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TONE BUILDING - What do each of the pedals David Gilmour used do and how do you set them to get similar Pink Floyd tones? Which pickups and amps work best for those tones? Here is a general guide to the gear and how to get the tones. There are audio clips demonstrating building basic Gilmour tones using some of the same gear David used. These clips are designed to show what each individual piece of gear contributes to the tone. This is not a comprehensive song by song list by any means, just a general guide based on my experience. I highly recommend you look at Gilmourish.com and The Tone from Heaven for much more detailed reference for all the gear David has used throughout the years. Those guys have really done their home work and have created very comprehensive websites on everything to do with David Gilmour's gear and tone, but for my website I wanted to focus on actual sound clips and settings for reference. Enjoy!

WHICH PEDALS TO USE - Covers Fuzz pedals (early tones) and Big Muffs (later tones), Compressors, Modulation, and Delays

WHAT TYPE OF AMPLIFIER TO USE - Amps that work best for Gilmour tones

Differences between BIG MUFFS, TUBE DRIVERS, and CORNISH PEDALS - Sound clips to illustrate the tone differences

Animals - The effects used and sound clips (coming soon)

The Wall - The effects used and sound clips (coming soon)

1984 and About Face - The effects used and sound clips

1984-1986 - The effects used and sound clips

Momentary Lapse of Reason - The effects used and sound clips

Delicate Sound of Thunder - The effects used and sound clips

Pulse - The effects used and sound clips

On an Island - The effects used and sound clips

The Electric Mistress and Big Muff Pi - The perfect combo for The Wall and Final Cut tones

Boosting a Big Muff - How to use an overdrive pedal to drive your Muff

Delay / Echo - Using delay and delay time settings

EMG DG-20 SA and Single Coil Pickups - Sound clips to illustrate the tone differences

FINGERS and WHAMMY - All the gear in the world won't give you a Gilmour sound unless you study and learn David's tremolo style, subtle harmonics, and perfect note bending

NOTE - I have listed the gear and settings I use in most cases, for reference, but note that the tones may not exactly match your rig, depending on which amplifier you use, your guitar, pickups, and fingers.

1984 About Face and '84 Tour Guitar Tones

"There are times when he has run a Big Muff into various things such as a Boogie head ... 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, David Gilmour's Backline Tech

After David Gilmour's brief work in 1982 on the last Pink Floyd album, The Final Cut (which was more or less Roger Waters' first solo album), and session work on Atomic Rooster's Headline News album, he completely changed his gear and sound for his 1984 solo album, About Face, and his later session work. The 1980s through the early 1990s was a period where David was working constantly as a session guitarist, making guest appearances on dozens of other artist's recordings, including Roy Harper, Pete Townshend, Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney, Peter Cetera, Kate Bush, Supertamp, Warren Zevon, Arcadia, Rod Stewart, Berlin, and many others. His sound varied throughout this period, but there was a commonality to the tone of many of his guest solos, as well as a unique and aggressive playing style that utilized a lot of harmonics.

The effects used in this period varied, but there was some common gear recurring in David's rig - the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal, a Mesa/Boogie amp head, Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, digital delays, and Fender amplifiers. The key to many of David's high gain lead tones was no longer the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff into Hiwatt and rotary speaker amplifiers. It was the blend of a Boss HM-2 with the Mesa/Boogie amp head, then the HM-2 blended with a Gallien Kreuger ML250 amp. Mesa Engineering was a small company owned by Randall Smith, one of the first "boutique" hand-made amp makers, and the Boogie was one of the first cascading gain stage amplifiers. It was a very popular amplifier among top guitarists at the time, like Carlos Santana and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Mesa went on to become a huge company, but back then these amps were made-to-order. David often used an early 1977-78 model Mesa Boogie Mark I amp head. It was first seen in his live rig for The Wall concerts in 1980-81. The Boogie and fuzz pedal blend made for some incredible guitar tones. The way David used the Boogie in his signal chain was unique (as described below). The Boss CE-2 chorus and a digital delay were also essential elements of these tones.

Not much is known about the gear used for the About Face sessions. David began making demos in early 1983 then recorded sessions in Paris beginning in July 1983 and later in England. Most of the tracks were cut live with a full band, with additional multi tracking added later. Based on the tones, David was going for a completely different sound than his last few Pink Floyd albums. The Boss HM-2 was released in October 1983 and I hear it all over About Face. I also hear the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff in a few places. David has stated he used a vibrato pedal for the synthesizer-like rhythm on Until We Sleep, running in time with the drum tempo. He also said he used a Rockman headphone amp for the outro solo on Blue Light, but that was only because they decided in the mixing stage to add a solo. David had no amplifier in the studio, so they plugged the Rockman straight into the mixning board. The Rockman was a miniture solid state amplifier simulator designed by Tom Scholz (of the band Boston) in 1982. It included two clean modes and distortion tones, along with a built in stereo chorus and echo. It could be played using headphones or plugged directly into a mixing board.

