Willis Music’s staff of dedicated musicians taps into the shop's century in business to guide fellow melody makers of all levels amid more than 3,000 instruments and a jungle of accessories. Though in-store stock may vary, patrons can peruse racks for catalog items such as a Planet Waves chromatic headstock tuner ($39.99), which dials in string tension using vibration, or they can pacify rampaging folk singers with strums on a ukulele ($39.99+). A Peavey Max 158 bass amp ($99.99) gives modern and vintage voice to bass guitars, and metal-encased DigiTech effects pedals ($49.99) awaken drowsy ears with four roaring styles of distortion. Customers can beat out rhythms on LP wood bongos ($49.99) or browse various other African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Irish hand drums captured, tamed, and refurbished by independent craftspeople.
With more than 10 years of tenure in the music industry—including experience teaching, recording, and touring with bands such as Blessid Union of Souls—Bryan Billhimer knows how to shred. In his latest venture, Center Stage Guitar Academy, he's converted his knowledge into easy-to-follow, high-quality lesson videos designed to let students master the guitar at their own paces. Shot from multiple angles, the videos feature split-screen footage for ease of comprehension. With instruction broken down into over 200 lessons with new ones added each month, students can start with basic strumming and fingerpicking techniques, building up the motor skills and hand dexterity needed to tackle subsequent lessons in barre chords, 12-bar blues, and improvisation. Students are welcome to design their own lesson plans based around skill levels, techniques (including music theory), or genres of music, such as country, blues, rock, pop, and pop rock, which must never be mixed with Diet Coke.