Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gear up!

It had been quite a while since I bought music equipment. In 1986, while I was living at my parents', I bought about $10K worth of stuff and built a small studio in the basement. I even glued acoustic panels and shag carpet remnants to the walls to help with the sound deadening in the tiny room. (We had formerly used that room to raise Discus fish, so it had plenty of electrical outlets all around the wall - perfect really - for a recording studio.) Back then, I even had travel cases for everything custom made so I could carry everything to Japan when I went back. Out of necessity, when it came to buying music equipment, I was a bit of an expert back then.

So, two week ago, when my ensemble instructor gave us all of six days' notice that we had to have our own equipment at the concert, I was a little pissed. Pissed because I would have to go through a lot of extra work to get my piano removed from its semi-permanent stand, but mostly because I knew that having to buy equipment can be a pain - pain which I was not looking forward to. Back 22 years ago, we didn't have the internet, so gathering information on equipment, researching prices, and all that took a long, long, long time. Using the internet to research what I wanted and how much it would cost me this time around was a breeze. The only catch was the narrow time frame. I would not be able to order off the internet and get everything sent to me in time. (Well, technically, I could have, but the first case I looked at had a retail price of $129 with free shipping, but expedited two-day shipping was $69 more. Who would pay that for what could be a one time gig?)

Long and short of it is, I did my price and product research online, but I was going to have to do my actual buying in the real world. I really only needed to buy a case and an 'X' stand, and it was pretty easy to see there were limited options for the former, but basically unlimited options for the latter. As far as the stand goes, a stand is a stand is a stand, so price was my only real criteria (I didn't want to spend more than $30, as they are usually available online for around $25). As for the case, my piano only cost around $500 in the first place, so I was not going to buy a $300 hard case for it. That just didn't make sense. Nope, a $99 soft gig bag was going to be the way to go. I called around to the three or four major music shops in the area, only to find nobody had what I wanted. This was on the Thursday after the announcement that we had to supply our own equipment. One shop told me they had a used gig bag, but when he went to make sure they still had it, he discovered it had been sold.

In the end, I was able to find one store that had 'X' stands reasonably priced (around $35) and another store that had a custom Yamaha case not unreasonably priced (around $165). So, I figured I was going to be in for $200, and I let it go at that. On Saturday, I decided to physically make the rounds of the stores, just to see what I could see. Since I had already called around, I knew where I could go to get what I wanted, although not necessarily at a price I wanted to pay, but I thought there was at least a chance I might see something that would work or that I would talk to somebody who could steer me in a different but acceptable direction. I set up my itinerary, and decided to make a stop at a place that over the phone told me they didn't have what I wanted, and from there, I would go in order to two other stores where I knew I could purchase what I wanted.

Well, there's something to be said for doing legwork. The first place I stopped at, although they had said they didn't have stands, happened to have one really nice one, still in the box, that met my needs perfectly. It was more than I wanted to pay ($65), but the salesman said he could knock it down a little. I asked about a case, and he said he didn't have any, but he might have a gig bag that would work for an 88-key instrument. I told him, that's what I'm looking for, even though I said "case". (This is probably where some confusion hindered my search: these guys differentiate between bags and cases. I just consider a gig bag as a "soft case". Oh well.) Again, he had one that was still in its wrap, and again, it was more than I wanted to pay, so I asked him to do a package deal. I ended up getting the case and stand for around $175, tax included, out the door. List for both would have been between $200-225. Online would have been around $130, or $200 with fast shipping, so all in all, I got what I needed when I needed it, pretty much within budget. I didn't even bother to visit the other two music stores.

I guess I still know how to do procurement of music equipment after all.

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