For guitars, David has stated he used his Martin D-35 acoustic, his old Black Strat, and his old 1955 Fender Esquire on a few tracks, along with a lot of other guitars. The Black Strat was fitted with a Seymour Duncan SSL-1 bridge pickup, Charvel 22 fret maple neck, and a new Kahler tremolo system installed in early 1983. It was also around this time that David had the tremolo arm shortened to fit into the palm of his hand when playing. This mod, combined with the Kahler's capability to keep all strings in tune when using the whammy bar, created a whole different dynamic to David's use of the tremolo. The Black Strat was used on the Let's Get Metaphysical instrumental, which sounds like the Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie.

The amplification probably varied as on previous Pink Floyd sessions - likely small Fender combos, the Hiwatt SA212, and David's Mesa/Boogie Mark I.


THE ABOUT FACE TOUR RIG - The About Face tour lasted from March - July 1984. The April concerts at the Hammersmith Odeon in London were filmed and released on VHS as David Gilmour in Concert in 1984. There is also a very good soundboard bootleg of an FM radio broadcast of the July 12th concert in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, and a good bootlet from June 8th in Chicago, Illinois. Many Gilmour fans do not like the guitar tones from this tour as much as other Gilmour eras. The way the sound of this new rig was setup did not allow the expressiveness of David's playing to come through as well as it did on other tours. I found the way David used this setup for his guest solo work on other artist's records from this era much more interesting, as the sound evolved and became more refined after the tour. I still enjoy listening to the 1984 shows, especially David Gilmour In Concert, even though there was a lot of "sameness" to the lead sound, the chorus sound was a bit excessive, and the guitar solos often felt overlong. David was definitely into playing very long solos in this period! However, David's heavenly delay and modulation sound on Short and Sweet and Run Like Hell were stunningly beautiful. Short and Sweet had a fantastic, gritty and liquidy, modulated overdrive tone - like the crashing rumble of thunder made into music. I was obsessed with this Short and Sweet tone, and got something close at the time, but I never really nailed it until I tried eactly what David used - an HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie and Boss CS-3 into my Twin Reverb.

Below are a few medleys of various guitar sections from a few excellent soundboard recordings taken from David Gilmour concerts performed in April and June 1984.

mp3Gilmour Guitar Medley - April 30th, 1984 - Part 1

mp3Gilmour Guitar Medley - April 30th, 1984 - Part 2

mp3Gilmour Guitar Medley - June 8th, 1984 - Part 2

David Gilmour In Concert video snapshots from the Hammersmith Odeon in London, recorded in April 1984

According to David, the gear he used on his About Face album sessions in 1983 - guitars, amps, and effects - was completely different from the gear used for the subsequent tour. That may be, but I think the Boss HM-2+Mesa/Boogie was prominently used on both. The tour gear consisted of Boss effect pedals, a Mesa Boogie amp head, MXR delays, and Fender Twin Reverb II amps.

"I have two new 100-watt Fender Twin Reverb heads running to two 4xl2 cabinets each - two WEM cabinets with Fane Crescendo speakers and two Marshall cabinets with Celestions. I felt like a change in amps this time, and I tried out the new Fenders and liked them, so I thought I'd get a couple…" — David Gilmour from Guitar Player Magazine, November 1984

As stated, the Mesa/Boogie head was key to the tones of this era. David had used the Boogie for light overdrive tones since 1978, in The Wall live rig, and in this rig as an overdrive. For this album David ran the HM-2 into a Boogie head (placed the signal chain using the Slave output), for a blend of the two tones. I believe this combo was used for most of the high gain solos on both the album and the tour. The Boss SD-1 was also used with the Boogie for leads on the tour. I think a Big Muff, or Big Muff + Boogie combo may have also been used for some songs on part of the tour. Gilmour described this exact setup in the November 1984 issue of Guitar Player, after the tour had ended, and just after he had used this rig to record his fantastic guitar work for the Paul McCartney song No More Lonely Nights on October.

