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David Gilmour and the Pink Floyd Big Muffs

Gilmour Touring Big Muff

Article written in 2010. Last update March 2016.

THE LEGENDARY DAVID GILMOUR / PINK FLOYD RAM'S HEAD BIG MUFF - In the long list of great rock and roll guitarists associated with the Big Muff, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is one of the most well known and accomplished users. An American made, V2 "Ram's Head" model seems to be the one he preferred to use most, both in Pink Floyd, and in his solo recordings. A Big Muff was prominently used on Pink Floyd's The Wall double album, including the legendary Comfortably Numb solos, as well as the massive and aggressive Big Muff tones heard on the 1977 In the Flesh tour for the Animals album. David's backline tech, Phil Taylor, said he introduced David to the Big Muff in 1974, although I do not believe David started using one regularly until around 1975 or '76. After that, the Big Muff appeared on many notable Pink Floyd / David Gilmour works:

1976-77 - Animals album and In The Flesh tour

1978 - David Gilmour's first solo record, David Gilmour

1979-81 - The Wall studio recordings and live performances

1983 - The Final Cut studio recordings

Mid 1980s - early 1990s - It is likely that some of Gilmour's guest solos on other artists songs from this period featured a Big Muff, although he mostly used a Boss HM-2 comboed with a dirty amp, a ProCo Rat, and a Boss MZ-2 in this period.

1987-1989 - the Momentary Lapse of Reason studio recordings and 1987-90 tour

1994 - Division Bell tour

2001-02 - the Meltdown concerts

2006 - the On an Island tour

2015/2016 - the Rattle that Lock tour

*Note - for a very thorough and comprehensive guide to all of the gear David Gilmour used in these periods, look no further than Gilmourish.Com. Also check out the wonderful Tone from Heaven website for a comprehensive look at David's gear from the Division Bell-Pulse era, On an Island, and David's custom Pete Cornish effects rigs.

David Gilmour Big Muff Sound Clips - Here is a selection of various Gilmour solos using the Big Muff Pi, in this order: Dogs solo live from Oakland California, Dogs solo from Animals studio album (both 1977), Mother solo, Young Lust solo, and Comfortably Numb solo (all from The Wall 1977), Final Cut solo and Fletcher Memorial Home solo (from The Final Cut in 1983), On an Island second solo (from On an Island 2006) and the intro to Sorrow (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987).

mp3 David Gilmour Big Muff Pi Solo Selections 3.9MB

 

David Gilmour Big Muff Pi David Gilmour Big Muff Pi

Shown above - A stock Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi from 1974

THE #1 AND "TOUR" BIG MUFFS - According to Phil Taylor, that very first Big Muff he gave to David "has often been preferred for most things" over others David owned. This #1 unit was likely David's main recording fuzz box from 1976-1983. In 1974 or 1975 Phil purchased another 1974 Big Muff for David to use on tour. It did not sound exactly the same as David's first one, so he had it modified to sound exactly like the first one. He soon became aware that the component values of Big Muffs were not consistent from unit to unit.

"I introduced David to the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi in 1974. He liked it, and he has continued to use one ever since. David has tried many of the different incarnations and models over the years, but his original has often been preferred for most things. Finding another that sounds the same is not easy, I have even placed six in a row that externally appeared to be identical to his original, and they all sounded different. Often, when you look inside, some components and values are different..." - Phil Taylor. Guitar Player, January 2009

Phil purchased several other V1 and V2 Big Muffs for David to try throughout the mid 1970s, each with varying versions of the circuit inside. Why were there different variations of the circuit, you may ask? Well, Electro-Harmonix bought circuit components like capacitors and resistors in bulk to get the best prices, and often the value of the components from one bulk purchase were not exactly the same as the next. To accommodate this, they would simply revise the schematic to work with components EHX had on hand. Even though the topology of the circuit pathways (those silver lines you see on the back of the circuit boards) were exactly the same on all Big Muffs, it is the value and type of components used that defines the sound. This resulted in numerous versions of the circuit - over a dozen variants for the V1 Triangle Big Muff and nearly twenty for the V2 Ram's Head. Hundreds to thousands of each circuit variant were made. Some sounded only marginally different from the others, but several of these sounded significantly different. Most of them sound very different from the modern Big Muffs in production today. So which circuit was in David's Big Muff? There were at least five Ram's Head variants in 1973, and four in 1974, so we can't know that without actually seeing the circuit.

DG Big Muff

Shown above - (left) A Ram's Head Big Muff in David's Farmhouse Studio in Sussex in 2015, and one in his Hove studio in 2017. One of thes is likely his original #1 Big Muff. The one on the left appears to have the same LED mod as the one he uses on tour.

Shown above - selection of 1973-74 Big Muff circuits showing the wide variety of component types and values used, making them sound different from one another.

