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The Music Box

THE SIGNS were not good when I peered through the grimy shop window, past the assortment of dust- coated amps and guitars into this spectacularly untidy store. My first impressions got no better upon entering, as the man behind the desk barely acknowledged my arrival and proceeded to conclude his phone conversation.

This is a very small shop that deals

predominantly in second hand items and when another customer came in I expected a bit more urgency, but idle chat seemed more important. There simply isn’t enough room to move around in The Music Box due to the obscene amount of clutter and a Rolf Harris-endorsed stylophone on the wall – that looked like it hadn’t moved since 1975 – adequately symbolised the lack of care put into modernising this shop. There were, however, a couple of

Teles that would have made good starter options.


Cramped, filthy and full of knackered gear, it feels more like walking into someone’s shed than a music shop. There was very little to make me want to buy anything from here.

Excellent range of products and brands, a well maintained shop floor, as well as friendly, well-trained staff gets PMT another great score, even on a frantic day in the aftermath of Christmas.


OXFORD IS proof that specialist MI retailing is still alive and well in the UK, with Allegro and Blackwell Music picking up top marks for their ability to deliver shop floors that just make you want to browse every inch of them and service that encourages you to stick around.

Allegro gets full marks for offering the sort of service that struggling stores across the land are crying out for. Blackwell succeeds by creating the perfect environment for its target customer and makes looking for sheet music enjoyable.

Professional Music Technology’s consistency across its stores is once again proven here and it was no surprise that this was the busiest and most vibrant store that I visited on the day. The Music Box was a

disappointment in virtually every

area, but if you’re after a cheap axe to get started on, you might just find one here, if you can excuse its many flaws. Oxford Violins and Courtney Pianos are also in town, but both were closed for the day on the date of my visit.

The ideal destination sheet music

destination. Gives you everything you could want choice-wise in a comfortable, almost homely environment.

Wonderful store presentation, brilliant range of products from the entry-level

right up to the high end and faultless service makes this well worth the journey.


A COMPLETE contrast to the above, PMT Oxford is a clean, bright, and pleasant place to shop, with so much on show that I challenge anyone to go in there and find nothing desirable.

Being part of a chain, it’s basically a slightly scaled-down version of all the other PMT’s, but when this formula is so effective, that’s certainly not a bad thing. I decided to take a look at the

MIDI keyboards and synths, which there were plenty of in the room dedicated to the high tech side of the market. I was given sound advice on synthesizers, keyboards and stage pianos and although some products were not priced, my assistant was practically a walking catalogue anyway, so it didn’t matter too much. The staff were still going through the post-Christmas rush and this resulted in slightly rushed service and a few boxes here and there, but the overall experience made up for it.

Blackwell’s Music

ALTHOUGH NOT strictly a full-on MI store, this sheet music specialist couldn’t be missed out on this trip, especially since its MIA Award win last year.

Set out in a library style, Blackwell offers printed music across all the major categories and invites customers to browse in a wonderfully relaxed environment. Everything is impeccably organised, sections are colour coded to make it easier to find what you’re looking for and there are plenty of friendly assistants on hand to help if you’re still struggling to find what your teacher’s sent you out to get. A wall filled with orchestral instrument accessories is ideal for any impulse buyers, too.

Blackwell’s classy, traditional

approach to retailing while coming across as welcome to all customers fits in perfectly with its Oxford setting and I certainly left with a smile on my face.

Allegro Oxford

ANOTHER STORE that clearly knows how to set up a shop window, Allegro Oxford was proving to be a worthy saxophone specialist before I even set foot inside. Opening the door revealed exactly what I was hoping for – a gloriously presented brass and woodwind wonderland bursting with sparkling saxes, tantalising trumpets and more. Having ticked the appearance box, the best was yet to come from my interaction with the owner. A man with evident experience and knowledge of these instruments, his views on saxophones and the accompanying learning material had me hooked immediately.

Not only did he clearly know what he was talking aboutt, he seemed genuinely keen on helping me get the best deal and was a very likeable character. It’s not often that you meet a salesman and after five minutes you feel you can trust his every word.

February 2012 49

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