their intimate first date with their new guitar or piano. Wait till they're done (or kindly ask after thirty minutes), then it's your turn.

Do be respectful towards store employees. Most of the time they know a lot more than you do, are updated about the latest tech and gear, and if you treat them well then chances of them giving you a better price are also way higher.

Do roll up the jack cables (to our non-musician readers: cables used to plug an instrument into an amplifier or other system). It'll take you less than 15 seconds and is a simple yet appreciated sign of kindness, respect and understanding. Also, don't leave amps on when you leave the store or move on somewhere else.

Don't go to a music store to show off and grab listeners' attention. Unless you're John Mayer or Steve Vai, customers at a music store are not here to see you. So don't be one of those guys or gals trying to put on a show.

Do turn down the amp before plugging in your guitar. Ever heard that loud "pop" sound at concerts or even in music stores? It's bad, it's uncomfortable. That person forgot to turn the amp to standby, turn down the volume or mute the guitar.

Don't play Stairway to Heaven. The song was once banned by music stores in the US as everyone started playing that tune when first learning the guitar. Please don't be one of those.


Do you have experience with strange customers at music stores? Or tips you'd like to add to the list? Send us an email to or leave a comment below.

Josh Oudendijk is an editor journalist for RTL Today, recording and touring musician, and a frequent music store visitor.