Tone Talk with Megan Maloney

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My name is Megan Maloney. I am a rock guitarist based in Raleigh, NC. I am the lead guitarist in the mostly all-female rock band The Phoebes. (The Phoebes band).

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone is your individual voice on your instrument. It’s a combination of the make of your guitar, your gear, your fingers, your vibrato, your picking, your phrasing, and dynamics. My guitar tone has developed a lot through the years, especially more recently because I’ve been exposed to different styles of music. I was born up north and raised in the south. Most of the guitar players I know from the south learned how to play the guitar by playing gospel in church. Usually, they start at church and progress into other styles. I, however, started on classical guitar at school and then later on progressed into playing lead in a friend’s Mexican Blues/Rock band. I guess my tone is a little different because I grew up playing two totally unrelated styles. Classical music taught me how to make the guitar sing, while Mexican Rock/ Blues (Rock Urbano) taught me how to make the guitar scream and yell and cry. I’m just now getting into gospel, and its opened up a whole new world of guitar tone to me.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
My go-to guitar is the Ibanez RG with a Floyd Rose tremelo. I LOVE this guitar because it’s versatile. I have to have the Floyd, especially when playing rock because I like to bend notes like Eddie van Halen. When it comes to my gear tone, I like the authenticity of tube amps and analog pedals. I use a Fender Hot Rod tube amp for most gigs, mostly because it’s compact, lightweight, and loud. It’s a great amp if you are on the go. My favorite pedals are the MXR Super Badass distortion pedal and MXR Carbon Copy the Vox Wah.

What about strings?
I really like to use Ernie Ball nickel-wound strings on my electric guitars. I love how smooth they feel, and they last forever. I’ve had a bunch of strings wear out on me after just changing them, but Ernie Ball seems to last.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
It’s really hard to keep your sound consistent on stage, especially if you are like me and play in different bands. Even though I use the same gear, the setup is different every time. Depending on the band I am playing with, I may have to adjust the volume, distortion, and EQ on my amp or pedals. I used to use different colored markers and mark on my pedals and amps where my settings were for each band. Now I’ve used my gear long enough that I can hear if something is off, and it doesn’t take long to find the problem.

What does your practice consist of?

Guitar Solos: Learning guitar solos from different artists really helps me strengthen both my ear and my playing. I find it the fastest way to pick up different techniques. By switching up the genre, I almost always learn something new each time.

Playing outside of my comfort zone: Playing music outside of my comfort zone forces me to learn new chord shapes and progressions. Right now, I’m learning gospel, which uses a lot of Jazz chords, which I don’t usually use while playing rock music but it’s opening up the guitar and helping me to hear other options when I play chord progressions, this way I won’t get stuck playing the same thing over and over.

Occasionally Taking Lessons: If I start feeling like Im stuck in a rut and I’m not making any progress even though I am practicing regularly, I like to take a few lessons from other musicians that I look up to. I know no matter how good I get, there will always be someone better than me. Just a little guidance from them could save me months of struggle.

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
Not really a riff, but the chords to “Blitzkrieg” bop by the Ramones. My big sister let me borrow her greatest hits CD by the Ramones, and I wore the album out. They were the reason I wanted to play guitar. It was punk rock. It was fast, rebellious, and easy to play along with.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Don’t limit yourself, and don’t let others limit you because you are a girl. Don’t try to be the best female musician or vocalist; try to be the best period. There will be haters and people who will feel insecure because you want to shine but don’t let their words get to you. Also, look out for other women in the music industry. People love to make women rivals of each other, but we really need to support one another.

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