Student Profile: Nili Brosh
You may already be familiar with guitarist Nili Brosh. You wouldn't be alone; her first YouTube video received more than 120,000 views since she posted it two years ago. It was her second semester at Berklee and she thought it would be fun to show the world how much she liked the playing of one of her guitar heroes. She grabbed her guitar, hit the record button, and 86 seconds later, she was on her way to becoming a YouTube celebrity.
While the "Guthrie Govan solo played by 18 year old girl" video helped launch her, Brosh has pushed herself to take her musicianship to ever-higher levels. She practiced nonstop, over-prepared for every opportunity, and formed the Nili Brosh Band, an instrumental rock group that was gigging so ceaselessly she had to cut back to keep her life in balance. Focusing these days more on writing and recording her senior project, Brosh took a break to talk music. The following is a condensed and edited sampling of our conversation.
When did music become important to you?
I guess I was really young. Pink Floyd and Queen are my early musical memories. My brothers liked them. They told me that I would hum [Floyd's] "Another Brick in the Wall, [Pt. 1]." They said I didn't know the words but I never went off key.
I think it was the only place that I would have fit into. I was primarily a rock player. It was mostly an attitude thing. Most of the kids I played with in high school went to NEC Prep [New England Conservatory Preparatory School], and we just kind of clashed. I knew that it just wouldn't work out [anywhere else].
And I wanted to get as much versatility as I could. I really just want to be a session player. I don't know if it'll work out. But I knew if I went to Berklee, I would just be thrown into stuff, exposed to things, whether I wanted to or not.
What made you want to do the YouTube video?
I just really liked the solo, and I was surprised I was able to transcribe most of it. i was pretty skeptical about it and went back and forth about whether or not I should post it. I was worried that people would say, "Oh, she's not really playing," or they wouldn't like it because it has a backing track, or something. It got a much better response than I expected. Within the first week, there was something like 2,000 views. If I had known so many people were going to watch it, I would have worn something different. But maybe that's why they liked it. I'm hanging out in my room in my parents' house, just practicing.
What sort of impact did it have?
One of the big things was my endorsement [from Inspire Guitars]. And a couple of months after I posted it, I would be walking around and some Berklee student would come up and say, "Hey, you're Nili, right? I recognize you from the video." It was weird.
How have you developed as a guitarist while in school?
Dynamics is something I've gotten a lot better at in the last couple of years. I used to have a much more straight line and now I play with a little less gain and try to make it sing more. I was more into technique than I am now. Now I try to be a little more careful about it, especially with my phrasing. I always noticed that the players that I really liked played solos that had shape to them. I'd sit in my car and drive and I could sing their entire solo. Well, I couldn't sing my solos. I always like the idea of building and peaking but I wasn't able to do that until I got here.
Name a class that had a big impact on you.
I had Greg Osby for Harmonic Considerations [in Improvisation]. He encouraged people to bring in different tunes and play in different situations. Some styles I'm not good at. He's an inspiring guy.
What makes Osby so inspiring?
I like his music and he always talks about very deep things. Deep concepts. Like the very first day he came in and said, "I want to talk about bigotry in music and how we're so close-minded to other people." He's so open-minded and likes to bring in different things, music from different countries, to listen to.
Do you ever encounter prejudice as a female guitar player?
People are really cool about it. I'm glad it works out in my favor, at least now. Sometimes you get grouped together, like people saying, "You're one of the best female guitar players on the planet!" Or, "You should check this girl out, too." I don't mind it right now. Once I really get my writing chops going and start writing other styles more heavily than I do now, I don't want to to be typecast to a point where I can't break that.
Nili's Top 5 Guitar-Oriented Albums
- Extreme, Pornograffitti
- Andy Timmons, That Was Then, This Is Now
- Greg Howe, Victor Wooten, Dennis Chambers, Extraction
- Wayne Krantz, 2 Drink Minimum
- Steve Stevens, Flamenco.A. Go. Go