Tone Talk with Abigail Zachko

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Photo by Andrew Bisdale

Hi, my name is Abby, I’m a 17-year-old guitar player from New Jersey. I recently started touring with UK based artist Mura Masa. We started our tour with a performance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a performance at the NME Awards in London. We just finished the European leg of our tour prior to the current lockdown, and I really look forward to getting back on the road with those lovely people!

I also make my own music, some of which can be found online under the band name ‘This Was Planned*’, and look forward to future projects as well.

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

I think that your tone is one of the most unique/individual aspects of playing the guitar. I find my tone to be constantly changing and evolving as I grow both as a player and a musician. It is important as a guitar player to be aware of how you sound both in a group and by yourself and to be able to manipulate that sound accordingly. At first, I think, I focused too much on the effects and didn’t really think about how they related to my melodic ideas or the music I was playing. I think I am a lot more conscious on the ‘group’ sound and how my tone can elevate the overall sound of the band or alternatively, how I can make a solo or solo arrangement sound as uniquely ‘me’ as possible.

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

Right now I’m using a bunch of different things in terms of guitars. I have a few custom builds by AC Guitars. The guy that makes them, Alan, is a true artisan and an overall joy to work with. In my current gig with MURA MASA, I’m using one of Alan’s ‘chubsterr’ guitars — a sort of modern take on a Telecaster with three single coils. It has really nice definition in some of the more pop/electronic songs and cuts through the mix.

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I am also using a D’Angelico Mini DC, a semi-hollow double cut. I really like the DC for some of the more soul-R&B songs in the set. I find it brings a sort of warmth to the songs, and I’m in love with its petite size.

At home, I have another one of Alan’s guitars – the SLG – which is a new take on an offset with an incredible pickup system built with four different single coils set up as two humbuckers. This gives me a wide array of sounds to choose from.

As for amps, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Victory V30 mkII. I think it has an incredibly smooth crunch/overdrive channel that is extremely versatile and works throughout all genres. It also has a warm sparkly clean channel that is a perfect base for effects.

What about strings?

For strings, I’m using the Elixir OPTIWEB 10-46s. I really like how bright they are and how responsive they can be when playing. I think the coating on them is extremely satisfying and makes it so I can play whatever I want without the least bit of hindrance.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

I really enjoy a relaxed recording environment. I often find myself recording with people I get along with and people whose opinions I trust. Snacks are necessary and shoes are optional.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

I think one of the best things about a live show is that your sound is not consistent. Sure, you can set your dials the same way and play the same songs, but the energy in every room is different. This will, in turn, affect the way you play and sound. One of the most important things I find myself doing on stage is paying attention to the visual and audible cues around me. It is usually in the moments where the band, crew, and audience are completely in-sync that we get the best shows.

What does your practice consist of?

My practice usually consists of things I’m terrible at. I do a little bit of sight-reading with a metronome and maybe some warmups if I feel stiff. I’ll often be working on standards and practice analyzing the changes as well as soloing over them. Sometimes I’ll do metronome exercises in which you put the metronome on different beats in the measure. The most important part of practice for me is to keep it interesting. Sometimes I’ll write songs or learn solos if I hit a rough patch in my routine to keep something I love doing from feeling like a chore.

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

I feel like you should keep doing what you love. Get obsessed with music. Make like-minded friends. Now is the time for women in music and the only way to be a part of it is to immerse yourself in that world.

Find Abigail Zachko on Instagram!

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