Following the conversation with Golden Salt (read it here), I have received many questions from readers (and yes, there are many more than those listed here, and they may be answered later on, as time allows). I forwarded these questions to Arianna and Eleonora a few weeks ago, and they graciously took the time to answer them candidly and wholeheartedly. So here you go, some of your questions answered! Enjoy.
Gloria (CA, USA): I studied violin for 15 years, settling on a Carlo Lamberti Sonata. I love it, and it has gotten much use! What violin does Arianna play? How did she choose hers?
Arianna: Wow, that is a lot! The violin I use is of an unsigned French lutherie. I have had a violin of lutherie for many years because when you spend many years in the conservatory, it is crucial to have an instrument that sounds good. Violins are divided into two types: commercial and lutherie. The commercial ones are the ones that are worth “less” and tend to sound a little worse. The violins of lutherie are handmade in all their parts and are much better quality. It took me a long time to look for and find what I wanted, and I tried many violins by many luthiers here in Tuscany. I was still a student, so my parents were the ones who bought it for me. The violin I mentioned is the one I use in our recordings, but it is not the same one usually seen in our videos. If I were to use it all the time, I would risk wearing it down, and I cannot risk that because it was challenging to find a violin that responded precisely to how I needed and liked it. It is very balanced and quite powerful and, in fact, a bit big. You rarely see it in videos because of my ancestral terror of wearing it out – it is that unique. The violin you see in the videos is German, half commercial and half lutherie, that I had a student of mine buy many years ago, who then had to stop playing for various reasons. At that point, I bought it from her because I had always liked it – it is the violin that, for example, is seen in “Nothing Else Matters.” Whereas the one seen in “Sweet Dreams,” in the rain, like other violins I use, is commercial, and I have had them since childhood; they have next to no value and are beat up – perfect for that type of setting.
Matt (KS, USA): I enjoyed reading the part about the metronome and not playing in time with it. My teacher does not like when students disregard it; he says that I will never be a good violinist without it. He upset me; I want to express myself and my timing. Thank you for not making me feel alone! Does Arianna think that playing by soul and not in the pocket makes her “feel” the composition better?
Arianna: This question is very interesting. Playing without a metronome is nice, but studying with one is important. I could be better with timing and more precise than Ele. I use the metronome a lot, and I have to use it. When you play in timing with a metronome, it is helpful – when you do without, you are in control of what you do. However, if you choose to play without the metronome, you skip an essential step in favor of playing more from the heart. In short: study with the metronome, and when you are in control, you can leave the metronome. Once I did an internship in a youth orchestra where you learned but also played concerts, and there was an orchestra conductor who talked about this aspect, and it struck me. He told the soloist playing: “You can follow your timing; you can play faster or slower, but overall, you have to stay in the metronome.” I agree. The ideal would be not to go away from timing because our heart takes us elsewhere but to be able to express ourselves within the timing – it is like stealing or giving some space. So, this is how I see it: be humble when studying and then use the metronome and give yourself parameters, and only then, when you feel free, you can take the metronome off – realizing, in the end, that, after all, it was not as important as you thought to play without it.
Nancy (TX, USA): I love that Ibanez Jem! I play it so much that I have to change strings every month. Does Eleonora have a preferred brand and model of a guitar? How does she choose her gear? How about strings, any favorites?
Eleonora: I am glad you like the Ibanez Jem. I do not have any specific favorite models of guitars. I am very fond of Ibanez, but I must confess that it is simply because I find them closer to me, as they are more “rock-oriented” – and because my first electric guitar was also an Ibanez. I felt a strong affinity for other brands as well. I also have a Katana from Cort, which I feel comfortable with, but the Ibanez makes me feel more like me. I do not think it is a better brand than the others if you are looking for advice from a more technical point of view.
I often use d’Addario strings, but strings are very personal, and I would not feel comfortable, again, saying they are better than others.
As for the choice of my instruments, I must admit that I have yet to try many guitars. I consider myself very far from being a guitar expert, so I would not recommend anything. Having always had limited economic possibilities, I have consistently juggled between second-hand models and those within my reach. I have always given a lot of value to the “feeling” that I sense with a guitar. For example, the Ibanez Jem is excellent for me because I find it lighter and more manageable, and I also add that I find it particularly fascinating. These are the main reasons I often use the black Ibanez Jem in the videos.
