Willis Music’s staff of dedicated musicians taps into the shop's century in business to guide fellow melody makers of all levels among 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, which dials in string tension using vibration ($39.99), or they can pacify rampaging folk singers with strums on a ukulele ($37.50+). A Peavey 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 the skin of a Toca street djembe ($49.90) 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.
Through its network of professional musicians, JamPlay, LLC consistently creates and uploads intuitive, easy-to-follow online guitar lessons, producing up to 11 hours of new content each month. Dozens of session guitarists and rock stars from bands such as GWAR, Atreyu, and Megadeth help novices and intermediate players master scales, licks, and the fundamentals of performance for all styles of music. An online network of thousands of fellow students offer moral support, tips, and camaraderie as users play along with hundreds of prerecorded tracks or hone their music skills through fun online games.