The $1,000 Guitar Rig Challenge

Guitar rigs are not usually put together in a single, inspired shopping spree. They evolve over years as our tastes, budgets, and gear knowledge change. That’s part of the beauty and joy of being a musician.

But what if you were handed a check for $1,000 and told to build a complete rig in a single session on Reverb?

Consider this a thought experiment. A scavenger hunt to build a hypothetical rig for a hypothetical player. An exercise in pragmatism to illustrate what’s possible when you’re open to used gear and some creative pairings. Proof that low-cost doesn’t mean boring.

The Challenge:

Build a rig that:

  • Includes a guitar, an amp, and some means of staying in tune.

  • Is giggable in a small to medium club (i.e. no headphone amps or 4-watt microamps).

  • Is something you would get a kick out of using.

  • Employs any mix of new, used or handmade items, but they must be available on Reverb.

  • Costs less than $1k in total. Claimed prices must reflect past transaction history.

In this game, there’s no room for “look at me” purchases, vanity gear, or hot new releases. It could have been a build-a-dream-rig-for-$10k challenge, but I think the constraints and unavoidable compromises of a limited budget make it more interesting - and reflective of real life.

I sent this out to some of the Reverb staff, and here’s what they came up with. Click through to find these items on the site, or hunt down your own listings.

Let us know which ones resonate with you - or what you’d build - in the comments.

The Shoegazer

"A hip offset, a fuzz designed to chase the tones of My Bloody Valentine, and a heady reverb/delay combo. What more do you need?" - Carly

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The Blues Aficionado on a Barista’s Budget

"There is a particular kind of player who lives in the middle of the 'Strat-overdrive-pentatonic scales' Venn diagram. You know who you are. This one goes out to you." - Kevin

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The Country Classic

"I'm a big fan of the Keeley Memphis Sun because it gives you slapback and reverb in one box. Add that to a tried-and-true Tele/Fender Amp package, and you've got a surefire recipe for '50s rockabilly and country tones." - Dan

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The Solid State Jazzer

"Switch the Roland to the ‘Jazz Chorus’ setting, dial in just slight slapback from the Tape Echo, and roll the neck pickup tone knob down about a third of the way. People will get over the fact that your amp says ‘CUBE’ after the third song. If you play well." - Cooper

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The Emo Revivalist

"This rig represents all the Chicago basement shows I went to in my youth. It can do clean and soft as easily as hard and loud, all while bucking the usual gear choices." - Ron

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The Vintage-Loving Hipster

"Nothing screams hipster like a budget guitar from the ‘60s, raw early days effects, and a Silvertone amp. Facial hair, ultratight clothes, and denim jacket optional." - Jim

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The Metalhead

"Most metal players want to use the gain on their amp rather than a pedal. The 6505+ has more than enough. Throw in a bit of delay for leads, and you’re set." - Sawyer

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The Outsider

"This is not a game. This is my actual rig, except for the cab. The Switchblade lets me use one or both channels on the Challenger. And yes, you can find an Italia Modena for $400 if you look at the right time and make an offer." - Sean

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The Cover Band Guitarist

"This covers all the bases: single coil and humbucker tones with the coil-tapping, a range of effects without a clumsy digital multi-effects interface. You have to be a tonal chameleon in a pop cover band. You can pull off the solo from 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and play 'Just Like Heaven' by The Cure for the next song with a few clicks of the foot." - Rachel

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The Purist

"A hollowbody with fat, punchy P-90s that can feedback on command and a great overlooked amp with tremolo and reverb on tap. You’d have enough money left to buy a Strymon pedal and still be under budget. But who needs pedals with this setup?" - Pete

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Post-Challenge Reflection

Forcing yourself to develop several viable rigs on this budget surfaces a few things:

  • It's surprising what quality, affordable music-making tools you can find when you have to look hard.

  • There are tiers of products at different price points from the big brands - but you can also find used or vintage specimens with more character for the same price.

  • If you're not recording professionally, going on world tour, or trying to impress gear snob friends, there's no reason why you'd want to spend any more on some of these rigs.

  • Everyone who participated in the challenge was smiling the whole time, itching to actually play what they had chosen.

Limits spur creativity and redirect your focus on making music, rather than worrying about what gear you could or should be using. 99% of us face limits when choosing our tools. This is a good thing.

The work of an artist includes trying to transcend the limits of their tools. No matter what you're playing, finding the edges of your gear's capabilities isn't always a signal to replace it. It may just be your rig pushing you to be a more inventive, creative musician.

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