Alexx Calise - Photo by Anabel DFlux
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 11 – Spring 2020 – SoCal Inspired

Dear Alexx,

Fender, Gibson or Music Man?

~ Cameron Xavier Raphael-Storm

Dear Cameron,

Man, that is a tough question! I’m definitely a fan of all three, but over the past ten years or so, I’ve gravitated more toward Gibson. It’s just a bit better suited for the style of music I usually play. For years, especially when I first started playing, I was a strictly a Fender girl. I grew up listening to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a lot of blues artists, so they would generally be playing on Strats or Teles. My first guitar was a candy apple red Strat actually, which I still have to this day.

However, no other guitar (at least in my experience) really has the crunch or sustain of a Les Paul. Don’t get me wrong, Strats and Teles are amazingly versatile and have beautiful tonality as well, but whenever I play hard rock (which is most of the time), I almost always go for a beefier-sounding guitar, like a Les Paul or SG. My white Les Paul, which I’ve had for about ten years now, is my go-to on stage and in-studio. It has great intonation, a warm tone, and it cuts through in a recording better than almost every guitar I own (and I have a lot). When you throw some distortion on that puppy…man, does it howl!

Music Man I probably have the least experience with, having mostly just played them at Guitar Center or during music conventions, but I do find them fun to play, and they have a great aesthetic. I’m really a fan of St. Vincent’s signature model in particular.

Bottom line is, all of these brands are fantastic, and I have had the great pleasure of playing a lot of their guitars. There is definitely a time and a place for all of them. Gibson though, has a special place in this rocker chick’s heart, as it’s pretty much synonymous with the term rock ‘n’ roll.

Dear Alexx,

Besides talent, skill and creative drive related to instrument practice, what personal skills or abilities of yours do you feel have been the biggest benefit to your success as a professional musician?

~Ken Gust

Dear Ken,

While talent, skill and creative drive are all extraordinarily vital to success, I’d say that perseverance, focus, fearlessness, out-of-the-box thinking, and good communication skills are just as important.

In this business, you need to have thick skin and be willing to persevere. You’re going to be told no, you’re going to be told that success in this industry is a near impossibility, and you’re going to have to face an overwhelming amount of roadblocks and competition. You need to be willing to fight for what you want.

Focus is perhaps one of the most important elements of success. You need to have a clear picture and decide what you want to achieve. Indecision or uncertainty will cripple you. It’s great to have ideas and goals, but you need to compartmentalize, prioritize, and visualize them. Otherwise, you’ll be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. If it helps, write a list down of everything you want to achieve in order of importance, and start knocking things down one by one. You can even make subcategories for each item if you need to get more specific. I have a huge easel in my house that I write down all my goals on for the week so that it’s staring me in the face. You don’t have to go that far necessarily, but I will say that it’s great to have something there all the time to remind you and keep you on track.

A mantra that I live by is “don’t be afraid to ask.” I have never had a problem asking for the things that I want. More often than not, when I ask for what I want, I get it. I don’t allow fear to block my success. As a matter of fact, what’s scarier to me is not asking and not knowing what could have been. If someone tells me no, fine. Move on. Find an alternate route. Someone will say “yes” somewhere else.

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to marketing your music is also crucial, especially when there is so much noise today. Everyone is inundated with advertising and stimulation all day every day. You need to do something a little different to capture their attention. Don’t do the same boring performance music video that everyone else does these days. Maybe do an animated one, or make a cool lyric video. If you don’t want to do it yourself, or videography/graphic design isn’t your forte, you can go to Fiverr or Upwork and hire someone to do something pretty unique and eye-catching for a relatively affordable rate.

Relationships are everything in this business, which is why good communication skills are a must. No one wants to feel like they’re being “networked” with. Build and actually cultivate a relationship with someone. Before approaching a person with your material, maybe “like” and “comment” on some of their social media posts. Engage them, ask them questions, maybe invite them out sometime for a drink or coffee. Also, to expand upon the whole good communication and social aspect, get out there! Be seen. Go to events. Learn how to talk to people. Don’t know what to say? Ask people questions. You’ll learn that they love to talk about themselves.

All of these things considered though, remember to always go back to the basics. These are all good points to keep in mind but don’t forget to also practice, keep crafting good songs, and above all, do what makes you happy. It’s all about balance!

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