JAN - JUNE 2007

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Trin wrote:

Hello Brian,

I am a huge fan of yours and own three copies of your fantastic Red Special. Two Burns, and a 93 Guild.

I've noticed that on those The Reverse wound pickup is in the middle position, however I've heard that your Red Special, and the copies Fryer made for you have the Reverse wound in the bridge.

Could you please clear this up for me?

I hear a lot of conflicting opinions.

Thanks a bunch
Your loyal Fan, all the best.

Greg Fryer replied:

On Brian's Red Special it is the Middle pickup which is reverse wound and reverse polarity (RWRP).

On my 3 Red Special replicas and Andrew Guyton's high end replicas it is the Bridge pickup which we have chosen to have as the RWRP one.

The reason for this change is that on Brian's guitar one of his favorite pickup combinations is not hum cancelling and when this combination is selected it produces 50/60 cycles hum.

This particular combination is of course the Neck and Middle pickups out of phase (made famous in the solo from Bohemian Rhapsody), and throughout the years on live and recorded work Brian has had to put up with hum whenever he used this combination.

As many people would know, the other pickup combination that has been most used by Brian is the Bridge and Middle pickups in phase, and fortunately this fat punchy pickup combination is hum cancelling on Brian's Red Special.

The obvious benefits of having the pickups arranged differently as per my replicas and Andrew's guitars is that Brian's two most favoured sounds are therefore hum free (however as you would appreciate there is a price to pay for any choice and it means that other great sounds such as the fat cello-like sound of Neck & Middle in phase are annoyingly hum-laden...)

One fact that people might find interesting is that on Brian's Red Special both the Bridge pickup and the Neck pickups are partial encased in Araldite (for those not familiar with it, Araldite is a two part epoxy resin glue), however the Middle pickup has not been araldited.

In 1998 when Brian and I took apart the Red Special he explained that when he and his dad first installed the Burns Trisonics the pickups were initially all fitted in the same orientation (ie winding direction and magnet polarity) and at that time Brian and his dad Harold experimented with several things like series and parallel wiring of the pickups by using temporary crocodile clips to connect the wires.

Once Brian decided that he preferred the sound of the Trisonics connected in series, he and Harold soon after experimented to make the favorite pickup combination hum cancelling (Bridge and Middle pickups in phase). To do this they took apart the Middle pickup and turned upside down the whole coil and magnet assembly therefore reversing its winding direction and magnet polarity. Harold was extremely well versed in electronic theory and achieving this solution would have been a simple matter for him - how interesting to note that it took the general guitar industry another 15-20 years before the benefits of RWRP single coil pickups began to be offered (with companies like Seymour Duncan producing Strat pickups like this)

I am just theorising here, but this experiment to flip the Middle pickup coil/magnet might have occurred well before Brian began regularly using the other sound which would become a favorite - Neck & Middle out of phase - because at this time in the mid/late 1960s Brian might well not have been using his AC30 at such loud levels as he would do in the future - like many of us who play the dear AC30 at lower levels to appease bandmates publicans audience angry neighbours etc. As many afficianados would know, at these lower AC30 volume levels it is difficult to get the Neck and Middle out of phase sound to work effectively to achieve the right sustain and harmonic intensity etc...so it might not have been such a priority to Brian at that time, hence the focus on getting the Bridge & Middle sounding right...

And I hear you ask why didn't Brian later swap around the Middle and Bridge pickups to achieve the hum free settings that Guyton and myself are achieving with our pickups - well maybe he did - but bear in mind that all three of Brian's pickups are wound to quite different turns counts and have been modified further by Brian and Harold (obviously stuff I can't tell you about here) which exacerbates the individual-ness of their sounds. Changing around the Middle and Bridge pickups might have produced inferior sounds for one or both of the favorite combinations...

The Bridge and Neck pickups were encased in Araldite to assist in reducing microphonic feedback at high amp levels but for some reason Brian and Harold decided not to do this to the Middle pickup - in our discussions in 1998 Brian could not remember the reason for leaving this one un-araldited...and maybe we'll never know...

Best wishes from pickup-land,
Greg Fryer

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On 17 May 2007, at 12:56, ian Ruse wrote:

Hi Brian,

I noticed on '39 the strings on your 12 string acoustic guitar seem to be the reverse of the standard 12 string setup i.e. thicker string on top!
could you please let me know why you do this & also your tuning setup...

best regards,
Ian Ruse

Pete Malandrone replied:

Well spotted !

Brian finds it easier to pick the high strings individually with this set up, which I believe is known as 'Rickenbacker' style 12 string tuning.

