As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 15 – Spring 2021 – Electrified!
Brazilian guitar instrumentalist Lari Basilio is always smiling. It’s evident she’s elated playing guitar—adventurously improvising, letting the melodic energy flow, tone for days. Yeah, that’s Lari Basilio. In her words, “I’m always searching, always learning, and always growing.”
Songwriting is an artistic journey. And creating instrumental guitar music is a true art. It’s a canvas speckled with unique phrasing, bends, vibrato, leads—splashed with other techniques and nuances along the way. Basilio’s guitar is her singular voice. The paintbrush: her hands/fingers, sometimes a pick, sometimes a combination of both, highlighting her fretboard with every shade in between.
The guitarist’s songs are technically proficient, but she always lends this underlying, natural feel. Her instrumental EP, simply titled Lari Basilio (2011), set the stage for her melodic elegance. On The Sound of My Room (2015), she fused instrumental guitar with a visual experience, debuting it in a movie theatre.
Always growing as a player, people took notice. She was the first female guitarist invited as a counselor at the G4 Experience (2019)—an instructional event led by Joe Satriani, which gathers the best of the best for a few days of guitar clinics.
Basilio mastered another art, and that’s a knack for holding her own clinics and lessons. What’s so cool is that she does them in a fun, easy-to-comprehend way, which really fosters learning.
On Basilio’s last album, Far More, her instrumental style soared to new heights as she collaborated with top session players for her inspiring compositions.
A big part of her style is an underlying melodic sensibility and smoothness. “A good melody is what can make a song remarkable,” says Basilio. “Since I started playing, I’ve always tried to work on that. It’s great being led by melodies, but more than thinking about it, I try and let it flow and play what I’m feeling.”
Born in São Paulo to a musical family, she had a natural ear for melody. She started playing the organ at age four, and at eight years old, her father showed her a few guitar chords. Later, enrolling in private lessons, she followed her passion for guitar playing as a lifestyle.
Andy Timmons and Paul Gilbert are two of her biggest influences (she’s opened guitar clinics for both). Along her journey, some other pretty cool fans arrived, having traded licks with everyone from Joe Satriani to Steve Vai—recently, Steve Lukather praised her on social media as a top guitarist.
Currently in pre-production on her next album, she’s writing songs and setting the stage for another guitar journey. You can listen to her new song called “Sunny Days” played on her Ibanez signature LB1—a special guitar for a unique voice—on YouTube. Alternate picking is a big part of your playing style. How did that start for you?
Yes, I play with both, with a pick and fingerstyle. I would say that it’s 50/50. Both are very present in my playing, and I switch between them a lot within the same song. When my dad put an acoustic guitar in my hands for the first time, he didn’t give me a guitar pick and taught me how to play without it.
Did you evolve from there, and what did it offer your playing?
Because I started without using a pick, at some point, it became very natural for me to experiment with fingerpicking on the electric guitar. I switch a lot between pick and fingerpicking because I’m always trying to achieve different dynamics and expression and get different tones. I felt early on that fingerpicking allowed me to have extra control over those things, and I love it. Practicing it over the years, I ended up finding my own way of playing fingerstyle. I only use three fingers on my right hand to fingerpick: thumb, index, and middle. The ring finger I use to hold the guitar pick while I’m fingerpicking. That’s my approach, but there are many different ways of doing it, and I think everyone should find what’s most comfortable for their playing.
On Far More, you really took guitar in a new direction. There’s always a creative element in your projects. Where does this come from? It doesn’t seem all about shredding for you.
My team and I are always trying to do something new and different. One of our favorite things to do over here is brainstorm. [Laughs] So, for every release, we try and bring a new concept or idea that would complement the project and make it unique somehow. What I always try to do is be as versatile as possible but always have a melodic element in my songs. In the future, I hope to improve on that and keep making music.
What’s your approach to soloing?
I usually try to be more expressive than fast. I’m always trying to improve my playing through bends, vibrato, and the dynamics of my sound. I’m trying to do it all with meaning, so it makes sense to the listener. Technically, I try to achieve all of this by playing with a guitar pick but also fingerpicking. It’s an endless search for new things on the guitar, but I love it—that’s what keeps us growing as guitarists.
Tell me about your new Ibanez LB1 guitar. How involved were you in its design?
I was 100 percent involved, and Ibanez gave me the freedom to choose everything I love and need as a guitar player. But it was definitely a team effort, and together we were able to get an amazing result. It’s called the Ibanez LB1, “LB” stands for my initials, and the number 1 is because it’s my first signature guitar.
What was the process working with Ibanez and creating your LB1 guitar?
It was such a fun process. A while ago, Ibanez presented me with a new project that they were working on, the AZS model. T-style guitars have always been my favorite, and I knew that the AZS would be the ideal project for me to base my signature guitar on.
That’s great. Were there specific features and attributes you envisioned?
