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Is Brian May a Good Guitarist?

Is Brian May a Good Guitarist?

Brian May is a well-renowned British guitarist, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist of the popular rock band Queen, which he co-founded in 1970 with Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. With his unique playing style, technical proficiency and rich tone, Brian May has cemented his place as one of the most influential and iconic guitarists in the world.

Brian May’s Musical Journey

Early Years and Formation of Queen

Born on July 19, 1947, in Hampton, London, Brian May showcased his remarkable musical aptitude from a tender age. With an inherent talent for music, he began his musical journey by mastering the piano at the mere age of five. As his passion for music grew, he swiftly embraced the ukulele and guitar, becoming adept at both instruments. A testament to his creativity and resourcefulness, May embarked on a project with his father during his teenage years, constructing his own electric guitar. This instrument would soon become an integral part of his performances with various local bands.

In 1970, fate intervened as Brian May crossed paths with the iconic Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor during his studies at Imperial College London. Recognizing the immense potential within their musical synergy, the trio joined forces and laid the foundation for what would become one of the greatest rock bands in history – Queen. Later joined by bassist John Deacon, the band’s inception marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey. The culmination of their collective talents and unwavering commitment resulted in the release of their self-titled debut album in 1973, captivating audiences worldwide with their unique sound and unparalleled artistry.[3]

Brian May's Musical Journey

Key Albums and Guitar Work

As the lead guitarist of Queen, Brian May contributed significantly to the band’s success with his technical proficiency and creative genius. He experimented extensively with different guitar sounds and effects, pushing the boundaries of traditional rock music. This was exemplified in songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which featured an iconic guitar solo that has become synonymous with the band’s legacy. May’s signature Red Special guitar, built with his father, also played a pivotal role in shaping the band’s distinct sound.

Aside from his work with Queen, Brian May has also released several solo albums and collaborated with various artists to showcase his versatile musical abilities. Notable works include “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and “Driven by You,” which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance in 1993.[3]

Recognition and Awards

Brian May, the legendary musician, has made monumental contributions to the music industry that have garnered widespread recognition and acclaim. Throughout his illustrious career, he has been adorned with numerous accolades and awards, solidifying his status as a true musical icon.

In 2001, Brian May’s exceptional talent and influence were officially acknowledged when he was inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the iconic band Queen. This honor stands as a testament to his immense impact on the world of music and his enduring legacy.

Furthermore, May’s remarkable dedication and remarkable musical prowess have earned him additional esteemed accolades. He was bestowed with the coveted Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, a testament to his profound influence on the British music scene. Additionally, his unwavering commitment to excellence in the music industry was recognized with a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

Undeniably, Brian May’s exceptional talent and virtuosity on the guitar have solidified his place as one of the most influential musicians of all time. His remarkable skill and unique style have not only captivated audiences worldwide but have also garnered him a well-deserved spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s esteemed list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”[3]

Recognition and Awards

Musical Style and Techniques

Distinctive Guitar Sound and Tone

Brian May’s distinctive sound and tone are instantly recognizable, setting him apart from other guitarists. With his masterful use of delay effects, harmonies, and orchestral elements, combined with his rich, melodic playing style, May has contributed to shaping Queen’s unique sound that has captivated audiences for decades.

One of May’s signature techniques that adds to his musical prowess is his unconventional use of a sixpence coin instead of a traditional guitar pick. This unique approach not only showcases his creativity but also allows him to produce a softer, warmer tone with exquisite control over his playing, adding an extra layer of depth and artistry to his music. It’s these little details that truly make Brian May’s guitar playing stand out and leave a lasting impact on listeners.[1]

Innovative Use of the Red Special Guitar

Built by Brian May and his father Harold, the Red Special guitar is an iconic instrument that holds a significant place in Queen’s sound and Brian May’s musical legacy. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, this one-of-a-kind guitar showcases not only May’s exceptional craftsmanship but also his innovative spirit.

The Red Special’s unique design, featuring a built-in treble booster, allows May to effortlessly produce a wide range of tones and effects, granting him unparalleled versatility as a guitarist. From soaring solos to lush harmonies, this extraordinary instrument becomes an extension of May’s musical expression, enabling him to captivate audiences with his distinctive sound.

May’s unwavering dedication to pushing the boundaries of traditional rock music is beautifully exemplified through his innovative use of the Red Special guitar. With an insatiable curiosity, he continuously explores new sounds and techniques, fearlessly experimenting to create groundbreaking compositions. This fearless exploration, combined with the Red Special’s unmistakable voice, has resulted in some of the most iconic guitar work in the history of music, leaving an indelible mark on generations of musicians worldwide.

The Red Special guitar stands as a testament to Brian May’s enduring musical legacy, serving as a constant source of inspiration for aspiring guitarists and music enthusiasts alike. Its rich history and unparalleled craftsmanship make it a cherished piece in the world of rock music, forever immortalizing May’s contributions and ensuring his influence continues to resonate for years to come.[1]

Innovative Use of the Red Special Guitar

Notable Guitar Techniques and Signature Licks

Brian May’s innovative and versatile guitar playing techniques have left a lasting impact on the world of music. His technical proficiency, combined with his creative approach to playing, has produced various signature licks that are embedded in some of Queen’s most iconic songs.

One such technique is May’s use of palm muting, which creates a percussive effect by dampening the strings with the palm of his picking hand. This technique can be heard in songs like “We Will Rock You” and “Tie Your Mother Down,” adding a powerful rhythmic element to the music.

Another notable guitar technique commonly used by May is his intricate layering of multiple guitars to create rich harmonies, often referred to as “guitar orchestration.” The result is a full, orchestral sound that adds depth and dimension to Queen’s music.

