Sound like Brian May (Queen)

For today’s “In the Style of…”, we’ll be looking at the Guitarist, Brian May, from the Rock Band ‘Queen’.

Brian May from Queen

In the example piece, I’ve started off with an example of how May would use a delay to create the illusion of multiple guitars. I have the unaffected signal dead centre, and the delays separately left and right.

Note: this is different from the usual stereo delay, as the sound coming out the right side cannot be allowed to mix with that of the left- and vice versa. This would ruin the effect.

The delay here is set to 666ms on one side, and 1332ms on the other because the intro and outro are played at 90bpm. If you want to work this out for whatever tempo you’re using in a song, just take 60,000ms and divide it by the bpm. 1000ms is one second, and there are 60 seconds (or 60,000ms) in a minute. If you also have 90 beats in a minute, then that means 666ms for each beat (60,000/90).

Next, we have a face paced riff, reminiscent of ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ with elements of the Blues scale as used in the riff to ‘Fat Bottom Girls’. It’s also important to note that this riff is swung.

Next is a fairly melodic solo, which is fairly typical of May’s work. Instead of going for all out speed, he tends to focus on harmony and melodic content- so you’ll often find phrases repeated or varied several times within the same solo. This part also mostly uses the A major scale, as May would never limit himself to purely pentatonics.

Finally, there is a repeat of the main riff, but this time with an example of how May would use three or more guitars in harmony on a recording for lead parts (think ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’).

I end the example with another use of those delays, to create a layered and repeating ending to fade out on- as May does in the ending to ‘Killer Queen’.

To get the right sound for this, you’ll need a fairly overdriven sound, but definitely no more than half way (5/10)- or not to the point where things start to get fuzzy. Then thicken the sound with a chorus or phaser effect (Brian May himself uses a Boss Phaser Pedal.

The most difficult part about getting the right sound is setting up the delay. You have to wire it so that you get the dry signal, and then one delay going right, and the other to the left at double the length- without letting the two cross over! If you own- or can get hold of- a signal splitter, it will really help to separate things out a bit here.

Of course, if you have a Red Special Guitar, and a Vox AC30 amp, then you’re already half way there!

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Click here if you would like the Guitar Pro Tab (.gpx) with all guitar parts, bass, drums and synth. I prefer to use guitar pro, and you can read why here.

A piece in the style of Brian May from Queen
How to sound like the guitarist Brian May

More information about May, and his current projects, can be found here, at his official website.

If you really want to get into playing lead guitar, my new book ‘Awesome Lead Guitar’ is out now. In it you’ll learn the most common scales and techniques that lead guitarists use with full scale diagrams and tabs!

Then, you can practise along with the 17 included full solo examples and backing tracks! Click here now for more.

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