In this guitar lesson we will look at the playing style of Brian May from the legendary rock band Queen. His guitar playing is at the forefront of many of rock music’s most favorite and influential records. This Brian May guitar lesson will take you through a short guitar solo over a rock groove in C filled with guitar licks and techniques that he used throughout his career.

The guitar solo opens with a simple four bar melodic phrase. Brian May’s lead guitar playing often features very simple, melodic phrases. When combined with his distorted lead tone, these simple phrases take on a new life filling giant stadiums with singable lead guitar anthems. This lick shows the importance of targeting chord tones. The chord progression is not diatonic so targeting chord tones becomes important when trying to create a coherent guitar solo. Examples of this are the Eb and Ab in the second bar (root note of the Ab chord) and the B note in the fourth bar (the 3rd of Bb).

The second phrase uses a simple descending C major scale in sixteenth note triplets played using pull-offs. This specific line takes on a harmonized sound when used with an eighth note delay. Using delays to produce a harmony is a common technique Brian May used especially when he would perform solos by himself during a part of Queen’s show.

The third lick uses arpeggios for each chord. It begins with an ascending F major arpeggio that ends with a slide from the 5th (C) up to the root (F). The second bar uses a descending sixteenth note triplet arpeggio down a Bb major triad. Fast arpeggios like this are played using the same picking direction when there is one note per string. So over the Bb arpeggio you would be using all up strokes. The final arpeggio is similar to the Bb arpeggio but is ascending using a G major triad.

The third phrase brings in a staple of Brian May’s lead playing with harmonized guitar lines. In the lesson you are playing the top note of the harmony. In the first bar there are two separate guitar tracks harmonizing the guitar line. These are usually done in thirds which produces a chordal sound to your lead playing.

The solo ends using two ascending scale figures similar to the sound heard in the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” solo. This uses quick alternate picking while again using sixteenth note triplets

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