How astrophysicist and Queen musician Brian May made his own guitar


Originally published at:


Thanks Mark, pretty cool stuff!


A sixpence? REALLY? That is pretty hard on the strings, right? I could never play with a coin. Cut-out plectrums from milk or butter cartons, maybe…


So cool!
Thanks, MF.


I have thought of Dr May as a pretty cool guy for quite a while now, what with him being an astrophysicist and a rock star, but now I’ll have to escalate that to really cool guy.

"Harold then helped him build a coil winding machine, which allowed Brian to manually wind thousands of turns of fine copper wire around the pickups. It even had a wind counter built from a bicycle odometer."
Yep, thatt’s doing things properly.


Brian May’s “39” is still one of the all time greatest SF rock songs that virtually nobody has ever heard of.


AND he collects and wrote a book on stereographic photography:


Who was #1?


Can someone explain why counting is so important? I get that the number of turns influences the amplification but I would expect that to be roughly linear and therefore counting would be more of a order-of-magnitude job rather than an exact count. Or is it because it is really hard to pay attention to counting hundreds of turns and forgetting where you were?


If you ever feel like you’re not cool, there’s a reason. You aren’t. Brian May used the world’s entire supply. Selfish bastard.

Seriously. PhD in astrophysics, or guitarist for one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Pick one. Two is just selfish.


There’s a persistent internet rumor that he is the brother of Top Gear/Grand Tour presenter James May, but it’s not true. They’re just both British guys with similar hair and the same last name. Also, Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen is a different person that Roger Taylor, the drummer for Duran Duran.


Eddie Van Halen was #1 in the poll.


Indeed, a wonderful and criminally underrated Queen song.


A bit of both… with a strong emphasis on the (not) forgetting-where-you-are part. Winding coils is so repetetive that you can wind up in some sort of trance; yet you’ll have to concentrate on producing a coil that is smooth and evenly wound tightly, but not too tight. Also, you’ll want to be able to produce identical coils.
I’ve made a couple of coils myself ages ago for working models that showed how electric motors, electromagnets, loudspeakers and transformers work. And that was relatively crude stuff; not nearly as finicky as something like a pickup.
(Of course, hi-fi purists will tell you that the exact number of loops in any coil is absolutely essential …)


I don’t this sentence.


If you put a comma or “and” between London and was it makes more sense, but yeah, it’s a little clunky.


I don’t underst it.


Well, you or I might think that, but we’re not Dr May:

(from this detailed account of refurbishing the Red Special)

Brian removed the baseplate from this pickup and encased the coil and magnet in the epoxy resin Araldite, easily seen in this pic. Having no baseplate gave the pickup a lower inductance and a different sound to the other two Burns Trisonics and therefore created some very interesting sounds when used by itself or combined in or out of phase with the other two pickups. The famous ‘neck and middle pickups out of phase’ Brian May sound would not have come about if the neck pickup had its baseplate as per usual. The swirling harmonics and overall tone of that particular sound happens because of the disssimilar pickups combining in the interesting way they do…. and also because of the little matter of Brian’s incredible ‘feel’ and deft touch as a guitar player


Yea, but that’s just for playback. The interesting stuff happens in the play… :slight_smile:

Interesting stuff on the original Gibson PAF pickups (my favorite sound in a guitar) -


Gee. Wonder if he puts this in checked luggage at the airport? Doesn’t fit in the wee carry on box…