Forums > Queen - General Discussion > Freddie's Guitar Technique/Guitars Freddie Played

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doremi user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:19 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

You musicians out there, a little help please.

I've heard Freddie said that he could "only" play 3 chords on the guitar. But his guitar playing sounds fine to me. Now I don't play, but I have a perfect pitch for music...and again he sounds fine, on pitch, in key, yada so forth.

What did he mean by "only" 3 chords and he said that as if it was a bad thing, when I think his playing sounds wonderful.

Also, what models and brands of guitars did Freddie typically play, for both his acoustic and electric guitars?


xyz
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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:26 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

well he's played both acoustic and electric, not sure about the bass though!!


We love you Freddie, R.I.P
Lester Burnham user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I read somewhere (I think Sebastian's site) that Freddie played whatever was handed to him. I might be wrong, but between 1979 and 1982 he played an Ovation 12-string acoustic, and between 1984 and 1986 a cream Fender Telecaster.

Something I noticed was that he would play the intro, and then once Brian joined in, Freddie's guitar seemed to be mixed down. He would still be playing away, but the many live versions of 'Crazy Little Thing' that I've heard don't have Freddie very present except for the intro.

That said, I really don't think Freddie was as adept a guitarist as many make him out to be. Brian said Freddie was a weird guitarist, in that his fingers would fall in odd places, but I get the feeling Freddie was just frustrated and would pound out chords to get the desired effect. Of course, I'm of the belief that Freddie only played guitar on 'Crazy Little Thing' and that's it; certainly, it would've been mentioned elsewhere, and there's a quote John gave about them all playing guitar on record, which somebody I believe mistranslated to meaning they all played guitar on the new record (which was Hot Space at the time). But, in my opinion, Freddie played on 'Crazy Little Thing' and nothing else.

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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Lester Burnham wrote:

I read somewhere (I think Sebastian's site) that Freddie played whatever was handed to him. I might be wrong, but between 1979 and 1982 he played an Ovation 12-string acoustic, and between 1984 and 1986 a cream Fender Telecaster.

Something I noticed was that he would play the intro, and then once Brian joined in, Freddie's guitar seemed to be mixed down. He would still be playing away, but the many live versions of 'Crazy Little Thing' that I've heard don't have Freddie very present except for the intro.

That said, I really don't think Freddie was as adept a guitarist as many make him out to be. Brian said Freddie was a weird guitarist, in that his fingers would fall in odd places, but I get the feeling Freddie was just frustrated and would pound out chords to get the desired effect. Of course, I'm of the belief that Freddie only played guitar on 'Crazy Little Thing' and that's it; certainly, it would've been mentioned elsewhere, and there's a quote John gave about them all playing guitar on record, which somebody I believe mistranslated to meaning they all played guitar on the new record (which was Hot Space at the time). But, in my opinion, Freddie played on 'Crazy Little Thing' and nothing else.


Lester, I know that Freddie did ALOT of his songwriting through the years on guitar though. I've read articles about this as far back as when he first formed Queen, early 70's he owned an acoustic guitar he would play and write on.

Do you know what guitars he wrote and practiced songs on?


xyz
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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That's something I (conveniently) forgot to mention. You're right, he did WRITE most of his songs on guitar, but I doubt he played the actual guitar on the record. To my assumption, he might've written 'Jesus' on guitar - I know he wrote 'Ogre Battle' on guitar - as well as 'Stone Cold Crazy' (it was originally his song), but I can't really tell otherwise. I think whatever of his songs are more guitar-oriented (of which there are very few) he wrote on guitar.

But I'm sure he would be the first to admit that, with Brian in the group, why should Freddie play guitar on record? 'Crazy Little Thing' being the exception, of course, as Brian wasn't at that session.

EDIT: and he probably wrote on whatever was lying around - certainly not The Red Special, though!

EDIT 2: I should probably also mention that I'm not a guitarist by any stretch of the imagination - I only play drums - and that I'm only basing what I write on what I've read and heard over the years.

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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 17:54 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The Ogre Battle guitar intro stuff is Freddie's. The idea, that is. Freddie showed Brian how to play it a certain way. Freddie definitely had a hand in parts of the debut album. Though, apart from Ogre Battle, I'm not sure what else.

But what's definite is that Freddie could play certain things and is found on bit recordings.

Peace,
Adam.

EDIT: Just what Lester says - Jesus is another one of Freddie's ideas for how it should be played. Listen to both of those songs' intros and you'll hear the similarities.

