Let’s Talk Gear | Tone Talk with Towela Phiri

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Photo courtesy of artist
       

It’s Women’s History Month and we wanted to talk to some of our favorites about their gear and tone setup(s). If you are not familiar with Guitar Girl Magazine’s “Tone Talk” series, this is where we dive into what makes the tone of different musicians’ setups unique to them. We unpack their likes and dislikes and what makes their setup perfect for them.

If you like what you read, check out Towela’s Tone Talk on our IG page where she walks through some of her favorite gear. 

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

To me, tone is all about emotion and how you tell your story through music. My tone has changed drastically since I started playing. I used to just play with the very clean setting which was truthfully boring and lacked emotion for me, but now I’m on the path to discovering my unique tone. This journey has led me to experiment with a lot of pedals and different voicings to get the sound I want.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

The guitar I use the most is the first guitar I ever got. It was an off-brand Sante Fe red electric Strat. I also play on an Epiphone Les Paul Special-II with humbuckers and then for my acoustic, I play an Ibanez PC15ECE 21- fret guitar.  

When it comes to amps I use a Fender Champion 40 for performances and then for smaller gigs and practices I play on my VOX Mini3 G2 and Cort CM15R.

What about strings?

Ever since I started playing, I’ve been using Ernie Ball regular slinky .10 gauge. I recently started using Ernie Ball skinny top/heavy bottom strings on my Les Paul because I started exploring different tunings and these strings work particularly well with that. I use Ernie Ball Medium Light Earthwood Phosphor Bronze strings on my Ibanez acoustic. 

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

It all depends on the set list but I always make sure everything is balanced and then throw in a little bit of reverb just for fun.

What does your practice consist of?

I recently just made a solid practice routine. I have this weird habit where I have to wash my hands with warm water before I play. I don’t know where it came from but it’s somehow a part of my routine now lol. I make sure I start with running through a couple of scales to warm up. On Mondays I practice different picking techniques and improvisation. I pick random loops and beats on YouTube and play over those. Tuesdays are for theory: Theory Tuesday. I thought that name had a nice ring to it so I dedicated Tuesday to the scariest thing in the world. Wednesday and Thursdays are dedicated to learning riffs that I like and exploring different genres that I don’t necessarily enjoy. Honestly the weekend is for doing whatever I want. I don’t really have a set practice routine for the weekend, I just go with the flow. 

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

First and foremost, just be yourself and don’t try to adopt other guitar player’s styles just because they are popular. Kurt Cobain said something that really resonated with me over the years, “It’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.” Stay authentic to yourself and work to achieve your goals. Secondly, failing is inevitable but getting up after that fall is the most important part.

Follow Towela on IG @towela.music

Check out Towela’s Tone Talk video here

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Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan is an Atlanta Native and proud graduate of Spelman College and Vermont Law School. Her background in environmental and music law fueled her desire to start and manage the international all-women touring collective, TxLips Band, LLC. Logan believes it is important for artists to be well rounded and versed in many areas of the music business, thus inspiring women worldwide to be an unstoppable force. She is the Diversity Editor for Guitar Girl Magazine and the Board Chair for Girls Rock Asheville. http://www.txlips.com