If you’re looking to start a rock band or simply looking to test your musical talent, Beijing has what you need, if you know where to look. Specialized items can be difficult to find when you move to a foreign country but Beijing has ever so cleverly dedicated entire streets to its love of music and the musically talented. Rather than going on a wild goose chase in Beijing, from one location to another, you literally get out at one of these streets and make your way up and down in search of your desired musical instrument.
The south end of Xinjiekou Street is lined with instrument shops and not much else. It’s an interesting little street with store clerks that are very pleasant and not pushy. Buying a musical instrument means more to a person than picking up trinkets at the market and they understand that. English is sparse in most stores so you might want to bring your Chinese speaking friend with you, but they are still very helpful and patient. Each shop has its own unique atmosphere which comes mostly from the décor of musical instrument selections lining the walls and a store worker who is usually sitting inside or just by the door, playing his specialized instrument beautifully. Customers are welcome to test any of the instruments and the knowledgeable shop owners are gladly on hand to assist in playing and answering questions. It’s quite fascinating to walk up and down the street and see customers and employees sitting around picking a guitar or even sitting outside in circles playing flutes and other instruments.
Modern instruments as well as traditional instruments from China and different parts of the world can be found on Xinjiekou Street. Many of the stores will have the same or similar items and then it comes down to price and customer satisfaction but for the most part, the prices are competitive. In terms of quality, Xinjiekou Street has the best selection and quality instruments. Well known brands such as Martin, Roland and Yamaha hold a presence here but there are fantastic hand crafted instruments made locally too. Acoustic and electric guitars range in quality and price from 600-10,000 RMB. Drum sets are between 3000-15,000 RMB in most stores. Some of the Chinese instruments include the Erhu, which is a two-stringed vertical fiddle or violin; various sizes of Yangqin, which is a hammered dulcimer instrument played with chopstick size bamboo mallets; different types of xiaos, which is a wind instrument much like a flute; Chinese drums and a host of other traditional instruments. The more western known instruments on Xinjiekou Street are pianos, guitars, violins, flutes, trumpets, saxophone, drums, fiddles and more. There is some room for negotiation here but they do know the quality of their instruments and will draw the line for you. There are a number of repair shops on the street as well. Some of them repair all instruments in general while others specialize in specific musical pieces.
Another popular place to find musical instruments is in Dongcheng District on a street called Gulou Dong Dajie. This area in general is much different from the Xinjiekou street area. This is a younger, more artsy, grunge area that has a lot of culture and is also stocked with musical instruments. While it isn’t as plentiful as Xinjiekou Street and the selection isn’t as wide, this is a great place to find all your rock instruments. You can find electric and acoustic guitars, electric and regular drums, keyboards and more. They have all the accompanying gear you need as well, including amplifiers, speakers, microphones, stools, drum sticks, replacement pieces, ear phones and the works to complete a fully functioning rock band. They also have used instruments so if you are looking play an instrument but don’t want to make the financial commitment just yet; you can purchase a good, used piece to test the waters before going the distance.
There is a little spoken English in this area and they are not too knowledgeable about the instruments either. You will find a store clerk who is a music enthusiast and willing to be helpful but for the most part, they are there to tell you what you want to hear in order to make the sale. And while you can negotiate, the prices are still pretty high when compared to internet prices for new, in the box equipment. Some of the instruments on display are the only one in the store and thus used by many customers and exposed to the heat and dust so pay attention to what you are buying. They will order you a new piece if you wish but once again, the prices are as much or higher than if you ordered it yourself.
For either location, do some internet research to know exactly what you are looking for and write down style numbers to carry with you. As mentioned before, just because it isn’t in the store does not mean they can’t get it for you and if you already know what you are looking for it makes the process easier. Also, have an idea of retail prices so you will know how to start your negotiations. A good way to negotiate when you can’t get the asking price down any further is to ask for accessories to be included. With a drum set, usually only one pedal is included so if the clerk is holding firm on the price, ask for a stool, an extra pedal, sticks and a floor mat to be included in that price. You might not get it all but it’s worth the try.
Xinjiekou Nan Dajie 新街口南大街
Getting there: Take subway line #4 to Xinjiekou
Gulou Dong Dajie 鼓楼东大街
Getting there: Take subway line #5 to Beixinqiao station, walk west
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Keywords: gulou dong dajie musical instruments beijing musical instruments xinjiekou musical instruments buying musical instruments beijing
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