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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 18:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I am a professional guitar teacher, and I have transcribed note for note every song on guitar of Queen's first 5 albums, so I may be able to help.

Freddie is/was not a guitarist.

Freddie's ability on guitar was limited to some chords, and some rhythm playing, but Freddie, said himself "I don't know the first scale on guitar, honestly I don't know how people get such sound out of the damn things"

I have students that have been coming to me for 6 weeks, that are more proficient on guitar then Freddie from a technical standpoint.

When you see Freddie playing guitar...he is a fish out of water.... he just looks odd holding a guitar. There is nothing correct about his technique.

On piano... Freddie was by far and away the groups best pianist and musician. Freddie's songs are so by and large more complicated then the other 3, that there is NO DOUBT when Freddie wrote a chord progression.

Freddie's knowledge of music theory far exceeds Brian's, and this is evident in Freddie's songs.

Freddie really wasn't a trained pianist.
No I am no piano player.... I would put my guitar skills against anyone.... but a piano player I am not.
Freddie played piano like a percussionist.
He kept his bass hand in perfect time with Rogers Bass drum, and he had a odd sense of time, and the way he accentuated certain notes.

He was probably the equivelent of about a 4 year piano student from a technical standpoint... but he them developed his own style.

Freddie was a very high strung, easily bored person...and this showed big time in his paino playing... he played piano like someone with Adult A.D.D.

Freddie's guitar playing was ok for the D and G chords on the beginning of Crazy Little Thing, but thats about it...he was a Elvis guitar player... he could strum a little to accompany himself, and thats about it.

Arlene, you do understand that someone with a perfect pitch for music means you can here are notes, as they occur, whether they are being played together or alone.

So this would mean that you could here "We are the Champions" for the first time and hear Freddie chording the Cm & Gm7/C with his left hand, while outlining these arpeggiated notes in the register at middle C..... then when Brian comes in distorted at measure eight, you have no problem immediately recognizing the Eb5, Bb/D, C5, F , and Bb5 chords????

If this is true, that means you and Barbara Streisand are the two women that I know that can do this.

If you can sing, or play an instrument, I will fly you to my hometown (at my expense) and we will get very serious on a career together in music.

-Scott


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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 18:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Scott I dont read or write music at all, but as you know, alot of great musicians from Paul McCartney to B.B. King to Hoagey Carmichael can not read or (literally write that is transcribe, music,) even though they all...compose music...they play it and have someone else with them as they play or sing, who CAN read and write music trascribe it down for them.

Well, I'm NOT a musician, but I DO have perfect pitch. I took 12 years of choral arts in public school, and the teachers had me sing everything from LEAD to actually as a part of the choir, but they had to play the song for me first because I can't read music...and then I would remember it from ear and sing the song from there on, even counting off and leading off the choir...

I also engineered and worked the sound board for 2 local bands in the early 1990's that I managed and booked.

And I tried...very unsuccessfully to teach myself how to play a Guild acoustic guitar but my problem wasn't playing, it was trying to READ the music...which the way my mind interprets music structure on paper....is 100% MATH which I am totally at a loss for. If someone could interpret written music for me into..a verbal method...which I excel at...out of math, which is ALL fractions of time, arpeggios, chords constructed of numeric language...I know I could learn, beacuse the ONLY time I got an A in math in public school and in College was when I found 2 teachers who actually understood that I have a WIERD brain in translating numbers and math...but translate it into a verbal language...and I completely understand it and take off.

That I can't read or write music or understand when, well like what you just started explaining music ALL in numeric terms AHHHHHH!!!!! My musician friends do NOT do that, they try to "translate" it so to speak in a verbal language...or they show me on a guitar or piano, because I just can't understand that language the way my brain works...it has always been very frustrating for me...to this day since music is my One True Great love...




xyz
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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 19:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Scott_Mercury wrote:


Freddie is/was not a guitarist.

When you see Freddie playing guitar...he is a fish out of water.... he just looks odd holding a guitar. There is nothing correct about his technique.

Freddie was a very high strung, easily bored person...and this showed big time in his paino playing... he played piano like someone with Adult A.D.D.

Freddie's guitar playing was ok for the D and G chords on the beginning of Crazy Little Thing, but thats about it...he was a Elvis guitar player... he could strum a little to accompany himself, and thats about it.