Precisely because of the lightness and manageability, also given the size of my body, I am working on customized models that meet these characteristics to reach the end of a show where the weight of my guitar will not crush me. This is a very personal consideration but that I would recommend to anyone – and you, Nancy, specifically since you play a lot, and it is great that you do – it is terrific to customize as much as possible until you feel one with your guitar.
Jack (NY, USA): Thank you for the Thunderstruck BTS link! I laughed at the AC/DC exchange Eleonora had with Ari!!! Question: does Eleonora have a favorite guitarist?
Eleonora: I need to learn how to answer this question that is often asked, and I still need an easy answer. Since playing guitar, I have enjoyed playing pieces by virtuoso guitarists like Joe Satriani. They are an excellent exercise from a technical point of view. I prefer guitarists to be less virtuous in style; I prefer Brian May, who tends to do very singable and melodic solos, while particularly fast and technical virtuosities are usually not my favorites. The solos I have composed so far tend to be more harmonious and not the traditional virtuoso solo of twenty thousand notes in a fraction of a second. That is also the style I enjoy the most when I listen to music, but it is a matter of personal taste. When I listen, I constantly hear outstanding guitarists who are always a great starting point and example, and I cannot prefer one over another. So, I am still determining who my favorite guitarists are, even if it may seem strange.
Anne (Ottawa, Canada): Great music, good looking, great clothes, fun. Arianna and Eleonora are super cool. Do they have siblings that play music too?
Arianna: I have a brother, who is three years younger, and he played the cello when he was little, practically parallel to me: I played the violin, and he played the cello. Our parents had proposed instruments to us because my father, a professional musician, plays the bass tuba. I then continued while my brother stopped playing when he was a teenager. He made it halfway through the conservatory, so he was good as a cellist. Like anyone at that age, our adolescence was a bit rebellious, even towards our parents. My brother had words, and while I continued, he quit. It is not easy to play an instrument here in Italy because the conservatory is a very discouraging place. I did ten years of conservatory, starting with many friends of the same age. All of them eventually quit, some with traumas because there were teachers who were not through and through bad, so to speak, but who were at levels that today, fortunately, would not be acceptable – people who mistreat children. At the time, the custom of teaching instruments ruthlessly and very selectively was the norm, and children did not understand what they were being asked to do and how. Both my brother and many others quit for this reason – not for lack of passion or skill but because they faced an environment hostile to learning.
Eleonora: My sisters and I have fun playing and singing together. Neither of my sisters is a musician by profession, but I see that they delightfully experience music. This certainly helped me to live it with great pleasure as well.
Grayson (CA, USA): I have always preferred other instruments to the electric guitar. I must admit that reading the interview and listening to Golden Salt changed my mind. I listened to all their covers on Spotify and YouTube. I like some versions a lot, like “Schindler’s List.” Does Eleonora also play more classical accompaniments with Arianna?
Eleonora: I am pleased to read that hearing our duo has raised the vision of the electric guitar as an instrument for you. I think it is no coincidence that you mention “Schindler’s List,” Grayson, because it is on that piece that I received several comments on what the electric guitar was able to express. And this makes me truly happy. Ari and I happened to add various classical music pieces to our repertoire, sometimes in purely classical arrangements.
Arianna: Such as Pachelbel’s Canon in D (our “Punk Canon in D”) for example, we have played in purely classical form from start to finish before.
Eleonora: Exactly. We did an utterly classical version initially, so I never operated my distortion pedal – unfortunately – and we happened to make many people cry with that piece. We never knew whether to be sad or happy about it. When you see tears, you always ask yourself that question.
Arianna: We did so many classic things because you have to know that, especially in the initial part of our career, we played – despite ourselves – at many weddings, which was a reasonably profitable field, and we still studied at university. Among other things, I came from the conservatory, and the only music that came to mind was that! And so, we had built this repertoire which was also beautiful. In parallel, some classic pieces were a starting point for dealing with dynamics, such as “piano” or “forte,” which in rock music, which is amplified, are flattened as elements.