Suffice it to say, those 1970s Big Muffs came in a very wide variety of sounds. Although all had a distinct character that identified them as Big Muffs, the sound of those variants ranged from clear or muddy, fuzzy or crunchy, high gain or low gain, deeply scooped mids or brighter flat mids, chunky bottom end, or fat, thundery lows. Out of the many Ram's Head Big Muffs I have played, one of the few that really stands out among the others to me, and one that sounds exceptionally Gilmourish, is the Violet Big Muff circuit, manufactured around 1973-1975. It was a very common circuit variant from that period, with the typical huge, dark V2 sound, crunch, and grit, but a clarity unlike many typical Ram's Heads, and not too thick and bassy. Another Big Muff circuit variant from the 1973 period, one I simply call the '73 Ram's Head or the Brick Muff, also reminds me of some of the more aggressive Big Muff tones I hear on the Animals tour and The Wall. However, the most accurate sounding 1973 variant I have played is an earlier one (schematic shown below). I have seen this circuit in the standard Ram's Head enclosure, as well as the circle face (all red color, all black, or all blue) logo version. It was also used in the Marveltone Distortion Sustainer, an OEM version of the V2 Big Muff made for Targ & Dinner in the mid 1970s. This circuit sounds very close to the Cornish P-1, leading me to believe this is what is in David's favorite Big Muff.

Animals Rehearsal BoardDG Muff

THE PETE CORNISH MODIFICATIONS - Effects rig legend Pete Cornish was creating a new touring pedal board for David in 1976, shown above in a photo (from the Animals song book) taken during London rehearsals for the In the Flesh tour in late 1976. Pete was asked to modify the Big Muff David wanted to take on tour to get it up to modern standards. He replaced the potentiometers and foot switch with higher quality parts and and added a buffer to make it compatible with the routing system he designed and built into the pedal board. This "touring" Big Muff is the one shown in the photo above. If you look closely, you can see extra screws on top that hold the buffer in place inside the pedal. The photos below all show this exact same touring Big Muff was used on many tours from 1977 through 2015. It was seen in the 1977, 1984, and 1987-88 rigs. It was later seen in the Bray studio rehearsals for David's 2006 On and Island tour, and used for the 2015/2016 Rattle That Lock tour (with the label DG ORIGINAL on it). I asked Pete Cornish if this was the same Big Muff he modified in 1976 that is shown in all these photos, and he confirmed it was. Thirty years and still going strong!

You will also note that this touring Big Muff features unique skirted knobs, similar to knobs used on the old Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face pedal. EHX used at least 10 different knobs types on the V2 Big Muffs, but these were not one of those. Pete replaced the stock Big Muff potentiometers with higher quality pots, but these new pots had round shafts. The original E-H knobs fit D shaped shafts, so they could not be used. Pete was using Fuzz Face style knobs that fit the round shafts in his effects rigs at the time, so David's Big Muff was fitted with those. These same knobs can be seen in Brian May's Queen gear, and various other pedal boards Pete Cornish built for other guitarists at the time.

David Gilmour Ram's Head Big Muff

Shown above, left to right - David Gilmour's touring Big Muff and Electric Mistress from the 1977 In The Flesh/Animals touring board, the same Ram's Head from his 1986 rig, same Ram's Head (with DG ORIGINAL label) and a Triangle Big Muff on top of his tour board seen at the Bray Studios rehearsal in 2006. The extra screw on top (circled) is to mount the pcb of the Pete Cornish buffer built into the pedal back in 1976

Shown above - David Gilmour's touring Big Muff on his 1984 pedal board.

DG Muff Knobs...DG '86 Muff...

Shown above, left to right - The Fuzz Face style, skirted grub screw knobs seen on David Gilmour's touring Big Muff are replacements added by Pete Cornish when he modified this Big Muff for David's touring rig. They were also used on Pete's custom pedal boards from the late 70's. The middle photo is another Pete Cornish pedal board from this time with the same knobs (thanks to Rafal and Pete for identifying the knobs)

Dg Ram's Head

Shown above - David Gilmour's 2015 rehearsal pedal board with the touring Big Muff, now with an LED power light added

DG Big Muff

Shown above - David Gilmour's 2015 tour pedal board with the touring Big Muff, labeled DG ORIGINAL

THE PETE CORNISH "CUSTOM FUZZ" BIG MUFFS - David has occasionally used Pete Cornish custom made Big Muffs in his touring rigs. These are sometimes referred to as the Precision Fuzz, Cornish Fuzz, P-Fuzz, or PC Big Muff in various Gilmour gear articles and books. They were all essentially custom made Big Muff circuits. Pete had some prior experience with the Big Muff before working with David Gilmour. In September 1973 he built a pedal board for King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp that included a Guild Foxey Lady circuit, which was simply a rebranded triangle Big Muff made by Electro-Harmonix.

Before going into more detail, let's get this out of the way. There is a popular belief that David was a heavy user of Pete Cornish effect pedals. There have been a few Cornish effects built into his live rigs throughout the years, but those were mostly used as backup pedals. How much actual use they saw is debatable, but Phil Taylor said this in a reply to a poster on David Gilmour's website blog, circa 2008, who asked "which delivers the 'true' Floyd tone, the Pete Cornish P-2 or the newer G-2?".

