with Cheryl Hall of Irata
Name: Cheryl Hall
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Cheryl – My first guitar was a Japanese made Fender Stratocaster. After a while I didn’t care for it; the neck was thick & I felt like I should be playing country music on it. I think I sold it to a friend for $150.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Cheryl – Right now, Gibson Les Paul to Boss Volume Pedal to Boss Delay, to Boss Flange to Digitech Reverb to Mesa Boogie Dual Stack.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Cheryl – Hmmm…at the moment I would have to say effects. A lot of the sounds that I get are really for “ambience” (not in the shoe-gazey manner) & the effects really help with that.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Cheryl – To play gigs the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. I’ve always wanted a Boogie; the Marshall sound was real popular when I was young, but I always thought it sounded too flat & a little canned. The Boogie has a little bit more flexibility in the sound, plus it’s LOUD. :-)
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Cheryl – For gigs I have a wine red, double cut-away Gibson Les Paul. It looks awesome & has a nice warm sound.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Cheryl – It would have the body of a Gibson Explorer with a natural finish, black hardware… damn, I actually used to have a list of all this stuff. Suffice it to say, it would look & sound AWESOME!!!
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Cheryl – I definitely want a pedal that’s easier to tweak on stage. I prefer the individual pedals to the multi-effects processors, but some of the pedals I use have different settings for different songs & I would prefer to have a sound on stage that’s as authentic as possible.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Cheryl – Ummm, I think three. Gibson Les Paul, Ibanez…. I don’t know, it’s a strat style. I get a lot of grief for it, but it sounds good & plays really well. I also own a LaPatrie classical guitar that I’ve had since high school. I pull it out a few times a year; I’ll always have a soft spot for classical guitar.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Cheryl – In their cases. I keep the Gibson at our practice spot. The other two just stay in the bedroom at home.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Cheryl – A humidifier/temp control.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Cheryl – Well, I wasn’t going to put this first, but looks are always important. In fact, if I don’t like the way a guitar looks I usually won’t even pick it up to try it. After that is playability. I like a fast, thin neck. Then I make sure it seems well made, as far as I can tell.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Cheryl – Wow, I don’t have a clue. I mean, I’d like for them to be cheap, but still….
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Cheryl – I have traditionally stuck with what I’ve got. After recording this last album though, I’m going to do something I’ve never done & get new pickups for my Les Paul. In the future I may be more inclined to upgrade my equipment.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Cheryl – Good question. I start off wanting to do a lot of thorough research, but my attention span is so short that it really only happens over the course of several sessions. I probably do a poor job compared to my peers.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Cheryl – Mmmm, not really. Once I get something I like, I kind of stick with it.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Cheryl – Well, I mess with my tone about once a month. Sometimes I start to hear things differently, or I get bored or inspired. I admit that I really just like to play & in the past tone has been more of an afterthought for me.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Cheryl – Mainly just a Gibson Explorer. Though I certainly wouldn’t mind a couple of the ESP signature models they did for Kirk Hammett & James Hetfield… one of my guilty little secrets.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Cheryl – Hmmmm, I’ll have to think about this one a little longer…
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Cheryl – I’m really in love with my Digiverb pedal right now. It gets a really broad scope of reverb & is pretty manageable. Don’t think I have a worst…
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Cheryl – I’ve mainly used a lot of Boss effects in the past. They tend to have a broader spectrum to play with than any other pedals I’ve tried. I like Ibanez guitars because they’re pretty consistent with the quality for price, i.e., you pretty much know what you’re going to get. I also like the playability; thin necks, etc. I’m also really in love with Gibson. They are nice, solid instruments with a great tone.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Cheryl – I always play slow finger exercises & chord progressions to get warmed up. I think after people reach a certain level of proficiency they think they don’t need that sort of thing anymore, but always practicing basics immensely improves your performance in other areas.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Cheryl – 14.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Cheryl – Wow, I don’t know. I hope I’m not as good as I’m ever going to get!!!!!
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Cheryl – It’s the only one I’ve ever been able to sit down with for a long period of time, despite a very short attention span.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Cheryl – Absolutely not. People should at the very least learn piano so they have a working knowledge of music before they decide to become a guitarist.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Cheryl – Definitely ally. I wouldn’t be able to write on anything else.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Cheryl – When I started playing I listened to a lot of Metallica. The people I was playing with at the time were into Dream Theatre or Led Zepplin & Jimi Hendrix, so learning to play all that stuff pushed me towards the style that I play now.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Cheryl – I don’t know, I think it must be a guy thing.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Cheryl – I was drinking one night, walking around the house with my guitar on & somehow I bashed one of the pickups into something. It actually sank down into the body of the guitar. I was pretty upset about it.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Cheryl – Like I mentioned earlier, scales & chord progressions. I also like to ask random people what song they would learn on guitar if they could. I have a list & whenever I get some free time (so not very often!!!) I’ll tackle a song or two.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Cheryl – Hard to say, because it’s so sporadic. I would definitely like to play more though!!
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Cheryl – Umm, they’re these orange picks with a star cut out of the middle - the logo’s worn off of it so I couldn’t tell you what brand. I don’t drop them as much.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Cheryl – I use 10s on a standard tuning & 11s with Irata… because we tune down to D.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Cheryl – Whenever it’s necessary!
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Cheryl – Pretty rarely.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Cheryl – My strumming hand is more proficient; my fretting hand has more of a mind of its own. This means I’m a pretty solid rhythm player, with room to improve on the solo end.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech?
Cheryl – Guitar Tech. Best to let the pros do it.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Cheryl – Standard, tuned down to D, & drop C. Irata uses the second two.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Cheryl – I write either tablature or chord charts with rhythm notation when writing my ideas down. They’re pretty quick & easy to reference.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Cheryl – Across my stomach.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Cheryl – I’m noticing more & more as a try to write that I keep going back to those metal roots. I want to break that habit mainly because I feel like it’s already been done so well by the pros that I want to move on to something else.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Cheryl – Definitely piano, if nothing else.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Cheryl – I started learning banjo a while ago & that is a very cool instrument. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, so I’m really not able to practice those quick motions for a period of time suitable to be proficient at it.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Cheryl – I haven’t played a stadium yet!
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Cheryl – Wow, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe sweep picking?
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Cheryl – I actually like whammy bars. Don’t have one, but I like using them.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Cheryl – Tapping.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Cheryl – Yes, I took lessons from many different people. I learned a lot of music theory & actually just guitar history when I was learning on electric. When I studied classical I learned a lot about form & traditional techniques.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Cheryl – How to read music. :-)
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Cheryl – I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it would take much!
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Cheryl – I think they’re neat, but I had two guitars with the Floyd Rose on them & that was just a huge pain. Then again, I was basically still a beginner at the time. I think if I had one now I would be able to manage it more effectively.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Cheryl – Next to never.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Cheryl – Well, lead guitars do solos & melodies on top of the music, while rhythm guitarists help drive the music.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Cheryl – Yeah, for a quick listen, but they wouldn’t be a band that I would like. I would probably search for other work that the guitarist has done. I usually have to at least like a couple things about a band before I can accept something that I normally wouldn’t care for.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Cheryl – Any of James Hetfield or Kirk Hammett’s guitars. Why not? They were my heroes when I started & will always have a soft spot in my heart.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Cheryl – I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of serious guitar players in my circle, but non-guitar players seem to think Bucket Head is pretty awesome.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Cheryl – When I’m practicing by myself at home!
QRD – Anything else?
Cheryl – Thanks, have a great day!