-Scott


Also I disagree here too. Alot of talented musicians do NOT hold or even play their instrument with the proper technique. I have heard that Pianist David Hofgett (the Australian pianist depicted in the film "Shine") plays totally "wrong" for what his teachers or music "scholars, critics" say is correct.

No Freddie was NOT great at playing guitar, or a guitar virtuoso, that's what Brian is, a Great Guitarist, but that does not mean that just because Freddie held his guitar out of "the norm" that it means he could not play guitar properly and with at the least some knowledge and dexterity for the average person who plays guitar, and I would say Freddie was more than average.

I agree Freddie's brilliance as a musician was on piano, but Freddie was wonderful playing on guitar on "Crazy". I mean he didn't send the live audiences running for cover saying "He can't play guitar at all, what is Freddie doing?", or have people saying "Why is Freddie playing guitar on the record of "Crazy"..he can't play" because obviously Freddie could play guitar. And Freddie wrote MANY of his songs on guitar, so he obviously could translate and understand the language of guitar in his head...to be able to think out a chord progression, melody, rhythm, and play and write it on guitar...







xyz
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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 21:11 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Arlene-

You are 100% correct...many fantastic musicians have their own technique that is not the proper to the schooled way.

Eddie Van Halen holds his pick wrong, and makes up his own scales that make no sense in the realm of music theory....he carried a "C" average in music class. Brian May said himself during the Star Fleet project he did with EVH that "No one, including me, is even in the same building with that guy".

....Thats quite a compliment, as we know our Brian is no slouch.

But there is a difference between Eddie Van Halen playing wrong...and Freddie playing wrong.

When we hear in an interview that "Freddie wrote the heavy riff of BoRhap/Hitman/Stone Cold Crazy...or ________ ....here is what happened.

Freddie picked up a guitar, played for about 30 seconds, bent notes out of tune, .....then went over to piano and showed Brian what he wanted.
Brian has stated many time in various guitar mags I have that this would happen all the time, and that it was...and I quote Guitar FTPM Feb. 1992 " he was hysterical, because he had all these ideas in his head, but poor Freddie couldn't play the guitar at all....he was intrigued by it, he'd say, darling how the hell do you do that?"

Freddie was a BELOW AVERAGE guitar player....trust me dear!! Keep in mind Freddie is one of my top 5 favorite musicians who ever lived, but the guitar was a novelty to him. He could not have played guitar in a bar band...he wasn't good enough.

Freddie was to guitar how I am to piano.
Arlene, I can take my knowledge of the guitar, which I have been playing in front of audiences since I was 9 years old....walk over to a piano RIGHT NOW and make it boogie.

I can figure out scales on piano, I can construct chords within seconds....but guess what... I AM A RANK AMATURE PIANIST.

Freddie was this type of guitarist...
He could transfer a few thing he knew from piano and apply it on guitar.

If technical guitar playing was rated on a 1 to 10 scale.... with Steve Vai being a 10, and a beginning guitar student being a 1...
Then Freddie was a 1.5

Its that simple.

Arlene, I can have YOU...yes YOU...playing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" complete, except for the solo ....in 1 hour.

Assuming you have heard the song, and are reasonably intelligent, with properly functioning hands and at least an average attention span....
I could have you as good as Freddie (technical wise) on guitar in 1 hour...GUARANTEED.

Now... as far as Freddie's music theory, and the way he thought musically in his head.... NO ONE BUT FREDDIE could understand that...
and that can be said of any musician.

Make no mistake, Freddie was a pianist.
On "Crazy" live, he could have been unplugged, and no one would know the difference.

He strums 3 chords on Crazy live at Wembley, D, C add 2nd, and G....

I have 7 year olds more advanced.




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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 22:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Scott.....I know there are more chords in CLTCL than three.....there's that B flat too and a few others....you are right about that being simple to play, though! Heck, if I can do it......

Hmmm. tho......C add 2? I thought it was just C...


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Posted: 29 Mar 05, 22:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yes, Crazy is the following progression, if memory serves me correctly with no guitar in the room..

D, D sus4, D ...several times...then G5/G6/G5...C..G/B

The Bb comes later right on time with "Crazy little thing..etc"


The solo of Crazy is catchy, yet not hard to play by anyone...

Its a simple Chuck Berry inspired double stop lick in A. Every guitar player worth a damn has these Berry-isque licks down cold...

Brian adds notes throughout the tune which is straight out of the 10th position D minor pentatonic box, adding some flattened blues nots for color.

_______________
In a live setting, I can plainly see Freddie strumming the D, C add 2nd (easier to play than C major), and G major.