"Neither. David has almost never used Pete Cornish distortion pedals - a popular misconception. He has them in pedal boards, but only as alternates to his favorites, and as separate pedals. He has tried them (as he has many other makes: Rat, Boss HM2, etc.), but his choice is nearly always EH Big Muff, BK Butler Tube Driver, and, in the earlier days, a Fuzz Face or a Colorsound Overdriver" - Phil Taylor

According to Pete, around 1974 or 1975 he was sent seven Big Muff pedals from Phil Taylor, David's backline tech. Some of these were V1 Big Muffs (nicknamed the Triangle version) and some V2 (nicknamed the Ram's Head version). Each had a slightly different circuit inside giving each a slightly different sound, as was common at the time. Out of this group, Pete said he was asked to select the one he (Pete) considered to be the best and to reproduce the sound for David, but with the following improvements: add power supply de-coupling, add input/output buffers to maintain a constant high impedance signal load, improve the reliability, and reduce the PCB size, using the best components that were available at the time. It was one of the first "boutique" custom Big Muff circuits ever made. Pete built this first one, called the Custom Fuzz, into David's touring pedal board in 1976 and it was taken on the first leg of the 1977 tour.

In 2006 Pete Cornish made a small run of a pedal version of the original Custom Fuzz to sell to other musicians, simply labeled "Custom Design". Another short run was made in 2008 when it was renamed the P-1, and eventually it was added to the regular Cornish pedal line in 2013. It included a high quality double buffer and was built in a sturdier enclosure than the stock Big Muff. Although Pete does not like to call what he makes "clones", the P-1 is very much a mid 1970's Big Muff circuit at its core, and a very good one. Having played the Cornish P-1for several years, I have found it to be remarkably similar in tone to some of my original 1973 era Violet Big Muff circuits, so I think the circuit component values are similar to one of those. The only notable difference is that the P-1 has significantly more gain on tap than the originals. Big Muff replicas like the TopTone DG-1 (based on the Cornish P-2), Stomp Under Foot VRH, MJM Foxey Fuzz (both violet Big Muff clones), Wren and Cuff Caprid, and Electric Orange Pig Hoof have a similar sound. The Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff (2014 model) can also be set to sound very similar.

sdfsdfGilmour P-1

Shown above, left to right - A pedal version of the original mid-1970's Pete Cornish Custom Fuzz. This one is owned by John Roscoe (ToneFromHeaven.com), and labeled "Custom Design". It was the first pedal version of the Custom Fuzz, built in 2006, and offered for sale to the public later that year as the P-1, shown on the middle. The one in the rack on the right belongs to David Gilmour, used in the control room of his Medina studio. These Cornish pedals have a plain, industrial look, but they are perfect for the hard life of a touring musician's gear, where all that matters is sound and reliability.

How much the Custom Fuzz/P-1 was actually used by David for the 1977 tour is unclear, as it seems to have been made primarily as a backup for David's touring Big Muff. David possibly used both for the tour, with different settings for each. A photo from the In the Flesh rehearsal taken in late 1976 shows David's touring Big Muff pedal on top of the pedal board, connected to the send/return jacks, along with an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress flanger. Tour photos from January through March 1977 also show the same touring Big Muff. In late 1977 the Custom Fuzz/P-1 was removed from inside the pedal board and replaced with a real Big Muff circuit. Some have assumed the touring Big Muff used on top of the board was the same one later built into the board, but that is not correct. The touring Big Muff has been seen intact, in it's original enclosure repeatedly since 1977. Pete does not simply drop a pedal into his custom pedal boards and plug it in. He removes the circuit from the original enclosure and integrates it into his pedal board power supply, buffers, and switching system. Pots have to be desoldered, power section altered, et cetera. My guess is this replacement was David's other Big Muff that was modified to match the #1 sound in 1974 or 1975, or simply another similar sounding stock Big Muff from David's collection.

Gilmour live in '77 ... Gilmour live in '77 ... Gilmour live in '77 .. Gilmour live in '77

Shown above - Photos from January and March 1977 form Pink Floyd's Animals/ In the Flesh tour. The "Ram's Head" Big Muff and Electric Mistress spotted in the London '76 rehearsal photo can clearly be seen on top of David's Cornish made pedal board during the subsequent tour of Europe. This Big Muff is the same touring Big Muff seen in the 1976 rehearsal. The pedal board also included a Cornish Custom Fuzz (P-1) for a short period.