"I'm using all different stuff from what I've used before, mostly Boss things. I'm also using a Boogie amplifier as an overdrive unit. I can just patch it in by using a footswitch on the pedalboard. I also have a couple of MXR DDLs. That's it, really. All standard stuff, all off-the-shelf gear" —David Gilmour from Gutar Player Magazine, November 1984

"At the moment the sound that I'm using a lot of the time is going through a Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal to a Boogie amplifier (set as an overdrive) to a DDL and then on into a regular Fender amplifier....I use a DDL on it - a little bit - most of the time, because I find it stops the fuzz box from from sounding like a fuzz box. It smoothes off the unpleasant, raw frequencies that you get from the fuzz box. Then you get a nice sort of sound. That's what the Boogie does as well." —David Gilmour from Gutar Player Magazine, November 1984

The Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal may seem like an odd choice for Gilmour to use. The pedal was first released in 1983 and became a favorite among 1980s hair metal bands and Swedish death metal bands, but it was not strictly limited to playing metal. This was one of the first pedals I ever owned and I played everything but metal with it. It had a unique split-band tone stage. The color L knob added or removed bass bandwidth, and the color H knob added or removed mid range bandwidth. The mids could be completely scooped, even more so than a Big Muff, or completely boosted. Unfortunately the HM-2 lacked any control over the treble range, and by itself the distortion can be a bit harsh. When blended with certain slightly overdriven amps however, like the Mesa/Boogie, the combination made a smooth high gain lead tone.

The Boss SD-1 overdrive was set with the drive at maximum and the tone knob at nearly maximum. When blended with the Boogie head it created a very bright lead tone swith a sweet mid range.

The Boss HM-2 and Mesa/Boogie Mark I from David's 1984 rig. The Boogie was a 2 channel amp, but not footswitchable. Input 2 is a relatively clean channel, similar to an early Fender Blackface amp, but it can be dialed into light overdrive. Input 1 is the high gain channel, wired in series with input 2, and used for anything from light overdrive to high gain blistering distortion. David plugged into the high gain channel input 1, as he did with The Wall rig in 1980-81, with settings set for overdrive.

The Mesa/Boogie Mark I head did not power a speaker cabinet in David's rig. It was used strictly as rack effect in the signal chain, no different than an overdrive pedal. A line out after the fuzz and distortion pedals was sent to the Mesa/Boogie Input 1. The Slave line out from the back of the Boogie returned the signal to the signal chain before the delays and modulation effects. In essence, it was just another pedal in the signal chain. After the modulations and delays, the signal was then fed to the primary power amplifiers as usual - typically Fenders. Since a speaker cabinet was not used with the Boogie, the speaker jack was plugged into an 8ohm load resistor to prevent damage to the power tubes and output transformer. Some Boogies were also made with an optional graphic equalizer for tone sculpting, but David did not have that option on this model. A Boss GE-7 EQ pedal was used to fine tune the tone.

(left) David adjusting a Boss pedal. (middle) Boss CE-3 stereo chorus. (right) David's pedal board included the following effects:
(top row) Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, Boss GE-7 Equalizer, Boss CE-3 chorus
(bottom row) Boss CS-2 compressor/Sustainer, Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal, Boss DD-2 Digital Delay, Boss DD-2 Digital Delay

The CE-3 chorus effect was very heavy and prominent in almost all the songs, almost flange-like the way David used it. It was a very different sounding chorus than the Boss CE-2 David used for The Wall concerts, and sounds much better through darker (mid-scooped) amps like the Twin Reverb. To replicate the 1984 tour sound correctly set the Rate knob around 12:00, the Depth knob around 2:30, and set the Mode knob to position I. For the heavier, flange-like sound used on Run Like Hell and Short and Sweet, set the Depth full open. Since the MXR delays were not stereo effects with separate L and R channels, the CE-3 was placed last in the signal chain to utilize its stereo outputs. The left and right channels were each sent to one of the Twin Reverbs. A CE-2 or one of the later Boss chorus pedals will also work for a mono setup, but there is a characteristic of the CE-3 modulation that is very distinct in David's 1984 sound. The CE-2 has a much brighter mid range than the CE-3, and requires completely different settings to create a similar modulation and the CE-3.

A Big Muff can be seen on the pedal board in some photos shot in the rehearsal prior to an April show, but it does not appear to be on the board in the concert video taped on April 30th for MTV's David Gilmour in Concert broadcast and VHS release. Perhaps David was trying it out in this rig and decided to remove it later.

The rack effects were all MXR. At the top of the rack was an MXR Pitch Transposer and Pitch Transposer Display. Based on the official recordings and bootlegs, David only used the MXR Pitch Transposer for the solo at the end of Until We Sleep. There was also an MXR Digital Delay System and MXR Digital Delay System II (along with the Boss digital delay). The reason David used multiple delays was to set each for a different delay time setting for specific songs and to adjust delay time on-the-fly during shows.

