Sarah Longfield is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and YouTuber who has been steadily growing her channel since 2007, with videos ranging from quirky ukulele covers of famous metal songs to instructional lessons detailing her two-handed tapping technique. While Longfield focuses mainly on standard and multiscale guitars, she has a variety of cool gear at her fingertips that she uses both for her own inspiration and to create music that inspires others. The 26-year-old artist gave us a rundown of her favorite pieces of gear, (including her signature .strandberg* 8-string, a Polyend Tracker Standalone Audio Workstation and a vintage cello she’s teaching herself to play) and talked about her creative process as a rising voice in prog metal guitar.
How does gear inspire your creativity?
It opens me up to all sorts of new ideas and new workflows. I love changing up my workflow. I don’t even know if I can truly say I have one since I change it up so much. New gear forces you to learn and puts you in this great brain space. Sometimes you’re trying out stuff for the first time and that’s when all the happy accidents are born. Pure intuition and exploration. Nothing beats that feeling of wonder and discovery.
You shared your five favorite pieces of gear with us. Which one is most important to you?
The most important gear in my studio is whatever inspires me to create, pushes my boundaries or enhances my workflow. The best can do all three. I think the relationship between artists and their instruments is really special, and also so varied. Some people are deeply attached to one specific instrument and feel they can’t create without it while others could make a song out of sampling rocks [laughs].
Your sound combines elements of prog metal, dark synthwave and math rock. What type of music do you like to make most?
I tend to flow back and forth between electronic music and progressive metal instrumental guitar stuff. Right now, I’m working on a dark/alternative/industrial electronic EP. It’s got some prog guitar thrown in there with lots of crazy, layered and effected vocals. The album is getting so weird, but it’s been so much fun to make.
How do you approach creating a new track?
I usually just pick an instrument and start jamming. If I’m feeling the vibe, I roll with it and add more instruments and effects, as well as track little vocal bits here and there. But, if I’m not feeling it, even after six-plus hours of work, I’ll scrap it and start again on a different instrument. I think it’s important not to get too caught up in the idea of crafting and structuring a track. It’s more about capturing whatever vibe you’re going for.
Can you tell us more about your signature guitar with .strandberg*?
I’d been working with Ola Strandberg for a short while and he asked if I’d be interested in painting a guitar. I love visual art as well and so I was super excited. I can’t believe how far my design has gone. I came up with the name long after the design (we had to call it something right?) and lots of friends mentioned that it looked kind of like weather radar images, which I thought was pretty neat. So, we titled it the “Black Doppler.”
As for the design, I was already in love with the Boden Metal model and had been playing it live on tours, so we decided to base my signature guitar off of those specs. I also love Fishman Fluence pickups, so we decided to include the Moderns as well.
How has your love of design influenced your music and playing style?
I think that both my love of visual art and of music influence each other. It all comes from the same place. I want to create bright and varied sonic palettes and colorful visuals to go along with them. The world can be a really dark, depressing place. So, vibrancy, in any medium, is something I end up including in a lot of my work.
What does a 7- or 8-string guitar offer players in comparison to a typical 6-string?
Extended range guitars are great because they allow you to explore new playing styles. Personally, I find when I’m playing a 6-string that I focus heavily on the melody and writing catchy leads. Whereas on 7- or 8-strings, I love writing percussive/tappy/polyrhythmic stuff.
How does a song that you write on guitar differ from one that starts on the cello or modular synth?
With guitar, I focus on what feels good to play and what would be fun to perform live, which usually leads to something instrumental and a bit more technical. With synths or cello, I’m much more focused on the sound and the colors of the sounds together; not at all considering how I would pull it off live. I love changing it up though to keep writing fresh and fun.
You’ve built a strong relationship with your online community. How does that motivate you? How has it helped during the pandemic?
I think the online art/music communities can be so wonderful. I love seeing other musicians play and write, as well as studying their note choices and phrasing. There is endless inspiration on YouTube, Instagram, etc. I have just always wanted to contribute to that in any way that I can. Maybe something I make will inspire someone, as all of the people I follow inspire me. And, especially right now, when we’re all feeling so isolated, that sense of community can be a lifeline, and a reminder of the resilience of humanity and our art.
How does music connect us?
I think music and art have been an integral part of humanity. To be given the emotional insight into an individual’s experiences is truly a gift, and I think it’s something we inherently seek.
Nothing else matters when I’m creating music. It’s one of the few things in my life where I truly feel at home.