Tone Talk with Holly West

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holly west bass player
Photo by Jack Lue

Hi! I’m Holly West. I am mainly known as the bassist for the all-female Led Zeppelin powerhouse Zepparella. You may have seen me fronting my own band out there somewhere too! I also play acoustic guitar and sing in SoCal when I’m not touring with different bands. I started my musical journey when I was young, and even with lots of time off to travel the world and focus on other ventures, I always found my way back to music. About ten years ago, I started playing music full time while I was also a busy hairdresser in Dallas, Texas. Since moving to California and closer to my bands, I have now focused solely on music.

I was in several original bands in Dallas, Texas. Later I started playing in cover bands, and that’s what led me to be in a tribute band. I think it is a very important part of my learning, as a musician, to play other artists’ music. It helped me write my own record, Mokita, in 2017, and I am currently working on a new release. I hope to see all of you out there on the road this year!

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
My definition is that it’s your very own sonic signature. You pick out your instrument, and you dial in your tone to get your own combination that creates your sonic tonal signature.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
Currently, in Zepparella, I use a ‘60s model Fender Jazz played through an 800-watt hybrid Bassman amp and 8×10 Neo-speaker cab—lightweight but heavy in sound! In my own band, I have a Heartke LH500 and an Eden Full stack. Usually, I only need one 4×10. I’m a no pedal bassist normally, so just a tuner. I’ve been playing around with some cool octave and overdrive pedals lately. I’m trying to get into expanding my pedal vocabulary a little.

What about strings?
DR flat wounds on most of my basses. Elixir 80/20 Polyweb strings on my guitars.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
Analog or digital? Big studio or small? I think these days I really just prefer a great engineer!

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How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
Repetition is the mother of all skills! Practice, practice, practice! Rest and a good diet! Keep your mind right when you play.

What does your practice consist of?
I usually spend three to four hours of my day with diligent practice. When I’m on the road, I supplement that time with reading about music, watching videos about theory, or writing lyrics. I also teach, and if you’ve ever been a music instructor, you know it makes you really learn music. That takes up hours of my week.

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
I was really in to Cheap Trick as a kid. I got a tape when I was really young and thought this is what I’m supposed to listen to if I like rock music.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Enjoy every minute of it! The practice plays off, and if you get down because you feel like you’re not “getting it,” just remember a lot of people didn’t get it until they took it seriously. Be obsessed with your guitar and how you treat those around you. It will come back to you in a good way!

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