Home » Arts & Entertainment » Brian May, Queen’s Guitarist, Uses Banjo Strings on His Electric Guitars. Banjo Strings are Much Lighter and Can Bend Much Easier. This Makes Queen’s Signature Sound.
Brian May

Brian May, Queen’s Guitarist, Uses Banjo Strings on His Electric Guitars. Banjo Strings are Much Lighter and Can Bend Much Easier. This Makes Queen’s Signature Sound.

Brian Harold May achieved worldwide fame as the lead guitarist and co-founder of Queen. In addition to being a rockstar, he is also a Doctor of Astrophysics, a 3D Stereoscopic Photographic Authority, and an Animal Rights Advocate. But did you know that May used different strings for his electric guitar?

Brian May of Queen employs banjo strings on his electric guitars. Banjo strings are much lighter or thinner and bend much more easily, resulting in the signature Queen sound.

The Queen Strings

Suppose you look into the many resources on nailing Brian May’s guitar tone. In that case, you’ll notice that, in addition to his classical red particular guitar, treble booster, and vox amplifier, May uses incredibly light guitar strings – with either an.008 or.009 for the high E. However, he had revealed that when he first began playing, those sets were not available, necessitating some ingenuity.

We didn’t have.008-gauge sets, the Fender and Gibson sets were all 010s or .011s or whatever, and that’s what I started off with. But then the rumor went around that if you went down to the music shop on Clifford Essex in Cambridge Circus you could get a banjo string you could put on your guitar. And that was the key to everything! Suddenly, you could move all your strings over and start bending strings. That was the most fantastic thing that happened to us as kids, watching Eric Clapton perform, thinking ‘that’s what he’s done, he’s been down to Clifford Essex, that’s why he can bend those strings!

Brain May, Lead Guitarist of Queen

May also explained that the lighter gauge strings gave him more flexibility in bending strings, allowing him to imitate James Burton’s bends on Ricky Nelson’s classic song Hello Mary Lou.

Suddenly the electric guitar wasn’t a backing instrument anymore. I mean, I had heard Django Reinhardt, phenomenal, but he wasn’t bending the strings – it was like an amplified acoustic.

Brain May, Lead Guitarist of Queen

Brian May and the Origin of Queen

May formed a rock band called Smile while attending London Imperial College, and his love of music quickly overtook his interest in astrophysics. In 1971, May postponed finishing his Ph.D. to tour with his band, renaming the band Queen, a name that would become legendary in the rock and roll world. 

May worked as a lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter on occasion. Freddie Mercury, the band’s lead vocalist, also played the piano. John Deacon played bass guitar, and Roger Taylor handled drums and vocals.

May and the rest of Queen were devastated when Mercury died of AIDS in 1991. Following his death, the band established the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS-relief charity. Made in Heaven was released in 1995 by May, Deacon, and Taylor. 

It was the band’s final studio album with their former lead singer until the 2014 release of Queen Forever. It featured previously unreleased Mercury tracks, including a lost duet with the late Michael Jackson titled There Must Be More to Life Than This. 

May and Taylor reunited for a tour in 2005, with Paul Rodgers on vocals. Cosmo Rocks, their first studio album, was released in 2008. May and Taylor reunited on stage in 2012, with American Idol rocker Adam Lambert on vocals. From June 2014 to September 2015, the reformed Queen embarked on a major world tour with Lambert, and the two continued to perform together in the following years. (Source: Biography)

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