It doesn’t matter if you’re simply planning to learn basic chords this winter or just signed away your soul in an exclusive three-album deal — a six-stringed seductress now fuels your passion. Finding this beautiful wooden lady is the first of many punishing trials every guitar god faces in his quest for eternal glory but don’t despair; there’s an abundance of exceptional shops in Calgary, where your very own Lucille, Blackie or Micawber lies in wait.
Nearly 25 years ago, when Guitarworks opened its first location in Calgary (16 Ave. N.W.), the idea of a specialty shop selling nothing but guitars seemed like a losing proposition. This outfit quickly proved all doubters wrong and has been Calgary’s go-to spot for generations of guitar aficionados and noobs alike. Now with four locations and a continued dedication to helping its clients find that perfect axe (free one-on-one personal shopping appointments can be made) the “total guitar store” is sure to be the first and last choice for many Calgarians. Four locations
Axe sells everything a pro audiophile could ever want, from turntables to lighting rigs, but that doesn’t mean the MacLeod Trail shop skimps on guitar choice. A deep selection of Fender Strats and Telecasters, acoustics, banjos, mandolins and all things stringed blanket the music warehouse’s walls, and the roadie mentality of its staff play perfectly into the place’s backstage-at-a-concert vibe. 4114 MacLeod Tr. S.E.
James Fry Guitars
Why buy a manufactured axe when you could have James Fry make you the perfect one from scratch? An experienced luthier (guitar maker) who began studying the art of guitar crafting over a decade ago in Valparaiso, Indiana, Fry currently works at full-time at Guitarworks, as the 16th Avenue location’s guitar repair technician, and does custom creations on the side. You can customize the rosette, neck-width, tuners, wood, inlays and just about any aspect of the guitar you can think of. Probably not ideal for everyone, but those well-versed in what makes an impeccable guitar would do well to at least check out Fry’s inviting website.
Long & McQuade
Definitely not a hidden gem, Long & McQuade (the Canada-wide chain has eight locations in Alberta alone). Still, its 58th Avenue store must be mentioned, as it houses (arguably) the most locally-involved and knowledgeable staff of any music shop in the city. L&M also scores points for understanding the struggle local musicians go through in pursuing their dreams, and makes financing and renting equipment a breeze. 105 58 Ave. S.W., 3404 5 Ave. N.E.
Taking a patient approach to sales (and providing the best name on this list), Kickaxe is devoted to carrying a rare-in-Calgary (if not Canada) array of fine guitars. They’ve got handcrafted beauties by Ryan Gadow, Reverend, and sweet models by Canadian brands like Daddy Mojo, Norman, and Godin. Each guitar comes with a free set-up and restringing, particularly good for those just starting out. 1418 9 Ave. S.E.
Image courtesy of Guitarworks.