I dabble in some guitar playing myself, though my skills are amateur at best. Still, that didn’t stop me a few months ago from wanting to upgrade my gear.
Up until then I had been using a rusty old acoustic guitar that I had relieved a relative of since he had clearly grown weary of it enough to put it away in some dingy store. I persevered with that old companion for over two years as I saved for something electric to complement my eclectic tastes.
I’m guessing you’re here for the same reasons (or some version of it) in which case here are some suggestions based on my experiences while guitar hunting in Nairobi.
1. Credible Sounds
This is the first proper guitar shop I spotted in while on other business in CBD. Actually, its more than a guitar shop as they stock a wide variety of musical instruments and equipment. As fate would have it, this is the place I ended up buying my guitar.
Credible sounds are the authorized dealers for Yamaha instruments in Kenya. As such, most but not all the instruments and equipments showcased in their shops are Yamaha made. The guitars are however strictly Yamaha so if you prefer some other brand like Fender, Ibanez, Cort, Epiphone, Jackson etc. look at some of the other suggestions after this.
The guitar I ended up settling for is a Yamaha ERG-121C which by guitar standards, is a beginner electric guitar and quite a decent one. But I mostly chose it because it was well within my budget, and I was certain it was genuine. This however is not a review, so I won’t bore you with details regarding this specific guitar.
What I can however surmise for you based on my buyer research is that the overwhelming consensus indicates Yamaha offers the best value for money at the lower end compared to other brands (the Pacifica line especially). Then there’s also the fact that Yamaha makes quality acoustic guitars. So if you’re on a tight budget, Yamaha may be a good choice for your beginner guitar.
The guitars (electric & acoustic) come stand-alone or you can pick one that comes in a guitar starter pack. For instance, the ERG-121C pack includes a 19W practice amp (GA-15), 3 picks, an extra set of guitar strings, tuner, string winder, strap and a gig bag: basically everything you need to start jamming.
The shop also does stock your usual guitar accessories including amps and pedals. If bass guitar is your thing, I did inquire and they do happen to stock 4-string/5-string bass guitars.
Locations: The main shop is along Moi Avenue, Badru House (Ground Floor). They also have another smaller branch along Luthuli Avenue which may be hard to spot as there are plenty of other music stores around this vicinity.
2. New Assanand Music Store
This is the first shop I came across after running some searches online. It’s a well-known shop and seems to have a decent following going by their Facebook page. I did drop by their shop which was fortunately a minute or two away from Credible sounds.
They had a wide range instruments as expected including the guitars that had me knocking on their doors. Unlike Credible Sounds, however, Assanand does stock guitars from different brands. They have electric, acoustic and semi-acoustic (hollow body electric guitars).
Brands included Jackson, Ibanez and Fender if my memory serves me right. I didn’t inquire much about the available options, as the asking price alone was well above my budget. Still, I suggest you check it out, especially if you’re set on some of the brands I’ve mentioned.
3. Hedgehog Creative
This one I’ll admit to not dropping by physically, but fortunately they have a very comprehensive site, easily the best amongst those featured here. Their only mistake is that they left out the prices, something that I think is intentional, as a few months down the line the prices are still as I left them: 0. Nevertheless, it won’t be wise to overlook this shop on account of this slip as they have so much to offer.
According to the guitar listings on their menu, they stock Fenders (Stratocasters, Telecaster and Squier), Cort and Jackson. Their extensive catalogue however only lists Corts which they happen to be the authorized dealers.
The catalogue is in PDF so you can download it and go through the individual specs of each guitar to find which tickles your fancy the most.
Additionally, they do have effect pedals and other instruments like 4,5,6-string bass guitars.(Sidenote: those cort guitars look really nice, especially if you want something that looks the part for rock and metal genres).
This is no doubt a really good shop and I know am doing it little justice here, so I highly recommend you drop by their website and see what they have to offer.
4. Luthuli Avenue
This list wouldn’t have been complete without a mention of this busy street. My commutes usually begin here, so naturally this was the place I started my guitar hunting, years before I could even afford one. There are many instruments shops here, most of which you’d be mistaken to think they deal with “crusade-grade” speakers and amps exclusively.
However, if you do step inside most of them you’ll be surprised to find out that they do indeed stock the full range of instruments including guitars and basses.
Of the few stores that I asked, one had Fenders and the other a no-brand which was very affordable. I suppose if you don’t care for brands and want something affordable, you’ll no doubt find a match in this neck of the woods. That said, I wasn’t exhaustive in my window shopping so I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed a really good store.
Jumia the online retailer does seem to have some guitars on sale. There are very few though, with the larger share being taken by accessories from overseas. Surprisingly, they used to have my Yamaha ERG-121 on sale while I was drafting this post, but it has since been removed or probably sold out.
The rest which you can find here include a Yamaha acoustic and classical guitar and some 5-string Fender basses.
The price of a guitar is ultimately determined by the class it belongs to. Just like smartphones, there are beginner or entry level guitars, mid-level guitars and finally the high-end class. The more of a recognized brand it is, the more likely expensive it will be.
With that said, most of the entry level guitars that I came across during my rounds in Nairobi ranged from Ksh.12,000 to upwards of Ksh.30,000 for brand-new guitars, and these include acoustic, semi-acoustic, electric and bass guitars. If it comes in a guitar pack, the price goes up by about Ksh.10,000 which is the price range for a small practice amp.
This is not a complete list, but hopefully this should get you started if you’re considering buying a guitar. Most of them should also meet your needs for other instruments such as drum sets, violins, pianos and the most popular instrument of choice nowadays – DJ equipment.
Unfortunately, if you need something very specific, it’s very likely you’ll come up short with all these stores. For instance, Epiphone/Gibson never once came up during my rounds but that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t out there. Buying from Amazon (or other global retailers) and importing may be the only resort in these circumstances.
In such situations, you may try package delivery companies that handle the importing for you at a fee since most retailers don’t ship directly to Kenya. Under this arrangement, however, the costs will no doubt skyrocket (double even), due to the weight and size of Guitars.
Ultimately the decision is yours, so go with what pleases you and fits your style of playing. You can do some window shopping and check some reviews online before making a final decision or better yet, take an experienced player with you to help you make a selection.
Be wary of fakes though as I recall encountering some ridiculously cheap guitars a few years back that seemed to suggest they were, as they say, chinku!