Emily Barone: "Rather than just looking at the tabs, taking the time to understand what’s going on harmonically and structurally can teach you so much"

Emily Barone plays an Ibanez JIVA10 guitar
(Image credit: Press)

Though only 18 years old, electric guitar virtuoso Emily Barone has already captured the attention of multiple well-known virtuosos. 

Nita Strauss and Steve Vai, for instance, have shown support to the Rhode Island native and Berklee student on social media, where Barone frequently shares dynamite covers that showcase not only her technical skill, but also her killer tone and unique approach to the instrument.

Posting skillfully articulated videos to social media weekly is no easy feat, but all of this practice has helped Barone find her musical identity. “I finally feel like I'm understanding how to write the sort of music I love listening to," she says.

Alt-rock band Walk on Mars is the newest project in Barone's compelling playing journey, showcasing another side of her talents to new audiences. Though some players hesitate when it comes to change, Barone knows that growth comes from leaving your musical comfort zone.

“Compared to the studio where I'm just focused on nailing the song," she says, "throwing in creating an entertaining performance visually has been a lot harder for me to get the hang of.” Though there are always barriers to break through in performance and music knowledge, it's evident that Barone intends to keep breaking on through them, at an impressive pace. 

You are the newest member of the alt-rock band Walk On Mars. What about the group made you gravitate toward them?

"Besides the insane musicianship of each member, in the short time that we’ve been a band, we’ve instantly clicked and have such great chemistry together! We’re all songwriters, and being able to have group writing sessions together is so incredibly fun. Onstage, we all have a blast performing."

You have so many impressive qualities on guitar, especially in the realm of progressive rock styles. What are some guitar techniques new progressive players should really focus on to bring flavor to their playing? 

"The songs A Mercurian Summer by Angel Vivaldi and Shyboy by David Lee Roth both have great legato lines that really pushed me to improve my skills. For someone just starting out with vibrato, Satch Boogie by Joe Satriani and the solo in Dream Theater’s Pull Me Under have some great legato runs! It’s definitely become one of my absolute favorite techniques."

There are so many different guitars that you play. What are your top two favorites, and why? 

"My Ibanez JIVA10 will always be my favorite! After struggling with bulky guitars for so long, playing that lightweight S series shape with the super-thin nitro wizard neck was a serious revelation for me. It’s super streamlined and easy to play. Not to mention aesthetically, it’s just an insanely cool-looking guitar. My other favorite would have to be my Charvel [Angel Vivaldi signature] Nova 7-string. I love having the extended range of the lower string, especially for writing."

Do you find playing in the studio or playing onstage more challenging as a lead guitarist, and why? 

"Live has definitely been more challenging! Compared to the studio where I'm just focused on nailing the song, throwing in creating an entertaining performance visually has been a lot harder for me to get the hang of."

As a young guitarist, you noted that you’re at the point in your playing journey where you can now write the music you love listening to. With that said, what are you listening to at the moment that inspires you?

"Lately I've been exploring a lot of metalcore and early 2000s-era music. I've been really inspired lately by Jacky Vincent's work on the album The Drug in Me is You. His neoclassical style lines and diminished runs are something I'd really like to incorporate into my own playing style."

Listening to your videos, your guitar tone sounds great. What do you think is essential when it comes to selecting the perfect tone, and what rigs are your go-to – are there any effect pedals that you like to use? 

"My favorite thing to have in a rig is always a combo of two overdrive pedals. My favorite two have always been an Ibanez TS9 with a [Fulltone] OCD overdrive. Being able to either boost both pedals with drive, or use one as a clean boost gives a lot of tone variety. When it comes to digital plug-ins, I love Neural DSP. The Archetype: Plini is incredible."

After a while, every guitarist develops their own unique sound, and yours is very distinct. Who are some artists who helped put you on the path you’re on today?

"Artists like Steve Vai, Nita Strauss, Angel Vivaldi and Plini really made me realize my love of instrumental progressive metal guitar music. Albums like Passion and Warfare, Synapse and Plini’s 3 EP series inspire me both writing- and technicality-wise." 

Your private instructor happens to be guitar virtuoso Joe Stump. What is one of the most important things you have learned from him at Berklee? 

"[He] explained to me the importance of really understanding the songs I'm learning. Rather than just looking at the tabs, taking the time to understand what’s going on harmonically and structurally can teach you so much. Especially when it comes to trying to learn difficult, fast songs. 

"Understanding what the BPM you’re trying to work up to is, and what tempos you can currently play at, is really important for tracking technical progress."

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Recently, you’ve been getting into posting acoustic/classical guitar videos. Do you see acoustic sounds also becoming a staple in your artistry? 

"Definitely! My band’s gotten into busking together, and I really enjoy the creative challenge that comes along with playing in a stripped down way. When I can’t fall back on legato lines and fun whammy bar tricks it really forces me to think more melodically."

What's one rhythm guitar tip that you’ve picked up at Berklee that has improved your jam sessions and collaborative efforts with other musicians? 

"Being able to comp rhythm guitar is so important and something I really overlooked before coming to Berklee and playing with other musicians. When you’re in a live setting, jamming with other musicians, it’s really important to understand how to support soloists, and really listen in as to how you should be filling the space in a way that’s interesting but not distracting."

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