In the last post, I talked about how to get a good blues guitar tone. Even if you do this, you will have to have some equipment. So what if you don’t have much money, or don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on equipment.
First off let me say that I now have some really nice guitars and amps, but that was not always the case. I have worked extremely hard to get the equipment I have and I know what each guitar and amp can do.
So you are on a budget, but would still like to have some decent tone. In this blog post, I’m going to make some recommendations to what I think will help you make the decision when purchasing some new equipment. There is so much info on the internet these days that it can be truly daunting trying to make sense of it.
There’s Harmony Central reviews, there’s the Amazon reviews, and then there’s hundreds of forums saying how that amp is only good if you upgrade the speaker and put in telefunken tubes.
While the upgrades do make a difference, I can tell you that it is not a night and day difference. Most stuff sold stock sounds pretty decent. All the upgrades are for getting that last 15% of tone out of the equipment. If this is important to you, then by all means do it! But if you’re trying to stay on a budget, I can guarantee you that the equipment will be usable without doing these upgrades.
Everyone is always looking for the best amp, at the cheapest price, that can go from country to metal with one knob while still sounding good at bedroom levels. These amps really don’t exist. Some are more versatile than others, but it’s hard to find an amp that can do everything.
If you’re looking for a versatile amp, choose a one channel Fender and add effects pedals to change the tone. I’ve played in bands that go from Marvin Gaye to Bon Jovi to Cindi Lauper to the Gorillaz with a Pro Junior and some Ibanez stompboxes and it sounded great!
Fender Pro Junior
- All Tube
- Good sound
- Loud enough for a band unless your drummer is John Bonham, even still you can mic it
- Only 2 controls, volume and tone, yes I think this is good
- Easy to maintain. 3 12 AX7 preamp tubes,2 EL84 power tubes. Cheap to replace these tubes (about $60 depending on type)
- Easy to change the speaker no soldering
- Reliable and easy to fix if it breaks down. With only 1 channel, any tech can fix this fast
- Soundman will love you
- Can’t control the Bass. It can get a little flabby, but a speaker change can help that.
- No reverb
- Can get lost in the mix if you can’t mic it with a loud drummer
- 1 10″ speaker can be a little thin sounding, but not a problem if you mic it
- Can be a little noisy
- Sometimes the tubes may rattle. This is the case with any amp containing EL 84’s
Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster
- Good Sound
- Pickups are pretty decent
- Nice Look
- When set up the action feels great and bends are easy to execute
- Responsive volume and tone controls
- Stays in tune fairly well
- Can be a little thin sounding
- Pickups aren’t as responsive as higher end models
- Bridge pickup is very bright
- No hardshell case
PRS SE Custom 22
- Humbuckers that are very nice sounding
- Similar to a Les Paul Sound
- Nice neck and action when setup right
- Pickups can go from mellow to rock
- Nice Finish
- Stays in Tune
- Great for Slide Guitar
- No Hardshell Case
- Won’t be quite as thick as a Les Paul but it’s 1/4 the price
Maxon OD 808
– This pedal is not really cheap, but it sounds amazing and you won’t ever sell it. At least I won’t. This overdrive will give you that warm blues tone that is very sought after at an affordable price.
I could take the above equipment and use them on a regular basis and get great results. Why don’t I? Well at this point I’ve been playing so long that I know exactly the sound I want to get and I choose to get it. I make a living using my guitars and there is a certain sound I want to have.
If you still think these prices are too much, then look for them used. I got my Pro Junior for $250. In reality for around $500-$1000 you can get an amp, a guitar, and a distortion pedal that will sound excellent! These pieces can be used in the studio and in live situations and you will sound awesome if you know how to play. These items will not hinder you from playing great music. Only your ability to play will do that.
With so much information on the internet, I think a lot of people get stuck on the idea that if they don’t have an SG or a Les Paul they can’t play slide. Untrue. I played slide on my strat for 10 years before ever getting an SG. I would re tune from open e tuning to standard in between songs at gigs because I couldn’t afford another guitar.
So What Do You Think?
If you have some other suggestions on budget gear, please leave a comment below. Other people want to know what equipment is good quality and sounds great at an affordable price.
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The PRS SE Custom 22 is a nice guitar. I have one myself.
2nd hand Ibanez RG321MH. Or better yet, 2nd hand Charvels.
how much do you think string gauge effects tone
I’ve been playing for about a year and started and still use .15s
but played a friends guitar with 9s and it was effortless and could do crazy bends
what do you use?
I think string gauge matters a lot. I use .011s and .010s. Anything below .010s seems very thin sounding to me. If you can’t play them though then id doesn’t matter. Use what feels comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend using .015s. That’s just way too big unless your playing lap steel.
I use an Sx ash telecaster thinline guitar… and its like wow, amazing. its cheaper than any squier product, and it can beat some fender by Mexico… very good blues’ rock guitar. ok but isnt my guitar had some cons? ofcourse it had but. with some modifying it s better and better now. quality of tree makes ride up the tone… but really tone was good with the stock pickups. Staying tune is a problem but; buy new saddles then dont look at your back. stuck dimarzio pickups but i think seymours will be a good heal for the tone…
short story: use an SX ash thinline telecaster
another good guitar choise is the dearmond m-66. you can find these on ebay for around 100.00-200.00. really fat tone les paul style and duel humbuckers
The new Vintage series of guitars are excellent,especially the Lemon Drop.Based on Peter Green`s famous guitar,with the PG mod`s ready to go.Very decent tone,hardware and feel for around £300,unbeatable!
If that`s still out of your budget you can pick up any of the other Vintages(with wilkinson hardware and Pickups)for around £150.
I play through a JetCity JCA 2112 Combo(all tube,with spring reverb),that and the Lemon Drop cost me just over £500 and people always comment on my tone.
Great site by the way :)
not anywhere near as experienced as you John, either playing or with gear but.. I have a blues junior and it’s blown out twice, and it’s really way loud for me, even with the master control.. so I went back to my Roland Cube 30, and finally figured out the trick is to ignore the effects and run pedals thru the JC clean channel…WOW. 90% as good as the fender at low levels for less than half the price (on ebay) of the pro even. Plus, and to me this is a big plus.. a line in and headphone jack, so I can run backing tracks straight thru from you tube into the phones with the guitar mixed in! and fwiw the effects will do until you get your pedals sorted out….yeah yeah, “tubes man”, well on a budget they are luxury and will blow, this thing is a tank, one for sale now for $120 on ebay, that is a lot for your money.. my 2 cents, love your style man, think I’ll finally pony up with that coupon!
I’ve got a PRS SE Custom 24 and a PRS SE Custom Semi-Hollow. Both are reasonably priced, are comfortable to play and sound great. The Semi-Hollow is really good for a B.B. King-style blues tone, while the 24 is good for Les Paul sounds. The 24 has a nice growl too when you add a bit of overdrive.
I just got a Deluxe Reverb on your recommendation (along with realizing how many artists I love use this amp). I like the sound I get on on my neck pickup with the treble at 3 and the bass at 6. Its a very warm, mellow, clean tone that I like playing with blues and jazz. I also like the growl I get when I start taking the volume past 6, but then the bass on the bottom two strings just booms and has no real definition. Could a similar speaker change help, or should I turn down the bass a little when pushing a Deluxe Reverb Reissue past volume 6?
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