Potent Pairings: How to Sound Like Queen's Brian May Using Effects Pedals

Brian May (1977). Photo by: Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images.

Queen's Brian May has a tone as recognizable as his rig, built, as it is, around his iconic "Red Special" guitar and vintage Vox amps.

But if you're looking to sound like Queen with your own trusted guitar and amp, there's a few pedals you can use. In our video above, Andy Martin plays through some of his favorite Queen riffs and licks with an assortment of stompboxes that will spur such killer sounds.

The Wampler Thirty Something is a coyly named pedal that promises to bring the chime and jangle of an AC30 (or AC15) to your pedalboard. The handbuilt stompbox has a built-in Class A treble boost and a switchable Top Cut, as well switchable gain settings to give clear or chime-y overdriven tone. Other pedals that can give you AC sounds at your feet are the Joyo AC Tone and the Bearfoot FX Emerald Green OD.

Like Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, and other players known for pushing their amps into singing sustain, May often uses a treble booster. The Catalinbread Naga Viper is a newer boutique take on his favored Dallas Rangemaster. While vintage Rangemasters can cost as much as a used car, the Naga Viper is far more easily acquired, as are the Keeley Java Boost and Greer Moonshot.

As Andy says in our video above, May was a big fan of studio flanging techniques. Because the technology wasn't available at the '70s to have tape-machine trick in a pedal form, May often used a Foxx Foot Phaser to emulate it live. Today, Andy is using a Catalinbread Zero Point Flanger, but the sound can also be found with a Walrus Lillian or Chase Bliss Wombtone.

Known for his harmonious, dual-delay leads, May has used a variety of echo boxes and delay units to achieve them. But Andy demonstrates how you can get it all in one box with the Boss DD-500 Digital Delay. On dual delay mode, set one for 800 ms and another for 1600 ms. As you can hear on the "Brighton Park" solo, this is an easy, effective way of achieving this effect.

Have your own favorite pedals to get Brian May's sound? Let us know in the comments.

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