Tone Talk with Sterlyn Termine

Photo Credit:Tia Humphries

Sterlyn is a multi-instrumentalist composer and professional bass player from Brockton, MA. She is currently a senior at Howard University where she studies music theory, composition, and jazz saxophone. Initially, Sterlyn was on the pre-med track to become a doctor but she made the bold switch to study music to pursue her ambitious dreams. She shares her journey to show others that our true calling will plant us exactly where we are destined to be. Out of this journey, she founded BlackGirlMusic which is one of the first digital platforms dedicated solely towards recognizing and uplifting black women in the music industry.

Sterlyn likes to show how her life experiences translate directly into her music and being a bassist. As a Haitian-American, the rhythms of Kompa are deeply ingrained in her alongside the sounds of the Romantic era. Jazz and hip-hop are amongst a few genres that resonate with her. These styles have helped to structure her voice and overall sound. Sterlyn continues to be a proud to be a vessel with such a unique background. 

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
For me, tone is my voice. Everyone can sing a song, but each person will sound different according to their voice. I believe my tone is a combination of technique and articulation. It all lives in my fingers, where my plucking hand can produce a dark, round sound or bright attack. In my left hand, I’ve heavily incorporated techniques such as hammer-ons, trills, and vibrato to add more dimension to my tone. 

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I currently play on a 5-string Fender Player Jazz Bass. It’s Fender so I can’t help but love it! It truly is a solid bass guitar and it was also gifted to me. I don’t use any pedals at the moment, but I have played around with the idea of DAW plug-ins that produce pedal effects. I use a MarkBass CMD 121P and it is amazing! It is super light for a bass amp at around 30 pounds, and it CRANKS! The clarity is astonishing and I love the portability of it. I’m not a large person nor do I have much upper body strength so It was crucial that I had something lightweight and powerful. It’s a great combo amp all around.

What about strings?
I recently switched from nickel to stainless steel strings which gives me a really pleasant brightness and texture. I use Elixer Stainless Steel Bass strings for my 5-string bass in light.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I haven’t established certain techniques specifically for studio work, but I am always trying to find better ways to sound clean. When recording, I will sometimes use fret wraps (or hair scrunchies to be honest) to keep string ringing at a minimum. More importantly, I try to get in the “session player” mindset, keeping bass lines really consistent, not too busy, and meaningful. Feel is everything for me nowadays, so if I’m not locked into the song, I’ll cut and try again! 

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
On stage, I am really diligent about keeping a consistent low-end to support the band. When I solo, I might go for a “midsy” sound with a lot of texture and growl, but with the band, I keep all my knobs pretty standard with the exception of a little bass boosted. The highs might be up just a little if I need to cut through, especially for slapping, but I generally shoot for a full, rounded sound that is distinct and supportive.  

What does your practice consist of?
Wake and Bass! But seriously, after my morning routine, the first thing I’ll pick up is my bass guitar. My routine consists of a thorough hand stretch, followed by technical warm-ups, and then musical repertoire. I’ve injured myself in the past, so I take hand health very seriously. I start with about five minutes of hand and finger stretches before I even touch my instrument. I’ll then use a metronome and start some plucking exercises for my right hand and various scales/patterns for my left hand. The rest of my practice really depends on how I feel, but I practice for about two to four hours throughout the rest of the day. I might learn new songs, transcribe solos, practice improvisation, review popular repertoire, or just shed to my favorite songs. 

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
I would tell young women who hope to work in the music industry to ignore their fears and tackle their dreams head-on. At times, we receive so much doubt and negativity but, in the end, our talent and work ethic always shines on top. The road just might look a little different for us, but there is always room for us. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you don’t have a place in the industry. Better yet, we’ll make our own spaces and one of my biggest goals is to pave the path for those behind me.

Keep up with Sterlyn by following her on social media! IG: @sterlynmusic


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