The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music Shops

Guitars at Jim's Music in Tustin
Guitars at Jim's Music in Tustin
Richard Johnson

Though they don't always get the credit they deserve, local music shops are the backbone of any good music scene. Few successful bands to come out of OC would be where they are if they didn't have a neighborhood place to buy and try new equipment. Whether it's a freshly minted Les Paul or a reasonably worn-in drum kit, local mom-n-pop shops around OC have the knowledge, pricing and no-bullshit customer service that can be harder to find at the big box chain stores. There are plenty of places to buy the tools to help you become OC's next big rockstar, but for the sake of narrowing it down, here's a list of  the 15 Best Orange County. Mom-n-Pop Music Shops.

The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music ShopsEXPAND
Isabella Cano

15. Pepperland Music (Orange)
The former exclusively Beatles shop, Pepperland decided to branch into a general music store, where you can find almost anything involving music: records (which are 99.9% classic rock), stickers, retro memorabilia, T-shirts, artwork, movies, and instruments. Pepperland even acts as a venue for live performances every so often. They have been recognized by NAMM, the Orange County Department of Education, and even received the Weekly's editorial's choice for "Best Record/CD Store '06"! (Isabella Cano)

The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music Shops
Nate Jackson

14. Tim's OC Music (Laguna Niguel)
There are a few places to grab an acoustic guitar or some strings in South County, but Tim's is place where you can get both of those and a little extra helping of hometown charm. As a leading local provider of music lessons and musical instrument rentals in South Orange County,  the family-owned shop offers some of the best teachers and student instruments in the area since August of 2012, they focus most of their energy on music lessons and school instrument rentals, but owner Tim Gill is always around to help with gear purchases, helpful advice and anything else you need. (Nate Jackson)

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Isabella Cano

13. Squid Music (Stanton)
Though their instrument selection is rather small, at Squid's, you'll find a broad variety of bass, guitars, amps, and drums to choose from because they are a "buy sell trade" music store. You can find your way around Squid through isles made up of amps! What inventory they cannot carry in their little store is also sold on Ebay. Squid Music provides guitar lessons as well. (IC)

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Nate Jackson

12. The Music Lab (Yorba Linda)
This hidden gem in Old Towne Yorba Linda has always been a hub for music lessons with quality instructors. Most of them have been there for decades now (shout out to my old teachers Jay and Ross who taught this writer how to slappa da bass!). The minute you enter it feels a bit like a dim, relaxed recording studio with wood paneled walls adorned with glamor shot photos of legends like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Michael Angelo Batio. Though they mostly just sell strings and accessories now, the Lab prides itself on its group jam band program that puts top students of various instruments together, often giving them their first taste of what it's like to be in a band. King of the place is owner Victor Delgado, an old-school rock-n-roll dude with greying sideburns, a pony tail poking out of his ball cap and a no-nonsense attitude. If you've come to hone your craft, he'll make sure to get you the right teacher for the job. (NJ)

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Nate Jackson

11. Fountain Valley Music (Fountain Valley)
The first thing you notice about Fountain Valley Music is the window painting of a keyboard stretching across the building on Warner Ave. between Magnolia and Newland. Pulling around into the shopping center entrance, a sign reads "Caution: Musicians in Training." At it's heart, this is mostly a music school but they carry a wide selection of guitars and the biggest stash of ukuleles we've ever seen in one shop. Though you can easily find some reasonably priced axes on the modest show floor, most of the real activity is going on upstairs in the row of private rooms dedicated for music lessons. There's also a larger rehearsal room where various local musicians will get together for an open blues jam every Wednesday. (NJ) 

The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music Shops
Nate Jackson

10. Irvine Art and Music (Irvine)
One of the few solid music stores in Irvine which carries large brand name instruments like Yamaha, Jupiter, Casio, Gibson, Gretsch, Ibanez, Fender, and Roland to name a few. They also have a large array of teachers available if you want to learn vocals, drums, guitar, piano, violin, flute, saxophone, etc. They even have instructors who teach East Asian instruments, such as Pipa. Won't find that class at Guitar Center! (NJ)

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Isabella Cano

9. Pete's Music (Anaheim)
At Pete's Music, their main priority is the customer-passing on knowledge to their patrons rather than just getting rid of inventory is much more satisfying to them. Pete's wants their customer to know everything about what they want, ensuring an absolutely personalized purchase with no doubts or second thoughts. They take pride in receiving NAMM's award for 35 Years of Excellent Service in 2012. Pete's specializes in new and used guitars, and for a small shop, they have an impressive collection of amps as well. This is just one of their three locations across California. (IC)

