Is there a musical term for Queen's sound?

So last night I was listening to some Queen. Freddie Mercury’s vocals aside, Queen had a very distinct and easily recognizable guitar sound. I’m musically ignorant, so help me out here? Is there a word for it? Is it the instruments they chose or how they were played or some other third thing?

I’ve heard his guitar sound called ‘baroque’…

It sounds like you’re largely referring to the sound of the guitar in their music.

Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, usually used a guitar called the “Red Special”, a home-made instrument which May and his father built when he was a teenager.

It’s likely some combination of that unique guitar, and the Vox AC30 amplifier which he almost always used, which led to that particular sound.

I’m not sure if there’s a name for it, though I do like “baroque”.

Also he uses a coin for a pick , I have heard of heavy picks but that is about the heaviest you can get.

Really? I used to play with a guy who did that; I tried it and it felt really clumsy. I was thinking all along that maybe it was an affectation (“look how cool I am, I can use a coin as a pick!”) but I withdraw that thought. Well…maybe it was still an affectation, but now I know it’s seriously workable.

He does, but it’s an old British sixpence, which isn’t a terribly large coin (maybe a little bigger than a U.S. dime).

I have one (it came with the Brian May signature effects pedal I bought last year :slight_smile: ), and it’s smaller than the standard pick which I use, though probably about as heavy. The metal-on-metal of a coin on the strings might indeed be a contributor to that sound.

I think it’s partially Brian May’s tone but mostly the harmonies.

A lot of his parts are three (or more) part harmonies. Way back he had a double delay unit he used live in Brighton Rock to stack up three guitar parts (I bet it’s on youtube somewhere) This looks like it…two or three minutes in.

Inspired by May, I used a nickel for a while. Definitely harder to pick fast, and it’s hell on the strings, but the sound is very different from that of plastic.

Part of the sound of his guitar is that while it is a solid body, the wood used is imperfect and has a lot of holes in it. He said that it gave it a very “live” sound.

If you need further info or clarification from Brian May himself, you could try his blog: Brian’s Soapbox. Just don’t badger him.


I know the coin is small but it’s solid. I like a light pick that bends.

It’s not a solidbody - it’schambered with hollow wings (Wiki link).

Baroque is typically used to classify art that takes the rules established during that genre’s Classical period and add detail. To my knowledge, after that you enter a period referred to as Rococo where the level of detail added spills over into fussiness…so yeah, Queen’s sound builds on the 60’s rock sound with more detail.

I guess I would refer to Queen’s sound as Epic or Heroic, just like the band Muse that is currently trying to follow in their footsteps. Queen purposefully aspired to be larger than life with their sound.

From a production standpoint, the words that come to mind are layered and produced. Queen’s records were hugely meticulous undertakings from a production standpoint with layers upon layers of vocal and guitar harmonies. Hard to build that kind of musical sandwich and still rock with clarity - they did a great job.

As for May - he plays a homemade, huge-necked, chambered guitar, played typically through a raging AC30 amp - a recipe for a tone that has a lot of bite on the treble and boosted midrange - i.e., that Queen sound. May uses Octavers a lot for his leads - that is a stompbox that takes the single note he plays and adds one or more harmony notes on top (or below) that note - so one note sounds like 3 or more. The lead on Killer Queen or the slow lead at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody (underneath Freddie singing “Nothing Really Matters” at the end) are classic examples…

Gotta run.

How about “kick-ass”? Would that be an adequate description?

Ah, thank you.

I was speaking from the memory of an article I read in Guitar Player sometime during the Carter administration.

Lighter ones are nicer.or rythm “guitarring” .
Heavier one work better for solos and things like that.