It’s said that you should get kids hooked on music while they’re still young. That may be because the sooner you get them started, the sooner they’ll become the little Mozarts you so desperately want them to be, but it’s also because children are especially receptive to music and it’s thought that it nurtures their cognitive development.
If you have a wee one on your list, why wait? At KINDERMUSIK MUNCHKINS, on the South Hill, music classes are available for kids from zero to 18 months ($191-$246). Certified instructor Teresa Birch and the rest of the staff use music, literature, play and storytelling to encourage creativity, individuality and literacy skills in kids up to 7 years old.
If your kid’s already a music nut, though, you’re still in the right neighborhood. Just around the corner, on 14th Avenue, AMEND MUSIC CENTER wears its band geek colors proudly, with vintage marching uniforms lining the walls, shelves stocked with sheet music and a rack of T-shirts flaunting such cringingly nerdy punch lines as, “Hold me, I’m a fermata.” Wow. Get your wunderkind in step with a combination metronome and tuner from Sabine ($40). Their band director will thank you.
Of course, maybe your Christmas list includes a scruffy nephew/cousin/daughter who is already rebelling from years of compulsory band/orchestra and is looking to start a folk neuftet/garage band/noise collective. In this case, try DUTCH’S pawnshop, a Spokane institution, where instruments mingle with bikes, hand tools and used N64 cartridges. The entire eastern half of the building is devoted to music — mostly guitars (few big names but plenty of fodder for the wayward musician who is just learning or the Spinal Tap wannabe who loves to smash shit onstage), along with other stringed instruments, a smattering of good percussion instruments, band and orchestra accessories and a respected service and repair counter. For the young folkie, pick up Snoopy’s Harp ($6), a cheap starter harmonica that’s good enough to last the time it takes to decide they really don’t like playing harmonica much. (For the noise collective participant, why not the Thunderbird-style, four-string electric mandolin from Epiphone? Nobody else at the collective is going to have that.)
CHILDREN’S MUSIC CLASSES ($191-$246)
1309 W. 14th Ave.
COMBINATION METRONOME AND TUNER ($40)
Amend Music Center
1305 W. 14th Ave.
SNOOPY’S HARP ($6)
415 W. Main Ave.
EPIPHONE ELECTRIC MANDOLIN ($275)
415 W. Main Ave.
MINARIK INFERNO CHERUB ($949)
Mark’s Guitar Shop
918 W. Garland Ave.
TWO-OCTAVE CRYSTAL PAN FLUTE ($89)
440 W. Sharp Ave.
But maybe your giftee has already grown out of the wail-into-a-bullhorn-while-you-set-your-guitar-aflame stage and has moved on to that more insidious habit: collecting. If said giftee is a guitar player, you may find what they need on Garland Avenue. Or rather, you’ll find that indefinable something they didn’t even know they needed.
Start at MARK’S GUITAR SHOP, a small independent store with a hard-to-predict rotation of unusual brands and standout guitars. Lately, that’s a pair of very limited Paul Reed Smith guitars, the pickups of which use wire salvaged from the personal storehouse of long-dead and long-legendary Leo Fender. Or a run of Japanese Strat copies. Or my favorite, the Minarik Inferno Cherub, an electric guitar that one-ups all those electrics with flame paint jobs in that it’s actually shaped like a burning inferno ($949). Not only that, but its entire face is one giant, splintered mirror. Wicked.
Of course, Mark’s also has the town’s best (and, in some cases, only) selection of G&L guitars, Orange amps and (locally made) Toadworks pedals. Those might be a safer bet.
Down the street, things get even weirder. Don’t expect to find anything other than your usual assortment of picks, strings and spare parts at Eben Cole’s one-man operation. Because everything else there is unpredictable. “I only stock stuff that I like,” says Cole. That means hand-wired Keeley pedals, Victoriette and Torres amps, old semi-hollow Kay and Guild and Gibson guitars, vintage banjos and mandolins. Whatever. Among his prized possessions: a thoroughly scuffed-up 1953 Telecaster. “With naturally worn instruments, you know they’re good, because it means somebody loved it enough to play it that long,” says Cole.
At HOFFMAN’S MUSIC, you can get your Telecaster new and pre-scuffed. Tacky, yes, but it’s apparently popular, and this store is about staying on top of the trends. That makes it a perfect place to shop for the pro musician who knows exactly what her rig lacks (a two-octave crystal pan flute for $89, perhaps?), and the friendly staff can help non-musical gift-givers find what they came there for. Independently owned Hoffman’s is also a good place to shop for pro audio equipment, from mics to recording software to MIDI controllers. And its satellite location, just a few blocks away, has the best collection of percussion instruments this side of Guitar Center.
Just when we thought we’d made it through the entire article without mentioning Guitar Center. If all else fails — if you can’t find the perfect item for your struggling musician, whether infant, adolescent or just behaving like either — check out this chain behemoth, where the guitarists are loud and plentiful, the inventory is unparalleled and the help is occasionally helpful.
While you’re at it, pick up some earplugs. Nobody ever said giving the gift of music would be peaceful and harmonious.