The LB1 has some very personal touches like the Roasted Birdseye maple neck and fretboard, compound radius fretboard, S-S-H pickup (Seymour Duncan Lari Basilio S-S-H pickups) configuration (my signature set from Seymour Duncan), gold Gotoh (Gotoh T1702B bridge) hardware and tremolo, and the violet finish.
Nice. How does the guitar feel?
Oh, great. Not only does it give me the comfort I’m looking for, but it also has the versatility in tone that I need as a player. I’m so proud of it and happy to have collaborated with such a legendary brand as Ibanez.
Specifically, what does the guitar offer in sound and tone?
It’s a very versatile guitar. With the S-S-H pickup configuration and the dyna-MIX9 (switching system with alter switch), we have up to nine different tone options. My goal was to have everything I needed in one guitar so I can perform my songs and feel inspired to create new ones.
Tell me more about the different pickups because you have a few, and why? I know you’re big on a T-style.
True. I really love the tone from a T-style neck pickup, so it’s an essential feature for me. I get a really vintage tone from my T-style neck pickup (Seymour Duncan Lari Basilio (S) neck pickup), and it has a lot of body. In the bridge, I went with a Humbucker (Seymour Duncan Lari Basilio (H) bridge). That’s necessary for me, too, and the nature of some of my songs. Then the middle pickup is also a single (Seymour Duncan Lari Basilio (S) middle pickup). It’s a really special touch that gives me a few more tonal options, and it’s based on the tone of an S-Style guitar middle pickup. So, the LB1 offers me the best of both worlds—in every way. I want to be as versatile a player as possible and having a versatile tone is so essential. Also, it was such an honor partnering up with Seymour Duncan to develop and voice my signature pickups.
Switching gears, your last album, Far More, has been widely received. One of your great moments is the song “Glimpse of Light” (with Joe Satriani). That must have been inspiring; how did you combine your solos/guitar parts?
I was so honored to have Joe Satriani play on the track “Glimpse of Light.” I wrote the song, knowing it would be the one I wanted a guest to solo on. When I start composing a song, I never know where it’s going to take me. Sometimes it’s so surprising, and that’s the beauty of it. But I wanted the whole second part of the song to be all Joe’s. Towards the end of the song, I had this idea of us playing together somehow. Of course, Joe was totally free to do whatever he wanted to, and he surprised me in so many ways when I first listened to it! His approach is so unique and precise. It fits the song perfectly and full of his personality and his musical identity. The last part of the solo is where he surprised me the most when he literally started to trade some licks with me. That was a touch of genius, and I loved it. Joe creates solos with so much attitude, and he’s a source of inspiration for me and so many other guitar players. On your song “Redeemed” on Far More, you have a lot of tone dynamics going on. How did you express yourself technically and bring it all together?
“Redeemed” is a song where I alternate a lot between using a pick and fingerpicking. Actually, I do that in most of my songs. I love the different dynamics and tone possibilities that I get by using both techniques. My choice to use one or the other during the song is always based on the intention of the sound, tone, dynamics, and, of course, feel. For the bridge on “Redeemed,” it has to be done with fingerpicking. I play a lot of ghost notes in the middle, which brings a very cool rhythmic effect, a different accentuation and groove. The palm muting was also very important to make everything work and sound interesting.
What about your tunings?
Glad you asked. Another interesting fact about this song is the tuning I’m using. I tuned the sixth string to C. This tuning and Drop D are my favorite alternate tunings to use.
That can be a cool way to shake things up; how do you feel about alternate tunings?
I agree; switching between tunings always brings a different kind of inspiration.
It seems at this point you’ve really established “your sound” or tone. Does it feel that way to you?
Lately, I’m very happy where I’m at with my sound and tone, but at the same time, I think everything is a constant evolution, and I love it that way—always searching, always learning, and always growing.
How has Brazilian music influenced your playing?
In Brazil, we have so many different and original styles of music, and growing up, listening to all those different genres helped me seek more versatility as a guitar player.
Here’s a bit of an offbeat one, but what’s a favorite guitar lick or riff that inspired you?
I grew up sharing all things guitar and music with my younger brother; he’s also a guitar player, Joe Basilio. The self-titled album Avenged Sevenfold from the band Avenged Sevenfold is definitely one that was always so remarkable to us, and my favorite riff from that album is the “Brompton Cocktail” riff.
What if anything have you had to overcome in your career? You left Brazil to live in the US; was that a challenge?
I already had a good career in Brazil. I was working a lot there, but I felt I needed to expand my career worldwide. So, I decided to come to the US, and it was definitely very challenging. Here in the US, it felt like a new beginning since not many people knew me, but I was pretty focused on my work, on making music, and I had a lot of faith and hope that everything would work out.
When did you move to the US?
Today, it’s been four years since I came to the US, and I’m so grateful for everything God has done in my life and, most importantly, thorough my life. I also feel blessed to be able to make music, and I can’t wait to release my new album and share more music with everyone!