Brian’s Guitars

Brian May’s number one guitar is the famous Red Special. However, he does occasionally play other guitars. Here is the Brian May Central guide to Brian’s guitars.

Guild Brian May

Brian used his Guild guitars as his main backup guitars when playing live for many years, until he moved to the Fryer guitars. His Guild copies can be easily distinguished from the original Red Special by the following features:

* Pickup covers are chromed on the Red Special, black on the Guild
* Volume and Tone knobs are smaller on the Guild
* Guild logo on the headstock of the Guild copy
* Brown leather strap on the Red Special, Fender (!) strap on the Guild

Greg Fryer Brian May guitars

Brian now has two of the three Greg Fryer custom copies of his Red Special which he is using as his stage backup guitars rather than the Guild copies. These are much harder to distinguish from the Red Special, but the most obvious difference is the ‘Fryer’ logo on the headstock and the darker colour of one of the guitars (George Burns).

John Birch guitar

Brian used his John Birch guitar as a stage backup until he threw it off a stage and smashed it one day in frustration.


These are some of the guitars Brian has been known to use in the studio:

Hairfred acoustic – used for early acoustic work, e.g. White Queen, Jealousy and The Prophet’s Song

Fender Telecaster – used for the solo on Crazy Little Thing Called Love. This was a natural wood Tele belonging to Roger Taylor

Ibanez Joe SatrianiNothin but Blue. This guitar was given to Brian by Joe Satriani at the Guitar Legends concert in Seville, 1991.

Parker FlyMother Love

Burns Double SixLong Away

Ovation acoustics – Brian has used 12-string Ovation acoustic guitars on many recordings.

Martin D18 Dreadnought – another of Brian’s favourite acoustics which features on many recordings.

Gibson Chet Atkins CE – used for Is this the World we Created and Innuendo

Playing Live

Brian’s stage backup guitars when playing live:

Fender Stratocaster – used for 1972-1973 tours

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe – (sunburst) 1974-1975

John Birch Brian May guitar – 1975-1982

Gibson ‘The V’ (Flying Vee) – (tobacco sunburst) 1984

Guild Brian May – 1985-1997

Fryer Brian May – 1998 onwards

Brian has also been spotted playing the following guitars:

Fender Telecaster – Brian used a black Tele for Crazy Little Thing Called Love on the Magic Tour. Freddie also used a white Tele for this song

Burns Bison – (white)

Ovation acoustic – used for Love of my Life, Let your Heart Rule your Head and ’39 on Brian’s Back to the Light tour.

Gibson Chet Atkins CE – used for Love of my Life, Is this the world we created and Rock’n’Roll medley on the Magic Tour

Godin A-12 Thinline 12-string electric/acoustic guitar – used for several numbers at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

Collings Acoustic – Acoustic and electric sounds – used on several numbers for Brian’s Another World Tour.

Guild acoustics – Brian has used a 12-string Guild custom acoustic guitar for Love of my Life, 39′, Long Away, Tavaszi Szel and the first part of Teo Teorriatte during the Queen + Paul Rodgers world tour.

Yamaha Silent guitar – nylon string guitar used for Crazy Little Thing Called Love on Queen + Paul Rodgers world tour.

Promo videos

Queen have always made spectacular videos for their single releases and these sometimes involved pyrotechnics or other potential dangers which Brian would not want to subject his precious Red Special to. These are some of the guitars which have appeared in promo videos:

Greco Brian MayGood Old Fashioned Lover Boy

Washburn RR2V (Flying Vee – White) – Princes of the Universe.

Fender Telecaster – (Black) Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Brian also used a natural wood Telecaster for Backchat

Satellite Strat – (Cheap Fender copy – Sunburst) Play the Game

John Birch Brian May guitarWe Will Rock You and Spread Your Wings

Custom ‘skull’ guitarIt’s a Hard Life – This guitar was made specially for the video

Other instruments

In the studio, Brian has often experimented with other instruments, to produce different sounds.
These are a few of the instruments which he has used for recording:

Toy KotoThe Prophet’s Song This instrument was given to Brian by a fan

George Formby Ukelele BanjoBring back that Leroy Brown

Aloha Ukelele BanjoGood Company

HarpLove of my Life

Jazz Band – not really a separate instrument, but Brian managed to imitate the sounds of a jazz band using his guitar in Good Company

Maracas(!) – Who Needs You

HarmoniumTeo Torriate

Plastic PianoTeo Torriate

OrganThe Wedding March

Piano – Although Freddie was the main pianist in Queen, Brian often played some piano (and later synth) parts. He also sang backing vocals on many tracks and took lead vocals on some. Click here for a list of Queen tracks which feature Brian on lead vocals.

As Queen were an incredibly talented group of musicians, Freddie, Roger and John also played guitar on many Queen tracks and they were all proficient guitarists. Examples include the rhythm guitar on Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Freddie), All Dead All Dead (John) and Tenement Funster (Roger).