Tone Talk with Sarah Fard

Photo by Reid Simpson
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022

My name is Sarah Fard, and I am a music educator and performing musician. Savoir Faire is my stage name, and I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12. I found my way into jazz guitar during high school because jazz band was the only ensemble I could join with my instrument. I really, truly, had no idea what I was doing! I would be nowhere without the music teachers that helped me along the way. I pursued music education and jazz guitar in college, and that’s where I started performing. I was too nervous to perform my own music, and found a lot of inspiration in the duets of Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald. I started singing and playing jazz standards and remained doing that for years. 

I didn’t perform my own music until I was in an open mic competition and was told that I couldn’t compete with cover songs — they had to be original! So, I bit the bullet and tried my own music. I won! That was a pivotal moment for the songwriter in me. 

Savoir Faire songs are often focused on social issues. It’s funny; I spent years playing old jazz ballads, but I NEVER write love songs. I prefer to write about the issues that keep me awake at night. I’m inspired by artists such as Fiona Apple, Muse, Radiohead, St. Vincent, and the Police. They have a command of their instruments but don’t shy away from social commentary in their music. 

I recently recorded some music and will be releasing it this year, starting with the single “Sweet” I released earlier in January. The song is a critique of how women like myself are often perceived as gentle and complacent.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone is something that I really didn’t pay attention to for years. And I think that is partly because I thought I wouldn’t get it right. So why try? I love the tone of jazz guitarists like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery, and for years that meant keeping the guitar clean and keeping the tone warm. I still prefer a warm tone, but have branched out a bit more in recent years. Hearing “In Rainbows” by Radiohead was a bit of an “aha” moment for me. Every recording still felt a part of the same world, but there was a range of voices coming from the guitars. I generally keep my guitar on the neck pickup with a bit of compression and reverb, but there are some guitar solos that I prefer to get a brighter, crisper tone, so I roll it up and put it on the bridge pickup — especially if I want some pinch harmonics!

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I go through a Fender Blues Junior. For years I went through a Vox Pathfinder, which I still use, but I find that the Fender gets a warmer tone and really puts out a ton of volume even though it’s a Junior! That’s great for live shows where the amp isn’t being mic’d. 

The first pedal I ever bought was a BOSS DS-1 distortion, and I have been using it ever since. I only recently decided I wanted to try something new and have been using a Rat Distortion pedal instead. I really like it! It gives a good crunch, and I love the filter adjustment. Other pedals I go through are an Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay, an Ibanez mini Tube Screamer for overdrive, a Danelectro CEO Tremolo, and Walrus Audio Effects pedals Julia Chorus and Fathom Reverb. I pretty much always use the reverb with my Xotic SP Compressor because 1) I like my guitar to have some space and a bit of a vintage vibe, and 2) I am always playing fingerstyle, and the compressor helps to even things out! I love tremolo if I really want a retro-noir vibe, and the distortion and overdrive are things I use for riffs and solos. I also love the Julia Chorus if I want my guitar to sound a bit more zany. It can get my guitar close to an organ sound, and I use it on my song “Alias.” It’s a really beautiful pedal.

What about strings?
As for strings, I am a big fan of D’Addario! I’ve used the XL Jazz lights for years but recently switched to their flat wounds and LOVE them. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back on my semi-hollow!

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
That’s a great question. I’m not sure I have achieved that yet, but investing in the amp and pedalboard has certainly helped, as has investing in a small PA system. 

What does your practice consist of?
Practice time is hard to come by for me between working a full-time job and a few part-time jobs around it. That means my practice is often very directed. If I’m not specifically practicing for a gig, then I focus on varying my skills. This year, I use my practice time to get myself “out of the box.” I feel like I’ve been in a rut lately with my guitar, so I’m trying to soak up as many different styles as I can. I like finding various guitarists online and transcribing their work. 

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
That’s a tough one! I can’t quite remember. I can say for certainty that I was originally inspired to pick up the guitar by Jewel Kilcher. In high school, I was really into Metallica and spent a LOT of time with “The Call of Ktulu.” In college, the work of Joe Pass inspired me. I was singing and accompanying myself and needed a way to fill space in arrangements. Joe Pass’s work on “Nature Boy” was a blueprint to me. After graduating and finding my first teaching job, I found myself overwhelmed with the job and struggling to find time for my music. I had a chance to see Muse live and found that it reignited my focus on performing. “Plug In Baby” is perhaps my favorite guitar riff ever. I like to think that different riffs and licks have inspired me to keep going throughout the years. 

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

Surround yourself with similar-minded people as a support network. People will make assumptions about what you can and can’t do, and it is helpful to have people in your life that can understand that experience. Also, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself when you can. I think women are historically encouraged to exert their energy on caring for others rather than themselves. Put forth the confidence and time in your music that your male peers allow themselves!


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