Tone Talk with Marina Rocks

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Photo by Dee Hill
       

Thank you for asking me to write a little about myself, my music, guitars, and projects. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and was fortunate I had parents, especially my mom, who loved all kinds of music. I know that appreciation of all types of music, especially all types of guitar music, not only influenced my style of playing and writing but probably helped keep me employed more consistently because I could switch from rock, country, blues, vintage, and current R&B. My current project is the release of my album, Marina Rocks – Austin to Houston.

I recently played at the Americana Music Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and after that, will be flying to Paris/Antwerp for a mini tour.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I started taking lessons when I was about eight years old. Mom bought me a guitar and found a teacher. The first thing he did was tell her to take that oversized guitar back and buy one that fit my size better — she found a parlor-size guitar. I practiced till my little fingers bled. My instructor recommended less abrasive nylon strings. That was a definite tone change. I still think it is important to have a guitar that fits you and fits your size and hand size, especially for beginners and for people with small hands. Set up properly by a competent tech is also important.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
When I play solo, I play a vintage Godin A6 acoustic guitar. It is a narrow-body acoustic guitar, and for me has the neck feel of something like a Strat. When I play in a band, I use a custom smaller body Fender Strat, Canary Yellow. I have a Fender Prosonic Tube Amp; it may have been a Custom Shop amp. I try to plug it in first thing at a gig and let the tubes warm up. Tone and distortion seem a little sweeter and a little crunchier the longer it heats up. I still have my full-stack 100-watt Marshall Amp 4×12’ Jensen speakers in two cabs and a vintage 100 tube head mom bought me. I think she paid $1,000.00 plus traded in a clarinet. I hear today the entire stack is worth about $10,000. Mint condition!

But these days, most gigs are solo. Of all my Godins, this well-loved vintage Godin A6 guitar with holes in the face and turquoise inlay has my favorite tone — and that’s plugged in or not plugged in. The only pedals I use for the Strat or the Godin are a Polytune tuner and a BOSS DD-3 digital delay. It’s because of my Godin’s tone I wrote many of my songs. I would play Godins even if I didn’t have an endorsement because this little guitar has truly changed my life.

What about strings?
As far as strings for the Godin, these days, I mostly use D’Addario strings. They’re what came on my first Godin. I’m pretty hard on strings, and these hold up pretty well.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

This last album I recorded during the pandemic. I had never self-engineered a recording. So dove into Garage Band and YouTube tutorials. I had another engineer mix and master. By recording in my studio, it gave me time to develop a sound without the meter ticking $$.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

It’s all about the tone! One way I try to ensure consistent tone at gigs is to have the amp that reproduces and sets the guitar’s wood and those tones free. I’m not a fan of processed sound. Good guitar wood, simple good pickup, and stay out of its way and don’t color the natural tone of each individual guitar.

When I work solo, I’m playing my vintage Godin A6. I use two QSC K.2 10” powered speakers. I love those speakers, 2,000 watts, I believe. They are a powerful match with the Godin. I like how it reproduces and not colors the tone. The Godin has a great bottom end, the QSC does a great job of thumping, and the guitar sparkles through the QSC. I try to never leave home without it. With it, you know your tone has a chance, even if the sound man is there. 🙂

What does your practice consist of?
I miss days with time to practice. You never stop learning from so many great guitarists out there. When I did practice, I used to spend hours over one lick, over and over, listening to a recording. I used to listen to Lloyd Maines’s steel guitar licks, too. Sometimes I found if I worked on a lick, then took a break, I could come back with a fresh approach, and things could open up.

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?

A favorite inspirational lick? So many. Albert Lee guitar on “Luxury Liner” from an Emmylou Harris album. Some of my guitar influences are Jimmy Page, Mother Maybelle Carter, Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, Jimi Hendrix, The Edge (U2), Lloyd Maines, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Oliver Mtukudzi.

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

My advice for women — practice not only on your guitar but on your vocals. Make lists, set goals, practice, go to the gym, write music, and write what you know and experience. Stay curious and kind. Stay healthy.

Thank you again, and I wish everyone good gigs, good drummers, and safe travels; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

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