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Cheapskate Collective: An Introduction

How to get great tone without a big bank account - get involved!

“I know it’s only rock and roll, but I can’t afford it.”
-Rick Jagger (Asian copy)

Editor’s Note: For years we’ve seen your letters, e-mails, and comments: “How about covering something I can afford?” “Why not make a version for the rest of us?” “Maybe when I win the lottery.” Trust us, we sympathize. Sure, we’re living in a golden age of gear, but it’s not always easy sorting through the boutique masterpieces to find the more affordable gems. So with that in mind, we’re launching this Budget Gearhead column, written by budget gearhead Aubrey Singer. We want this to be a forum for you to get help and help each other get great tone without breaking the bank, so interact, comment, email, and share—we’re all in this together.

Does the announcement of the latest $5,000 Gibson Les Paul reissue make your accountant wince? Of course not. You can’t afford an accountant (never mind a Les Paul). But why get mad when you can get connected? Introducing the Cheapskate Collective—a monthly column for the rest of us. I want this to be our guide to finding your place in the guitar universe without spending a fortune.

As we all know, the gear bug doesn’t discriminate. When you gotta have it, you gotta have it—whether you’re playing Madison Square Garden or busking outside its front doors. And with your help, this column will help us identify what it is and where we can get it for less. True, we all love looking at the pictures and reading the ads. But sooner or later, we’d like to purchase. We’d like to shred on new gear without shredding Benjamins we don’t have, or taking unnecessary risks on unproven budget gear. “Good ’n’ Cheap,” is the name of the game—so we all get more bang and less risk for our 30 percent APR credit.

Having wandered NAMM dazed and confused, I have no doubt that the gear landscape will be constantly shifting beneath our collective feet in the months to follow. In fact, some brands don’t even attend NAMM and, instead, put the booth costs into the product. This is the kind of stuff we’re after. The hidden gems. The stuff that’s off the radar. The secret weapons. Like Edward Van Halen’s iconic “Frankenstein,” the Cheapskate Collective should be all about the sum of the parts creating a greater whole.

On our quest to acquire more for less, we’ll cover the basics: lessons and licks, guitars, amps, pickups, pedals, retail bargains, and maintenance. Each month, we’ll unearth the latest finds and deals that are worthy of further exploration to the budget-conscious player. Sticker prices and URLs are important, and your feedback is, too. If you have a cool piece of cheap gear, then do a demo and post or send in a link to your YouTube channel so we can all take a listen and discuss.

This must be a collaborative effort. We need real-time feedback to remain relevant. Word of mouth rules, and hands-on experience counts. So tell us what you think. Post your finds and feedback, and let’s get the show on the road. After all, we are a growing audience that demands to be heard. And as the bard of prog rock once wrote, “Attention all planets of the Solar Federation. We have assumed control ... we have assumed control ... we have assumed control.”

Next month’s installment: Lessons and Licks: What tools do you use to get better? Know a lesser-traveled site with a cache of quality lesson material? Got a can’t-lose-technique for negotiating fair lesson prices? Send your suggestions to and we might use them (and credit you, of course!) in next month’s column.