What You'll Need to Save for a Rockin' Garage Band Setup

Close-up view of an electric guitar leaning against an amplifier

Some of the most enduring rock ’n’ roll music ever created has its roots in the humblest room in the home. Bands like Nirvana, The Ramones, and The Kinks all started out in the dingy confines of a garage. If you’re interested in joining those ranks, here’s all the gear you’ll need to kick out some jams from the comfort of your own home.


Guitars

There are a lot of different instruments to choose from depending on the kind of noise you want to make, but the bare-bones, tried-and-true garage rock lineup is electric guitar, bass, and a simple drum kit.

A good, entry-level electric guitar can be bought used for anywhere between $200 and $300. A beginner’s bass can be found for about the same amount. With a little searching you might be able to find something cheaper, but buyer beware! Anything below $150 will probably leave you disappointed in your purchase. A cheap guitar or bass may not give you the reliability and sound quality you need to make your musical vision come alive. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your guitar, so you want to make sure that it’s an instrument you look forward to playing.

Electric guitar or bass guitar
$250

Drums

Now, for the all-important backbeat. You can purchase an entry-level drum kit for anywhere between $350 and $500. Start by looking for a standard five-piece drum set, which you can usually find for about $400. If you purchase a high-quality basic set, you can always add on to it and customize it over time as you develop your sound.

Basic drum set and a cymbal or two
$400

Amplifier

Now that you’re making music, you’ll want to be able to hear it. Buying an amplifier can be a confusing process. Do you go tube or solid-state? New or vintage? There are all sorts of amps to choose from, from $200 practice amps to $3,000 full-stacks.

Picking an amp is all about what sounds good to you, the musician—you just have to feel it out. Head to your nearest music store, instrument in tow, and try all of the options that appeal to you. You’ll only be able to find exactly what you want in person.

A worthwhile amp will be at least $300. Remember that music equipment generally retains its value. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little extra on something that feels right since you can always sell it later as your needs change.

Used amp
$350

PA

Singing helps fill out the songs that you and your band come up with. If you have an aspiring lyricist in the group, chances are they will demand a public address system to let their creative vision come through on your tracks.

A basic PA system will allow you to be heard over the instruments. Most starter PA systems consist of a microphone, a powered mixer, and a speaker. There’s no need to get anything fancy, just enough to be heard in your garage.

PA system
$200

Soundproofing your garage

Soundproofing your garage is a great way to pursue your musical ambition without wearing out your neighbors’ patience. Feeling guilty while your band gets up to speed will delay your progress. At first, you’ll want the freedom to play like no one’s listening!

Luckily, cheap materials will give you good soundproofing results. Old blankets, pillows, mattresses, or even egg cartons can go a long way toward muffling the racket you’ll be making.

Blankets and empty egg cartons
$50

Recording your demo

Once you’ve got some catchy riffs together, you’ll want to share them with the world. The cheapest and easiest way to record a demo is to make your recordings digitally using free software and an audio interface. You can find a cheap audio interface for about $50. While buying instruments online can be tricky, it should be your go-to when buying an audio interface. It’s easier to compare gear specs and click through reviews for gear that’s less personal and more technical.

Many garage-rock enthusiasts, however, swear by making recordings on tape. To get that authentic garage sound, you might want to consider investing in a tried-and-true cassette four-track, which can cost about $150. You’ll also want to budget for a few extra cables and stands to get everything hooked up.

Recording setup
$150