Sarah Longfield can probably beat you up on guitar – and will use two more strings doing it. Since starting on the piano early and switching to guitar at the age of 12, Sarah’s interests have widened to include drums and keyboards. After learning the basics on 6-string guitars for a couple of years she transitioned to 7 and finally 8-string guitars as her musical interests turned toward heavy, down-tuned metal. Through her YouTube postings she became friendly with Keith Merrow, who mentored her in the mechanics and subtleties of recording, and encouraged her to write her own music. She’s also now using the Seymour Duncan 8-String Blackout active pickups in her guitars! I recently had a chance to speak with Sarah about her guitar-craft.
I think it was actually those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he plays the piano and sings. The opera ones. I remember specifically watching one and then being like, “I want to play piano now!” And learning piano just made me want to try playing more instruments, haha!
Did you have a formal teacher that started you out with the basics, or did you teach yourself via online instructional courses? What was/is your practice regimen?
I did start out trying to take lessons, but I’m a terrible student, and incredibly impatient; so they often consisted of me talking about my 13 year-old problems while my guitar teacher recommended good metal bands to me. Then I would go home and learn their songs. I’ve always been a “monkey see monkey do” kind of person though, so youtube can easily take credit for half of everything I know haha! As for a practice regimen, I’ve never been one for scales or warm-ups, so I would just sit in my basement and play the same song over and over again until I learned it. Today I spend most of my time writing, so it’s playing the riffs I’ve written over and over again until they’re good enough to record.
You said you became fascinated by the musical and rhythmic complexity of metal as opposed to everything else you were learning. What specific bands and songs mesmerized you to the point you had to learn them? How long before you became comfortable enough to start posting them on YouTube?
I’d have to say All Shall Perish’s Price Of Existence album really stood out to me. I remember I learned practically every song off of that album by ear because I loved it so much (and because I didn’t know online guitar tabs existed yet, haha!). As for YouTube, I was watching Lamb of God covers one day and this girl’s video popped up. She had tons of views, was about five years older than me, and was playing the rhythm part. I thought to myself “I can do that,” so I started posting covers.
I thought it was pretty easy, but that was also the first guitar I owned that I felt “fit” the type of music that I wanted to play, so I played it much more often and got comfortable on it quickly.
How soon after the 7-string did you switch to 8? Beside the obvious now two extra strings, did you find you had to adapt your technique in other ways? Do you now play 6 and/or 7-string guitars at all or are they boring?
I got my 8-string about four years after I got my 7-string, so I was pretty used to the extended range by then. I actually don’t play 6 or 7-string guitars that often anymore, but since most of my time is spent writing or playing shows, sticking to 8 makes sense.
Tell us a little about each of your current 8-strings, the Etherial and the Schecter Hellraiser C-8 – what do you like about each of them? Did you order any custom modifications on the Etherial?
The Etherial was a custom build by Matthew Brown and is a slightly longer scale length than the Schecter. It also has a significantly thinner neck and body, so it works really well for shredding! (It also has a built in pick-holder! So cool!) The Schecter has a bigger neck, but a shorter scale length, and I use that for a lot of the songs that require a fair bit of tapping!
How do you like the Seymour Duncan Blackouts in your guitars?
I love them! They have a much more defined, expressive sound then other active pickups that I’ve played. They don’t get “muddy,” and I love the tones I can get from them! Especially when I’m doing lots of clean tapping. It’s very full, punchy and percussive! The distorted tone is awesome as well, it has a really aggressive sound, but has clarity and definition that other pickups lack.
What’s your current amp, effect, recording and video set-up?
I actually use my Fractal Audio Axe Fx for almost everything! I run direct in live, and I love recording with it! I do all of my recording in Presonus Studio One Pro, and as for video, I record with a Canon Rebel T2i.
Your YouTube channel has garnered a lot of positive attention, and you mentioned you made some great contacts, most importantly Keith Merrow. Talk a little bit about how he’s been your mentor for recording/DAWs, etc.
Keith was the one who initially inspired me to start taking my songwriting seriously. He helped me figure out where to start with recording, gave me lessons on mixing, showed me sites I could make networking connections on etc. And being that I’m not incredibly tech-savvy, every time that I’ve run into any sort of technical problem with ANYTHING, he’s always got the answer I’m looking for, haha! Such a genuine guy! I’m quite lucky I know him!
Tell us all about your band, The Fine Constant, and your upcoming new release.
I finally formed a band to play my solo stuff live about three months ago, which is pretty awesome. I never thought I would be able to hear what I’ve done in a live setting, which is such an amazing feeling! I’m also fortunate to be working with such talented musicians! As for the new CD, I’m pretty excited. I think this one will much more accurately portray the direction I’m looking to head in musically. It should be done within the next few weeks, and available to download shortly after that!
And you’re going to tour behind the new material? Any dates lined up you can share, or is it still in the works?
Yep! We’ve got a few potential tour opportunities currently in the works. If all goes as planned we should be on the road in October! I can’t share any dates yet, but for anyone who is interested, once things are finalized I will make a youtube update, so keep an eye out for that!