"I change my echo settings fairly often in concert. I have two (MXR) units, and I have different echo settings on both. There are times when I have both running at the same time for certain effects. I usually try, in solos, to set the DDLs to have some rhythmic time signature in common with the tune. Because the notes all intertwine, it doesn't matter anyway, but I find that I usually set them on a triplet. It's a sort of melodic delay to use." - David Gilmour from Guitar Player, November 1984

I just got one of the new Roland (Boss) DD-2 footpedal digital delays. It's very, very good, and it goes right on the pedalboard" — David Gilmour from Guitar Player Magazine, November 1984

"I use the MXR Digital Delay. I use one of their old ones most of the time because the width is narrower. If you get too high a quality bandwidth on a DDL you hear too much pinging and lose the sort of echo effect I use it for. Some are actually too high quality for my personal taste." - David Gilmour from Guitar magazine, January1985

David Gilmour rack effects (left) and his effects rack from April 1984 (right).
Rack Effects - top to bottom

MXR Pitch Transposer Display
MXR Pitch Transposer
MXR Digital Delay System
MXR Digital Delay System II

David Gilmour adjusting his MXR rack effects from April 1984. Note the Boss pedal board on the right includes an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, but it does not appear on the board in the April 30th concert that was video taped for the David Gilmour in Concert VHS.

David's Boss SCC-700C foot switcher (left), and a Boss SCC-700 system (right). The four-switch box to the right of the foot swticher board (left photo) was a preset selector for the MXR Pitch Transposer.

Everything was run through a Boss SCC-700 pedal board system, which David would use for the next three years. It was one of the first production made programmable effects switching systems on the market, replacing David's Pete Cornish custom pedal board used for The Wall shows. Any effects connected could be programmed to switch on in any order. Even with that, David found the system lacking for what he needed and added a separate, smaller effects switching pedal board to the rig for delay and volume pedal switching.

"I've got the Roland (Boss) SCC-700 pedal board system with a bunch of effects on it. You don't have to use just the ones on the board; you can run out to all sorts of other things... I found it too inflexible, so the last send and return on it goes to a separate little box, which is connected to my DDLs and a Pete Cornish volume pedal; it's just a simple pot in a pedal. I put that in last on each of my presets, in addition to any of my other presets. That way, I can switch my volume pedal and two DDLs in and out separately from the presets." - David Gilmour from Guitar Player, November 1984

David's 1984 rig included new 1983 Fender Twin Reverb II amplifiers and a 1977 era Mesa/Boogie Mark I, likely the same one from The Wall live rig. Note the FUZZ label on the Boogie.

The signal was sent to two brand new Fender Twin Reverb II amplifiers for stereo. The Twin Reverb II was a Paul Rivera era design, made from 1983-1986. It was a different circuit than the older Fender Twin Reverbs or Showman amps David had used in the past. The Reverb II's clean tone was voiced like a mid-scooped Twin, but it also had an overdrive stage that sounded a bit like a Mesa/Boogie, something common in the Rivera era designs. The II also had a fairly extreme mid range boost, although photos showing David's settings indicate he only had the mids knob set to arund 3. These particular Twins were probably used primarily because of the Fender clean tone. An extra Twin II was in the rack as a spare, along with the previously mentioned Mesa/Boogie Mark I. The signal went from the Twins to two WEM 4x12 cabinets with Fane Crescendo speakers and two Marshall 4x12 cabinets with Celestion speakers.

For the tour guitars, David used a 1976 Ovation Custom Legend acoustic, a Washburn solid-body acoustic, two new Fender vintage reissue guitars, a Roger Giffin custom headless guitar, and the old, heavily modified, Black Strat. It now included a Seymour Duncan SSL-1 bridge pickup, Charvel 22 fret maple neck, and a Kahler tremolo system installed in early 1983. It was tuned to Dropped D (low E changed to D) to play Short and Sweet, and Run Like Hell.

The floundering Fender company was recently bought from CBS by the employees and re-organized. They had just made a line of high quality vintage reissue Stratocasters, supposedly made to vintage specs. They were not, but the build quality was far better than the previous Fenders under CBS ownership, so in 1983 David went to the Arbiters warehouse in London and picked out two of the new reissues to use on the 1984 tour. A cream colored '57 reissue Strat with a maple neck, which was his main guitar, and a fiesta red '62 reissue Strat with an ebony neck. Both had the tremolo arms shortened so David could hold them in his palm while playing.