In all actuality, Freddie may start off CLTCL live, then once the band kick in....his guitar was I AM POSITIVE turned down...if it wasn't turned completely off.

This is very common.... we have a friend who has mixed live for the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Gath Brooks just to name a few.... he has brought back pages of instructions that tell him where to completely cut Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks guitar playing completely out.

The bottom line is that Bruce can write on guitar, but he's simply not good enough live to be playing.

I can tell you this, Bruce is no "Guitarist Guitarist" but he is a better guitarist then our Freddie...and like I said, I know he is turned off through most of his live show.

Our Freddie was a piano playing, vocal master...lets leave it at that.



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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 14:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Scott_Mercury wrote:

Arlene-

You are 100% correct...many fantastic musicians have their own technique that is not the proper to the schooled way.

Eddie Van Halen holds his pick wrong, and makes up his own scales that make no sense in the realm of music theory....he carried a "C" average in music class. Brian May said himself during the Star Fleet project he did with EVH that "No one, including me, is even in the same building with that guy".

....Thats quite a compliment, as we know our Brian is no slouch.

But there is a difference between Eddie Van Halen playing wrong...and Freddie playing wrong.

When we hear in an interview that "Freddie wrote the heavy riff of BoRhap/Hitman/Stone Cold Crazy...or ________ ....here is what happened.

Freddie picked up a guitar, played for about 30 seconds, bent notes out of tune, .....then went over to piano and showed Brian what he wanted.
Brian has stated many time in various guitar mags I have that this would happen all the time, and that it was...and I quote Guitar FTPM Feb. 1992 " he was hysterical, because he had all these ideas in his head, but poor Freddie couldn't play the guitar at all....he was intrigued by it, he'd say, darling how the hell do you do that?"

Freddie was a BELOW AVERAGE guitar player....trust me dear!! Keep in mind Freddie is one of my top 5 favorite musicians who ever lived, but the guitar was a novelty to him. He could not have played guitar in a bar band...he wasn't good enough.

Freddie was to guitar how I am to piano.
Arlene, I can take my knowledge of the guitar, which I have been playing in front of audiences since I was 9 years old....walk over to a piano RIGHT NOW and make it boogie.

I can figure out scales on piano, I can construct chords within seconds....but guess what... I AM A RANK AMATURE PIANIST.

Freddie was this type of guitarist...
He could transfer a few thing he knew from piano and apply it on guitar.

If technical guitar playing was rated on a 1 to 10 scale.... with Steve Vai being a 10, and a beginning guitar student being a 1...
Then Freddie was a 1.5

Its that simple.

Arlene, I can have YOU...yes YOU...playing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" complete, except for the solo ....in 1 hour.

Assuming you have heard the song, and are reasonably intelligent, with properly functioning hands and at least an average attention span....
I could have you as good as Freddie (technical wise) on guitar in 1 hour...GUARANTEED.

Now... as far as Freddie's music theory, and the way he thought musically in his head.... NO ONE BUT FREDDIE could understand that...
and that can be said of any musician.

Make no mistake, Freddie was a pianist.
On "Crazy" live, he could have been unplugged, and no one would know the difference.

He strums 3 chords on Crazy live at Wembley, D, C add 2nd, and G....

I have 7 year olds more advanced.



Scott you've got a deal! You ever make it to my neck of the woods...PLEASE teach me to play guitar...and preferably "crazy Little Thing Called Love" or at least something beyond "Three Blind Mice"..which is how far I got when Itried teaching myself on the Guild Acoustic (hey I even used the book, "Guitar For Dummies" and even I could not learn). But I bet even you could not teach me, beacuse like I said, I need a teacher who can TRANSLATE the language of music...which is all math and numbers...to a verbal language/terminology my wierd wired brain can understand.

FYI: I still think Freddie knew what he was doing enough to sound good to me.


xyz
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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 16:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great topic!

I agree with Scott. Freddie wasn't a good guitar player. Either Roger isn't a great keyboard player though he can play on it and wrote some songs on keyboard. And of course Fred didn't wrote 'many songs' on guitar, just very few of them.

And CLTCL - is really easy to learn how to play! As well as Metallica's Nothing Else Matters!

Scott, what's your opinion about John's skills in bass guitar playing?

