Desiree Bassett

At an open mic in Hartford, Connecticut, guitarist Desiree Bassett caught the attention of bassist Doug Wimbish, who was in town throwing his annual gathering of funk and rock legends, the Wimbash. Wimbish was so impressed that he asked the then 12-year-old to sit in at the event the following day. Two years later, at just 14, Basset has won several awards, played the second stage at Ozzfest, and earned endorsements with Schecter and Peavey. Recently, Bassett cut demo tracks with Wimbish producing, and with Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun as support.

“It’s pretty insane working with those heavyweights,” says Bassett. “But I also have to keep my grades up. I’m on the honor roll at school.”

Why do you think guitar comes so naturally to you?
When I was two-and-a-half, I started playing on a half-size Lotus guitar, and I graduated to a full-size ’83 Ibanez Roadstar II when I was five. Soon after, my parents found me playing a Joe Satriani song in the kitchen, and they were speechless. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been spending every spare minute practicing. I practice all the time—four to six hours a day.

What types of music influence your style?
I’m still learning about rock and blues styles. I like to listen to what the new bands—like Killswitch Engage and Evanescence—are doing, but I mostly listen to Hendrix, the Allman Brothers, and Reba McEntire. I love Joe Satriani’s tone. His style is my absolute favorite.

What’s your basic gear setup?
I have 13 guitars, but my main ax right now is a Schecter C-1 Plus. I have a 50th Anniversary Strat signed by Rik Emmett. It used to have Dicky Betts’ signature on the pickguard, as well, but I played it so much that it faded away! I love Floyd Rose tremolos, and I have a Dunlop ZW-45 Zakk Wylde Signature Wah that Jim Dunlop gave me himself. I use D’Addario strings, gauged .010-.046, and Dunlop Tortex .88mm picks. My amp is a Vox Valvetronix loaded with two 12" Celestions. I also have my own studio, which my dad built in a part of the house that used to be an old blacksmith shop. Our house was built in 1730—it’s ancient.

How many of your leads are planned, and how many are improvised?
When I go into the studio with Doug this spring, I’ll have all the song structures down, but, when it comes to soloing, I’ll be pretty much improvising. I always want to learn new scales and chords, and how they can flow like colors. I like to sound like something old and interesting, and something new at the same time.

You give guitar lessons to other kids. What’s your approach to teaching?
I’ll help them if they want to learn a song, but I’m a believer in technique. I have them learn all the scales, and I start them on sweep picking and stuff like that. I’m going to give a master class at the Little Kids Rock project in New York in a few weeks, and I hope to inspire everyone to play music and practice every day.