Standard tuning using D'Addario EJ38 strings, and a Peterson tuner.

I wasn't on the thrust for the acoustic bit of the gig, so I don't know what model of tuner it was.
Probably a VS 1 or 2.

Pete Malandrone
Queen Productions

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On 10 May 2007, Tim wrote

I really don't want to take up valuable forum space or time w/ the question. I was however wondering how Brian's amps are powered when he comes to the states.

Furthermore I wondered if his guitar tech noticed much of a differance in running at 240vac 50hz in the UK and "transformed" to 240vac 50hz while in the U.S., if thats how it occurs.

I would be interested to know.


Pete Malandrone replied:

On the tour in the US and Japan, we had a 110-240v transformer travel with us to power the entire backline. Brian also had a huge UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) capable of running his rig and amps for about 40 mins in the event of power loss, which had a built in frequency convertor from 60 to 50hz.

Running AC30's with no frequency convertor (240v / 60hz) makes them sound incredibly different, and not in a very nice way. They get very harsh and saturate in a thoroughly unpleasant manner.

Even US rated AC30's (110v / 60hz) sound very different to me, so I always take our own amps for foreign sessions/gigs and absolutely insist on a transformer AND cycle convertor, even though most people will tell me it's not necessary to have the latter. They are wrong, and when I do an A/B test for them, they agree there is a definite audible change.

In answer to your question, there is no difference with "transformed "power sonically, but strangely enough I think it actually aids reliability as the power is more stable, voltage wise, and less susceptible to "spikes", which saves those poor little EL84 hi-fi valves from any more punishment and abuse than they already get. The amp failure rate was much lower in the States than in good old 240v Europe, maybe that's why. Never given that theory any thought before Tim, so thanks.

Pete Malandrone
Queen Productions

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On 8 May 2007, PoA wrote:

Hi whoever reads this!

I think the pedal is fantastic - sounding wise!! Truly a very good job done!!

It is however a bit difficult to work with live:

First of all if you set a proper phase sound in one of the presets then the echo changes when you want to work with that part.

It's not easy to work with the many possibilites regarding the guitar sound because when it sounds right in one preset it will not sound good when switching to another preset.

It should have been programable so that one could create different sounds and store them.

The product is very very good so, I am wondering why create such a good device and not letting it be programable?

The easy feedback done with this pedal is awesome!! Haven't come across a device that make this possible at low volume!! :)

Another question I have is:

The new site with Brians wonderful guitars - will there also be further developement of "stomp boxes" or programable pedals in the future?

Give my regards to Brian :)

All the best!!

PoA in Sweden

Pete Malandrone replied:

To be programable would have made it twice as much money, then you would have been happy but everyone else would moan!

Stomp boxes are Greg Fryers department, he is working hard on stuff as we speak.

Pete Malandrone
Queen Productions

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On 04 Apr 2007, Bernd wrote:

We talked ... about how to tune the Mini May to E.

You asked me to contact you ... when you have asked you guitar technician how to tune the guitar to E.

I would be glad if you can write me an eMail with the instructions, so that I can give this to my local dealer that he can tune my Mini May to E.



Deano, House Music, replied:

Hello Bernd

I have spoken to my guitar tech he told me to tell you:

- Use a string winder when putting the strings on. (Don't wrap strings around the post by hand.) Heavier strings (10's or 11's). Cut top nut slots as low as possible.

-Also this sound mad but play lighter. (Don't squeeze.)

I hope this helps
All the best

Dean Mitchell
(House Music)

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On 21 Apr 2007, John wrote:


I purchased a BM Mini May Guitar here in the States (USA), and the guitar was not set up to play when I received it. I contacted the company I bought from (Musicans Friends) and they say to take it to a guitar shop

My question is, should it have already been set up to play from the factory? I feel I should not have to pay to have this guitar set up to be playable.

I have tried my own set up and have always set up my own guitars but with this Mini it just will not have anything to do with playing. It get worse the more I try an adjust it..

Can someone please tell me what is wrong with this mini guitar and why it will not play? As of right now it makes a nice wall hanger...

Thank you kindly.

Pete Malandrone replied:

Hi John

A set up is normally not done as every player wants a guitar set differently.

My Mini May needed a bit of work out of the box, about 10 minutes worth, and then it played just fine.

I did notice that if you 'squeeze' chords or notes too hard the intonation went a bit awry. The trick is to play really 'light', which makes it ideal for the kids to have a go on.

Pete Malandrone

Pete Malandrone
Queen Productions

EDITOR'S NOTE: I am advised that with bulk shipments from the larger distributors, you may find that light gauge strings have been factory fitted. Ideally it is best to change these for heavier strings.

