Inside the Industry: Helene Webman of ToneWoodAmp

Photo provided by ToneWoodAmp

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine, Issue 8

Innovation plays a part in today’s music just as much as heart, soul, influence, and talent does. Today’s music wouldn’t be the same without the technical tools that make it possible. One of those innovations, the ToneWoodAmp, got its start on Kickstarter and has quickly become a phenomenon that allows musicians to amplify and try effects without the bulk of traditional amps or pedals. We sat down with the brains behind the innovation to learn how their dream came to life.

You and your husband Ofer are the masterminds behind ToneWoodAmp. What was the inspiration behind the product and how was it developed?

The official version of the story is that Ofer smoked something really strong, and very illegal! But the simple truth is that Ofer always felt that the acoustic guitar lacked something that electric guitar players always had. One day Ofer became aware that it is possible to excite a surface and use it as a speaker, and he came up with a concept that was worth exploring. In its simplest form, the idea in question was: what will happen if we excite the back of a guitar with effects ONLY while the string naturally excites the top of the guitar? From one crude prototype to the next, the experience proved itself to be intoxicating, and we were convinced that we needed to put all our eggs in this basket—ToneWoodAmp.

You had quite a successful Kickstarter Campaign in 2014. Did you expect to exceed your goals so quickly?

We didn’t know what to expect once we pushed the green button to launch our ToneWoodAmp campaign. Every day we rolled out of bed to check the progress and checked again before rolling into bed at night. It was a stressful time, as it felt that our future depended on the campaign’s success. Luckily, folks believed in our idea and helped us exceed our goal of $100K. We are forever grateful since without that, the ToneWoodAmp would not have happened.

ToneWoodAmp also has a great group of artists who love your product. What do you look for in an artist seeking an endorsement?

I get the fantastic job of finding the great artists you see endorsing the ToneWoodAmp. There is enormous talent out there, but when you see and feel someone who has that extra something, it just stands out. It’s talent, it’s passion, charisma, personality, and when its feels real with an honest heart, you just know. All ToneWoodAmp artists, well known or less well known, all have that something special. We are extremely fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of artists, and they are so much fun! To love what you do is a gift, and these artists all have that.

How do you see your product benefitting musicians, and what impact on the music industry do you see it having overall?

The answer we always hear from pros and casual artists is that the ToneWoodAmp inspires them to play more, to explore new ideas, and to love practicing or creating music more than they ever have. That’s a huge deal for us. To inspire such happiness, joy, and creativity for so many makes what we do all worth it. Mike Dawes’ recent album ERA was fully inspired by the ToneWoodAmp. Steve Mandile, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, released his first album Beautiful Brand New Day where some songs were also inspired by the ToneWoodAmp. Calum Graham is now releasing an album inspired by the ToneWoodAmp, Becky Langan from the UK, and many more. We see the impact of the TonewoodAmp on these artists, and also on the casual artists who share their music with us on social media every day. It’s truly inspiring.

Did you have a mentor who influenced you?

Ofer and I both started knowing close to nothing about how to begin this journey. All we had was our life experience and a strong belief in our mission. We are two people who took an idea and made it happen. As we slowly got to know folks in the industry, we were most fortunate to meet leaders such as Richard Factor from Eventide—he recently received a Technical Grammy Award. When I say this man is unique and kind, that is an understatement. Richard has been there for us any time we give him a ring. He’s extremely polished, intelligent, visionary, and has opened our eyes to many things. Richard always asks us the questions we don’t have the answers to. Larry Fishman of Fishman Transducers Company has been there for us as well with solid advice. These two men are generous, insightful, and were always happy to answer questions we had. Musicians also helped guide us. From the beginning, Grammy Award winner and producer Larry Mitchell gave us insight from a musician’s point of view, as have artists Mike Dawes, Jake Allen, Morf, Andy McKee, Denise Kaufman, Kaki King, George Benson, and more.

What tips or advice do you have for other women who would like to launch their own business?

If you believe in your idea, go for it. If you have the fire, gumption, hunger, and desire to do something you believe, that’s the start. Once you have that drive, keep pushing through the walls and don’t give up. There will be days you will be exhausted and discouraged, but just know there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you feel you lack some skills, find a way to educate yourself or find a great partner to work with you. When you run a business, you always need help. Take the time to find the right person. It should be someone you trust, who has your back, and who feels the same passion for what you are doing. That’s key.

I know you’ve got something in the works for 2019. Can you give us a little teaser?

We are presently working on a new product, and it’s still a BIG secret! The sky is the limit for ToneWoodAmp, and we hope to create something amazing for you all again.

Tara Low


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