Tag Archives: Queen

Practice: Day #1

My guitar came back from the shop today, so I figured I had to go ahead and practice. My goal throughout this project is to practice an hour a day. This is highly ambitious given my work, family and community duties, but I figure it’s better to set an ambitious goal and fail, than to succeed at mediocrity. I put in more than an hour today, and I’m happy with where I am.

My guitar had been at Austin Instrument Repair for 10 days. It’s a Gibson Les Paul Studio, from 1989. I hadn’t played it in probably 12 years, since my second band Love Blender broke up. There was a ton of rust on the frets, a lot of the hardware was broken or missing, and the pots were all crackly. But Richard Fry fixed it up nice — the only thing keeping it from looking brand new is the wear I put on the paint in a couple of spots. He even fixed a small crack in the head that I had put there when I swapped out the original machine heads for Grovers.

I’ve gotten the basic structure of the solo down. It’s got three parts, a brief “power chord” introduction, with the last part of that played up on the neck. Second, there’s a set of arpeggios centered around the A chord up on the neck, and then there’s a series of repetitive power chords at the end.

I worked a lot on playing “clean” power chords, which means when I pick each string slowly I get a clean note. I wasn’t succeeding very well, and this is partly because I’m rusty and partly because I was always a little sloppy with power chords, since there’s usually so much distortion and effect on the guitar, most people can’t tell. But Brian May is playing it clean, so I’m going to try to do the same.

The arpeggios are going to take some time, but in my brief practice today, I did not feel they were out of reach, and that has given me a much needed sense of confidence on my first day of practice.

Solo #1 Queen We Will Rock You 1:20-2:01

Listen to the song first.

This is a replica of Brian May’s “Red Special”, a hand-made guitar that he and his father constructed in 1963. There’s an excellent article about it’s construction on Wikipedia. He used it to play probably the most well-known rock guitar solo ever recorded, the blistering last 41 seconds of We Will Rock You.

I remember sitting in our family room, shortly after we had moved to Texas. It must have been sometime in 1979, and my Dad was putting a record on. He handed me the cover of the album he was about to play. It was a painting of a confused-looking giant robot apparently murdering the members of the band as they dangled from his hand. Not particularly shocking these days, but I remember thinking of it as exotic and cool.

Then I heard We Will Rock You for the first time. The tribal beat and raw, stream-of-consciousness vocals were unlike anything I’d heard before. Behind the final chorus grew a single resonant note, building with the vocal crescendo, and evolving into a raunchy solo that was so tight and perfect, while at the same time reckless and raw. I listened to that song over and over again as a kid.

Later, the chorus of the song became a cliché, to be banished to the purgatory of professional sporting events, with AC/DC and Bachman Turner Overdrive. But the solo has always remained separate and beyond reproach, rarely played and yet always remaining shocking in it’s simplicity and uniqueness.

I picked this as my first solo to learn not because it’s the easiest, but because it represents the perfect beginning to this project — an homage to one of my favorite bands and their amazing guitarist, Brian May.  And I picked it because it’s short.


To learn this solo, I’m using the following web resources:

Tabs: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/tabs/q/queen/we_will_rock_you_solo_tab.htm

Instructional Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ70BVAIkj0

Backing Track: http://www.guitarbackingtrack.com/play/queen/we_will_rock_you_(2).htm


Here’s a girl playing the solo very well. She says it’s the first solo she learned, and she’s got a full YouTube channel of solos that’s she’s covered.

The original music video. Classic Freddie Mercury in star-shaped shades.

Queen performing it live at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Note Brian May’s extended solo at the end. I will not be learning this version.