Play Your Own Music: Carson City’s one-stop music shop headed for greener pastures

Blorgalakt Play Your Own MusicA mainstay of Carson City’s music scene moved in to some new digs this summer. Play Your Own Music has moved from the Carson Mall after almost a decade. Owner-operator Vince Gates on Aug. 1 set up shop in a cozy little house on East John Street in a former residential area that was rezoned for commercial property.

For Gates, the move is just one more step in a career spent supporting music in the Carson Valley area.

“I’ve been in this area since ‘83, so I’ve been here awhile,” Gates said. “I started working at a record store in ‘87, but then started working in retail in ‘89.”

He opened Play Your Own Music in 2007, and the store rapidly became an all-in-one resource for area players.

Play Your Own Music“What we do is we’re kind of a hub for local musicians,” Gates said. “We have the accessories that musicians need, and I also do guitar repair and setup work, I do a bunch of that. People need their guitars to play better; they bring them to me, and I set them up so that they sound great. I also have the best guitar teachers around; we have about 200 students that come in here every week to take guitar and piano lessons.”

Gates has also long been the go-to guy for the local schools’ music programs, working with teachers to provide instrument rentals, supplies and instructional books.

“I started working in musical retail in ‘89 and that job, a big part of that was school relations in Reno,” he said. “It’s just kind of a natural thing for the local music store to support the local school music programs. So over time, I’ve met most all of the local music teachers and I have a relationship with them. A lot of times they let me know what book they’ll be using next year. Since we’re the only place in town really, it’s kind of my job to do that.”

In addition to retail, lessons, repair/setup, and working with the schools (as if that weren’t a full docket already), Gates offers an almost priceless service to local musicians: an affordable, quality recording studio.

“The recording studio opens after the store closes, so the recording studio is generally open from  7 p.m., and I’ll go until midnight or whenever, so I can do five hour blocks,” he said. “I’ll work with anybody from a singer-songwriter who wants to make a production out of his songs, to full bands, five to six piece bands. We can do live to multitrack or just multitrack, record everything one at a time. There’s a bunch of different ways to go about it.”

Gates has worked with many of the Reno-Carson area bands over the years.

“I’ve been recording since 1983, but I’ve been doing it professionally since the mid-90s,” Gates said. “I recorded Keyser Soze’s first record; I recorded Keen’s first record. There’s been a bunch of local bands that I’ve recorded.”

When South Lake Tahoe’s rock band Strange Weather decided to record its first demo in April 2015, the members knew exactly where they were heading.

“We did it down at Play Your Own music, with Vince,” bassist Todd Christensen said. “He’s got about 30 years of recording experience; really easy to work with and he’s got a great ear.”

“We decided to go down and record three songs,” guitarist John Munroe said. “But we banged ‘em out so quickly, we wound up recording five.”

Strange Weather returned to Play Your Own Music in late July, to follow up on the initial recordings.

“We’ve got two nights booked tonight and tomorrow night, and we’re going to try to bang out eight songs to give us a total of 13,” front man Vinny Berry said before the second session. “Then we’ll get them mixed and hopefully have a demo-quality album to pass around.”

Gates plays music, as well, as the frontman and guitarist for the Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band.

“We have (an upcoming show) at Cargo in October,” he said. “We played there in February and we packed the place, and they booked us immediately for another gig in October.”

As far as Play Your Own Music goes, Gates is very much looking forward to the impending relocation as the new locale will allow him to do everything he does now for a cheaper rent.

“I’m just looking forward to getting into this new place right now,” he said. “The overhead is going to be lower so I’m going to be able to improve my offerings, as far as my inventory. So the lower overhead is hopefully going to improve the selection.”

With the move from a mall outlet to a former residential property, Gates intends to cultivate a throwback vibe.

“I’m going to do my best to take advantage of it being a house and make it look like an old school 1960s, 1970s music store,” the owner-operator said. “I’m hopeful that I can create that kind of home music store atmosphere.”

He is still working on the details of the recording space at the new site, but is confident that he will be able to offer the same quality that he has maintained over the years.

“It’s hard to say what the new setup is going to be,” he said. “I’m going to be working that out over the next couple weeks. It’s got enough space where I don’t need to change really anything about the way that I do business.

“I should be able to have one good recording room in there.”

So yeah, Vince Gates has a pretty full slate right now, and it’s all music, all the time. But that’s the way he likes it, as it all boils down to one simple (and praiseworthy) goal.

“I just intend to keep helping the Carson music community reach their musical potential in any way I can,” he said.

Rock on dude.

Play Your Own Music is at 112 East John Street, Carson City. 775-885-7529


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Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.


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