Brian May Amp Settings & Gear – Get the ‘Queen’ Tone Easily!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Queen is one the greatest rock bands in the history of music. That also makes Brian May one of the greatest guitarists in rock music.

His sound and style is truly unique. And while we may not be able to recreate his style, we can recreate his sound.

Here is the gear and settings used by the legendary guitarist.

May’s Guitars

Apart from his iconic playing and sound, the guitar Brian May plays is also quite famous. His Red Special has been his main guitar throughout his long career.

This is a custom guitar he built with his father when he was a child. That does mean that it is one of a kind, and getting your hands on one is impossible.

Luckily, there are alternatives that can get you fairly close to his guitar sound. The closest being his very own Brian May Guitars. Specifically the BMG Special which is a very close replica to his Red Special.

But Fenders and Gibsons are also great options if you are looking to sound like Brian May. Both a Fender Tele and a Strat are good options. A Fender Jaguar is also a great option since it allows you greater control over how the pickups work, similar to the Red Special.

For Gibson, a Les Paul is pretty much the only way to go. Specifically, a ‘60s Les Paul Standard to get you closer to the vintage tone of the Red Special.

And if you are working on a budget, while these guitars won’t be quite as close, you can go for a Squier or an Epiphone. Just like Fender and Gibson, a Tele or Strat for Squier, and a Les Paul for Epiphone.

May’s Amps

Just like his guitar, May has pretty much only used one amp throughout most of his career. But unlike his guitar, his amp of choice wasn’t custom-built, and are widely available.

If you are looking to emulate May, there is only one option: Vox. A Vox AC30 to be precise.

The AC30HW2X is the best option since it also has Alnico Blues Speakers, which are a favorite of May’s. The AC30HW2 is also a great option, it just doesn’t have the Alnico Blues Speakers.

A more standard AC30C2 will also work just as well. The slightly more affordable AC15C2 will also get the job done.

These amps are all quite expensive. Luckily, modeling amps are affordable and many come with AC15 or AC30 presets that sound quite good and reminiscent of the real thing.

The Vox VT40X will be the best option for a modeling amp. It has two AC30 presets as well as several other British amp settings.

The Boss Katana-50 MKII and Marshall Code 50 are also good options. Both have Vox presets or can easily be set up with Vox settings.

May has also used an amp made by Queen bassist, John Deacon, known as the Deacy amp. But just like his Red Special, you won’t be able to get your hands on a Deacy amp any time soon.

May’s Pedals

May’s pedalboard isn’t too complex. He uses just a handful of pedals to help push his sound or add to it when necessary.

His main pedal is a treble boost. This is an overdrive pedal that emphasizes the top end of the signal. His first one was a Dallas Rangemaster, followed by a Greg Fryer Treble Booster Touring.

A great alternative is the Catalinbread Galileo. The name and design says everything you need to know about why this is a great alternative. The TC Electronic Spark Mini is also a good choice.

Another important pedal is a wah. May uses a GCB95 Cry Baby to control a DCR-2S rack unit that gives him a few more EQ options.

To add extra effects when needed, May has a phaser, chorus, and tape echo. The MXR Phase 90, Boss CH-1, and TC Electronics Gauss are all great options respectively.

May’s Amp Settings

Now on to the amp settings used by May.

Getting May’s amp sound actually isn’t too difficult. If you boost the treble, smooth out the mids and bass to avoid the highs being sharp, and keep the gain at a nice overdrive, you pretty much have it.

But let us break it down a bit more and look at both the clean and overdrive settings.


May’s clean tone is quite bright, but it still manages to be smooth. You will want to turn up the treble fairly high, and then use the mids and bass to smooth it out.

The treble and mids are going to be almost maxed out, with the treble just a touch lower. The bass is set around halfway, maybe a bit higher.

You also want to add just a sprinkle of gain, just to add a slight bit of edge.

So, clean settings should be:

  • Gain – 1
  • Treble – 7
  • Mids – 8
  • Bass – 6


The overdrive settings are going to be pretty much the same as the clean.

The only changes will be to push the treble a little, and pull back on the bass. Then, of course, you are going to crank the gain. Half way should be a good starting point.

Overdrive settings:

  • Gain – 5
  • Treble – 8
  • Mids – 8
  • Bass – 5

These settings aren’t set in stone and they do change quite a bit depending on the song. They are just a quick and easy starting point.

Here are the settings for some of Queen’s most famous songs.

Under Pressure

  • Gain – 1/2
  • Treble – 8
  • Mids – 4
  • Bass – 7

We Will Rock You

  • Gain – 8
  • Treble – 5
  • Mids – 6
  • Bass – 7

Don’t Stop Me Now

  • Gain – 6
  • Treble – 6
  • Mids – 6
  • Bass – 7

Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Gain – 6
  • Treble – 8
  • Mids – 7
  • Bass – 9


And there you have it, everything you need to know about Brian May’s sound and how to recreate it. And pro tip, if you really want to go all out, use a sixpence coin as a pick. And if you don’t have sixpences lying around, a similarly sized coin or metal pick should do.

Avatar photo

About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

Leave a Comment