© brianmay.com


Lucas Lebaq wrote

My name is Lucas, I'm 16 years old and I'm a great Belgian fan of Queen (and you, of course).

I've only just bought a VOX AC30. That's my first amp and it's hard to find the sounds I'd like.

That's why I would like to ask you some technical questions on this amp, because I think you know it better than anybody ! Of course I'm not going to ask you all the functions, I'm still looking for (I must find !). I just would like to know how you instantly pass from a crunch sound to a clean sound. Is it possible with the VOX or do you use a distortion pedal ? Or is the treble booster a kind of distortion pedal ?


Pete Malandrone replied:

Dear Lucas,

No distortion effects are used in Brians set up.

All the distortion is from the amp at maximum volume.

You might want to inform your neighbours before you attempt this.

The way to go from a clean to an overdriven sound is by using the volume control on the guitar.

AC30's are not the most versatile of amps. They only distort nicely at high levels, and are therefore not ideal for the average home player.

You could try a power soak, but I have never had much luck with these, then again, I am old and deaf.

Try asking on http://p209.ezboard.com/bbrianmayworld in the Red Special section, there are plenty of anoraks..... sorry....... experts on there who might be able to help with pedals.

Pete Malandrone
Queen Productions

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Jen wrote

Pete, When did you start teching for Brian?

Pete Malandrone replied:

1995 ish.


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Burke Zillar wrote

Hey, thank you for your time in reading this.

I just read the question about what sort of slide you use, and your expert said you used metal slides. This got me thinking because when I watched Queen's wembley gig, during Tie Your Mother Down, the slide looked to be see through, even when it was being held in your guitar strap. Have I saw it wrong or did you actually use glass slides during that gig?

Pete Malandrone replied:

May have been a glass slide at Wembley 86, I wasn't the tech then.


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Geoff Aitken wrote

Why did you leave Burns? Les Paul never left Gibson.
Any chance of an affordable RS with an original style vibrato?
Any chance of a BM bass guitar?

Geoff Aitken

Pete Malandrone replied:

Leaving Burns was indeed a way to get the freedom to expand, we never stopped using the Tri-sonics, and are on very good terms with all at Burns.


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Anthony DiBenedettoo wrote:

Recently, I purchased a lefty Burns Red Special. Aside from the awesome tone and variety of sounds I get from it, I can't seem to keep it in tune. Forget the tremolo system which completely knocks it out out, the strings tend to go sharp on me. As much as I love this guitar, it's beginning to drive me crazy. What can I do to keep it in tune?


Pete Malandrone replied:

Really stretch those strings out, make sure the strings are not snagging at the nut and lubricate there also (with Vaseline or a graphite pencil) Put the extra spring on the trem to aid return. Failing that, get a decent set up done (like every other new guitar generally needs).


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Gordon Parrish wrote

Hi Brian or Pete,

I read somewhere that the AC30's are run with all of the knobs on zero (obviously minus the volume knob) and i just wondered if this was correct or not (or maybe you change the knobs depending on which sound you want).

Also i have a Peavey amplifier and a Digitech BM. On The amplifier there are two jack inputs, a high input and a low input,. My question is how do i bypass the the bass, treble and stuff so all that is coming through is the sound of the digitech as if the Peavey was just a speaker without the bass and suff.

On a different topic is there any chance, with Pete's permission, of course, that we can have a contact leading straight to him as i am sure that will mean Brian having less mail to read through.

Gordon Parrish

Pete Malandrone replied:


You are 100% correct about the amp settings, and we don't change the settings for different sounds. The sound is either on or off, BM controls level.
Sorry, don't do Peavey. But you are right, the Digitech will sound better through a 'flat' sounding amp. No idea how you get that on a Peavey.

No you can't have a direct contact you cheeky bunny, I just about cope with the email I get at the moment.

Pete Malandrone

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Thommy Strömdahl wrote:

Hello. My name is Thommy Strömdahl im 27 years old and i come from Vaasa Finland. I dont have a question. Just wanted to tell you thanks for all the great music you made over the years! Your right up there with Zeppelin, Floyd, Sabbath etc etc... Queen is and always will be a true inspiration no matter what! And me and my mates want to wish you the very best of luck with the new album! We know it will be great and we support you guys 100%! Keep up the good work!

Ah... i have a question hehe... The BRIAN MAY SIGNATURE CH 2006 guitar. I was thinking about getting one. Is it desent enough or should i go a price up? Anyway... thnx for all the good music! AND KEEP ON ROCKIN!!!


Pete Malandrone replied:

The BM guitars are Decent.


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