Red Special Guitar Replica Build
December 2020 I came across a book entitled
Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World
Whilst I liked the music of Queen, I never realised the history of Brian Mays Guitar and the fact that he built the guitar with his father and created a one of kind original guitar that has shaped the music of Queen for over 50 years.
So after reading the book I decided to start my journey to build my own Red Special Guitar Replica!
This started with a trip to B&Q where I purchased the materials to make the blockboard for the body.
I have never built any kind of guitar before and my woodwork skills consisted of shelves, decks and a garden office. This was going to be a journey. A year later I had managed to create what you see below
It’s still not 100% finished but does play very nicely! It is not a 100% true replica in that I decided to use black tuners and not pearl and the bridge is not an original bridge, but other than that is the original blockboard construction, with mahogany veneer and mahogany neck (from an old snooker table) the pickups are from Yonderbosk and are true replicas of the original Burns TriSonics.
I am very pleased with the outcome and during the process joined the UK Red Special Group and last October got to meet many other people who have also made their own Red Special replicas!
Brian May Red Special Original
Frequently asked questions
Is the Red Special a good guitar?
This all depends on what your definition of a “good guitar” is! For Brian May it’s the best guitar in the world, for others it might not be so. It’s certainly a very different guitar, it’s construction is very unique, the neck is very thick and it feeds back very well (in a good way) due to the design of the air pockets in the guitar. If you want to play Queen it is a great guitar!
What type of guitar is the Red Special?
The Red Special is a unique guitar designed and built by Brian May and his father Harold May, it has a blockboard body with a Mahogany neck, which is set in and has chambers for feedback. You can now buy replica guitars from BMG Guitars a guitar company founded by Brian May.
How much is Brian May’s Red Guitar worth?
Brian May says that his original guitar cost only £17.45 to make as most of the materials were what he found around his house. The actual value of the guitar is unknown and Brian May would never sell it. I think the answer is priceless. The Red Special is not actually insured as Brian May say he could not put a value on it and whilst he has many very close copies of the Red Special none of them play and sound like the original. Maybe that has also something to do with the fact that he made it with his father and it’s the only guitar he has played pretty much at every Queen concert and recording for over 50 years!
What is the Red Special made of?
The body of the Red Special is made from Blockboard which hollow chambers for the electronics and for feedback. The neck is Mahogany, which was an old fireplace with an oak fingerboard painted black to look like Ebony! The body is covered in a Mahogany veneer with white plastic binding which was made from shelf edging. It’s finish is Rustins plastic coating. The frets on the guitar are actually the original frets Brian May installed over 50 years ago. The Red Special has never been re-fretted!
How many frets does the Red Special have?
The Red Special has a 24″ scale and 24 frets. It also has a zero fret so open strings are not resting on the nut but rest on the zero fret which is supposed to give an open string the same tonality as a fretted string. So the Red Special actually has 25 frets.