P-2 P-21994 pedal board

Shown above, left to right - Gilmours 1990 Knebworth pedal board with hand made Pete Cornish P-Fuzz (Precision Fuzz), a closeup of the P-Fuzz (simply labeled "Big Muff"), and the 1994 Division Bell rig with the P-Fuzz

Cornish P-1Pete Cornish P-2

Shown above, left to right - An early Pete Cornish P-Fuzz (Precision Fuzz), and later version re-named the P-2 Fuzz, and a modern P-2 in a slightly different enclosure. Offered for sale to the public, the two P-2 versions on the right included a built in double buffer and a larger enclosure. Pete considered this an improvement over his original 1976 Custom Fuzz

Even though the Cornish P-1 did not last long in David's 1977 pedal board, and seems to have been absent from Gilmour live rigs for close to 30 years, it made a return in the 2006 Cornish board used for David's stellar On and Island concerts, Documented in the Remember that Night DVD and Live in Gdansk CD and DVD. That said, I think David's primary pedal for that tour was the B. K. Butler Tube Driver, not the P-1. In 1982 Pete created what he considered an improved version of the Custom Fuzz, with an improved tone control, less mid range scoop, and thicker lows. This evolution of the Custom Fuzz was called the P-Fuzz or Precision Fuzz in its early incarnations. It was housed in a small gray hammerite enclosure. David Gilmour had one in his giant 1988-89 Momentary Lapse of Reason touring rig, although it was probably only used for the 1989 leg. A version in a black enclosure replaced it for David's 1990 Knebworth rig. It appeared again for the Division Bell tour in 1994. Around 1992 Pete made one for Lou Reed. Simply labeled as "Big Muff", the pedal was probably used as a backup for David's Sovtek Big Muff, as it appears to have not been used for the main tour. It did not include Pete's buffer system, as David's custom pedal board already included the necessary buffers. It was later re-named it the P-2 Fuzz. That version was offered for sale to the public with Pete's dual buffer system around 2001, and is now simply known as the P-2.

There was yet a third evolution of the Big Muff circuit created by Pete Cornish, the G-2 Fuzz. This version sounded very different from the P-1 and P-2, utilizing Germanium diodes rather than Silicon found in most Big Muff circuits, and Pete's superb double buffer. Even though the circuit architecture is Muff based and uses the same pcb as the P-2, I would not even classify it as a Big Muff sound. The component values are heavily modified, giving the G-2 more of a very unique overdrive-dirt pedal tone, with a very smooth and warm, amp-like distortion. It was in David Gilmour's effects boards from 2002 until around 2010, probably as an alternative to the Tube Driver. It may have been used for the Pink Floyd Live 8 reunion in 2005, but David also had a Big Muff in his Cornish board. I believe most of the high gain guitar solos heard on Gilmour's Remember That Nght and Live In Gdnask DVDs were the Tube Driver, with the P-1 used for a few songs, like Comfortably Numb. I'm not sure the G-2 was used at all.

It is worth noting that each of these Cornish pedals originally included 'Fuzz' in the name, but after a debate began online about what constitutes as a fuzz pedal, muff, or distortion, Pete dropped the word fuzz and kept his simple alpha-numbering nomenclature as the name. Different people have different impressions of what "fuzz" means, but these circuits are all simply different ways of amplifying and distorting a guitar signal.

G-2 FuzzCornish G-2

Shown above, left to right - An early Pete Cornish G-2 Fuzz, and a later G-2 version in a different enclosure, with "fuzz" removed from the name


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A CONFUSION OF MUFFS - Since Phil Taylor (Davd's gear tech) had a second Big Muff modified in 1974 or 1975 to sound exactly the same as David's original 1974 Ram's Head Big Muff, one would assume that the touring big Muff is one of those. One would also assume the Cornish P-1/Custom Fuzz sounds similar to David's original, but based on what Pete Cornish has said, the Custom Fuzz was not built as a replica of the circuit in David's original. However, according to Mike at AnalogMan, when he met with Phil Taylor in 2006 at one of Gilmour's On An Island concerts in New York, he got the straight scoop about David's Big Muffs. According to what Phil told Mike, the P-1/Custom Fuzz built into the Animals pedal board sounded exactly like David's original #1 Big Muff. The schematic of the Big Muff circuit Pete Cornish traced for for the P-1 even has "David's favourite Muff" written on it. This begs the question - If the P-1 sounds like David's original, why did David use an original Big Muff on tour so often? David may have simply preferred the sound of his real Big Muff circuit over the P-1.

There are also several other Big Muffs used in David's later Cornish made pedal boards - the revised 1978 Animals board, The Wall recording studio board, the small Wall touring boards, and the 2006 Cornish made Mk I all-tube buffered board. Each lists a Big Muff as a built in effect. These are usually labeled "Big Muff" in the effect chain lists from Pete Cornish and other sources, and labeled "Muff" on the pedal boards. The P-1 was originally labeled as a Custom Fuzz. We do not know if these were stock Big Muff circuits, or simply more circuits modified to sound exactly like David's original #1.

Any Big Muff at this time could have been modified to sound similar to another. It simply required using the same value resistors, capacitors, and similar diodes and transistors. Granted, the components had sloppy tolerances at the time, so to make an exact clone, each component needed to be measured to get the exact values, and use components of the exact same type. Even using the values marked on the components without measuring, one would get very close. Phil Taylor could have had any number of stock Big Muff circuits modified in this manner for David, all having his preferred sound. One would assume that if David liked the sound of his original #1 best, that all the others were modified to the #1 specs.

Gilmour Cornish Wall BoardGilmour Cornish Wall Board...Gilmour Cornish Wall Board....

