Tone Talk with Sophie Burrell

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Photo by Ellie Godden
       

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 15 – Spring 2021 – Electrified!

My name is Sophie Burrell; I’m a guitarist/musician, songwriter, and teacher from the South Coast of the UK.


From a very young age, I’ve always known that music was what I wanted to do—and make! After watching School of Rock at age five, it was no question that my life would shortly become entirely focused around playing guitar! Now at twenty-one, I’ve been playing for twelve years and slowly working on making music (and all things related) my full-time career.

After growing up through my teens playing lots of shows in various bands, I decided to knuckle down and shift my focus to the online world. In 2019, I had been playing live shows almost every weekend for three years; as much as I absolutely adore playing live (it’s by far my favorite part of being a musician!), I needed a break and a change of scenery—I desperately wanted to work on some new projects and develop my songwriting skills.

Making videos on YouTube and Instagram, teaching, and songwriting has been where all of my time has been going for the last year! In December 2020, I released my first single, “Tranquility,” as a solo artist. Alongside working on solo guitar music, I’ve also been writing intensively for a band that will hopefully premiere this year!

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
To me, tone is a musician’s identity—it’s what makes you individual and unique. I feel like no one ever has the exact same tone. Influences play a huge part in people’s tones for sure, but it’s what makes YOU sound the way you do. It’s no question that tone has become extremely diverse as the years have gone by. There are so many different ways of making tones—digitally, using pedals, tube amps, guitar pickups—ultimately, I believe it’s in your fingers—and these additional “tools” just help to enhance your natural tone!

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
Oooh, at the moment, I’m using a variety of different things. My “last” live rig was an EVH 5150iii 100w, BOSS TU-3, BOSS NS-2, MXR Dyna Comp, MXR Micro Amp, MXR Black Label Chorus, TC Electronic HOF Reverb & Flashback Delay, and PRS Custom 24 Wood Library. This set-up is absolutely killer, and I couldn’t love it more; certain elements could definitely change around a little depending on what effects and tones I’m going to need for my new projects! At home, as I live in a small apartment, I’ve been rocking through various amp plugins for a while now! Some of my favorites are Neural DSP (Archetype Plini specifically), BIAS FX 2, and STL Tones.

What about strings?
Strings—one of my favorite things! I use D’Addario NYXL 10-46 and D’Addario XT 10-46. They are hands down the best strings I have ever used in my life; having strings that suit you makes such a huge difference!

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
In my last band, we recorded two albums—both with different methods. The first album was recorded “live,” where we would all play together and make comps of the best takes and then track vocals and solos separately. I loved doing it this way because it really captured the chemistry, but it wasn’t as tight as recording separately. The second way was traditional—drums, guitars, vocals, bass, and production. I think this is my favorite way. More recently, I’ve been recording everything from the comfort of my desk. I like doing it this way because there’s less pressure, but being all alone without any feedback from a producer or bandmates is difficult sometimes; there’s no one to give you an immediate second opinion!

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
Being well prepared and practiced for sure. You want to be sure that you know your sound and your songs inside out so that you could pretty much play them in your sleep by the time you step on stage, hahaha.

What does your practice consist of?
My practice changes up a lot; it all depends on what I’ve got going on. Admittedly, for the last year, I haven’t been focusing on techniques as much; my spare time has been heavily focused around songwriting. If I’m preparing for a video, my practice will be centered around whatever it is that I’ll be playing in the video.

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
As I was inspired by a movie rather than a riff, that’s a tough question! I’ll have to go with one of the riffs from School of Rock—either “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin or “Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream!

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
My advice would be never give up, and never let someone tell you that you won’t or can’t. If music is what you want to do and it makes you happy, throw yourself at every opportunity with your instrument in hand and a smile on your face! You CAN do it.