The Girl with the Telecaster Tattoo: Tone Talk with Nina Diaz

When I was 13, I wrote my first original song. At that time, I was the frontwoman of Girl In A Coma on Joan Jett’s Black Heart Reco ds. After 20 years as a songwriter and performer, I had the confidence to try making my second album at h me. The truth is, I like getting lost on this side of the board. It’s a new thing to add to my resume, and I still have much to earn. I’m promoting an album I made, You could be Me, or I could you. My studio BeatGirlProductions is being built in San Antonio, TX, where I live, so I can begin to share my knowledge and record with other artists. 

What is your definition, and how have you changed it?
My ears are funny. I was recently getting my ears molded to fit my IEMs, and I noticed that the right earhole had a small piece of flesh. This is similar to what some singers use when they stick their fingers into their ears to try and find a note. Do you know what I’m talking about? When I focused on that, my hearing on the left side seemed to be more focused as if it was hyper-focused on the tone or volume of a song. 

Recently, I have gained the confidence to consider myself a legit ate guitarist. I guess I used put singing first and then guitar. After learning so many cover songs (during the COVID, I busked online to get fans), I feel like I’ve gone t  music school. I have stepped outside of my comfort zone in terms of my musicality. I learned to play the guitar by ear, and from whatever information, my big sister felt like s playing with me. She taught me two of the best things: 1) Easter Bunnies get drunk at Easter (tune) and 2) Po er punk chord. You can turn any song into power-punk by learning those powerful chords. 

Alternative music like Nirvana, Stone Temple Piolets, and all the amazingness of the ’90s grunge imprinted my ear to what I considered a badass tone. Raw distortion with a bit of reverb. It shouldn’t be staticky enough that you cannot make out the notes. But it should be just enough for you t  want to jump. Sonic Youth can be intense from the outside, but when making music yourself and getting lost in frequency, you understand why.

After I embraced the studio producer/engineer in me, tonality is now a matter of trial and error. I try to create a particular sound, and sometimes t comes close. It c n sound awful. Listening to music makes e feel cheesy. When a tone hits me precisely right, I feel a buzz in my third-eye chakra. 

What guitars and amps pedals do you currently use?
Finally, I bought my elf an Orange amp! The sound of these amps was always something I loved, so one day, I thought, YOLO. Orange CR60. My pedals constantly adjust; sometimes, I’m a minimalist, with only a tuner, distortion, and my BOSS loop station, but I also have my POG or BOSS Loop Station to ad some weird flavor. Recently, I’ve become o sessed with Delays. I love my Rat distortion. Tomorrow I will go to a store to see if there are more to add to the collection.

Fender and I are like a natural pair. My first Squier Telecaster is tattoo d right on my body! Now that I am working for Fender, I have had the opportunity to play a few different guitars. At the moment, I love my Ku t Cobain Jag-Stang. It is smaller and has fewer frets. This helps me when I’m rocking out. The kill switch is also a plus, as are the different tones I can choose from depending on my mood. It’s perfect for playing punk or ballads. 

What about strings
Boz Boher (guitarist/musician director for Morrissey), the guitarist/musician of my former band Girl In A Coma on tour, recommended Dean Markley Blue Steel Electric Guitar Strings. And dang it!! They are being d continued, but why? I use a 10 or 11 because I’m not a soloist but a rhythm player. They sound fantastic and last much longer than the other strip gs I have used. Before I discovered these strings, I would have to replace my lines every time I played. To be safe, I change them only every eight shows. 

Do you have a favorite recording technique?
During my studio days, we first jam the drums and bass, followed by the scratch guitar r, vocals, and bass. Finally, we would lay on the natural sounds. Many of the songs I was working on to create this album were still n the writing stage. Therefore, I laid down scratch guitar/bass/vocals with a click, then returned to finalize the sounds and let my drummer play them rather than me. I didn’t want him to be distracted by my performance but rather focus on the click track. I try to perfect the takes so there isn’t a lot o  editing afterward. I’m still figuring out my new technique, but I know the more people I have in the room, the more authentic the vibe will be. 

How can you maintain a consistent sound on stage?
What must I do to keep my sound consistent on stage? Um, I plug everything in!

What are the main components of your practice?
Since I am a two-piece now (guitar/vocals-drummer), I am utilizing an SPD-SX drum machine to play backtracks consisting of bass, drum machine, second d guitar, and synths. It was a large part of my practice that I spent studying and making mistakes to learn how t  perform this album. I tried Main Stage for a minute and mixed the tracks as stereo, so they came out of 8 mono channels L/R. My mind was blown! I decided to step back and have some fun with the SPD-SX & DI in front of the house until the time came for a human backing band. I run us through the set and make notes along the way if there are any adjustments I need to make in the backtracks (EQ, effects, etc.).

What is your favorite guitar riff, lick, or riff you learned to play?
I think Johnny Marr of The Smiths was the one who inspired me to play guitar more. He would change from a string-plucking rockabilly to a slow ballad to an st paced punk riff.  It was my big sister who played the guitar first. There was something about it that appealed to me. The first song I ever learned that I wanted to know was Stone Temple Pilots’ “Daisy.”

What advice do you have for young women who want to be in the music business?
What you want is more important than what people tell you y you should be or want. Do not be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. 

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