Tone Talk with Kianna Cameron

Photo by @gotitlens

Kianna Cameron is a guitarist, songwriter, and producer originally from Ohio, but currently based in Chicago. She always thought her musical path was a little untraditional. She started playing guitar when she was sixteen, seemingly on a whim, but really, she thinks she was inspired by the classic and heavy rock music that she found herself escaping into.

A year after she started teaching herself guitar, she was messing around in a music store when the manager suggested she come sit in with his band at their next gig (at a local dive bar). This was her first live performance and ever since she has been killing the game. She has opened for and/or played alongside a number of acts such as Israel Houghton, Dazz Band, Queen Naija, and Delta Rae.

Within the last year or so, Cameron joined up with a fellow guitarist and fiction writer, Keyada Kirkland, to write new music. Their group name is Sunset Fiends and they released a single earlier summer called “Flowers in the Window.” Right now, they are finishing up a new single and comic book that will be released together later this year. 

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone, to me, is sort of like the objective in a scene for an actor. As in, it’s your way of telling your audience what you need or want from them. A guitar mentor of mine, jazz guitarist Teddy Pantelas, once told me in a lesson to spend time exploring each pickup, taking note of the effect they have. Which pickup makes you want to listen in more? Which makes you want to dance? I find myself using this as a starting point lately, before even giving thought to my amp, pedals, plugins. To me, it all starts with the guitar—that’s your hand’s partner in crime.  

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I’ve been playing my PRS S2 Standard 24 as my main guitar for the past few years now. It’s starting to get the relic “been in a bar fight” look, and I dig it so much more now—lol. I also have a Fender Blacktop with a GK3 pickup on it to use with the Roland GR-55 Synth Pedal. I also have a Taylor GS Mini Acoustic. 

Amps and pedals are kind of a sore spot for me right now—lol. So, when I was accepted to Berklee College of Music this past year, I had downsized significantly thinking I was going to be living in a dorm or super small off-campus room for the next few years. Well, 2020, right? So, I currently have a BOSS Katana for a little practice amp and a Line 6 HD Pod 500x. Before the Katana, I was using a Fender BassBreaker 15w Tube Combo with a footswitch and just a minimal floorboard: Fulltone OCD, MXR Carbon Copy, Big Muff, and a few Voodoo Lab Pedals.

What about strings?
I have the D’Addario NYXL 10’s on the PRS and the Ernie Ball Slinky 9’s on my Fender Blacktop. 

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
Lately, I’ve been really inspired by what I’ve been learning production-wise in school. Anything from playing a bunch of takes to a beat and then chopping them up to be something totally unexpected, to changing the sound of the guitar so much (post) that it’s a whole new creature—those have become new ways for me to use the recording process as my songwriting process at times

But of course, there are times where I just like to keep it simple. I have my FX all programmed on my board / presets on my laptop. Sometimes it’s just plug in and go.

What does your practice consist of?
Learning songs or rhythms I find challenging, playing scales to a metronome to increase my speed, and most important/fun, to me, songwriting. I think discovery is the best teacher, or at least always has been for me. Thus, in addition to a technical aspect of practice, I like to practice being creative as well. 

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

  1. If music chose you, then she has something to say through you, so don’t be intimidated.
  2. Read The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten.
  3. Don’t-get-caught-slippin’ (practice and know your stuff).

Connect with Kianna Cameron on IG @passhertheguitar.

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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.