Playing Music She Likes: Tone Talk with Riley Christensen

At The Corbin Bowl in Tarzana, CA, on September 16, 2022 Photo by Jack Lue

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 21 – Fall 2022

I’m Riley, and I play in a band with my two brothers called Speed of Light. We’ve been playing for over five years. I started playing bass and singing when I was 7. Our first venue show was when I was 10. We’ve been playing together for what feels like forever. I think we’re a live band primarily. That’s where we have the most fun. We’ve played all over the Los Angeles and Orange County area, from places like the Whisky A Go Go to backyards, and it’s all been a blast.

My biggest influences are probably Colin Greenwood from Radiohead and Justin Chancellor from Tool.

We just recorded a new EP over the summer, and we’re mixing it now. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to hear it.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I started out with a lot of distortion, using a Big Muff and Swollen Pickle. Over the years, I’ve just been trying to simplify and find the best frequency within the band. Between my brothers’ guitar and drums, it’s been about finding the best lane where my playing contributes to the song the most.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I play a Supro Huntington 2 short scale. And for pedals, I just use a Drop and a tuner. I used to have more pedals on my board, but I learned I didn’t need them for the sound we’re trying to make.

What about strings?
I use Ernie Ball flatwounds.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
We just recorded an EP this summer. I deferred to the producer because I’m still learning new techniques.

We record our live shows and watch them later the next day. Then we make adjustments to the sound and everything else during our rehearsals. If we didn’t like the way it sounded live, we tweak it around. I also have my preferred amp settings. But honestly, a lot of it is out of our hands. If you get a good sound guy at a show, they make a world of difference.

What does your practice consist of?
Our practice usually runs about four to five hours a day, four to five days a week. I like to start with metronome work. I play with my brothers, so we usually start with just me and Tyler (the drummer) going through the songs. Then we build up to the rest of the song until we’re full-out performing like we’re going to perform on stage. Our tiny lockout gets really messed up at this point, and by the time we leave, it feels like we just ran a marathon.

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
My favorites are “Schism” and “46&2” by Tool.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
I would say play the music you like to hear because you’re going to be playing a lot of it. If it’s boring, or you’re not into it, it’s probably going to show. For me, personally, it’s been music itself that has helped me get through all the highs and lows. Don’t overthink it; just play the music you like and let it carry you through everything else.