Shown above - The large Animals pedal board built by Pete Cornish to house and control David's pedals, modified for The Wall shows with a built in Big Muff. Note the "MUFF" label attached to the boards were sometimes used to describe the Pete Cornish custom fuzz pedals with circuits based on the Big Muff. We do not know if these were stock Big Muff circuits in these late 1977-1981 boards, or circuits modified to sound similar to David's preferred #1 Big Muff. Knob settings in the photos may not be David's actual settings, but if they are, and the pots are oriented in the standard position, these would be the settings:

Volume: 9:30 / 25%
Tone: 12:00 / 50%
Sustain: 4:00 / 90%

Gilmour Cornish Wall BoardGilmour Cornish Wall Board...

Shown above - The small front stage pedal board used for the second half of The Wall show, also with a built in Big Muff. Note the tick marks on the middle photo, used to set the knob positions for the shows. The low volume and sustain settings seem to indicate the pots may have been wired in reverse of standard, but the fact that the sustain and tone positions are reversed from where they are on the actual pedal makes it hard to determine where the zero true points would be. Since it is unlikely the volume pot was set at nearly ten, if wired in reverse, I surmise that the pots are all oriented 90 degrees counter clockwise in the board. This would also explain why Pete ran the name labels vertically on this board (they are oriented properly on the large Wall board shown above). This would make the knob settings:

Volume: 10:30 / 35%
Tone: 1:30 / 65% (treble left/bass right)
Sustain: 1:00 / 60%

Gilmour '87 Effects rig.....

Shown above - Bob Bradshaw photos of David Gilmour's 1987 touring rig with a Ram's Head Big Muff on the upper right of the pedal board. This is the same touring Big Muff seen on top of the Animals pedal board in 1977 (Thanks to John Roscoe, host of Tone From Heaven and Bob Bradshaw for the photo).

...

Shown above - Video captures of the touring Big Muff from a 1987 back stage tour crew film. Note the white tic marks indicating David's settings. The original EHX pots (potentiometers) and knobs were aligned differently from each other, and the tone pot was wired in reverse of modern Big Muffs. Pete Cornish aligned and wired all of the pots in the same modern orientation when he replaced them, so below are the actual 1987 settings for the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour.

Volume: 10:30 / 35%
Tone: 1:00 / 60% (treble left, bass right).
Sustain: 10:30 / 35%

Note that the sustain is relatively low on the Big Muff, and using the muff alone will not get you very close to some of the high gain lead tones heard on the tour. That is because David often blended the Big Muff with an overdrive to smooth out and EQ the tone, as well as using a Boss GE-7 to fine tune the EQ of the Muff. For this tour he used a TC Electronic Booster + Line Driver & Distortion (BLD) and a Mesa/Boogie rack head to blend with his high gain distortions, like the Muff. The gear and settings above are what I use to replicate those tones with the Big Muff.

.. Astoria Big Muff...OAI Triangle Big Muff

Shown above - The photo on the left is from the 1988 Pink Floyd tour, showing the touring Ram's Head. In the middle is a blurry screen capture from DavidGilmour.com of what appears to be a Ram's Head Big Muff, spotted on the floor of Davids Astoria floating recording studio during the On An Island recording sessions in 2006. Could this be David's preferred #1 Big Muff from 1974? To the right is another 2006 screen grab of David's Triangle Big Muff from the Remember That Night DVD.

THE "PULSE" BIG MUFF - Electro-Harmonix (EHX), the American company that manufactured the original Big Muffs David used, went out of business in the early 1980's. Prices for old Triangle and Ram's Head models began to skyrocket on the used pedal market. Around 1990 EHX founder Mike Matthews, now in the Russian vaccuum tube and IC chip business, decided to resurrect a few of his old Electro-Harmonix pedals. One of the first he brought to market was the Big Muff, under the brand Sovtek. Manufactured in St. Petersburg Russia, these pedals used the original Big Muff circuit design, but the component values chosen gave them a slightly smoother tone and a fatter bottom end than the American originals. These early Sovtek Big Muffs were made in several different color schemes, but one particular version from around 1992 assumed the nickname "Civil War", for its blue and gray colors, reminiscent of the U.S. Civil War uniform colors. This version is numbered as 7A on my Big Muff Page website. Version 7B also used the same circuit as did the first edition of version 7C, which is nicknamed the "tall font" green Russian.You can find out more information about the V7A here. Later versions in the green and black enclosures had a slightly grittier and more grainy tone.

Civil War Big Muff

Shown above - The Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff Pi (left), which is the model and color scheme used by David Gilmour. It featured a smoother, bassier tone than its American made predecessors. The "green civil war" variant (middle), and the "tall font" variant (right) also used the same circuit, but with different graphcs and color schemes. All were made in St. Petersberg Russia, circa 1992-1994. You can find out more information about them here.

