Brian May - the man responsible for the guitars in Queen - has a distinctive guitar tone. From the very beginning, he’s stayed true to his roots and the gear that made up his sound.
Brian May is a diehard Vox amp user. It’s no wonder he stuck with Vox over the years. That sound has become a staple of rock music and one that is instantly recognizable. His main amp has always been the Vox AC30
The guitar that May is most associated with is the custom-built Red Special which he has played for years. He also has a Gibson Les Paul, a Gibson acoustic and a Flying V in his collection.
May used effects sparingly, relying on his guitar and amp to shape the majority of his tone. There is certainly nothing wrong with that approach. When working to emulate May’s tone at your home computer, you can always add on Overdrive or Chorus once you have the sound you’re looking for.
There is more to May that being one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He is also an astrophysicist. That’s right ¯ an astrophysicist. In case you don’t want to go look it up, an astrophysicist deals with the physics of the universe.
Back to the guitar. We'll be using Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3 to build May’s tone, focusing on songs in the era of “Fat Bottomed Girls” (see video)
You should use what Native Instruments calls the “AC Box,” which as you probably guessed is a modeled AC30. Settings for the first amp are: Normal 9; Brilliant 10; Treble 10; Bass 4; Tone Cut 3; Speed 5; Tremolo 0.
You’ll have to make some changes in the cabinet, too. We are going to stay with the 2x12 AC Box model. What we do is put the mic slider all the way over to “B” and the Dry/Air slider to about 55% Air.
The second amp to be added is also an “AC Box” with the following settings: Normal 6; Brilliant 10; Treble 6; Bass 4; Tone Cut 2; Speed 4; and Depth 0.
When you add an amp in Guitar Rig it automatically adds the matching cabinet, but you can easily remove it. Just click on the “X” button on the top corner of the cab and it will go away. Now you will need to go to the amp component section and click on the “Cabinets and Mics,” which will add a generic setup to your preset.
The settings that work best for Brian’s tone are: a 2x12 Custom cabinet, On Axis microphone and a Dynamic 57 mic, you should use Volume 6; Bass 4; Air 5; Pan 5; and Treble 7.
The last thing is to put into the preset is a Chorus pedal. Again, this has very low settings because we already have the majority of what we need with the rest of the gear. The settings on the Chorus are: Speed -5, Intensity 1 and Width 2.
That does it. You should be able to plug in and play “Fat Bottomed Girls” and sound just like Brian May!