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Best Of Manchester City Centre Music Shops

William Robinson picks out the places to buy instruments in the city

Published on August 13th 2012.

Best Of Manchester City Centre Music Shops

ALTHOUGH the demand for musical instruments in the city centre is nowhere near as high as that for clothes or cocktails, there are just enough music shops to warrant a 'Best Of' feature. 

What is striking is the range of instruments available; whether looking for a beginner's double bass or a professional standard tambourine, there is something in Manchester for all ages, abilities and price ranges. 

This list is in no particular order. 

The music shop of all music shops (pictured above): covering three floors, Forsyth Bros Ltd caters for every musical need, in a winsomely tatty interior. The ground floor is devoted to sheet music and CDs of all styles: jazz, folk, world, rock, pop, chamber and classical music is covered. The first floor offers a vast array of pianos, from beginner's upright costing an apparently mere £3,500 up to the finest £19,880 Schimmel. The second floor is the home of everything left after pianos: guitars, saxophones, keyboards, clarinets, trumpets and various tiny harmonicas are hidden away here. The instruments are mainly new and fairly good value for an independent retailer; numerous signs line the walls reminding customers 'just how much cheaper' it is to shop at Forsyth's. Throughout the store  staff are helpful and knowledgeable, even if you aren't intending to buy anything. As noted above, that décor dating from the last refurbishment several decades ago, is worth a look too. Forsyth's is the oldest retailer in Manchester under original ownership dating from 1857 and it's the second oldest retailer to Edwards Shoes (1830) in the Barton Arcade in terms of continuous operation.
126 Deansgate, City M3 2GR web 

Johnny Roadhouse Music
Johnny Roadhouse is the rock and roll younger brother of Forsyth's. The Gallagher brothers are always keen to declare their love for the shop and there are various pre-owned instruments for sale with their own rock heritage. Staff there are also genial and ready to help with any requests. Johnny Roadhouse also offers guitar repairs and services at a fairly reasonable price. The focus of the shop is electric guitars and basses, with various items of stage equipment such as lighting and speakers. The highlight of the ground floor is its assortment of vintage and second hand keyboards and organs, which are always available to be played in the store. Mr Roadhouse himself, the late Mancunian saxophonist, believed that a good music shop is always busy and noisy, which is certainly the case here - the great man was a musician himself who played with both the Beatles and the Halle Orchestra, although not at the same time.
123 Oxford Road, City M1 7DU web 

Johnny RoadhouseJohnny Roadhouse

Hobgoblin Music
Located upstairs from Johnny Roadhouse, the focus of Hobgoblin Music is on traditional and acoustic instruments. The shop sells a wide variety of instruments, from double basses, 12 string guitars and accordions to mandolins and bouzoukis. Like Johnny Roadhouse, anything in the shop can be played in store - even if you've never heard of a cittern you can have a go at playing one.
123 Oxford Road, City M1 7DU web 


Dawsons Music
Dawsons, by the nature of being a big chain store, is extremely pristine and well stocked. However its size is also its downfall. At quieter times the shop is a great place to be; with few other customers to consider, you can make the most annoying synthesizer sounds you like. It's at the weekend that it should be avoided. The shop goes into super-sales mode, and the only way to attract attention is to walk in waving a bundle of £50 notes above your head. The range of new equipment is a lot wider than at the independents, but the shop lacks the charm and eclecticism of the others. The prices are surprisingly high for a chain store as well. It's also worth noting that unlike the other music stores, which are more than happy for you to pick up a guitar and start playing, Dawsons can seem rather hostile towards actual musicianship in the shop. Having said that, for buying one specialist piece of recording gear it's very good.
30 Portland Street, City M1 4GS web


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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Pauline YatesAugust 13th 2012.

What about Chase on Oldham Street?

StephAugust 14th 2012.

Have you noticed that you can now see the inside of Dawsons on street view, it's quite cool

Stephen AckleyAugust 16th 2012.

PMT on Regent Rd (although technically in Salford) is by far the best musical instrument shop around these parts. ToneWorld in Ancoats also gets a special mention for high end guitars, amps and pedals.

Arthur NewtonAugust 16th 2012.

If you're pepared to leave the town centre, try Alan Gregory's in Rusholme; premises not overpowering, expert, personal service and good deals.

Geroge WilmslowAugust 22nd 2012.

To be fair to dawsons they do have the best selection of Music Tech gear compared to the other stores mentioned. I bought my audio interface and some monitors from there. The staff were really friendly and helpful!

AnonymousAugust 23rd 2012.

Johnny Roadhouse is a great little shop. But do I detect the whiff of snobbery in the comments about Dawsons? I've always found the staff in there to be friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Not expensive either. You don't get to be that succesful by charging too much. And of course it gets busy at the weekend, its a big city centre store, what do you expect?

Graeme WrightNovember 1st 2012.

Chase doesn't get a mention, I guess, because of the almost universal absence of customer service. You go in, you ask to see an instrument, the assistant hands you the instrument...then disappears. Forsyths and Dawson's are more customer friendly and are very patient. Forsyths especially have extremely knowledgable staff

AnonymousNovember 4th 2014.

I recently moved to Manchester and my piano is my pride and joy! I used Buckley Pianos for my Piano transport when I moved, great customer service and they operate Nationwide too! definitely deserves a mention www.buckleypianos.co.uk/…

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