We, the citizens of Linn and Benton counties, could be a lot worse off. We live in beautiful, rainy towns, we have access to decent tacos, and our non-racist city councilors outnumber the racist ones. One of our commonly overlooked blessings, however, is our local cache of outstanding music gear. And while our music stores here are small in number, they all have pretty stark differences, and combined cater to different niches in our musical community. Everyone, from the no-shoesios folk player to the most nihilistic of doom metalers, will have no issues finding what they need, right here in town.
What’s a Guitar Center, again?
310 SW 2nd St.
Bullfrog might be the smallest of these three stores, but sometimes the little guy punches the hardest. The simplicity of their layout makes it an easy place to shop, and they have some real doozies in their inventory.
It’s impossible not to notice the large collection of Michael Kelly electrics directly to the right as you walk in, as these guitars are known for their gorgeous finishes. To the left of those, however, is a James Truffant metal body semi-hollow electric. This is probably the coolest guitar within a hundred miles of here. No guitar is more metal than a guitar that is actually made of metal. Even if you’re not in the market for a guitar, I suggest you stop by the shop and bask in its beauty so the guitar gods might bestow their blessings upon you.
Bullfrog also has a formidable collection of new and used amps, and a pretty sweet effects pedal selection, too. They have a ton of nice bass guitars, acoustics, and other stringed instruments. If you show up to Bullfrog with $300-$600, you will walk away with something that you’ll be very happy with.
In addition to their sales inventory, Bullfrog also offers other services. Word on the street is that Bullfrog’s owner, Kurt Dietrich, is an outstanding guitar tech, and I say this because you’d be hard pressed to find a local guitarist who disagrees. So consider bringing him that RIGHTEOUS AXE of yours in for a tune-up, and stay for a lesson.
The Fingerboard Extension
120 NW 2nd St.
Anyone who is familiar with my writing, so basically just my wife and editors, knows I have pretty obvious journalistic biases. I am a garage rocker by trade, and Fingerboard Extension is garage rock heaven. Anything you need for a loud rock and roll band, you can find it here used, and I mean anything. They have used cables, straps, miscellaneous hardware, and of course guitars and amps. They’re also the only place in town that sells drum kits, and they have some pretty great used stuff in that department as well.
Fingerboard is a place to shop, and to be explored. Like all three of these shops, they have some serious gems on the wall; I was particularly enamored with an old-school Danelectro that I plugged in and bothered everyone with.
Their used amp collection is effing exquisite. They sell classic and newer amps, all in excellent condition, at very fair prices. All of you poor and amp-less guitar and bass players (I feel you) should stop here WAY before the pawn shop. Fingerboard has an astounding amount of instruments and amps that can be purchased for well under $500.
A plethora of music teachers operate out of Fingerboard Extension, they can teach you drums, guitar, bass, ukulele, or fiddle in just about any style you could think of.
Troubadour Music Center and Instrument Repair Shop
521 SW 2nd St.
This is not your average instrument store, by any stretch of the imagination. Troubadour specializes in archival and non-archival instrument restoration, and their staff combined has decades of experience. Owner Kent Buys and his team are experts in the most subtle aspects of the instruments that they repair and restore, and strive to bring out the best sound in everything that they get their hands on.
The Troubadour inventory consists mainly of acoustic guitars, but many different stringed instruments can be found here. Their violin collection is particularly impressive, and they even have an insanely cool classic lap steel.
If you’re looking to become a better musician, Troubadour can help you with that, too. Incredibly skilled music teachers give lessons here. You’ll be shredding in no time.
So, is Troubadour for you? That depends. Do you refuse to play any instrument that’s under 50 years old? Do you demand that all of your guitars have three minutes worth of sustain? Even if you answered “no” to these questions, Troubadour has instruments of all ages at all prices. Kent would not classify anything in his store as cheap, but they have instruments that are inexpensive. This place displays some very cool restorations of some interesting stringed instruments as well, stop by and check it out!
The Last Word
In fact, all three of these places are on the same dang street, for heck’s sake, and their proximity makes it easy to hit them all in an afternoon. So, check them all out. They are all staffed with friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable employees that want nothing more than to match you with the right instrument – and not just guitars, of course. In Corvallis, you can find banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, and fiddles, but you’ll have to supply your own porch to stomp on.
Please, before you spirit yourself to Eugene or Salem because you simply must have that Gene Simmons’ axe-bass that you saw on sale, hit downtown first. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful instruments and great deals to be found here; I certainly was. You’ll also meet some pretty cool people, and you’ll be making our community stronger.
By Jay Sharpe