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Michael Johnson >> Brian May (Queen) style >>

Teacher: Hello class, this is our first lesson starting in the style of Brian May of Queen. In this series you will learn several techniques and tricks to recreate Brian's sound which happens to be one of the most distinctive guitar styles in rock. In the beginning of Queen's career their record label literally opened a blank checkbook so Queen could cocoon themselves in the studio to develop a revolutionary new sound and emerge as one of the top ranking bands among the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Pink Floyd. Their early recordings featured more of a rock 'n roll edge with multi-layered guitars and vocal tracks, which would evolve over the years as the refined their sound. To get you started we will cover some of Brian's layer guitar track techniques used on Queen I & II, check out the lesson sample of what you will learn:

Lesson Sample

Let's get started! Our first section starts with power chords with scale harmonies over the rhythm track, here's the chords you will use

Part 1 - Rhythm

Part 1 - Rhythm

First you might notice the Bsus2 chord with a descending bass line. Here's the jam track

Looping Jam Track 1

Teacher: Now you can add counter rhythms as well, in this case we'll use an arpeggio picking pattern using the Bsus2

Part 1 - Rhythm 2

terri: they sound really cool together!

Teacher: Yes Terri, this is one technique for layering guitar tracks

PonyNPepper: On the Bsus2/G how do you avoid the 5th string? I'm still fumbling with barre chords :(

Teacher: Yes Pony you can, you can mute the A with your other fingers. Now for the lead guitars you can play descending scales over the top of the rhythm tracks you just learned, in this case we will use the B Minor scale

Part 1 - B Minor

Teacher: That's the main pattern, now all we will do is play the same scale descending from the D note on the 1st string

Part 1 - Harmony 1

Teacher: Try playing along with this jam track

Looping Jam Track 1a

Teacher: You might notice how the tracks all come alive when you add the descending scales. Now you can play the same scale over these tracks, but this time starting from F# on the 1st string

Part 1 - Harmony 2

Teacher: Now you might recognize other bands that use this technique, here's the jam track with all the parts together

Looping Jam Track 1b

Teacher: Bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and other dual guitar bands of the '80s were influenced by Brian May's studio and live harmony techniques. You can practice using the two scales over the jam track to get use to playing various harmonies. Let's jump to the next section, for this part you play basically the same chords but different order

Part 2 - Rhythm

Part 2 - Rhythm

Teacher: The only difference from the first track is the G is 3rd and then you add the F#sus4 and F#, here's the jam track

Looping Jam Track 2

Teacher: Now let's add some licks that are played in harmony. Here's the first lick

Part 2 - Harmony 1

Part 2 - Harmony 1

How important is the "G" in the Bsus2/G in the grand scheme of things? I've come to the conclusion that my hand is too small to get my thumb over the top. Is there a different fingering for us "little people"?

Teacher: Try using your second finger Pony, that might work for you. All these licks are related to the B Minor scale as well. Here's the jam track with the first harmony:

Looping Jam Track 2a

Here's the 2nd harmony guitar lick

Part 2 - Harmony 2

Part 2 - Harmony 2

Teacher: Here's a jam track with the 1st and 2nd harmonies and rhythm tracks

Looping Jam Track 2b

Teacher: Basically each harmony lick is simple, they come alive when you play them together. Here's the 3rd harmony lick

Part 2 - Harmony 3

Part 2 - Harmony 3

Teacher: This lick is basically the same lick as no. 2, but played one octave lower. Here's the jam track with all 3 harmonies

Looping Jam Track 2c

Teacher: Now there are electronic effects that will automatically create 2 or 3 part harmonies for you by just playing the main lick, we'll cover the effects more as we get into this series. OK, let's jump to part 3, in thin rhythm pattern we'll use an A chord with related intervals, here's the pattern

Part 3 - Rhythm

Part 3 - Rhythm

Teacher: Here's the jam track of the rhythm track

Looping Jam Track 3

Teacher: Now you can play licks over the rhythm using the A Major Pentatonic scale pattern

A Major Pentatonic Scale

Teacher: Here's the A Major Pentatonic lick

Part 3 - Lick

Part 3 - Lick

Teacher: You start with the A chord and then use the C to hammer-on to the C# and then into the other notes of the scale pattern, you resolve the lick by playing the G chord that you time to the G of the rhythm track. Does this give you a better understanding on how Brian May creates his sound?

PonyNPepper: that's why he's the master and we're the grasshoppers. No questions here. Thanks for your time.

Teacher: My suggested listening for this lesson is Queen I & II, listen close to the albums and see if you can pick out the techniques we just learned. See you next lesson!

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