The Big Muff π Page
The Definitive Big Muff Resource and History

VISIT THE KIT RAE SWORDS, KNIVES and FANTASY ART WEBSITE www.kitrae.net

David Gilmour and the Pink Floyd Big Muffs

BACK TO PAGE 1

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. When asked about the P-1 in the OAI board, Pete Cornish said David wanted the earlier sound which he had in his 1980s pedalboards, so he dug out the old schematic and made the earlier version, which was his 1982 version of the pedal currently known as the P-2, following several tonal/gain changes over the succeeding years.

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 original 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
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: Possibly the 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
DG Original Ram's Head Big Muff (based on tic marks on pedal)
Volume: 9:30 / 25%
Tone: 1:00 / 60% (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

© Kit Rae. This page is not authorized, affiliated, or associated with Electro Harmonix in any way

Website and contents ©2007 and ©2010 Kit Rae. All rights reserved. Linking to this website is allowed, but copying the text content is strictly prohibited without prior authorization. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any other form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, computer networking, or otherwise without prior permission in writing from the copyright holder(s).

 

Kit’s Secret Guitar, Gear, and Music Page
Guitar stuff, gear stuff, soundclips, videos, Gilmour/Pink Floyd stuff, photos and other goodies.
Contact: nasnandos@kitrae.net
Copyright Kit Rae.

THE KEEP ....Mistress Mystery Page. ..

VISIT MY SWORDS, KNIVES and FANTASY ART WEBSITE www.kitrae.net


LEGAL STUFF

Kit’s Secret Guitar, Gear, and Music Page and the Big Muff Page are a personal fan site. Information and materials from this website are intended for personal use only and may not be linked to via the internet/world wide web, republished, reproduced, re-written, reprinted, rebroadcast, disseminated, and/or duplicated in whole or in part, for commercial or any other purposes whatsoever and is strictly prohibited without prior WRITTEN consent from the publisher at www.kitrae.net.

This is a personal fan site and is not affiliated in any way with Electro-Harmonix, Pink Floyd, any of its past or present members, their record label(s), or Pink Floyd Music Ltd.  This is not an official Pink Floyd or Electro-Hrmonix website. Please see http://www.pinkfloyd.co.uk for Pink Floyd's official website. "Pink Floyd" images and music are licenced under the trademark of Pink Floyd Music, Ltd. Please see http://www.ehx.com for the official Electro-Harmonix website.

Links To Third Party Sites:
Kit’s Secret Guitar, Gear, and Music Page, and The Big Muff Page (“www.kitrae.net/music/music.html”) may contain images of and links to third party Web sites ("Linked Sites"). The Linked Sites are not under the control of “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” and “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” is not responsible for the contents of any Linked Site, including without limitation any link contained in a Linked Site, or any changes or updates to a Linked Site. “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” is not responsible for any other form of transmission received from any Linked Site nor is “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” responsible if the Linked Site is not working appropriately. “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” is providing these links only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by “www.kitrae.net/music/music.html” of the site or any association with its operators. You are responsible for viewing and abiding by the privacy statements and terms of use posted at the Linked Sites.