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Tone Talk with Noell White: “Tone is your overall sound. It’s how you apply your attitude, voice, and quality to each note you play.”

Have you ever wondered what is "tone" when it comes to guitars? Learn how Noell White describes guitar tone, her musical exploration, influences, practice and recording techniques, and advice for aspiring musicians.

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 23 – Fall 2023

In the vibrant world of music, few artists embody the spirit of exploration and passion as authentically as Noell White. At 28, this Indiana native has dedicated over 15 years to mastering the guitar, alongside an impressive repertoire that includes the bass, violin, piano, and clarinet. White’s journey in music began with playful experimentation on the piano, leading to a profound love for the guitar, which soon became her central focus. Her musical influences are as diverse as her instrument skills, drawing inspiration from legends like Jimi Hendrix and Steve Vai to contemporary virtuosos like Tosin Abasi and Polyphia. Beyond her varied tastes in music genres, White is a multifaceted artist who enjoys cosplaying, creating uranium glass jewelry, and sharing her love for music through teaching and continuous learning. Currently, she’s channeling her creative energy into personal projects, offering guitar lessons, and venturing into the realm of home recording. As she shares her insights on tone, gear, and practice routines with Guitar Girl Magazine, White’s narrative is not just about her musical journey but also a testament to the enduring power of passion, innovation, and resilience in the music industry.

About Me: Noell White’s Musical Journey

My name is Noell White. I am a 28-year-old guitarist from Indiana. I have been playing guitar for 15+ years. In addition to playing guitar, I also play several other instruments, including bass, violin, piano, and clarinet. Music, and art in general, have been a massive part of my life since I was young. I started playing piano/keyboard for fun and later started on the violin in my school’s orchestra. I learned much of what I know now from my years in orchestra. Shortly after beginning violin, I picked up the guitar and fell in love. The guitar has been my main interest and focus music-wise. Since picking it up, I have learned bass, drums, and even a little accordion! Since middle school, I have played guitar in several different bands. Playing music in a live setting is one of my favorite things as a guitarist.

Nothing compares to that feeling of doing what you love on stage. It has been a few years since I have played in a band, but that hasn’t stopped me from playing music. I am working on my music, giving guitar lessons, and learning new songs. I have several musical influences that have helped shape me into the musician that I am today. Of course, many inspired me during my start, like Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammet, Joan Jett, Orianthi, and Tom Morello. Still, some newer artists have significantly impacted me recently, like Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young, and Polyphia.

I love guitar because there’s always still so much to learn. There are endless ways to improve your playing and many new techniques and things to try. I mainly enjoy instrumental rock, metal, prog, classic rock, alternative, etc., but I also love blues, country, jazz, funk, and hip hop. I am a fan of so many different music genres, and each has unique qualities that can be applied to playing guitar and making new music. I enjoy cosplaying, fishing, drawing, spending time with family, playing with my pets, and making uranium glass jewelry for my antique booth when I’m not playing music.

Defining Tone: Noell White’s Philosophy

young black woman standing next to guitar case in front of a brick wall
Photo by Aaron White

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

Tone is your overall sound. It’s how you apply your attitude, voice, and quality to each note you play. When I was new to guitar, I wasn’t sure what tone was. There was one definite right tone and several wrong tones. Everyone would always say, “This is bad and this good, do this, don’t do that, use this pedal, don’t use this amp,” etc., but as I grew older, I realized this wasn’t the case. Like any other art, it is whatever you make it to be. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s whatever you create. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s however you interpret it to be. Everyone has their tone and opinions, and that’s okay!

Gear Talk: Instruments and Equipment

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

My primary baby is my Fender Showmaster. It’s been such a versatile and reliable instrument. It has everything I look for in a guitar and has been with me for most of my musical journey. My other guitars include a Jackson Dinky 8 String, Schecter C-1, a couple of Ibanez RG’s, Schecter Omen Extreme-4 Bass, a vintage 60’s Framus, and a Taylor 314 Grand Auditorium. I’m currently using a Line 6 Spider IV Half Stack, a small Orange, and a Roland cube as far as amps go. My current pedalboard houses Ibanez Delay and Phaser pedals, a Digitech Whammy, a Dunlop Talkbox, an Electro-Harmonix POG2, and a BOSS DS-1. I’ve had most of my gear since middle/high school. My parents got them for me, and I’ve used them ever since. I’m very grateful that my mom supported my musical passions. Even when money was tight, she always managed to get me everything I needed to learn and play and always helped at gigs. My gear has been reliable, and I haven’t needed much else. More recently, now that I’ve saved up my money, I’ve explored more and tried new things like the 8-string, POG2, and recording equipment.

What about strings?

