Tone Talk with Brinley Amicon

Credit: Nikkie Marie Photography

Los Angeles based guitarist, Brinley Amicon, has been playing since age fourteen and is widely recognized as one of the City of Angels’ up-and-coming female guitar players.  The young talent, known for her Rock n Roll and Blues guitar style, is endorsed by companies such as Ernie Ball, Jim Dunlop, Pariah Pickups and Coffin Gear. Influenced by artists such as Joe Perry, Jimmy Page and Slash, Amicon’s content is frequently reposted by music industry figures and major companies, such as Gibson Guitars.  Recently, she has been named a feature artist by Women That Rock and VoyageLA. Her main project, Hard Rock – Blues band, 79, is set to release their debut record Scenes from a Nonstop Life in 2021.

Head over to @guitargirlmag’s IG to see Brinley’s gear breakdown video.  

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Guitar tone is your voice, holding the same principles as real-life dialog.  I often find myself fooling with the guitar and amp knobs, in order to communicate a certain feeling. Sometimes, people forget how much tone lies in the guitar itself—everything does not have to be at ten all the time.  Similarly, I write guitar solos as if it were a conversation.  You know, that push and pull effect?  I find it a bit more memorable. Everyone has their go-to settings, similar to your regular speaking voice.  While playing rhythm parts, I strive for a warm, round sound; for me, that is bass at four, middle at eight, and treble around five or six.  While using my Marshall JTM45, a single channel head, I will roll back the volume on my guitar to about seven.  Then, when those solo parts arrive, I will roll the guitar volume to ten and use my Dunlop Echoplex Preamp for an extra boost.  My pickup selector is usually on treble or middle.

Of course, it is crucial to revise your tone, volume, etcetera based on context.  We Rock and Roll guitarists like to be the “star of the show,” but prioritization, of the group’s sound as a whole, is key. When I first started playing guitar, I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about tone-wise.  I learned a lot about tone and my preferences by learning guitar solos and trying to replicate that artists’ sound.  Additionally, my tech, Brandon Jatico, expanded my understanding by teaching about the science behind sonic frequencies in different environments.  

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
My main guitar, the “3” guitar, is a 2001 Gibson Standard with stock pickups: 490R/498T.  The Standard has such versatility—crisp and round tones are possible, all while keeping that warmth.  I do have pretty small hands, so the slender neck permits comfortability and speed.  The only modifications I made were adding top hat knobs and Grover locking tuners. My 2014 Gibson LPM, the “Bitch!” guitar, will always hold a special place, as it was my first Gibson.  Over the years, I have made several modifications: adding Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Slash APH-2 pickups, Grover locking tuners, and a metal jack plate.  Half of the knobs have fallen off and the toggle is cracked.  Inspired by Mick Mars’ “MARS” guitar, my friend and I painted “Bitch!” on the LPM’s back in 2019. I will save the story, behind the word choice, for another time.  Anyways, nobody loves Gibson more than me, but that robot tuner was horrific.  I am considering shaving or replacing the neck, as it is quite baseball bat-esque.  Nonetheless, the “Bitch!” guitar has served me well and has a lot of bite. Other guitars in my collection include a Joe Perry Boneyard Les Paul, Gibson Traditional Pro III and other Gibson Standards.  Can you tell I have brand loyalty? lol.

My band’s setlist is comprised of songs in standard and ½ step tunings; I typically use the “3” guitar for standard tuning songs and “Bitch” for ½ step.  Nonetheless, when live shows return, I will probably start using the Boneyard for ½ step compositions. Amp wise, for every gig I use my Marshall 1960TV slant cab.  I am a sucker for Celestion Greenbacks, that vintage Marshall sound is unbeatable.  In larger venues, I employ my Marshall JTM45 Plexi.  The 1960TV paired with the JTM45 projects that classic, warm and creamy Marshall sound.  While performing at smaller venues, I bring out the Orange Dual Terror.  It is such a powerful little thing with lots of character.  I love how that signature Orange overdrive is achievable at any volume. I keep my pedalboard relatively simple; I prefer the simplicity of “amp to guitar.”  My pedalboard consists of the Slash Cry Baby, Holy Grail Reverb, Echoplex Preamp, and Shure Wireless System.  I cannot live without my Echoplex Preamp; as previously noted, I switch it on for solos and every single one of my Instagram guitar videos.

What about strings?
I have been using Ernie Ball Super and Regular Slinky strings since I started playing.  Setting the industry standard, Ernie Ball delivers the most ideal strings and has never let me down.  They “break-in” quickly and stay in tune.  In my six years of guitar playing, I have broken a string maybe three or four times.  Ernie Ball strings have a beautiful, bright, sound that lasts quite some time.  Not to mention their iconic, eye-catching packaging.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
In the studio, I prefer recording final guitar parts in the control room; I strongly dislike wearing headphones, I feel restricted.  Oddly enough, while tracking, especially solos, I like to hear myself decently low in the mix; for some reason, this forces me to play “harder” and with more “attack.”  Given that my band, 79, is a Rock and Roll group, miking the amp is essential as opposed to DI.  Mimicking that live show sound is favored.  For rhythm guitar parts, I love to record a few tracks and mess with panning.  

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
In keeping my sound consistent onstage, the first thing I do is look at the venue size—capacity reveals the amp setup I select.  For example, I would not bring my JTM45 to a smaller venue, as I do not want to deafen the audience; for those that do not know, you have to crank Marshall Plexis in order to get that nice crunch.  From there, I adjust the amp tone itself, based on the room size.  EQing with my bandmates is the real key.  Luckily, we all work toward producing the greatest overall sound— nobody is trying to be “the star of the show.”  Through this, we are able to create an even, low volume, sound.

What does your practice consist of?
It goes something like this:

-Walk through all modes in G major (starting on fret three, ending on seventeen) forward and backwards.

-Spidering forward and backwards, beginning on fret one, ending on six.

-Six-string harmonic minor arpeggios, working from 100BPM to 200BPM.

-Trills (middle, ring, and pinky), working from 100BPM to 200BPM.

-Review theory.

-Play through three of the most challenging guitar solos I have learned.

-Improv over my favorite songs at the time (maybe even record a Reel).

-Write/finish songs for my band, 79, OR learn a new guitar solo.

-Browse YouTube for new techniques.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
My advice to young women, hoping to work in the music industry, is to keep going—cliché, but true.  To be quite frank, we must push through the s––– in order to shift the percentage.  Know and become one with your craft, always be learning.  Hold confidence in what you say and how you carry yourself.  Do not lose sight of your goal, focus!  Genuineness is essential, people can see through spurious personalities.  Post-COVID, get out there and network!  This is the time to lead conversations.  It is pertinent the music industry not only provides female musicians with opportunities but also ensures safe environments. Given that we are beginning the road to venture equality, the road will not be smooth; nonetheless, we need you in order to take steps toward change!

Follow Brinley on IG @brinleyamx