The Electric: I’m On A Budget

In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about buying gear on a budget. I wrote a longer series on setting up a guitar rig for worship HERE.

One of the cool functions of having a WordPress blog is that I get to see the Google searches that lead people to my blog. Recently, one of the searches I saw recently was “best budget pedals for worship guitar”. This got me to thinking. What’s the best gear if you’re on a budget?

SHOULD YOU BUY GEAR ON THE CHEAP?

That’s a personal question and a question of your church culture. It’s personal in that you know how much you can afford. You know how much your talent and commitment level justify. You know where you are in life. I invested a lot more into gear when I was single than after I got married. I invested a lot more before we had kids then I do now. At this point in my life I can only get new gear if I sell something else. You know the season of life you’re in.

The other question is your church culture. Some churches expect a certain level of quality in gear; other churches don’t. Again, you’ll know best.

Even on a budget, I still try and buy quality stuff. If I can’t afford it, I don’t go and buy a cheap/poor quality version of it.

CRAIGSLIST/EBAY?

All of the recommends I’m going to make are going to assume used prices. I buy new on certain items if the used market means that if I pay $20-30 more I get a brand new item with all the brand new protection of warranties, etc. This can happen on certain pedals, etc. I don’t buy guitars I haven’t played… ever. So eBay is pretty useless for me with guitars. In some parts of the country, Craigslist offerings are pretty few and far between, and the gas money to drive to the nearest big city make it not worth it.

So I’m going to assume used prices, but be a smart shopper and be wise with the money God has given you. Look around, you might find the better deal in a shop as opposed to used.

Here’s my recommend on great pedals all under $100:

OVERDRIVE

Ibanez TS9. $60-70 used is a fair price. Classic pedal. Great sound. Solid price.

The Xotic Boosters (RC, AC, EP, etc) can all be found for around $100 or less on Craigslist. Some great options and value found here.

DELAY

Boss DD (3, 5, 6, or 7). Don’t spend more the $100 on any of these pedals.

The EHX Memory Toy is a great analog delay that should run you around $70 used.

MODULATION

Chorus, Tremolo, Flanger. I don’t use much modulation, and what I do (Tremolo) I value too much to go cheap on. But if it’s a sound you want or need and you need it on a budget, I recommend the classic Ibanez pedals. Decent sound at a solid value.

Also, if you need a few of these, you might find a good value in a multi effect. It’s not how I would go, but it’s an option you should be aware of.

REVERB

The EHX Holy Grail Nano at around $70 used is a fantastic value. Great spring and decent hall sounds.

At $100 used (you might be able to talk them down to 90) the TC Hall of Fame reverb gives you almost endless options and a real value.

COMPRESSORS

The MXR SuperComp is $80 brand new and a great value that works well with both single coil and humbucking pickups. Highly recommended. After this, all of the compressors I recommend are in the $150-$300 range.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M GETTING A GOOD PRICE

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If I sell something to a guitar shop on trade in, I expect to get 50% of retail value. If I sell it used my self I expect to get 60-70% depending on the item and it’s condition. It might be quicker to do a trade in at your local guitar shop, but it’s not always the best value.

The other thing you need to be aware of is that a lot of this depends on the item. The Xotic AC Booster is a fantastic overdrive, but for what ever reason, it doesn’t hold it’s value as well as other pedals. Some of it is SUPPLY because there are a lot of them out there, some of it is DEMAND because it’s what the folks want or don’t want.  On the flip side. I just sold a used Strymon El Capistan tape delay for $20 less than retail. Why? I have no idea. The person could have spent $20 more for a brand new one, but look on eBay and you’ll see that the DEMAND is out there and I was more than happy to SUPPLY.

So do your research. Type in a search on eBay and check out their “completed listings” to see what things are actually selling for. Be disciplined. If the item goes for more than you want to pay then don’t get it. If you’re on craigslist then you need to haggle a little. Some one wants $110 for a TC HoF then offer $100. Someone is asking 90 for a Boss DD-5 delay, offer $75. There is nothing unbiblical about getting a good deal on a good piece of gear.

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