Tone Talk with Indigo Una

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Indigo Una is a guitarist and vocalist who is currently a Jazz Studies major at Howard University. During this pandemic, one of my favorite things to do is to create jazz re-harmonizations of songs stemming from any genre with great melodies. Some of my biggest musical influences come from many different genres, but to name a few, I love India Arie, Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spalding, Sarah Vaughan, and the Internet. It’s hard to stop the list there, but those are some of my favorites. I have an upcoming acoustic guitar EP scheduled to be released this summer. I’m very excited to announce the title and release date on my social media soon (@IndigoUna). 

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
To me, tone is the way sound resonates and reaches you. There are lots of aspects to consider with your choices in tone playing any instrument, considering the options are almost endless, and each texture imparts a different mood or perspective on what is being shared. It honestly creates a different emotional experience. 

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I have two guitars with me where I’m staying now; my Epiphone Les Paul (Ms. Adu) and a pretty basic lightweight starter nylon string acoustic (Sister Simone). I typically use Sister Simone when I want to go practice outside and can’t bring an amp. I also have a light pink strat (Babygirl), which I miss every day I’m not in D.C. It has a full rosewood neck and is an excellent guitar. Right now, I am using a very small portable Blackstar ID Core 10 watt amp to play the Les Paul. I love all of the options it gives in terms of voicing. I like the fact that I can bring it with me anywhere pretty seamlessly. I also recently purchased a NUX loop core pedal that has been really wonderful for shedding over different chord changes and recording my ideas. It has like six hours of storage, so it’s pretty useful for musicians like me who are constantly working on new things. 

What about strings?
On Ms. Adu (the Les Paul), I prefer strings that don’t mess with the classic sound that Les Paul’s have. This guitar has a pretty hearty natural sound as a guitar, and I want to keep it that way, so I just rock .10-.46 Ernie Ball strings, and I love it. 

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
Typically, I try with just about anything to get different sounds. I’m big on experimentation, and I pick up as much as I can from YouTube University. At my home studio, I love sampling random sounds to see what I can come up with. Similarly to striking a match, I find playing around with different sounds can strike a chord that leads me to an explosion of ideas that end up being a masterpiece. I think what started me off recording was a Lalah Hathaway masterclass I attended right before starting college. I don’t want to misquote her, but my understanding of her words was that music is everywhere and in everything, and as artists, it would be beneficial for us to stop and listen. I did just that, and you will be able to hear a lot of that on my new project. 

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
Soundcheck time is everything. I need to be able to hear a piece of each song on my setlist to ensure the levels of everything are exactly where I need them to be. Especially if the instrumentation changes beforehand. If I can have a thorough soundcheck, I feel more comfortable playing my set. I don’t care if we have to get there at sunrise, it needs to happen.

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What does your practice consist of?
I used to have to squeeze practice into my schedule between full-time classes, gigs, rehearsals, sleep, and some semblance of social life. My practice is very focused and specific. I write down broad playing and singing goals for the week and then narrow down what I want to work on specifically each day and for how long. Pre-quarantine, I was practicing about three hours a day. Now I practice for six hours a day. It’s fun, and it’s keeping me fulfilled and sane. My progress has doubled, as I guess would be expected since I doubled my effort. I’m glad I have the time. I’m quite literally in the shed by state law. I don’t think I’ll ever want to come out even when the world opens.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
My advice would be to affirm yourself as often as you can through your actions and your words. Decide what it means to be a great musician and write it down. Be her! There is nothing stopping you, and when the world tries to throw something in your path, take a step back to assess the roadblock and then make an informed decision to move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! I think it’s important for other women to support each other, so if you ever need anything along your journey, I’m here and encourage you to reach out to me (@indigouna)! We are a community, and through shared knowledge and support, there really is no limit. You got this. 

 

 

 

 

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