• Guitar Bar: A Music Lover’s Paradise in Hoboken

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    Walking into Guitar Bar, a small, quaint shop on 1st Street in Hoboken, visitors will find guitars upon guitars propped along the hallway, pedals + amplifiers of different filling up several in glass cases, and so much more. Music equipment stands scattered on the floor. “This is like a candy store to a guitar enthusiast,” Jim Mastro, the owner, said. Guitar bar is a local haven for guitar  + music lovers alike right here in the Mile Square. Keep reading to learn all about Guitar Bar, a music lover’s paradise in Hoboken. 

    guitar bar hoboken

    How Guitar Bar Came to Be 

    Jim, the owner of Guitar Bar, is a prominent veteran of Hoboken’s music scene. He moved to town in the late ‘70s and was at ground zero for the launch of the city’s indie-rock boom. Maxwell’s had just opened and the band “a,” the precursor of the nationally-acclaimed Bongos, which Mastro was a member of, debuted there. Hoboken was to become swinging pop Mecca.

    On any regular week, local venues hosted a parade of musicians and performers, including some of the most celebrated bands like Nirvana and New Orders. Jim was a proud part of the movement. He worked as a full-time musician, playing in shows, recording albums, and touring the country. 

    Of course, Hoboken went through gradual changes throughout these years. Young professionals moved in — and some artists were priced out. But Jim stayed in the music business with mixed success.

    Once he started a family and needed a steady income, he decided the next phase was necessary. So in 1996, he took the space of a former florist on 1st Street, bought a small inventory of about 20 guitars, and Guitar Bar was born. The first guitar shop in the Hudson County area, Guitar Bar’s word spread fast. The shop gradually attracted a community of local guitar enthusiasts and music lovers. 

    “It was all word of mouth in the early years,” Jim said.

    See More: Live Music Events in Hoboken + Jersey City {August 2019}

    What to Expect in Inside

    guitar bar guitars

    Today Guitar Bar offers guitars {and other string instruments such as banjos and ukuleles} of all calibers at various price points, sells and trades vintage instruments, and provides rental and repair services for musical instruments and equipment. With a well-curated collection and good service, the store has reached a wider range of suppliers and clients through the rave online reviews. Collectors and players call from around the world to inquire about purchases and trade-ins.

    Another big part of Guitar Bar’s services are lessons, held in cozy classrooms at the back of the store. To get there, students walk through a sprawling space cluttered with vintage guitars, repairing tools, and vintage music equipment — a time tunnel speaking to the rich history of the town and its musical legacy. 

    guitar bar classroom

    “The instructions, feedback, and classroom dynamics are all personalized,” Jeff, a guitar teacher at Guitar Bar for over 10 years, said. “We have students of all skill levels and in different styles. They come in, we play a little, and explore where can be improved together.” Guitar Bar now works with about 20 teachers, most of whom are working musicians, offering lessons on a variety of string and percussion instruments.

    For beginners, Jeff walks them through the basics of guitar notes, finger techniques, and music reading through a lot of demonstration and practice. At the end of the first half-hour, a newbie would be able to read and play the first two sentences of Beethoven’s “Odes to Joy,” which is encouraging and fun.

    In this way, Guitar Bar has naturally become the center for local musicians and music lovers. They also try to cultivate, grow, and give back to this community. Their trademark event is The Guitar Bar All-Stars’ Annual Show at Frank Sinatra Park, in which all guitarists around this area come to play in a big band, led by Guitar Bar’s teachers and Jim himself — competing yearly for the Guinness Book World Record of most guitars playing at once in an area as a band.

    Read  More: A Comprehensive Guide to Hoboken + Jersey City Live Music Spots

    About the All-Stars’ Event

    guitar bar event

    It was in 2013 when Jim was planning at a musical tribute in Hoboken when the idea suddenly struck him that he should invite all the guitar enthusiasts in the community to play in one big band in one big party — hence the tradition of the All-Stars event began. Years passed and people moved, but every year, Guitar Bar has been able to amass a crowd of hundreds of people to celebrate their community and have fun.

    “I took lessons from them ten years ago when I lived in Hoboken,” an event-goer said. “I live in the city now but try to come back every year.”

    This year, several hundred guitarists could be found sitting around the amphitheater of Sinatra Park, strumming with the beats, swinging with the rhythm, and singing along to the music. Event-goers included semi-pro hobbyists, enthusiastic amateurs, and even young children, as everyone is encouraged to play along to the music. 

    Guitar Bar’s contribution to our community and local businesses does not stop here. They work with Little City Books in promoting events for music-oriented books, hold fund-raisers for local charities, and are also planning a 1st Street Block Party on September 14th {so stay tuned}.

    Guitar Bar now has two sister stores {in uptown Hoboken and Jersey City} and plans to offer lessons to children with learning disabilities. Jim himself is still busily engaged in various events, shows, and tours. He savors the learning experience that comes with each performance and each new collaborator. His biggest drive is his passion, and that is why Guitar Bar has brought so much joy to Hoboken. 

    Have you visited Guitar Bar yet?

    What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments! 


    Written by:

    Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.


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