Tone Talk with Madame Fraankie

Photos by Madame Fraankie

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Special Edition 2022 – I Belong

Madame Fraankie is a self-taught producer, musician, and film photographer based in Memphis, Tennessee. She pulls sonically and spiritually from artists such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, James Blake, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and many more to achieve her sound. She’s a sucker for light psychedelic and funky-feeling music, minor keys with R&B/soul undertones. With her main instrument being the electric guitar, you’ll always find her creating with tools such as vibrato, envelope, and bass filters. She has recorded and featured with artists such as Talibah Safiya, Don Lifted, and Aybil. She has performed at the Levitt Shell in Memphis, Tenn., Sundance Film Festival, and Grinnell College.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I started with the acoustic guitar but got into the electric guitar around 2015. I didn’t get close to the tone I was searching for until several years later. Tone, to me, is the core of your musical voice, your instruments’ vocal cords. The way you can feel your voice vibrate in your throat when you talk or sing is how your voice can be felt in your hands and ears when you play. I think my tone started pretty generic, but after I developed some skill and preference for what I was playing, it started taking actual shape. To me, it’s rounder; there’s a bit to it; it’s somewhat springy on the front of the note and with lots of vibrato on the back end.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using?
I’m playing a Squier Jazzmaster that I picked up in September last year, and I LOVE it. I had been getting close to my tone with my last Tele-shaped guitar, but something was still missing. The Jazzmaster is the most comfortable guitar I’ve ever played. Weight and playability can also affect your personal tone. 

My amp is a Fender Mustang LT25, and it’s my only amp. It’s quite the amp for its size. I decided to stop buying large amps and just get one that sounds good in small rooms, nice when mic’d, and then just plug into house amps when available.

For pedals, I use my faithful BOSS Super Octave OC-3, a Donner Dynamic Wah, a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Mosfet, a Mooer Reecho Delay, a Kokko Vibrato, a Rowin Trelicopter, and R.I.P. to my TC Electronic Ditto X2. I use these babies for my stage performances and personal guitar loops. These are just a collection of my favorite “always-on” type sounds, I think I’m just missing a chorus pedal, and I’ll be a happy girl.   

What about strings?
I’m just experimenting with guitar strings, so there’s not much to report here. The nickel wound Ernie Ball Slinky Regulars were my go-to for a long time, but I’m currently trying out the Ernie Ball Cobalts 9-42s; I am on my first pack. In terms of gauge, I’m pretty locked into the .9-.42. I went for heavier gauges, and they didn’t affect my tone as I thought they would; things just got bulky and clunky for me.

Are there specific recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
Yes! I struggle to connect to what I’m recording if I have to play with a clean tone and then color it afterward. I prefer to record from the amp with all the desired effects attached to nail the exact tone in my brain. My current in-home setup is through my audio interface, which is excellent for experimenting with different sounds over the one recording guitar track, but it really slows me down. I love a nice “from the amp” recording.

Photos by Madame Fraankie

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
I just figured this out during my most recent performance, lol! It happens during sound check. I get everything on my amp and pedals dialed in without the sound crew adjusting me. At the end of the day, their main concern is working on getting you leveled. So don’t worry about getting yourself “heard” when dialing in; just bring your sound and volume right relative to the tone you want to have. The sound crew will ensure your overall volume is adequately distributed across the venue.

What does your practice consist of?
It’s not strenuous, but it’s lots of repetition on anything new I’m learning. Lots of basic scale drills for speed development, not for theory. I am working on the use of a metronome to build tempo consistency.

What is your advice for young female-identifying artists who hope to work in the music industry?
Go for it! You are needed and wanted. Be yourself! If you’re questioning how you show up in the world, play guitar, or anything because you’re not seeing others doing it or your sound is “strange,” keep going; you are doing something right!

SOURCEJennale Adams & Aliah Guerra
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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.