“So Much of It Is in the Fingers, but the Guitar Is Still Your Closest Thing”: Brian May Talks Tone, Building the Red Special, Early Queen and More in This Unmissable Podcast

Brian May, 2022
(Image credit: Paul CHARBIT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Some of the most influential electric guitar players in history stand out not just for their playing skills but also for their innovative approach to building and/or modifying equipment.

Les Paul was instrumental in the development of the solidbody early on and pioneered several important studio practices, as evidenced on his highly original records.

In the ‘50s and beyond, Chet Atkins also played a major role in advancing guitar technique, studio method and instrument design (notably the Gretsch Filter’Tron humbucking pickup.)

In the ‘60s, Jimi Hendrix further pushed the electric guitar into new areas, enlisting the likes of Roger Mayer to help him fully explore the possibilities of the recording studio.

Suffice to say, all of these guitar legends possessed an instantly recognisable sound – no doubt in part because of their willingness to experiment with gear.

Brian May's the Red Special guitar as used in Queen

(Image credit: Future)

Similarly, in the ‘70s, a guitarist called Brian May was busy creating his own unique brand of electric guitar tone with Queen.

Sweet, sonorous and immediately identifiable, May’s iconic sound has sustained the band for decades.

A majority of the guitarist’s classic tracks were cut using his famous Red Special six-string – a home-made solidbody carved from an 18th century fireplace.

Put together when he was just 16 years old with the assistance of his dad, Harold, May has cherished the instrument ever since.

And in the latest episode of The Red Special Guitar Podcast, host Jon Underhill talks to the man himself about building this famous axe, early Queen, songwriting and more.

On the subject of tone, May says, “So much of it is in the fingers, but the guitar is still your closest thing – it’s almost like part of your arm.”

Watch the interview here...

Browse the Queen catalog here.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.