Brian May and Brian May Guitars are delighted to present a brand-new addition to the BMG line for 2021, the result of a fresh collaboration with American singer, songwriter, and guitarist Arielle and the first original instrument build that the Queen virtuoso has actively contributed to since he and his father embarked on the construction of the Red Special almost 60 years ago. Here's Nick Jennison to tell us more.
Artist signature guitars run the gamut of “ordinary” to “absurd”. One end of the scale, you have endless “artist” models that are little more than a palette swap of a stock guitar. On the other end, you have instruments so far removed from traditional guitars that calling them a “guitar” almost seems wrong. As with so many things, the best stuff is somewhere in the middle: an opportunity for an artist to express what they really want in a guitar and offer something genuinely cool and unique to us guitar buyers.
What has been particularly interesting recently - and one of the many positive things that have come from women becoming more visible in the traditionally male-dominated guitar-o-sphere - is seeing what happens when guitar manufacturers take the time to ask their female artists what they want in a guitar. What we’re getting are innovative and visually striking guitars like the Music Man St Vincent, Lari Basilio’s Ibanez LB1, and the subject of today’s review - the Brian May Guitars Arielle signature model.
The Arielle is notable for being the first non-Brian-May guitar from BMG, although it shares a good deal of its DNA with the Red Special: particularly its use of three Burns Tri-Sonic style single-coil pickups and a pickup switching matrix that allows the player to turn any or all of the pickups on or off, as well as flipping the phase on any of the pickups. While it’s a little more cumbersome to use in the heat of battle, this switching matrix offers no less than 13 distinct tones, ranging from chiming to fat to sitar-like.
Visually, the Arielle is as bold as it gets. The body style is somewhat reminiscent of a Firebird (especially with its raised centre block) but scaled-down and with more refined angles. That said, this is by no means a “small” guitar. It’s larger than a typical Strat or Tele and has a fair amount of weight to it. The neck is very reminiscent of a Red Special, with a wide fretboard and a profile that’s substantial but not clubby. Like the Red Special, it’s a 24” scale length, which makes for a very slinky playing experience!
Hardware comes courtesy of a set of Grover locking tuners and a 2-point Wilkinson tremolo. These are some of the most solid and reliable parts on the market, and it shows in the Arielle’s rock-solid tuning stability.
The BMG Arielle is a totally unique instrument in terms of looks, sound and feel. It offers incredible tonal versatility while still retaining a character all of its own. You’re getting a whole lot of guitar for the money, too, with quality woods and hardware throughout. The only question is: are you cool enough to pull this guitar off?
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