In our third unit, we will be working on some more application of our "cluster" concept by learning another Brian May style solo. As well as that, we'll be continuing to narrow down on Brian's lead guitar techniques, scale runs and even some of his awesome rhythm playing. We'll kick off with the rhythm track, so get your tone dialled in, and let's get started! Check out the first video to get started and click here to check out the Materials Section below to access backing tracks and interactive tab!
We will begin by learning the chord progression, and how Brian May would play through this particular section. The basic progression itself looks like this:
For the first set of chords, we are using typical barre chord positions and a cool choppy rhythm playing on the backbeat to add those rhythmical stabs. Check out the tab to see this nice and clearly including the positions we are using. Here is that main groove written out as a strumming pattern.
When we hit the second section, we move away from full chords and simply hit the root notes! With enough gain, compression and attack, you get that super cool Brian May layer that really drives this part of the song forward. Check it out in the tab, and don't forget to really attack those notes!
It's now time to dive into the solo for the track. We are predominantly using our D minor pentatonic shapes as well as the D minor scale shapes to navigate the solo. However, we are also using our "cluster" concept to work through the changes. To begin, make sure you have the tab up as a reference.
For lick 1 we are using simply the D minor scale in our box 4 position. This is easy to find as it is based around the A string root note of D, on the 5th fret. Be sure that, as always, you are visualising this shape whilst you play through the lick.
In lick two we start with the same theme as before. Utilising the notes of the D minor scale we repeat the main melody, which now sounds familiar to us, and is a very powerful approach when constructing a solo. We do then change, however, as we play over the A major chord (rather than the G major chord in barre 2). Dion picks out this A major change by playing over it using 6th intervals. This is a great technique and is used a lot in Brian may's soloing. When you check out that part of the tab, notice how we can almost visualise the E shape major triad, and the D shape major triad (1st and 2nd inversion chords).
For the next 3 licks, we are repeating our "cluster" idea utilising the A and E major shape. We start up on the F major triad, using the second inversion shape (see the fretboard diagram) and using the scale shape we have grouped with that. We then switch to the C major e shape, which works out as the first inversion triad shape, targeting those two notes. We then repeat this through each of the chords in this section. Use the fretboard diagrams and the tab to navigate through this bit, remembering that you can always use this idea as you improvise as well!
For our final lick, we have a cool little chromatic concept, before resolving to the F root note to complete and resolve the solo. Notice how we first move up to the C note (8th fret) over the C major chord. This is an obvious chord tone, and will always sound good. We then add some cool chromatic "encircling" (a phrase coined by Dion himself!) which means that we use a semitone up and below the root note to add some tension and release to the sound. It sounds amazing, and is easy to do! Brian May is an extremely well studied and educated musician and guitar player, so this is a technique he has been known to use regularly in his soloing style.
Piecing It Together
Now it's time to piece together the entire solo and start to get it played along with the backing track. Be sure to pay attention to the way you are hitting the notes, no just hitting the notes! Use dynamics to really dig in where needed and pull back where required. Use that wide vibrato to get the Brian May sound and make sure all of those bends are perfectly pitched. Good luck, we'll see you in the next unit.