Gigging On A Budget: Can $1500 Build A PRO Guitar Rig?

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 07/12/22 •  9 min read

Gigging On A Budget” is a new series where we try to build a full, professional guitar rig for budget prices. Each week, we will explore a new genre. Some guitarists think you need to spend thousands to get a road-worthy rig, and we disagree!


Gigging On A Budget: Making Every Dollar Count

Playing shows in a band is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a guitarist. Even if you are just a small local band, taking the stage on the weekend is a thrilling experience. Gigging as a guitar player is a lot of fun, no matter what level you are in your career. But gear can add up fast, and with recent price hikes across the board, gigging on a budget can seem impossible.

I find myself watching all kinds of videos on YouTube about famous guitarists and their gear. It is fun to not only see how these highly regarded guitarists get their unique tone, but also what kind of gear they prefer to use. Some of these videos are crazy, and the guitar player that is being featured have gear worth thousands of dollars. Those really expensive rigs are fun to daydream about on a fantasy level, but not a practical one.

Gigging on a budget these days can be a real challenge, since there were price hikes this past year. But even before then, guitar has never been a cheap hobby! The price of entry alone can run you a few hundred dollars. Beginner guitar gear is cheaper than ever these days, and that’s a huge plus for consumers. There has been a sudden rise in guitar players over the last year (over 12 million people), and I think access to affordable instruments is one of the reasons.

The other reason so many people are picking up guitar is because guitar has made a huge comeback over the last few years. Tons of guitarists are on Instagram and YouTube every day, sporting their chops. Guitarists like to livestream on several different platforms. But guitar music in general has also made a huge comeback as well. Progressive Metal is a popular genre, and virtuoso-level players are back in style again! Shredders, Blues players, Funk, Reggae, and down-tuned chuggers alike are everywhere!

Budget guitar gear is also a huge topic these days. The advent of computer-controlled CNC machines has made mass produced guitars much more reliable than they were 20 years ago. The quality of a $300 guitar these days is much higher than even a decade ago. Budget guitars like Sire and Epiphone dominate the market. Not to mention smaller companies like Harley Benton that also have a lot of devoted fans that scream praises on forums every day.

Most of the time you “get what you pay for” when it comes to guitars, but there have been plenty exceptions to the rule lately!

Like most people who start to see some progression in their guitar skills, flocks of people are joining bands. Where I am from, it seems like there is a new local band popping up every week! But the thing about joining a band is that you need to not only have your skills in check, but also your gear. When you take the next step in your guitar journey and join a band, you’re going to need the right gear to get the job done.

Your practice amp and budget guitar might sound great at home, but being on stage is a whole different experience. That being said, different genres need vastly different gear. I mean, I wouldn’t show up to a Country gig with an Epiphone Explorer. Music is a craft, and you need the right tools for the job. We are going to walk you through everything you need to take the stage and be a “PRO from the get-go”. That way, the first time you get on stage with your guitar, you are ready to conquer the crowd!

So what is the purpose of our “Gigging On A Budget” series? Let me break it down for you, and show you how we are going to do this column each week.


Gigging On A Budget: How This Will Work…

Gigging on a budget
Me, In 2016 With Broken Glow

So gigging on a budget can be really easy if you know exactly what you need to buy. But that’s the problem isn’t it? Knowing exactly what to buy when it comes to guitar gear can be incredibly overwhelming. The market is absolutely flooded right now with tons of guitars and amps, not to mention pedals and accessories. It can be easy to get option paralysis from scrolling through the endless pages of guitar gear on any website. There is just so much stuff these days, and it can be confusing since nothing “does it all

Then, you have reviews on YouTube that are not always “honest”. Most YouTube channels are there for advertisement purposes, and editing tricks can make anything sound or look amazing. We have reviewed plenty of gear here at Electrikjam that got the highest marks from reviewers, or had a ton of hype around it. The Line 6 Catalyst is a perfect example, since everyone thought it was the “Katana Killer”. But our comparison review showed that the Catalyst is actually nothing like the Katana. Don’t always believe the hype!

So our “Gigging On A Budget” Series will be sorted first by genre. Then, we will go over every single thing you will need to be prepared for a gig. The Parameters will be the same for every article, and we will go over more than one option for most gear! That way, if something in the list is not the right fit for you, there will be other options. Each article will have some specific rules:

These “Gigging On A Budget” articles will not be your typical buying guide where we just list the products with reckless abandon. We will showcase each product, but also tell you where it fits in your rig, and why it was chosen. That way we can walk you through all of the features of our top picks, and explain why you will need each piece of gear. After that, it will be up to you to find the right fit for your rig. Every guitarist is different, so it will be up to you to personalize the choices.

Sometimes, the “Gigging On A Budget” rig might have way more than what you need to get the tone you want, or you might already own the important parts. Like maybe you already have a great guitar that you like to play, but you need everything else. Likewise, maybe you have a great amp already, or bits and pieces of a rig. You can use our guide to “fill in the gaps” for your live rig. This is especially important when it comes to accessories and stuff like an on-stage tuner, that may be easy to overlook.

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Gigging On A Budget: Only $1500?

Gigging on a budget

“Gigging On A Budget” will not always be a total of $1500, since it could sometimes be even less! If you are totally new to the guitar market, then $1500 might seem like a lot of money. But in reality, that is usually the price for the guitar alone when it comes to professional gear. When you get into guitars that are made in the USA, that price can easily double.

Go ahead and pull up your favorite guitar site, and pick out the gear you would buy if you had no limit to your budget. I just did this myself, and I picked out the items I would want for a live rig if my budget was limitless. At the end, my cart totaled right at $9500! I didn’t pick the most expensive things on purpose, just to be sly. I picked a Les Paul, a Marshall amplifier & cab, and about five classic pedals. Guitar can be a very expensive hobby!

So finding the right choices for “Gigging On A Budget” is going to be a lot tougher than you would think! But we are going to stretch every dollar as far as possible. Getting everything you need for a gig-ready guitar rig, for only $1500, is going to be difficult. Especially since we will only be using gear that I have personal experience with. Gigging On A Budget is going to be quite a challenge for us here at Electrikjam!


Gigging On A Budget: Wrapping Up…

Our job as reviewers is to take a critical look at guitar gear of all sorts, and either recommend the product, or tell you to avoid it. “Gigging On A Budget” is going to put that knowledge to the test for your benefit. We can only suggest products that we have actually used and tested, and while that may seem limiting, we have over 60 years of knowledge combined here at Electrikjam. We know our gear, but staying under $1500 is going to be a challenge.

We won’t be picking any gear that could be labeled as superfluous, but we can’t just give you the bare-bones either. That’s the whole catch of “Gigging On A Budget” for us. Every piece of gear has to be the best quality possible, yet also be versatile enough to fit the styles of different players. We can’t just suggest something based on the price alone. It has to be quality gear, that just so happens to also sit in the “budget” category.

Prices on gear aren’t getting any lower, so gigging on a budget has never been more important to guitarists of all levels. The price hikes that we saw at Winter/Summer NAMM are here to stay. Over 12 million people picked up a guitar for the first time over the last two years. I imagine there are a lot of guitarists out there wondering how to start a band, or maybe they have already found one. At any rate, gigging on a budget has never been more important!

Stay Tuned For The “Gigging On A Budget Series” starting next week, and you will find a list below of all of the articles so far! If you want to stay up to date, sign up for our spam-free email list!

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Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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