Guitar Tricks Blog
Posted: October 10, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen and Brian May on Guitar Playing

Bohemian Rhapsody is an upcoming film about the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and to celebrate its release, we want to highlight some of the great work the band has done over the years, especially the work by guitarist and songwriter Brian May. 

First off, Queen’s signature sound was distinctively guitar-driven thanks to May’s larger-than-life, arena-rocking tones. This is due to the Red Special, a custom guitar built by May and his father. The guitar player has been playing numerous models of this guitar ever since, and it is the primary guitar on just about every Queen recording. You can check out some of the guitars here

Despite having a custom guitar with his name on it, May wasn’t always happy with the sounds he got in the studio. 

“I’m always slightly dissatisfied with the sound I’ve gotten on record, to be truthful,” May said in an interview in Guitar Tricks Insider. He mentioned that the guitar tone he looked for is sometimes close, like on “Fat Bottomed Girls” but by the time of its release on the airwaves, he said “No, it’s not really there.” 

In regards to “Fat Bottomed Girls,” the song is overall a lot looser and feels closer to a traditional rock n’ roll song compared to what you’d expect from Queen. The track is even played in a drop D tuning featuring some double stops and single-note riffing. It’s definitely got a bit more twang than the majority of their songs but if you want to try it out yourself, go here

For Queen, May’s playing created a legacy just as much as Mercury’s singing. Guitar still excites May today as much as it did years ago. For a crash course on how to play like May, check out the video below and make sure to sign up for Full Access for the complete lesson. 

 

May said in the interview featured in the May/June issue of Guitar Tricks Insider that “It’s strange but I still get excited by the sound of the guitar. I also still get excited by seeing someone else make that kind of sound. I saw Jeff Beck play recently and I got exactly the same kind of thrill and buzz watching the guy now as I did when I was a kid. That never goes away.” 

The guitar still excites us too, especially if it’s Brian May of Queen on the frets. 

Bohemian Rhapsody opens in theaters worldwide on November 2.

Header Image: Original photo By Thomas Steffan by using Olympus Camedia C700 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Get More Tips