Briana Alexis: I am a Los Angeles-based guitarist and have been a staple on the music scene for over three decades. I began my musical journey in the late ‘80s playing in metal bands on the Sunset Strip. Early on, I worked for music-manufacturers Randall Amplifiers, Fender (R & D), and a short stint at Gibson Guitars (A & R). I combined my passion for musical equipment, working with artists and demoing guitar, which paved the way for my career as a musician.
An Alumni of Dick Grove Music Academy where I studied jazz, I also appeared in their national ad campaigns in Guitar Player Magazine. In July 2012, I was featured in Guitar World in “Exposed: 10 More Female Guitarists You Should Know, Part 4.”
My projects have spanned a wide variety of musical styles from metal, classic rock, blues to jazz. Not only have I been in numerous bands over the years and performed on multiple side projects, but I am also the founder, music director, and lead guitarist of the original female rock band, Absinthe.
In 2009, I was invited to participate on the panel of judges for Guitar Center’s national King of Blues completion. When it comes to instruction, I have taught guitar at UCLA, did a series of instructional guitar videos for Dangerous Guitar, and have participated in clinics and master classes at various music academies. Over 13 music manufacturers endorse me.
Over the past five years, I have been recording music for TV and film with my production company, Southpaw Music Group. Currently, I’m excited to embark upon a new writing project with singer Cherokee Fortune.
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone in the digital world is moving so fast. As a guitar player, I’m drawn to the simulated amps and cabinets, which have come a long way! I never thought I would be one of those players, but here I am. Especially in the studio laying down tracks. I still love my analog guitar effects, tube amps, cabinets, and playing with microphones, but don’t ignore the mighty sound in a digital platform. I am constantly collecting amps, pedals, and musical instruments of all sorts. I never know what request may come through where I need to flip my tone based on the style of music. However, I’m a big believer that tone comes down to your hands, attitude, and attack on the guitar.
Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
I’m always mixing things up, but this is my current set up.
When I’m performing styles that require versatility, my main guitar is my lefty Suhr Custom Classic, very similar to the Henderson model. It’s a Classic S with an alder body, roasted maple neck, Indian rosewood fingerboard, Suhr locking tuners, three single-coil Michael Landau Standard pickups, the SSCII noiseless system, and a highly modified Fender Vintage bridge. Strings are D’Addario 10’s.
I also rely on my ‘68 reissue (1987) Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan pickups. Last but not least, I have my 12 lb. FrankenGibson Goldtop. It’s a modified ’86 Gibson Les Paul with Seymour Duncans, FU-Tone Bridge, Brass Sustain Block, and EVH D-Tuna. The thing’s a beast (hence the name)!
Among my amplifiers, my go-to is a Suhr SH100 Custom Classic OD100 Classic and a modified Fender Hot Rod Deluxe with a Celestion Heritage 65 speaker. I run these in my wet/dry set up.
Bognar manufactured my main cabinet. It’s a 4 x 12 straight cabinet with closed-back made from Birchwood, loaded with Celestion 25 watt Greenbacks.
Xotic RC Booster, Maxon SD-9, Fulltone Octafuzz, Strymon Ola Chorus, Chase Tone Script Wah, and then into the amp. Cables are custom Mogami 2524 with Switchcraft plugs. The E.W.S. Subtle Volume Control (SVC) and alternate to a standard volume pedal. It’s plugged into the amp FX loop, so I can control the volume without affecting the gain.
I use a wet/ dry setup. The amp is dry, and the effects are in a second amp, usually a Fender combo. I use a Suhr Line Out Box which is plugged into an external speaker jack on my amp. The Line Out Box converts the speaker signal to line level, which is sent to the SVC next to the wah, then into the input of a BOSS SE-70 MultiFX, and then to the second amp. All SE-70 patches are 100% wet, and the SVC allows me to control the wet/dry mix. The Tech 21 MIDI Mouse is used to switch programs on the SE-70.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I like to record live rhythm tracks (drums, bass, and guitar) and punch in either vocals, layering guitars, or other instruments separately. I’ve always done it that way. I like the human feel and laying down live rhythm tracks. I also have a home recording studio where I produce most of my projects. It’s a constant learning experience. My DAW of choice is ProTools, and I use Universal Audio for my interface. It’s still a thrill and treat to record in as many recording studios as possible — each has its own unique wall of sound and character.
How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
It’s not easy as every house has their sound issues. I religiously run-through my complete rig setup at rehearsals before a show. I don’t always have a tech, so I make sure I’m self-sufficient. In my pedalboard, I have a BOSS LoopStation (RC-3). During soundcheck, I replace it where my Wah was in my pedalboard to check tone in the PA. I listen to the playback at the soundboard where the engineer is. This way, I can hear actually what I would sound like when playing on stage.
What does your practice consist of?
I feel a good practice routine is constantly mixing things up, much like working out. Different days focus on various parts of the body. I may play jazz, piano, bass, or spend a day just working on my reading, ear-training, theory, improv, or harmony. Then, every day, I always make sure to get in what I call my stretching — running down scales, finger exercises, and then ending my routine with having fun and playing to songs.
What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Be realistic! It’s 50% business and 50% creative. You need to do everything and be as self-sufficient as possible. This “business” includes social media platforms. As much as I rebel, I appreciate the benefits of social promotion. Learn about music production, sound, tone, gear set up, how your instruments work, and practice, practice, practice. Don’t get into music for fame or anything other than the love of it. Don’t listen to anyone that is negative. Stay focused, and always try and play with better players. Say yes to as many musical opportunities and work hard towards them. Always be prepared, on time, professional, and well-rehearsed. It doesn’t hurt to take it one step further and learn other parts.
Finally, the flood gates are wide-open for female players. I’m so glad to see it after all these years. Be fierce, own who you are, and play like a bat outta hell!
Briana Alexis Official Website – http://brianalexis.com/
NOTE: Briana Alexis is also featured in our 2020 Guitar Girl Magazine Calendar which can be purchased HERE.
Photos provided by artist with approval for use