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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 19:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I basically agree with all that Scott said except for:

- Crazy has 7 chords. All of which Fred plays (regardless of whether you hear him doing it live or not). D, G, C, Bb, E, A, F.
- Bri's Chuck Berry-esque double-stop licks are in D, not A.
- 1 hour, although not wildly inaccurate, is a slightly optimistic time-scale for teaching someone to play the whole of CLTCL to Fred's standard on The Game. Yes, you could teach someone the chord-shapes and get them to remember them, but all but the most brilliantly adept learners would not be able to get the strumming down, or be able to hold and change through the shapes (particularly the Bb and F) cleanly and comfortably for the 4 or so minutes of the song.

I also agree with Lester in that if Fred had played on anything other than CLTCL we'd know about it specifically.





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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 19:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Bohardy wrote:

I basically agree with all that Scott said except for:

- Crazy has 7 chords. All of which Fred plays (regardless of whether you hear him doing it live or not). D, G, C, Bb, E, A, F.
- Bri's Chuck Berry-esque double-stop licks are in D, not A.
- 1 hour, although not wildly inaccurate, is a slightly optimistic time-scale for teaching someone to play the whole of CLTCL to Fred's standard on The Game. Yes, you could teach someone the chord-shapes and get them to remember them, but all but the most brilliantly adept learners would not be able to get the strumming down, or be able to hold and change through the shapes (particularly the Bb and F) cleanly and comfortably for the 4 or so minutes of the song.

I also agree with Lester in that if Fred had played on anything other than CLTCL we'd know about it specifically.




Thank you..somebody who DOES realize and appreciate that Freddie was adept at playing the guitar, certainly with enough understanding in music theory and technique to sound wonderful at least on "Crazy" and significantly, to compose on the guitar.


xyz
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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 19:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well you've misconstrued the point of my post really, but I'm off to bed now, so can't be bothered re-explaining.

Maybe tomorrow.


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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 19:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Bohardy wrote:

Well you've misconstrued the point of my post really, but I'm off to bed now, so can't be bothered re-explaining.

Maybe tomorrow.


Bohardy I do understand that you mean that Freddie was no virtuoso on the guitar. I know that. But Scott makes it sound like Freddie had no clue how to even play...which by what I have said, and your pointing out that Freddie played 7 chords..illustrates that Freddie at least had enough logistics to sound good enough to play "Crazy" on the record and live, and to write and arrange on the guitar.

If Freddie was a total dunder and couldn't play at all or was totally out of key, off key, flat, etc...he couldn't have played "Crazy" and composed/arranged on guitar.

But I know that you meant he was no Clapton or well Brian...I do understand.

Just want everybody to stop saying that Freddie had zero skill at playing or had the advancement of a child in elementary school for goodness sake.


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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 20:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

i agree with you, arlene. i tend to take it in a negative way (and i know scott doesn't mean it that way) that he's putting down freddie's skills on the guitar. the way i see it, you don't have to be a virtuoso to make music. music is music. yes, you may be able to get 7 years olds to learn the same chords but they wouldn't be able to write a damn good song like CLTCL out of it. if he can play the guitar at all then that's great cuz he's self-taught.

point is, if you can make music together in any way, there shouldn't be a distinction as to who's the "professional" and who isn't because whatever Freddie played and how he played it served its purpose for the song and that's all that matters

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Posted: 30 Mar 05, 20:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Speaking personally as a drummer, I can't fucking understand music notes/sheets written for the drums. I can only read simple patterns, that's about it. It's hard keeping count for myself even, and I don't know whether these things are because I have Asperger's, or not.

I'm not the best drummer there is, but I do try my best to learn songs by ear for the drums, which usually works out well. I don't like songs that don't keep a constant drum beat, per say. I can't name any for examples that you guys would be familiar with, since almost all non-Queen songs I listen to these days come from Japan.

If a song REALLY varies in it's drumming and drum style, it takes me a long time to learn it.

For me, Bohemian Rhapsody is easy cos I've listened to it for quite a few years now, and listening to the 5.1 remixes/documentary somewhat changed how I did the song a little bit.

I don't know why it's easier for me to learn by sound (ear) rather than by reading notes (visual), but it just is.

And speaking of guitars, I can't fucking well play them much either. Freddie was probably better than me at chords (and bars??), but I'm somewhat good at some solos that don't use too much chords, e.g. BohRap, Killer Queen, to name a couple.

I like to improvise a lot with guitar, though I'm never usually happy with the way I sound most of the time. And having broken strings, which unfortunately is true of my guitar at the moment (it's missing the 2nd string from the 'top' - A string?; I'm not too sure which strings are what)