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Isabella Cano

8. Tustin Music Center (Tustin)
At Tustin Music Center, they are primarily a music school who provide over 20 music instructors (who see over 300 students per week) with bachelors, masters, and even some doctorate degrees. Their goal is to teach life skills through music. Tustin Music Center throws concerts for their students to showcase their talent and what skills they have learned as students. They even offer summer rock band camps. (IC)

7. Beatnik Bandito Music Emporium (Santa Ana)
We've written about this place as a cultural center, clothing store gathering place for Santaneros in the know, but rarely does Beatnik Bandito get credit for being a cool place to buy music gear. In addition to its shelves full of punk rock, rockabilly, psych rock and Latin vinyl, the Downtown store also has a limited stock of vintage equipment worth checking out, mainly guitars and amps. As a lifestyle store driven by old California outlaw culture and local music , it's only right that you should be able to purchase an axe to complete your bad boy (or bad girl) image. (NJ)

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Isabella Cano

6. Constellation Musical Instruments (Santa Ana)
This Santa Ana store's location plays an important role in which instruments they sell to their customers. Constellation specializes in instruments which are endeared in Mexican culture, such as the bajo sexto, bajo quinto, and the tololoche. Other than that, you could find any basic acoustic and electric guitars, some violins and violas, keyboards, and music lessons. And if you don't see what you want on display, Constellation can order it for you! Here, they offer financing and store credit as well as a remarkably knowledgeable staff. (IC)

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Isabella Cano

5. Kenny's Music (Dana Point)
Because of Kenny's tiny space, they do not keep much on display. You can, however, order your equipment through them! They have won the NAMM's Top 100 Dealers award for over five consecutive years. They provide lessons through instructors who are NAMM certified. They ensure their instruments are of the finest quality. Kenny's is so cool, they're even a Pokemon GO stop! Cherie Currie of The Runaways carved a statue of a mermaid playing guitar, a monument that lies at Kenny's Music store that is dedicated to Sandy West, drummer of The Runaways who passed away from lung cancer. (IC)

The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music Shops
Yelp

4. 13th St. Guitars (Huntington Beach)
The most legit guitar repair shop in Orange County, hands down. The Huntington Beach shop owned by Hugh Thomas has become a well known destination for punk legends like Steve Soto and Noodles of the The Offspring as well as thousands of locals over the years who've come in for guitar set ups, fret work and other electronic modifications that help you show off your fine tuned axe in all its glory. They also carry a decent selection of very pretty guitars for you to purchase. Nothing like going into a guitar shop with one axe and walking out with two. (NJ)

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Isabella Cano

3. Beach City Pawn Discount Guitar (Huntington Beach)
This gigantic music store has two levels-the bottom, dedicated to music and instruments, and the top, dedicated to everything pawn shop. Though they are a buy sell trade store, Beach City will buy new gear from brands such as Takamine, Dean, Fender, and Epiphone. Beach City offers free lessons every Saturday at 11 a.m. They especially take pride in the fact that they are one of the best reviewed music stores on Yelp! (IC)

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Nate Jackson

2. Mo's Fullerton Music (Fullerton)
This is one of those music stores that overwhelms you the minute you walk in off the streets of Downtown Fullerton. There's just so much stuff everywhere, rooms and shelves and racks crammed and cluttered with music gear and accessories (and, of course a renowned selection of classical composer busts and bobble heads). But the pack rat feel of the store is great once you start to explore some of the rare bunch of instruments like melodicas, harmonicas, harps and Djembes amongst the standard music store fare. This place carries sheet music like DTF nightlife carries drunk college co-eds (FYI, that's a lot of sheet music). (NJ)

The 15 Best Orange County Mom-n-Pop Music ShopsEXPAND
Richard Johnson

1. Jim's Music Center (Tustin)
Tustin isn’t typically a city that pops up on a local musician’s radar very much—unless they’re trying to buy some gear. Then, if they’re smart, the first place they’ll check out is Jim’s Music. Straddling the line between Mom and Pop service and competitive pricing that outdoes the big box store competition, Jim’s is definitely our jam when it comes to buying new or used gear. They’re store feels a lot like a NAMM show room when you walk in, including the warm, immaculate acoustic guitar room designed by Taylor guitars. It’s also the place where most school band musicians can go to get great deals and professional lessons. Anyone on their staff are happy to lead you in the right department. For the sonic perfection you seek, chances are you’ll find it here. (NJ)


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