Everyone knows rock stars get the best of everything, including the latest (and most expensive) guitars, amps, and pedals. But you don’t have to be a pro to upgrade your equipment. Check out these five buying tips to get better gear for less $, and you’ll be well on your way to sounding like one.
1. Always buy used
This is the Golden Rule of Gear. You’ll be amazed at what you can afford if you don’t mind someone else having played it before you. Many good guitars and amps can be found on the used market for half of their retail price, leaving you much more coin to spend on other stuff. Plus chances are that the original owner had the guitar set up already or broke the amp speaker in, so that’ll save you some time and money on the back end as well.
2. Research, research, research
With the availability of product information and reviews on the Internet nowadays, this one should be easy. Read as much as you can about that piece you got your eye on, including product manuals (just Google the name of it plus ‘manual’) and reviews by established websites and magazines. Also, checking out user reviews on Amazon, Harmony Central, and other retailers helps, as they usually shed some light on not only what your guitar or amp can do, but also whether it will be useful for certain specific applications. Very cool.
3. Don’t be afraid of less expensive alternatives
The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t always apply here. The world of guitar (and other musical instruments) is very different from that of electronics or cars, in that sometimes brands that aren’t well known can put out some quality stuff. If you are looking for a specific sound, chances are that there’s something that can get you in the ballpark for less money. Just jump on eBay and search for ‘distortion pedal’ – bet you’ll find some interesting stuff you didn’t know existed. Plus, there’s the whole ’boutique’ world, where some of the best gear goes largely unnoticed by the majority. Crazy, right?
4. Know the market
This one goes hand in hand with rules 1 and 2. Say there’s a particular delay you want (assuming you couldn’t find a less expensive alternative) and you want to know what a good (used) price for it would be. Figure it out by browsing sites like The Gear Page and Craigslist to get a rough estimate of what they are going for. Also, remember that resellers like Guitar Center will typically buy a piece for approximately half of what they will sell it for, so account for that in your calculations as well.
5. Look in places you wouldn’t normally
Pawn shops and garage sales are great places to find quality gear, as they are oftentimes maintained by people who are just looking to make a sale. Plus, you can often negotiate a better price than what they are asking. Don’t be afraid to get in there and try to talk them down; after all, you know the market better than they do.