Shining Bright: How Guitar Shaped Diamonds Metal’s Life

Photos by Deion McCoy

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 21 – Fall 2022

Diamonds Metal is a guitarist from Detroit, Michigan. Endorsed by Jackson Guitars, she has explored the diversity of her guitar tone while meeting other musicians that helped her along her journey. Diamonds is very dedicated to her craft, which is not all about songwriting but also about maintaining a healthy mind and body. Even through moments of discrimination and negativity, she doesn’t allow others’ perspectives on what a guitarist “should look like” to stop her from pursuing her passions. Diamonds Metal is shining bright and helping to pave the way for other Black and femme guitarists.

What made you fall in love with playing guitar?
I was lucky enough to come from a diverse art and musical background. My mother always had instruments for my siblings and me to play. She saw I was interested in guitar and bought one for me for Christmas one year. I fell in love with how the guitar sounded and the feeling and range the strings gave when I played.

Photos by Deion McCoy

Were you self-taught, or did you take lessons?
When I first started playing, I learned a lot of power chords and a few scales, but the learning curve was tough at first. I was teaching myself and learned how to read guitar tabs from the internet; I remember my fingers hurting from trying to learn barre chords! I didn’t start taking lessons until high school and only had them for a few months. I went to the Atlanta Institute of Music for guitar, but only for a brief moment. I still have the same friends from that school that I take lessons with sometimes; I learned so much from my teachers in that short time, so all this experience has helped me get to where I am now. 

How has playing the guitar and being a female musician shaped your life and how you view yourself?
Playing guitar has shaped my life in so many different ways. I’ve met so many amazing musicians, producers, and friends from playing this instrument. It has improved my confidence as a woman and healed me in many ways. I feel beautiful on the inside when I play. Playing guitar is a form of meditation; it has always been there for me. 

What is your songwriting process, and how would you describe your tone?
I try to write a new melody or full song every day for my songwriting process. It can be simple or complex, lengthy or short, as long as I have something new. Most of my songs are just improvisation that I turn into more structured songs. I usually start with a melody in my head and then just have fun exploring the fretboard! I like to play chord melodies. From there, I’ll decide on definite parts I want and record it on video on my phone, so I don’t forget how I played it! Sometimes if I just record audio only, I end up playing the same notes but on different strings or frets, which can make it sound a bit different if I forget how it was originally played! Most people describe my sound as “ambient” when I play clean fingerstyle songs, and I will intentionally use heavy reverb, chorus, and makeup sounds in my processor to give it that effect. For that particular style, my goal is to write songs that sound like it’s from a dream when you just wake up or music you can relax and meditate to.

What attracted you to playing fingerstyle guitar?
I was able to play fingerstyle when I was young, and I remember it was being more comfortable for me, but I was so into heavy metal at the time that the technique was only used on slower songs and ballads; from what I remember, so I didn’t take to it as much. Last year I found some amazing math rock players that made me get back into that style using a different approach.

Who are your musical influences?
Three of my top favorites are  Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, and Jimi Hendrix. Some of my favorite players from my generation are Ichika Nito, Yvette Young, Tosin Abasi and Polyphia (band), Sarah Longfield, and Melanie Faye. I mention these players because they have their unique styles and aren’t afraid to make music that is genuine to them. Although I have a long list of famous influences, the musicians I have met virtually, in person, or through my endorsement company, Jackson Guitars, have been highly influential to me! The artists around me in real life inspire me to practice every day and to learn and even develop new techniques to express myself authentically.

Photos by Deion McCoy

Let’s talk about gear; what amps, guitars, pedals, and pickups are a part of your rig right now? Do you play any other instruments besides the guitar? I primarily have an all-digital setup. I surprisingly only have two real pedals (a Donner Looper pedal and a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah). For pretty much everything, I use my Axe FX 3 processor. It works as an interface and simulates many different amps/cabs, etc. I can even sculpt my tones, and it performs system updates, so I’m always finding new styles to experiment with. I usually use DiMarzio pickups. They are my go-to; however, my latest Jackson guitar has Fishman Fluence pickups, which are amazing!

I used to play the clarinet and studied the harp in high school. Right now, I want to get into modular synthesis to complement my guitar playing, so that will be my next experimental instrument!

What does your practice routine consist of? What advice would you give musicians who want to build up their skills and agility?
My daily practice routine is at least five hours long, consisting of playing chord progressions, tapping exercises that I either made up or have memorized from a lesson video, learning new chord shapes, going over songs and covers I have memorized, and writing new material. 

Regarding dexterity advice, I love to stretch out my wrists and hands before I play and try not to strain myself if I feel like I’m not yet ready to play something up to tempo. Playing a challenging passage very slowly and then building up speed with a metronome is the best and healthiest way to go!

What are some of your go-to songs for inspiration? Do you have any licks or solos you love to play during your practice sessions or performing live?
Some of my go-to songs for inspiration are “Anima” by Elephant Gym, “Inner Assassins” by Animals as Leaders, “Circle” by Ichika Nito, “Playing God” by Polyphia, “Bubble Dream” by CHON, “falkor” by Covet,  and “The Dead Pool” by Guitar Gabby & The TxLips Band!

Regarding solos before a session or performance, my friends send me exercises they’ve made themselves, which is so cool. I enjoy going over their practices before I start the day.

What challenges have you faced being a Black woman in the Metal/ Rock/Fingerstyle scene?
One positive thing about being a Black woman in metal/rock/fingerstyle music is that I get a chance to represent women that look like me through social media and my work as a session musician. I enjoy showing that guitar players come in many different colors and shapes, and we take music seriously and enjoy metal/progressive so much. It may come as a surprise, but many of us out there explore metal/prog/rock music. 

One of the biggest challenges that come with that is the lack of representation. It matters to include us in different spaces because we have so many creative ideas and approaches to guitar, guitar design, and music in general that could seriously help all guitar players in the long run.

What shifts do you hope to see in the music industry within the next five years?
I hope to see more acknowledgment of Black female musicians in the music industry, primarily through social media. Anyone with access to a smartphone can make videos from their home and reach thousands, even millions of people. It would be amazing to see more Black female musicians find that courage to make music even if we aren’t seen as much, and encourage, motivate and teach each other. In the next five years, I see myself as a healthy and happy touring musician, and I hope to make at least five albums. I want to make music to make people happy.