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Why Queen’s Brian May Uses a Sixpence Coin as a Pick

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Most guitarists typically play with their fingers or a pick, but Queen’s Brian May has found an alternative when it comes to his playing, often using a sixpence to help him get the sound he wants.

For those unaware, a sixpence, often also referred to as a tanner, is a British coin that was first minted in 1551. The coin was initially made from silver until 1947 after which it was made from cupronickel. During a chat with BBC Radio’s Raised on Radio [per Guitar World as heard below], May confirmed that he still prefers to use the sixpence when he plays to this day.

“I used to use very bendy picks because I thought it was good for getting speed,” he explained. “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.”

He continued, “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.”

He went on to add, “It’s hard enough to give you all that contact, [and] it’s also soft enough not to break your steel strings because it’s made of nickel silver,” he said. “And it has this lovely, serrated edge, and if you turn it at an angle to the strings, you get a lovely kind of splatter. So to me, the guitar is like a voice, and that splutter is one of the consonants that helps to make the guitar talk.”

The guitarist recently underwent successful eye surgery and it was revealed back in April that Queen co-founders Brian May and Roger Taylor have been working with current vocalist Adam Lambert on trying to write new music. But admittedly, the musicians hadn’t hit on anything they were confident in as of yet.

Brian May Speaks With BBC’s Raised on Radio

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