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Shirtcocker
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Discussion Starter #1
Listening to Queen this morning and wondering just how in the heck Brian May get's that sound out of his guitar? Is it studio tricks or is there some wacky kind of effect/guitar combo he used to get that distinctive sound of his. Some of it sounds like overdubbing and playing harmony with himself, but other times it's just the one guitar and it sounds super cool. Just wondering how he does it.
 

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Brian May

a) Built the guitar he plays himself. It starts there, tone comes from the guitar itself. Guild makes a version of the guitar but it lacks the "Old walnut (I think) Door that May used for construction. Wood does matter even in a solid body guitar).His amps if memory serves me right are Vox AC-30's pushed to the hilt.
b) a good part of tone comes straight from the players hands and that is the near impossible part to duplicate
On record, yes he overdubbs harmony parts to create that sound. when it is just a sigle note, it is just his tone, his hand, his guitar,his amp and his settings
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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Bocephus Jones II said:
Listening to Queen this morning and wondering just how in the heck Brian May get's that sound out of his guitar? Is it studio tricks or is there some wacky kind of effect/guitar combo he used to get that distinctive sound of his. Some of it sounds like overdubbing and playing harmony with himself, but other times it's just the one guitar and it sounds super cool. Just wondering how he does it.
Like all the best tricks, he doesn't do it the same way every time.

For the true harmony stuff where the guitar lines have totally different notes, it's multi-tracking.

For harmony where the notes follow the exact same pattern, but aren't the same notes, it could be multi-tracking, or it could be an electronic harmonizer.

He uses loads of both effect harmony and mult-tracking, so it's hard to say which it is at any given moment.

His tone comes largely from his amps--specifically a solid-state amp or preamp designed by the drummer, if you can believe it. It's a pretty distinctive sound--and as I understand it, his pickups are pretty ordinary, except maybe being a little hotter (louder) than normal.

A good deal of his tone is a large amount of compression (not sure it's it's pre- or post-amplifier--you can do some after the sound is recorded), and he plays (or used to play) with an old British coin that had serrations on the edge.

The compression is what I hear--it makes the quiet bits as loud as the rest, and the loud bits quieter. If you're not clean, you can really magnify your "handling" noise with compression, so you hear a lot of that squeak as you move your fingers up and down the strings, 'cause it gets louder.

May's tone is astonishing, I think. Wish I could duplicate it.
 

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There are all sorts of pedal and effect manufacturers around who would be happy to relieve you of some of your $$$ and sell you one of their stomp boxes. Likewise amp and pickup manufacturers. Heck, I just spent $170 on a stomp box this past weekend. :rolleyes: (A Hot Cake, for those interested.)

Like ATP said it all starts with your hands. Learning to hold the pick properly, how your left hand holds the neck, what part of your fingers you fret with and when. How and when to do vibrato and bends. How you strike the strings with your pick.

A good guitar teacher will show you how to do these things. He or she will also give you guidance on what kind of equipment you should get in order to have the tone you want. After that it's "practice, practice, practice." :D:)
 

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Shirtcocker
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Discussion Starter #5
il sogno said:
After that it's "practice, practice, practice." :D:)
tell me about it! Been practicing an hour or so a day for the last month and I still manage to make a D chord sound like someone stepping on a duck 20% of the time. My fingers know the shape, but they often mute strings they shouldn't.

And barre chords are the real b*tch. I can play a F pretty well now, but something like a B flat? Jeezee...it gives my barre chord finger cramps just trying to hold the damn strings down enough to sound OK. If I really concentrate I can get it to sound OK after a while, but hitting it on the fly when transitioning to it from another chord? Not yet.

// Do you recommend rolling the barre finger on the side or just leave it flat and build up the strength to hold the strings down? Flat feels more natural to me, but maybe it'd be eaier to roll it on the side?
 

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Gronk SMASH!
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He also plays some of his lead stuf in chordy shapes high on the neck, which gives it that ultra-dirty feel. (See the outro solo for "We Will Rock You"). I can approximate the sound of that solo. You can match his sound a bit with a nice tube distortion and a phaser (stuff like "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Tie Your Mother Down") but the real sound, like ATP says, is in the hands and the guitar. I think he made the first guitar of its kind from his parents' table, actually.
Skunk Baxter was known to craft a guitar in his day, too. He played the rhythms and leads to Steely Dan's "My Old School" on a guitar he had just finished building that day (or a day before), legend has it.
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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atpjunkie said:
b) a good part of tone comes straight from the players hands and that is the near impossible part to duplicate
That's why if you sound like crap on your own gear, you'll sound like crap on any gear, more or less. It's about control. It's also why I'm in love with my class A tube amp--it responds to hand/pick dynamics like nothing I've ever heard before. I still suck, but I suck as little as it's possible for me to do with this amp--hand tone is about all I DO have.
 

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Gronk SMASH!
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Bocephus Jones II said:
tell me about it! Been practicing an hour or so a day for the last month and I still manage to make a D chord sound like someone stepping on a duck 20% of the time. My fingers know the shape, but they often mute strings they shouldn't.

And barre chords are the real b*tch. I can play a F pretty well now, but something like a B flat? Jeezee...it gives my barre chord finger cramps just trying to hold the damn strings down enough to sound OK. If I really concentrate I can get it to sound OK after a while, but hitting it on the fly when transitioning to it from another chord? Not yet.

