I Like Cheap Guitars

Cheap guitars rock. 

My current collection consists of:

  • 2 low-cost Epiphones (SG Special and Dot Studio)
  • 2 Squiers (Vintage Modified Jaguar and a Stratocaster I got for free because it wasn't working)
  • a Jay Turser ES335 copy
  • an Aria Pro Knight Warrior II, which I repainted
  • a Westone from the 1980s, also repainted
  • a Thinline Telecaster kit-built guitar
  • the weird Strat-shaped kit-built guitar in the header picture
  • a kit-built Gretsch-style hollowbody with a knockoff Bigsby-style trem
  • a knockoff P-bass
  • a kit-built Jazz bass

The most expensive guitar in that lineup - the Jay Turser - was about 400 bucks. They're all cheap guitars, and I think they're all great. 

My favorites right now are the SG Special and the Jaguar.

The Special is the cheapest SG-shaped axe they make, with a Bolt-on neck, stripped-down controls (master volume/tone with a kill pot, 3-way toggle) and the cheapest humbucking pickups Epiphone makes. But I like the feel of the guitar - the weight, the shape, the thin "shredder" neck, the way you can feel each note all the way through the mahogany. And it sounds great to me. I can get nice, sparking sounds playing it with the volume rolled back a bit, or I can crank it up with a shit-ton of gain and fuzz and make doomy Sabbath sludge. 

The Jag is a different beast. The Jag doesn't do doomy Sabbath sludge all that well, but it does jazz, classic rock, surf, country, jangly indie navel-gazing alternative, punk, post-punk, post-indie-alt-pop-punk with cinnamon and pretty much whatever else. It has a fantastic neck, cool chrome plates with a bunch of weird switches, the big 60's-style headstock and a candy-apple red paintjob, and it's actually hard to pull a bad tone out of it. It's the kind of guitar that will make other guitar players look twice, and it was only $10 more than the cheap-ass SG Special. 

The kit guitars are pretty nice, but I don't play them much - they're works of art more than anything. They can be turned into great players with some time, know-how and patience. The unfinished Strat-shaped hollowbody with the P90s and the Jag-style trem is a rare bird, and I have a whole slew of ideas on how to pimp it up. 

The real gems, though, are the cheap, nasty guitars. If they have good necks, they are blank canvases just waiting for the painter's brush, and maybe some powertools and shit. I like working with them because they're cheap enough that I don't really give a fuck if I break something, but they're playable and functional to start with. That Strat I got for free had a nice neck on it, for example - all the guts were fouled with greasy powder like it had been shot with a paintball gun, and none of the electronics worked, but the body was solid, the neck felt good in the hand, and aftermarket Strat parts are plentiful and cheap as fuck. So I hammered some copper and brass and leather onto the body, beat the wood with a hammer and burned it with a woodburning kit, painted it with several coats of varnish and carefully-applied stain, made a pickguard out of sheet brass, threw in a decent and reasonably-priced set of pickups and shit, and now I have this awesome one-of-a-kind work of art that plays well.

That's the beauty of cheap stuff. When it does the job as well as an expensive thing, you got a great deal. If it doesn't, you don't need to be afraid of "ruining the value" or something lame like that - fuck it, hack it up and have fun experimenting. 

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