For my electric guitars, I stick with Ernie Ball Super Slinkys, Power Slinkies, Cobalts, and thicker gauge Ernie Balls for my drop-tuned guitars. Elixir for my acoustic, and sometimes, I’ll use DR neons for special events!

Recording Techniques: The Home Studio Experiment

Are there specific recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

Not really. At least not yet. I haven’t been in the studio much since high school. I have not been in the studio long enough to develop preferences or habits. Most of my musical experiences were live shows. I recently set up a home studio, which I have been very excited to use! Soon, I’ll be learning new techniques, perfecting my sound, and recording my music myself!

Live Performance: Ensuring Sound Consistency

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

After trial and error during practices and live shows, I could pinpoint the perfect range of settings on all my gear. Most are marked with Sharpie/tape, or my notes write down the scenes. Pedal-wise, they usually stay the same. Amp-wise, I have a range I visit that can be adjusted to suit each venue and environment. I have a habit of recording and listening to nearly every performance to learn what should be fixed and what works. It also always helps to have my mom and friends there to help with running sound during live performances!

Practice Routine: A Disciplined Approach

What does your practice consist of?

When practicing, I usually start playing through many fun songs and riffs that I know to warm up. If there’s a specific song I’m trying to learn, I’ll work at it piece by piece, going over it repeatedly and gradually getting up to speed until I have it. To work on general techniques like sweep picking, tapping, thumping, etc., I will pick a section of a song I like that uses it and practice it repeatedly until I can play it decently or at least until I’m tired of it for the day. Polyphia songs have been perfect lately because they are a challenge and incorporate so many techniques that I am eager to learn and improve on. I always include a few scales when practicing and time to doodle around and write my stuff. During some of my downtime at work, when I don’t have my instruments near, I study theory.

Advice for Aspiring Musicians: Staying True to Your Art

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

Do not give up, and always be yourself! Although it’s nice when it occasionally happens for some people, things don’t often magically happen overnight. Sometimes, things can get tough or feel impossible, but you must push yourself. Things will always take work. You need to work hard, continue to improve, and genuinely want it. Have a plan, educate yourself on the industry, and know it can take much work. Opportunities can happen at any moment, but they will never present themselves to you if you give up.

Strive to do better and give yourself a chance. Don’t ever compromise yourself just to please others. No matter how skilled or “perfect” you are, someone negative will always be there to say horrible things and try to change who you are. People will always hate you for minor things you can’t help. You can never please everyone or make them all happy. What matters is that your art makes you happy. Never let other people affect you negatively or destroy your love for music. Do what makes you happy! Be a good person. Don’t be a jerk. Be unapologetically you. It’s always good to make friends with other musicians and those in the industry! You can network, teach each other new things, gain experiences, collaborate, keep each other motivated, and more! Have patience, have confidence, and most importantly, have fun!

3 Key Takeaways from Noell White Tone Talk Interview

  1. Personal Expression Through Tone: Noell White emphasizes that tone is not about adhering to predefined standards but is a personal expression of one’s attitude and voice through their instrument. This perspective encourages musicians to explore and define their unique sound, underscoring the importance of individuality in music.
  2. The Role of Gear in Shaping Sound: White’s detailed discussion of her instruments, amps, and pedals highlights the significant role that gear plays in crafting a musician’s sound. Her choices reflect a blend of personal preference, the reliability of equipment, and the influence of supportive figures in her life, illustrating the deep connection between a musician and their tools.
  3. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: From her practice routines to her advice for aspiring musicians, Noell White advocates for continuous improvement, open-mindedness, and resilience in the face of challenges. Whether it’s through mastering new techniques, adapting to different performance environments, or navigating the music industry, she underscores the value of persistence and staying true to oneself.

These takeaways encapsulate Noell White’s journey and philosophy as a musician, offering valuable insights into the pursuit of a career in music with authenticity and dedication.

~ By Guitar Gabby and Jennale Adams

Guitar Gabby

Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan is an Atlanta Native and proud graduate of Spelman College and Vermont Law School. Her background in environmental and music law fueled her desire to start and manage the international all-women touring collective, TxLips Band, LLC. Logan believes it is important for artists to be well rounded and versed in many areas of the music business, thus inspiring women worldwide to be an unstoppable force. She is the Diversity Editor for Guitar Girl Magazine and the Board Chair for Girls Rock Asheville. http://www.txlips.com

Guitar Gabbyhttp://www.txlips.com
Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan is an Atlanta Native and proud graduate of Spelman College and Vermont Law School. Her background in environmental and music law fueled her desire to start and manage the international all-women touring collective, TxLips Band, LLC. Logan believes it is important for artists to be well rounded and versed in many areas of the music business, thus inspiring women worldwide to be an unstoppable force. She is the Diversity Editor for Guitar Girl Magazine and the Board Chair for Girls Rock Asheville. http://www.txlips.com
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