// Do you recommend rolling the barre finger on the side or just leave it flat and build up the strength to hold the strings down? Flat feels more natural to me, but maybe it'd be eaier to roll it on the side?
Keep it flat, if thaqt's more comfortable. You'll get it. If you want to fake it for a while, just play the bottom 4 strings. If you start doing that, though, you might never get around to playing the full chords. Barre chords are tough, but they really open up yur options when you get them down. Takes time, of course.
 

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yes compression

he use(d) reverb and delay as well. compression is what takes some of the biteout of his
pick attack. Tom Scholz (Boston) was an MIT EE and he developed the distortion using LEDs instead of tubes.Combined with lots of compression,reverb and delay you could sound just like em. heck he even sells the product to do it.His best invention though was the PowerSoak.
 

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rock n rolling resistance
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He uses Harmonizer.

He always have used harmonizer. Although his guitar is a one of kind and he is an awesome player what you hear distinctively as multi-layered harmonic sound is harmonizer effect. If you play attention you'll occasionally hear similar sound from other guitar players... probably more from keyboard players. Many players have used the harmonizer as an effect but Brian May is only one I can think of who uses harmonizer almost full time (oh yeah... Tom Sholtz and occasionally Steve Vai too).... that's his trade mark sound... Harmonizer has always been pretty darn expensive effect though...unless you can find an old working unit from 70~80's cheap... but the downside is you'll get picked on as Brian May copy cat... chances are you'll get tired of the sound after a while... as most players do....
 

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atpjunkie said:
he use(d) reverb and delay as well. compression is what takes some of the biteout of his
pick attack. Tom Scholz (Boston) was an MIT EE and he developed the distortion using LEDs instead of tubes.Combined with lots of compression,reverb and delay you could sound just like em. heck he even sells the product to do it.His best invention though was the PowerSoak.
I just noticed you're over 10,000 posts. Congrats on making it to the the five figure post club. You really flew by it didn't you?
 

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thx

have a lot of file transfer so it's aiding my chase down of J's and BJ. I found some pix of part of the guitar collection,I'll post for ya or e to you and Ed at some point.

matt
atp
 

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Palm trees & sunshine!
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atpjunkie said:
he use(d) reverb and delay as well. compression is what takes some of the biteout of his
pick attack. Tom Scholz (Boston) was an MIT EE and he developed the distortion using LEDs instead of tubes.Combined with lots of compression,reverb and delay you could sound just like em. heck he even sells the product to do it.His best invention though was the PowerSoak.
I had a Rockman. It was fun to jack it into the PA and bust out More Than a Feeling or some other Boston tune but it just wasn't my sound. It was cool to practice on at 3AM though.
 

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Shirtcocker
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Discussion Starter #14
KenB said:
I had a Rockman. It was fun to jack it into the PA and bust out More Than a Feeling or some other Boston tune but it just wasn't my sound. It was cool to practice on at 3AM though.
The mention of that song brought back a vivid memory of when I was probably 12 or so and at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, IA. We were in a large tent that had a laser light show. They played Bostn's More than a Feeling. The MC laid down the rules...."No smoking or toking in the tent. If you're smoking we'll kick you out. If you're toking we'll take it." ;)
 

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Government Mule
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Turning your finger toward the bony part and getting close to the fret will make it easier to get a clean sound from all the strings on barre chords especially on an acoustic. E shape minor chords leave the middle finger free so you can use two fingers to make a barre on those chords. In finger picking bringing the thumb around the neck to catch the sixth string is common practice, but will make a classical player shudder. Practice like the devil and your hand will get stronger.
 

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Bocephus Jones II said:
And barre chords are the real b*tch. I can play a F pretty well now, but something like a B flat? Jeezee...it gives my barre chord finger cramps just trying to hold the damn strings down enough to sound OK. If I really concentrate I can get it to sound OK after a while, but hitting it on the fly when transitioning to it from another chord? Not yet.
I'd suggest working on barre chords further up the neck. The frets are the widest and the tension is the highest next to the nut. The root note for the F barre chord is based on the "E" form (using the CAGED method which I highly recommend) and the root note is on the 6th string. So, 2 frets up from where you play the F barre chord is a G, 2 more frets (5th fret) is the A chord.

Likewise, the Bb barre chord has the root note on the 5th string and is based on the "A" form of CAGED. Moving up 2 frets gets you a C chord, 2 more frets a D chord.

CAGED is using the relative chord shapes you have learned to develop other chords (maj, minor, major7, min7, diminished etc) and their corresponding scales. Each letter is a chord shape, You already know the E, D and A forms and probably the G and C forms as well. THey are moveable up and down the neck.

That's enough for now.
 

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Scary Teddy Bear
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stevee said:
Turning your finger toward the bony part and getting close to the fret will make it easier to get a clean sound from all the strings on barre chords especially on an acoustic. E shape minor chords leave the middle finger free so you can use two fingers to make a barre on those chords. In finger picking bringing the thumb around the neck to catch the sixth string is common practice, but will make a classical player shudder. Practice like the devil and your hand will get stronger.

your finger flat, and just work on it, it will come. Don't get too wrapped up in effects, almost every guitarist does however, at some point. You'll get all into them at some point, and then you'll get rid of them...don't use the stomp boxes, use a good MIDI setup, it's expensive, but sounds great.....I LOVE tube amps, but after having a tube go out my marshall amp one night, I switched to a Peavey 5150 solid state. If you're talking effects, listen to "Far Behind" by Candlebox some night, some really cool effects on that song, took me three weeks to figure them all out.
 
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