David Gilmour was gearing up for a new Pink Floyd record and tour in 1992-93. David likely had a Sovtek Big Muff during the recording of Pink Floyd's Division Bell studio album in 1993, alhough it is unknown if it was actually used on any of the studio tracks. For the tour however, he needed a Big Muff and reportedly he tried out around 10 different models. Ultimately he chose the Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff. It was heavily used on the 1994 tour, primarily for the older Pink Floyd songs. An enormously popular live CD and film of the tour was released as Pulse. David's signature distortion tone from this tour, known as the 'Pulse' tone, was very different from his previous Big Muff tones, and much sought after among Gilmour enthusiasts.

As with David's previous setups, this tone was achieved with a mix of different amps and pedals: the Civil War Big Muff, blended with a BK Butler Tube Driver to smooth out the distortion and EQ it with treble and bass controls, a Boss GE-7 equalizer set for a very slight mids boost to recover some of the "scooped" mid range lost on the circuit, a long delay from a TC Electronics 2290 delay, a Boss CE-2 chorus, and occasional use of a Boss CS-2 compressor for added clarity and sustain. This setup went into an Alembic F-2B preamp (a Fender Showman/Black Face Twin Reverb preamp circuit). The preamp drove two 1974 Hiwatt DR103 heads (with pre-amp stages bypassed) into a pair of WEM 4x12 speaker cabinets (one loaded with Fane Crescendo speakers, the other with Celestions), and Doppola rotating speaker cabinets. Gilmour used Fender Strats fitted with EMG-SA active pickups, utilizing the unique mid boost from the SPC tone control. That seems like an enormous rig to create one tone, but the core of that tone was simply the Big Muff combined with the BKB Tube Driver and SPC tone control of David's guitar. The rest was just the icing on top. You can hear this "tone from heaven" on the songs Comfortably Numb, Sorrow, One of These Days, Time, On the Turning Away, and other tracks from Pulse. Of course, without David's fingers and signature style, none of that gear would have mattered. A very in depth examination of this rig can be found on the Tone from Heaven website.

David Gilmour Civil War Big Muff Sound Clips - Here is a selection of various Gilmour solos using either the Civil War Big Muff Pi or Pete Cornish P-2 (a custom Big Muff circuit with a similar sound to the Sovtek), from the Pulse CD and various 1994 bootlegs of the Division Bell tour. Clips in this order: Hey You, Sorrow, Time, Money, Comfortably Numb first solo, One of These Days, On the Turning Away, Comfortably Numb second solo, Sorrow outro solo.

mp3 David Gilmour Sovtek Big Muff Pi Solo Selections 7.8MB

Gilmour Pulse Tone

Shown above - Photos of Pink Floyd's massive Division Bell stage from the 1994 tour, featured on the Pulse CD and DVD. This was the final Pink Floyd tour.

1994 rig .. Gilmour Pulse Rig..Civil War Big Muff......P2

Shown above - David Gilmour's giant Division Bell effects rig. Customized by Pete Cornish, this complex effects rig was required to produce the wide variety of tones from the large catalogue of Pink Floyd songs played on the '94 tour. The core of David's lead distortion tones was the Sovtek Big Muff and EMG-SA equipped red Stratocasters...and David's fingers, of course. The Pete Cornish Precision Fuzz (P-2), minus the buffers, also appeared on this board (top right), likely as a backup for the Sovtek Big Muff. The volume is much higher than unity compared to other pedals on the board

Cornish P-2 settings

Volume: 1:00 / 60%
Tone: 10:30 / 35% (bass left, treble right)
Sustain: 12:00 / 50%

 

DG Sao Paula Civil War Big Muff david-gilmour-12_2015 Civil war Big Muff

Shown above - David brought the Civil War Big Muff out again for the South American and North American legs of his Rattle That Lock tour in 2015 and 2016

THE SOVTEK BIG MUFF RETURNS IN 2015 - For the second leg of David Gilmour's Rattle That Lock tour in December 2015 he added the Sovtek Civil war Big Muff to his pedal board, which also included his old touring ouring Ram's Head Big Muff. It can be seen in photos and videos from his 2015 South American and 2015 North American tour dates.

ISLAND OF BIG MUFFS - In 2006 David recorded and toured for his third solo album, On and Island. David had a new pedal board made by Pete Cornish which included the Cornish P-1 and G-2 custom Big Muff circuits, which I have written about HERE.

Gdansk DVD Snapshot. Gdansk DVD Snapshot. Gdansk DVD Snapshot

Shown Above - David Gilmour's MK2 custom all-tube, buffered pedal board made by Pete Cornish, from David's 2006 tour. Pete's P-1 and G-2 circuits were built in

The distortion/fuzz solos for the tour were played using the P-1, G-2, and BK Butler Tube Drivers (one set for light drive, and one for overdrive). It is likely David used his Tube Driver #1 with a light drive settings in combination with the P-1 or G-2 to smooth out the distortion and color the treble and bass. Although it is widely believed that he used the G-2 heavily on this tour, I think most of the high gain solos were actually played using his Tube Driver #2, set for heavy distortion. Based on the tick marks on the pedal board, here are the P-1 and P-2 settings:

Cornish P-1 settings

Volume: 10:30 / 35%
Tone: 1:00 / 60% (bass left, treble right)
Sustain: 1:00 / 60%

Cornish G-2 settings

Volume: 1:30 / 65%
Tone: 10:00 / 30% (bass left, treble right)
Sustain: 5:00 / 100%

Tick marks also indicate these alternate G-2 settings were used, which create a light overdrive tone.