May is also known for his impressive use of finger vibrato, adding emotion and intensity to his guitar solos. This technique can be heard in songs like “Somebody to Love” and “Killer Queen,” showcasing May’s exceptional control and precision on the guitar.[1]

Songwriting and Creative Contributions

Brian May’s Role as a Songwriter

In addition to his exceptional guitar skills, Brian May is also a prolific songwriter who has made significant contributions to Queen’s music. He has co-written some of the band’s most iconic songs, including “We Will Rock You,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

May’s songwriting style is characterized by catchy riffs, intricate harmonies, and thought-provoking lyrics that often explore deep themes such as love, loss, and social issues. His creative contributions to Queen’s music have helped shape the band’s sound and have solidified their place as one of the greatest rock bands in history.[2]

His Impact on Queen’s Sound  and Success

It’s impossible to discuss Queen’s success without mentioning Brian May’s contributions. His unique sound and innovative guitar playing have undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping the band’s iconic sound that has resonated with audiences worldwide.

May’s exceptional musicianship, combined with his creative spirit and dedication to pushing musical boundaries, has resulted in timeless hits that continue to stand the test of time. His impact on Queen’s music and success cannot be overstated, cementing his status as one of the greatest guitarists in rock history.[2]

His Impact on Queen's Sound  and Success

Iconic Guitar Solos and Compositions

No discussion of Brian May’s musical legacy would be complete without mentioning his iconic guitar solos and compositions. From the soaring, operatic solo in “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the intricate fingerpicking in “39,” May’s guitar work has become synonymous with some of Queen’s most beloved songs.

May’s ability to blend elements of classical music with rock has produced some of the most memorable guitar solos in history, showcasing his technical prowess and creative genius. His compositions have also become timeless classics, captivating audiences with their intricate harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics.[2]


Who is technically the best guitarist ever?

It’s impossible to determine who the “best” guitarist is as it ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual skill. However, Brian May’s technical proficiency, innovative spirit, and lasting impact on music make him one of the greatest guitarists in history.

What is Brian May’s IQ?

There is no official record of Brian May’s IQ, but he is known for his exceptional intelligence and academic achievements. He holds a PhD in astrophysics and was awarded an honorary fellowship from the Royal Astronomical Society.

Who was the best guitarist in the Eagles?

Again, this is subjective, but many would argue that Joe Walsh is the best guitarist in the Eagles due to his technical skill and unique playing style. However, all members of the Eagles have made significant contributions to the band’s sound and success. So, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Other notable guitarists include Don Felder, Bernie Leadon, and Don Felder. Each guitarist brought their own unique style to the band’s music, resulting in a well-rounded and dynamic sound.

Who did Jimi Hendrix think was the best guitarist?

Jimi Hendrix is famously quoted as saying, “I think I’m the best guitarist in the world.” However, he also expressed admiration and respect for other guitarists, including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Ultimately, Hendrix’s legacy and impact on music make him one of the greatest guitarists in history.

Is Prince one of the greatest guitarists?

Prince is widely recognized as one of the greatest musicians and performers in history, known for his impressive guitar skills. His unique blend of funk, rock, and pop has inspired countless artists and cemented his place as a musical icon. While some may argue that he is not technically proficient like Brian May or Jimi Hendrix, his creativity and impact on music cannot be denied. Thus, making him one of the greatest guitarists in his own right.

Who is the king of guitar?

The title of “king of guitar” is subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences. However, many would argue that both Brian May and Jimi Hendrix are strong contenders for the title due to their exceptional musicianship, innovative styles, and lasting impact on music. Both have solidified their place in history as legendary guitarists who continue to inspire generations of musicians.

Who was a better guitarist, Prince or Jimi Hendrix?

It is impossible to compare the two as they have different playing styles and musical genres. Both Prince and Jimi Hendrix were incredible guitarists in their own right, with unique talents and contributions to music. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual skill when determining which guitarist is “better.”

Why is Prince underrated as a guitarist?

Prince’s skills as a guitarist are often overshadowed by his other talents, such as his vocal range and songwriting abilities. He was also known for being so proficient in multiple instruments that it may have diluted the focus on his guitar playing. However, those who appreciate music recognize Prince’s exceptional skills as a guitarist and the impact he has had on the instrument. Thus, making him a highly respected and influential guitarist.

Useful Video: Brian May Reacts to Being Named the Greatest Guitarist by Guitar World


In conclusion, Brian May’s innovative style, technical proficiency, and lasting impact on music make him one of the greatest guitarists in history. His contributions to Queen’s sound and success cannot be overstated, solidifying his place as a musical icon. While it is impossible to determine the “best” guitarist ever, it is safe to say that Brian May has cemented his place in the pantheon of legendary guitarists. And while there may be debates over who is “better” between Prince and Jimi Hendrix, both have left an indelible mark on music and will always be remembered as two of the greatest guitarists of all time. But let us not forget about the countless other talented musicians who have picked up a guitar and created beautiful music, inspiring future generations to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with this iconic instrument. Because ultimately, there is no one “best” guitarist as each artist brings their own unique style and influence to the world of music, making it a rich and diverse landscape for all to enjoy. So let us celebrate these brilliant musicians for their incredible talents and the impact they have had on our lives through their music. For that, we are forever grateful.

  1. https://planetradio.co.uk/planet-rock/news/rock-news/queen-brian-may-greatest-guitarist/
  2. https://www.guitarworld.com/features/brian-may-i-will-never-claim-to-be-a-great-guitarist-in-the-sense-of-a-virtuoso-i-just-try-to-play-from-my-heart
  3. https://www.thesound.co.nz/home/music/2020/06/queen-guitarist-brian-may-voted-as-the-greatest-rock-guitarist-of-all-time.html