“I still don’t find it easy! It’s one of the most unnatural riffs to play you could possibly imagine”: Brian May finds Bohemian Rhapsody difficult to perform – and he points the blame at “riffmeister” Freddie Mercury

Brian May
(Image credit: FG / Bauer-Griffin/ Getty Images)

Nearly half a century on from its initial release Bohemian Rhapsody remains one of the ultimate examples of an irresistibly head-banging electric guitar riff – not to mention a go-to sing-along song and a staple at parties, weddings and, not least, Queen sets. Yet Brian May says that after all these years, he still finds its iconic heavy riffs a challenge to play – and blames Freddie Mercury for their hand-aching complexity.

The six-minute cinematic whirlwind of a track, from the 1975 album, A Night at the Opera, was actually penned by Mercury on piano. However, transferring the riffs for its climatic hard rock section onto the guitar proved to be a harder process and resulted in a riff that May still struggles to wrap his fingers around today.

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Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to Prog, Guitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.

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