I have achieved a dream, I now own a Guild BHM Red Special. It's a copy of Brian May's guitar which he made in the late 1960s.
I've had a few modifications made. Most striking, rather than six double throw switches, I'm using three three position switches to control the series in/out phase config. Photos to come.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Queen. From the power of Stone Cold Crazy's openning riff to the delicate tapestry of harmony in Killer Queen, Queen stands apart as the only true monarch of rock.
Although I hear that there are actually other bands that play and record music, I find it very hard to believe. For me, Queen will always King of the music world.
Actually, I do have other influences. Punk is erotic with its driving force. Bad Religion is a personal favorite because of the political aspect of their music.
A confession: I don't like the Sex Pistols. Nothing personal, I'm just not impressed.
Jellyfish was a band that mixed an off-pop sound with jazz and Queenlike harmonics. In fact, the first time I heard them on the radio(I was shovelling the driveway), I actually thought it was Queen. Unfortunately the lead singer OD'd.
I also love folk, bluegrass, and rag.
Below are descriptions of the musical toys I've collected. I haven't scanned in the photos yet, so it's just text.
Plugged In(Electric Six String & Bass)
Electric Six String
The electric guitar I use started life as a Charvel. It was set up with a pair of humbuckers and a single coil center pick up wired through a five way lever switch. The signal went through a 500k tone pot and a 500k volume pot.
I wanted a Queen sound but couldn't afford a Guild Brian may Red Special replica. Around 1985, Guild began releasing limitted edition replicas of his guitar. The first pick-ups were made by DiMarzio. The more recent editions are made with Seymore-Duncan pick-ups. DiMarzio still sells BHM pickups seperate from the Guild guitars but Seymore Duncan doesn't.
So I blew about $300 on the pick-ups: Three single coil with bar magnets instead of pole pieces. When building his guitar Brian May used a set of Burns Tri-Color single coil pickups. He made some alterations including dipping the pickups in epoxy to reduce the microphonic effect.
Brian May then wired all three pick-ups in series. Most guitars are set up with parallel wiring. He included phase switches allowing him more control over the sound. Any of the pickups can be used individually or in combo with one or both of the others. Moving the pick-ups in and out of phase creates sounds that even a multi-lead humbucker can't make.
Also I replaced the vol. and tone pots with 250k.
The sound I've found is pretty good. Running it through my effects boards I can get a pretty good replica of some of the BHM's voices. Brian's style is very heavy on harmonics and I'm still trying to master the harmonic manipulation that he uses in his own effects set up.
For Christmas, Amanda bought me a Squire bass, blue with white pick-guard. For the last year or so I've wanted to teach her how to play the bass so I could have a rythm back up other than a tape recorder. I haven't touched a bass for some time, so I spent the first few days I had it trying to remember how to tune it.
It's not a super expensive instrument but it has good sound. For now I'm running it through the Peavy, but it's just a matter of time before I blow the speaker out again. Then I'll have to buy a real bass amp.
Queen's accoustic sets stand out because many were performed with a twelve string acoustic guitar. On twelve strings, the strings are set up so that each string is seperated by an octive. Example: the low E is paired with a lighter gauge string so that striking them gives high and low E at the same time. It's great for harmonics.
These guitars are not widely used; mostly they are found in folk music. Queen, however, brought the twelve string into rock with songs Love of My Life, '39, and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
My twelve string was made by Guild in 1973.
Effects and Amplification
My effects setup is a bit odd.
For heavy-metal/punk, I run my signal through a Korg Bass Effects Proccessor. It's designed for electric bass, so the high end isn't great; I don't use it for any sort of solo or lead part. But on low string riffs and rythm it's great.
I also use a DOD Harmonic Overdrive box. It's a simple stomp box but I like it. I do sometimes run it into the Korg but it's versatile enough to use straight through into the amp.
My main effects rest is a Digitech 14d. I love it. It was expensive but worth every penny. By running signal through a tube, you can't tell the proccessor is digital. The Vox model improv is great. It took me about three months to find the perfect proccessor and this is it. Brian uses all sorts of distorion and overdrive to get his warm and fuzzy tones; the Digitech can pile on the effects without signal loss.
I have been using a Peavy Rage practice amp for most of the time I've played guitar. I bought the first one with my first electric guitar because it was cheap. After I blew out the speaker, I bought a second Peavy Rage because, again, it was cheap.
The Peavy Rage isn't a bad amp. However it is only a practice amp, has no onboard features for achieving better tone. It only has a pre and post gain know(which is how I killed the first one).
For Xmas, I got a Vox Pathfinder. At some point, I want a VOX AC30, the model that Brian May uses. However, until I have the two thousand dollars to spend, I'm happy with the Pathfinder. It is a solid state digital amp, and I was surprised how rich the tone is.
The mandolin was the first stringed instrument that I started playing. Several years ago I went to Russia and brought back a mandolin and a balalaika(a Russian three-stringed instrument) as a gift for a friend. I ended up with the instruments back in my possession and learned how to play Moscow Nights(a Russian folk song).
I finally got tired of playing the same song over and over and over. I bought a few books and taught myself how to play.
The mandolin I brought back was pretty but the sound wasn't great. It was, however, good enough to mess around with. I was always envious when I was in a store that had quality instruments.
The balalaika is enigmatic. It seems that no one in the Western world know how to play it. I attack every Russian I meet asking them if they can teach me how to play.
I spend most of my time with my guitars so I'm rusty on the mandolin. I still have dreams of a mandolin equiped with humbuckers and a trem bar....god that would sound horrid.