Three of the 1984 tour guitars (left to right): The old, heavily modified Black Strat (tuned to Drop-D) with Kahler tremolo and 22 fret neck, a reissue '62 fiesta red Strat, and reisue '57 cream Strat. All had the shortened tremolo arm modification.

A custom headless guitar used briefly on the 1984 tour, made for David by famed luthier Roger Giffin


1984 SHORT AND SWEET and RUN LIKE HELL SETUP - I found the same setup David used for the high gain lead tone for the solos was also used for Short and Sweet and Run Like Hell - the Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie Mark I, II, or III (using the Slave/Direct Output, rhythm channel set for a light overdrive) or Mesa/Boogie Studio Preamp (using the MAIN Signal Output, rhythm channel set for a light overdrive). The HM-2 and CE-3 are the key ingredients, so if you don't have a Boogie you can still get a similar sound, but it will be missing that huge, low end growl.

For Short and Sweet set the delay 480ms (7-8 repeats, repeat volume level set around 75%), Boss CE-3 chorus (rate 50%, depth 100%), into a Fender Twin Reverb (reverb off). The modulation from the CE-3 is almost flange-like. Note that the CE-3 is very different than the Boss CE-2 that Gilmour used in later rigs. Setting a CE-2 with both knobs at 3:00 produces a similar sound as the CE-3, but the CE-2 has a much brighter mid range than the CE-3. A digital delay must be used to accurately replicate that huge, shimmery delay sound, preferably a DDL with a tone or bandwidth knob that allows the repeats to be set very bright. The MXR Digital Delay David used has a shimmery, white noise sound as repeats trail off. I use the TC Nova delay and set the Color knob 100% on the digital side, which accurately reproduces that sound. A Boss DD-2 or DD-3 also works.

This setup also requires a Strat with a tremolo arm, as David rocks the arm after he plays the big sustained chords to create the wavy, modulated "wobbles" in the delay. He used his Black Strat tuned to dropped D (low E string tuned to D), and plays using the same D and Dm chord shapes as used in Run Like Hell. This makes sense as both songs were written around the same time. Similar chords are also used on the Sheep outro from Pink Floyd's Animals album. My pedal and amp settings are shown above. I use the Mesa/Boogie Studio preamp instead of my Mark III, as it is much easier to setup in the signal chain. If you do this, place the Boogie in a loop switcher between the distortion/drive pedals and the chorus/delays, so you can switch it on and off like an overdrive pedal.

Below are sound clips of this setup through my rig using a Strat tuned to drpped D into a Twin Reverb. This is the signal chain: Strat bridge pickup (hot Seymour Duncan SSL-5) > Boss HM-2 > Boss CE-3 > Mesa/Boogie Mark III (or Studio Preamp) > TC Nova Digital Delay > Fender Twin Reverb. The Mesa/Boogie was set for a slightly dirty Fender blackface era tone using the rhythm channel. The first clip is a tone breakdown, turning each effect on in this order: Twin Reverb clean sound, Mesa Boogie rhythm channel, Boss HM-2, Boss CE-3, TC Nova Digital Delay.

mp3Short and Sweet tone building

mp3Short and Sweet chords

A similar setup was used for Like Hell in 1984, but without the Mesa/Boogie rhythm channel. Just use the HM-2 and CE-2, with the guitar volume dialed down slightly. The digital delay time was set at 380ms, with the delay repeat volume at 100%. This song is also in dropped D tuning. David may have also used the Boss CS-2 compressor, and in some bootlegs it sounds like the Mesa/Boogie rhythm channel was used instead of the HM-2.

MY ALTERNATE 1984 LEAD SETUP - Most people are not going to buy an expensive Mesa Boogie Mark I, II, or III just to use as an overdrive in a setup like this, but it is very difficult to get these tones any other way. It took a long time for me to figure out the best alternative combo to closley duplicate these tones (without the Boogie). It is not likely a combo David used, but the setup is shown below - a blend of the HM-2 and a Big Muff Pi - works very well. Note that a Cornish Big Muff is shown (P-1), but any Ram's Head era Big Muff, or clone, should work. You can also try something similar with a ProCo Rat or Boss MZ-2. This setup works best with a clean Hiwatt type amplifier. If you use a mid scooped Fender amp, like a Twin Reverb, it is best to use an EQ pedal to boost the mid range. A Strat equipped with EMG-SA pickups, with the SPC control set about mid way, is perfect for these tones, but it sounds good with hot single coil pickups as well.

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