Volume: 1:30 / 65%
Tone: 5:00 / 100% (full treble)
Sustain: 8:00 / 10%

THE GILMOUR BIG MUFF SOUND - If David's #1 Big Muff was "preferred for most things" as Phil Taylor stated, one would assume this is the Big Muff heard on all of the most famous Pink Floyd studio recordings, such as Dogs, Hey You, Mother, Sorrow, and Comfortably Numb. That is one legendary Big Muff! Was there something extra special about this particular Muff that made it sound so incredible on those records? Probably not, although I do not doubt that it had one of the better sounding circuits, just as I do not doubt David had a group of great sounding Fuzz Face pedals prior to this period. The man obviously has a very good ear, and a great backline tech (Phil Taylor) to locate the best equipment for him.

Gilmour gear fanatics and tone chasers (like me!) have always wondered what David's Big Muff actually sound like without all the other gear - just the Big Muff into an amp. Due the the variety of effects and amps blended with them, that is very difficult to determine. We are lucky enough to have the exact Pete Cornish custom Big Muff pedals available to us, but having a superb vintage Electro-Harmonix Big Muff that has that Animals, The Wall, or Delicate Sound of Thunder tone, or the Sovtek Big Muff tone heard on Pulse, is another story. Fortunately, we do have a few examples of David's raw Big Muff tones for reference. For his 2015/2016 Rattle That Lock tour he used both his original touring Ram's Head Big Muff and his Sovtek Big Muff from the Pulse tour. The MR10 Loop System seen in his rig revealed exactly which effects he was using for each song. No heavy chorus or blending with Boogie amps or Tube Drivers this time. For several songs, it was just the raw Big Muff straight into David's amps, with only some mild EQ and delay added. Here are sound clips taken from the crew's inner ear monitor mix (low frequencies seem to have been dialed down) from The Forum, California in 2016, and a live broadcast of the Wroclaw, Poland concert in 2016.

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - In Any Tongue solo. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - In Any Tongue solo. Inner ear monitor mix 2016

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - Sorrow solo. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - Sorrow solo. Inner ear monitor mix 2016

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - Money solo. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff - Time solo. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 EXH "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Sorrow intro. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Sorrow outro. Inner ear monitor mix 2016

mp3 EXH "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Comfortably Numb solos. Live broadcast 2016

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Comfortably Numb solos. Inner ear monitor mix 2016

We also have several good audience recordings of those same 2015/2016 concerts to use for reference of the raw Big Muff tones. As with most audience recordings, the sound varies greaty due the different mics used, venue sound, and position of the recorder in the particular venue.

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - In Any Tongue solo. Brighton 2015

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - In Any Tongue solo. Oberhausen 2015

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Money solo. Oberhausen 2015

mp3 EHX "Ram's Head" Big Muff - Comfortably Numb solo. RAH Sept 30th, 2016

Those sound like a typical early 1970 Big Muff and a typical 1990s Sovtek Big Muff to my ears. I think what made these Big Muffs sound so unique in the studio and 1980s-1990s live concerts (other than the guy playing the guitar!) was that you were not simply hearing the Big Muff through an amplifier. David often played through a combination of several amps, one of which was often a rotating speaker cabinet. David also liked to blend his distortions with overdrives. He was likely using the Colorsound Power Boost in conjunction with the Big Muff in the early period, notably heard on the Animals/In the Flesh tour bootlegs, and possibly a few tracks on David's first solo album. He also blended the Big Muff with various Mesa Boogie amps set as an overdrive, a TC Electronic Booster + Line Drive & Distortion pedal, and a 1980s B.K. Butler/Chandler Tube Driver.

"There are times when he has run a Big Muff into various things such as a Boogie head or a BK Butler Tube Driver, or added a graphic equalizer, etc. That’s the thing with David. He’ll have a certain sound in his head, and he’ll tweak his gear to find it. He just has this ability, and he always knows.” —Phil Taylor

There were also times when David used an Electric Mistress or chorus effects to color his Big Muff tones. This blend of amps and pedals gave David some very unique, but very hard to replicate tones. Most of that tone comes from the way he plays, not the gear, but the Big Muff is very responsive to the subtlelties of good playing and good control of harmonic tones. David is the master in that area. Like the best illusions performed by the master magicians, we will probably never know exactly how David achieved many of those Big Muff tones, but they continue to be a source of enjoyment for those of us who like to puzzle them out, or use them as a starting point in creating our own tones.

