Queen’s Brian May has explained the reason behind his unusual performance practise of using coins instead of guitar picks.
During an appearance on BBC Radio (via Ultimate Guitar), May revealed exactly why he uses a British sixpence instead of a guitar pick.
“I used to use very bendy picks because I thought it was good for getting speed,” he began.
He continued: “But I gradually discovered that I wanted more and more hardness in the pick, and the more rigid it is, the more you feel what’s happening at the string in your fingers.”
“So in the end, I picked up a coin, and it was just perfect. That’s all I needed.”
“And I changed the way that I held the pick, sort of bending one of the fingers around, and I never went back from that point.”
May continued on to explain that using a coin is both “hard enough to give you all that contact” and “soft enough not to break your steel strings because it’s made of nickel silver.”
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“It has this lovely serrated edge, and if you turn it at an angle to the strings, you get a lovely kind of splatter,” he said.
“So to me, the guitar is like a voice, and that splutter is one of the consonants that helps to make the guitar talk.”
Elsewhere in the interview, May also revealed how his iconic homemade Red Special electric six-string came about when he was a teenager.
“We had no money, and that’s why we made the guitar. We couldn’t possibly buy a Stratocaster or a Gibson. It was unimaginable,” he said.
He continued: “We used to go in the shops and see them on the wall and not be allowed to touch them. It was when you were a kid in those days, you could see the brochures but there was no way I could have owned one of those things.
“So we decided we’d make the guitar, me and my dad.”
For more on this topic, visit the Classic Rock Observer.