Eleonora: Only playing with Arianna did I have the opportunity to play Bach and Schubert; it was certainly exciting and formative, and it will always remain something beautiful that we may do from time to time, but let’s say that now the cross-over aspect has taken over, and therefore nothing ever remains pure classic or pure rock or pure dance. Mashups will now always be the norm.
Marco (Toronto, Canada): I read that Golden Salt did most of their videos themselves. They were nicely done! Who operates the drone? Do they hire people?
Eleonora: We love that you like our videos precisely because we entirely manage the direction and production ourselves. It is truly a great honor to hear that. As for the drone: both Ari and I are pilots and are authorized to operate it. We are doing well, especially Ari, who is so good at it and is an incredible drone pilot. When we are playing together, we cannot fly the drone ourselves. We sometimes rely on people who can take the shots we have in mind for our videos. So, our small but very reliable staff comes together to make it possible to get to the bottom of the realization of the videos, and we hope to get better and better as time goes by.
George (Birmingham, UK): I am so happy they offer vinyl. I grew up with a record player. There is magic in watching a record spin. Many artists stream and make CDs only. Which do they like better?
Eleonora: We are thrilled that our choice to produce the album in a vinyl version is appreciated. We do not have a preference for the device through which to listen to music. We recognize that vinyl carries its indisputable charm. We know that people have their manners and ways of enjoying music, and we like offering it in all its forms so that all people can find what works best for them.
Arianna: Perhaps I can say that in the past, I was shocked by the beauty of how well you hear from Bose brand devices (I do not mean to advertise but solely express an opinion) – not as sound storage mediums or platforms because they are loudspeakers – however, I think the sound is beautiful; mind you, I do not own any, but when I got to hear music through them, I thought the device influenced what I was hearing so much for the better. As Ele stated, we do not have a preference regarding the platform. We usually listen to our songs on very different devices, even those that crackle, like phones, precisely because we have to understand how they will perform everywhere and where they are heard by whom too. We have a transversal vision of trying them all. So not looking for the best system or medium, but the worst system sometimes.
Eleonora: We spend a lot of time wondering if the people who will listen to our music will be able to do so in a way worthy of the time invested in researching and looking for our music. We listen to our songs while mastering them from as many devices as possible to ensure we do our best. Some professional mastering studios would be able to do a much better job than what we are doing but are outside our financial reach. We always try to improve the quality regarding the vinyl mastering in particular, which is very delicate because the reproduction of the piece can be easily affected by bad mastering. From a technical point of view, learning this particularity of vinyl was fascinating, and we hope to do even better with our next ones.
Steven (Leeds, UK): I love their original music. Excited to know there is more coming. I read that their music will be an eclectic mix of old and new. House and baroque??? That I have to listen to! I would love to hear more combinations, like a Gregorian chant and grunge or a serenade and industrial metal. How do they pick their genre mashups?
Eleonora: Great question! We are very excited, I must say. The next release will be a baroque/metal/house piece. As combinations go, there will be very different ones later on. Our way of choosing the mashup between genres is very intuitive. When we put our hands on violin, guitar, piano, and drums, we bring out something that begins to have its own identity, which is how it then seems to present itself – singularly. It is like a film in our mind: our minds see and imagine this, and then we say, oh, this will end like that. From this initial, amateurish sketch, if you will, the rational part takes over, and we go to work on the technical aspect so that it sounds good – and those things will work together nicely in the end. We dive into new ideas if any part does not communicate enough of what we visualize. In short: the mashup of genres is pure instinct.
Lucas (OH, USA): When-oh-when is Golden Salt going to play in the USA? They must be a lot of fun live!
Eleonora: Oh, Lucas, alas, we do not have any US dates yet, but we really cannot wait to have them! Unfortunately for us, the tour dates are still far away, in the sense that the first possibilities are just now appearing, but they are all linked to next year, and more are still being decided. So, we will be patient again – and we ask you to do the same – yet know that we cannot wait to have our first live performances in the United States. Oh yes, you can count on it. They will be fun; we are preparing a live show that rocks! Prepare to have fun *wink.