Thanks to Pete Cornish, Bjorn Riis, John Roscoe, Rafal Zychal, and Mike, for your vast knowledge of David Gilmour's gear, addional info, and pix. For more information about David Gilmour's Cornish pedal boards and other gear, please visit the excellent Tone from Heaven and Gilmourish.Com websites. For some great Gilmour gear discussions, please vist the Gilmour Gear Forum.


DAVID'S BIG MUFF SETTINGS - These are what the settings would be on a modern Big Muff, Cornish pedal, or or similar clone. These are based on David's actual tic marks, and in some cases just the knob indicator marks. This accounts for the various pot orientations (zero points) and wiring (treble left or treble right) of the original pedals. The muff was almost always blended with one of the many overdrives in David's rig, so I have indicated those as well - Colorsound Power Boost, TC Electronics Booster + Line Driver & Distortion, Mesa/Boogie, or BKB Butler Tube Driver.

  • 1977
    #1 Ram's Head Big Muff - (there are no photos, this is just based on my experiments with the P-1, similar Ram's Head BMP's, combined with the Colorsound Power Boost)
    Volume: 10:30 / 35%
    Tone: 3:00 / 80% (treble left, bass right)
    Sustain: 4:00 / 90%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: Colorsound Power boost
  • 1981
    Built in Ram's Head Big Muff - Small Wall Board (based on tic marks and knob indicator marks)
    Volume: 10:30 / 35%
    Tone: 1:30 / 65%. (treble left, bass right)
    Sustain: 1:00 / 60%
  • Built in Ram's Head Big Muff - Large Wall Board (no tick marks, so these may not be accurate)
    Volume: 9:30 / 25%
    Tone: 12:00 / 50%
    Sustain: 4:00 / 90%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: Colorsound Power Boost
  • 1987
    #1 Ram's Head Big Muff settings (based on tic marks)
    Volume: 10:30 / 35%
    Tone: 1:00 / 60% (treble left, bass right)
    Sustain: 10:30 / 35%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: TC Electronics BLD (before muff), and/or Mesa/Boogie/Mark II or Mark III rhythm channel (after muff)
  • 1989/1990
    Cornish P-2 settings (based on knob indicator marks in Pete Cornish shop photos)
    Volume: 1:00 / 60%
    Tone: 10:00 / 30% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 5:00 / 100%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: TC Electronics BLD (before muff), and/or Mesa/Boogie Mark III rhythm channel, or Mesa/Boogie mark II rhythm channel (after muff)
  • 1994
    Cornish P-2 settings (based on knob indicator marks)
    Volume: 1:00 / 60%
    Tone: 10:30 / 35% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 12:00 / 50%
  • Sovtek Civil War Big Muff ***
    Volume: 1:30 / 65%
    Tone: 10:30 / 35% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 4:00 / 90%
    *** the knob zero points on these Sovteks varied randomly from knob to knob, and from unit to unit, so even though we have photos showing David's exact tick marks, they will be completely different on another Sovtek BMP. That said, I have owned one (out of six) examples of that exact Sovtek model, that DID have matching zero points for all three knobs. Based on David's 1994 and 2015/16 settings, his is NOT on of those, so the settings I list are based on what I hear.
  • Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: 1980s B.K. Butler/Chandler Tube Driver placed BEFORE muff in signal chain.
  • 2006
    (based on tic marks and knob indicator marks)
    Cornish P-1 settings
    Volume: 10:30 / 35%
    Tone: 10:00 / 30% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 1:00 / 60%
  • Cornish G-2 settings
    Volume: 1:30 / 65%
    Tone: 10:00 / 30% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 5:00 / 100%
  • Tick marks also indicate these alternate G-2 settings were used, which create a light overdrive tone.
    Volume: 1:30 / 65%
    Tone: 5:00 / 100% (full treble right)
    Sustain: 8:00 / 10%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: 2005 B.K. Butler 911 Tube Driver placed after Muff in signal chain
  • 2015 / 2016
    #1 Ram's Head Big Muff (based on tic marks on pedal)
    Volume: not visible in photos, but probably close to 10:30 / 35%
    Tone: 1:30 / 65% (treble left, bass right)
    Sustain: 1:30 / 65%
    Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: David's MR10 Loop System reveals he did not blend with an overdrive for this tour.
  • Sovtek Civil War Big Muff ***
    Volume: 1:30 / 55%
    Tone: 12:30 / 65% (bass left, treble right)
    Sustain: 7:00 / 100%
    *** the knob zero points on these Sovteks varied randomly from knob to knob, and from unit to unit, so even though we have photos showing David's exact tick marks, they will be completely different on another Sovtek BMP. The settings I list are based on what I hear and the tone pot change from his 1994 settings on the same Big Muff.
  • Type of Overdrive Blended with Muff: David's MR10 Loop System reveals he did not blend with an overdrive for this tour.

Gilmour Montage

CONTINUE - RETURN TO THE HISTORY OF THE BIG MUFF PART 1 (Vintage USA)

 

HISTORY OF THE BIG MUFF PART 2 (Russian)

HISTORY OF THE BIG MUFF PART 3 (modern USA)

A FUZZ AND MUFF TIMELINE

BIG MUFF PAGE HOME

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