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Insight: Jamming out to cope with staying in

The pandemic has made wannabe musicians out of the best of us


"The pandemic has led to us picking up new instruments in boredom, hoping our neighbors shout, 'That's one sick guitar riff!'" Illustration uploaded November 18, 2020.

I have always been the kind of person who needs something to do with their hands. There’s a deck of cards, one of those hand exercisers from the 80s, a spinning top, and a really satisfying-to-click pen all sitting on my desk right now, just waiting for me to absentmindedly fiddle with.

But, that stopped being enough about two months into my quarantine. Suddenly, those pens just weren’t doing it for me anymore. I had mastered the perfect bridge shuffle. My grip strength was unbelievable. I needed something new.

A new idea was given to me by chance. I was laying in bed (probably tossing a baseball straight into the air and trying to catch it before it landed on my face) when I got a text from one of my friends.

“Nick you should start playing bass.” Oh my god, I should start playing bass.

Instantly, I dove headfirst into research, looking at brands, watching YouTube videos, learning all I that could. A couple of days later, the cheapest electric bass and amp that money could buy arrived from Guitar Center, and I was set.

A few weeks later, my new obsession with this instrument still rolling, I swung into my local Guitar Center which had just recently reopened to see if I could try out something a little higher-end. I had never been into a Guitar Center before, but I knew what to expect: walls upon walls of instruments, equipment everywhere, shaggy dudes blasting Stairway to Heaven.

That wasn’t what I found. There were walls of guitars, but they looked a little sparser than I expected. There was equipment, but it wasn’t everywhere the eyes could see, more like grouped into one or two corners. I walked up to the most “shaggy dude”-looking employee (a surprisingly hard choice) and asked him where the bass guitars were.

He pointed me in a direction but apologized that there weren’t many choices. I asked him why that was, and he told me that since everyone has been locked up in their houses, instruments had been flying off the shelves.

And so I realized I wasn’t alone. But, it wasn’t just instruments that were selling like hotcakes. The pandemic, in addition to creating thousands of budding rockstars, was also helping people to manifest the at-home-studio of their dreams.

“We were selling lots and lots of recording stuff,” said Jim Minch, the general manager at Milano Music in Mesa. “Interfaces and studio monitors and studio microphones, that kind of thing. That skyrocketed because all the people who had been talking about setting up their home studios finally got around to doing it.”

Minch said that a large driver of his sales was the fact that Milano Music was able to stay open during the pandemic, and “that was about the time everyone got their stimulus checks… it went pretty bananas. We sold just, beaucoup tons of that stuff. And then guitar sales and ukulele sales went up and still are really strong.”

Another part of the music store experience that Minch saw a sustained interest in were lessons, but that was met with its own set of challenges.

“The students that stuck with us through the pandemic part of it… most of them were doing virtual lessons,” he said. “Which is something that we had to learn how to do — there’s a little learning curve to teaching over the internet.”

Minch said that most of the students had come back to in-person lessons, but there were still a good number of them continuing to work with instructors online.

So if you’ve been feeling the need lately to bang on some drums, chug out a power chord, or (like me) drive your roommates crazy with some low notes, you’re definitely not the only one. But don’t waste any more time, all the cheap stuff might be gone soon!

Reach the reporter at and follow @nick_devor on Twitter.

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