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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)

1980 - 1986 Tones and About Face - The effects used and sound clips

Momentary Lapse of Reason / 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 - 1986 Guitar Tones and About Face

"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, and later the HM-2 blended with the SD-1, 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. David has 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. 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 was a bit ecessive, 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. It was a fantastic, gritty and watery, 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 the HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie with the Boss CS-3 into my Twin Reverb. The Run Like Hell guitar tone always sounded different on each tour, but it sounded exceptionally good here as well.

Here area few medleys of various guitar sections from concert soundboards of 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, but I think a Big Muff, or Big Muff + Boogie combo was also 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 was 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 HM-2 and Mesa/Boogie Mark I from David's 1984 rig. The Boogie Mark I 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, the same as for 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 out 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 pedals David used were all Boss effects and the arrangement of the pedals on the SCC-700 board changed throughout the tour. The CE-3 chorus effect was very heavy and prominent in almost all the songs. To replicate this correctly the depth knob must be set very high (photo above is the Short and Sweet setting). That is a key component to the lead sound used in most of the songs and the overdrive tone used for Short and Sweet and Run Like Hell. The CE-3 is a stereo chorus pedal run last in the signal chain and David split it to each of the Twin Reverbs. Since the MXR delays were not stereo effects with separate L and R channels, the CE-3 ran last in the signal chain. 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.

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 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. I believe these particular Twins were used primarily because of that mid range and 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, several 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 several (reportedly 5) of the new reissues to use on the 1984 tour. These included a cream colored '57 reissue Strat with a maple neck, and a fiesta red '62 reissue Strat with an ebony neck. A candy apple red (CAR) '57 reissue Strat was also purchased, but not used on the tour. All 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. 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), a delay set for 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). A digital delay must be used to accurately replicate that huge, 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. 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.

This 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.

A similar setup was used for Like Hell in 1984, but without the Boss HM-2. Only the Mesa/Boogie rhythm channel was used, set for a slight overdrive. The digital delay time was set at 380ms, with the delay volume at 100%. This song is also in dropped D tuning.

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.


THE SESSION RIG 1984 / NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS - For David's session work during this period he used a stripped down version of his live rig, which included a stereo setup of two 1983 Fender Concert combo amplifiers with the Boss pedal board and rack effects positioned in between them. The Fender Concert was a Paul River era Fender design, one of the last hand wired amps to come from Fender. It was a 60w, 2 channel amp with bright push-pull on clean channel, mid-boost push-pull on gain channel, and 2x10" speakers. The gain channel sounded a bit like a Mesa/Boogie, but David was only using the clean channel.

mp3No More Lonely Nights Solo

Various versions of this rig were used for live gigs and recording sessions throughout the mid to late 1980s. One of the first times this rig was used was for Paul McCartney's Give My Regards to Broadstreet recording sessions in October 1984 for the song No More Lonely Nights. David's guitar work was one of the last things recorded. He had his Black Strat for the sessions and the 57 reissue cream Strat used for the About Face tour. In session photos he is playing the fiesta red Fender 62V reissue Strat with the rosewood neck from the About Face tour, with some modifications. It was fitted with a the SCC-700 Roland guitar sythesizer pickup and controls.

I'm using the Roland unit at the moment; I've had it miniaturised and built into a Fender Stratocaster, so while I don't have all the controls that are on the Roland guitar, it's been simplified to just a volume control and a sensitivity switch. - David Gilmour interview by Bob Hewitt from Guitarist, June 1986

For the song, it sounded like David again used the Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie combo, but the modulation used sounded more like an Electric Mistress flanger than the Boss CE-3 chorus, but the modulation may have been from the Roland guitar synthesizer, as noted below.

Sessions rig for No More Lonely Nights in Paul McCartney's studio in October 1984.
(left photo) David's Black Strat and '57 reissue cream Strat
(right photo) 1983 Fender Concert combo amplifier (Phil Taylor states there were two used in the rig)
(midle photos) Pedal board with Boss effect pedals: Boss SD-1, Boss GE-7, Boss CS-2, Boss HM-2, Boss DD-2, Boss CE-3
Rack - top to bottom:
MXR Digital Delay System I
MXR Pitch Transposer Display
MXR Pitch Transposer
MXR Digital Delay System I
MXR Digital Delay System II
Mesa/Boogie Mark I amp head

(left) Boss SCC-700B pedal board and sound control center and (right) SCC-700C programmable foot controller. This programmable switching system was one of the first on the market in 1982. It allowed up to 7 Boss effects to be used in any order with 32 programmable presets. (right) The Roland GR-700 Guitar Synthesizer pedal board from 1984. This was one of the first guitar synthesizers on the market.

The rig included David's Boss SCC-700 foot switcher and pedal board system from the About Face tour. David also added a Roland GR-700 guitar synthesizer/pedal board to this rig. The GR-700 was an early attempt by Roland at making a guitar synth, but the tracking was not very good and the MIDI function was erratic. It was strange seeing it in his rig, because a little over a year earlier he had this to say about it.

"I've tried out the Roland one a couple of times but it hasn't really particularly interested me. The synthesizer section on a Roland guitar synth is rather pathetic, and no one seems to have really made something like a Prophet or one of those keyboard synthesizers that has got a lot of stuff on it, and have that hooked up to a guitar. There's no difficulty in doing it really. One day I expect..." - David Gilmour in Guitar Heroes, May 1983

"The main fault on the Roland guitar synth for me, is that the MIDI output doesn't have bend on it - which seems crazy. If you plug it into a DX7 for instance, and use the tremolo arm, it goes up and down in semi-tones - and that is awful!" - David Gilmour interview by Bob Hewitt from Guitarist, June 1986

So how did David used the synth? According to what he said in Guitarist magazine in early 1986, the main effects rig and the syth feed were on two separate lines. He would blend in some of the synth signal into the main signal with a volume pedal. Latency casued a slight lag between the time a note was played and the time synthesized signal was heard (a limitation of the technology). When David blended in that latent signal with his direct signal, it created a flange effect similar to an Electric Mistress pedal. This may be the flange effect heard in the No More Lonely Nights solo.

The effects used with David's SCC-700 were the same as the 1984 tour - a Boss CS-2 compressor, Boss SD-1 Overdrive, Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal, Boss GE-7 Equalizer, Mesa Boogie Mark 1 amp head (used as an overdrive with the HM-2), Boss DD-2 Digital Delay, MXR Pitch Transposer and Pitch Transposer Display, MXR Digital Delay System, and MXR Digital Delay System II, into a Boss CE-3 stereo chorus. The stereo chorus was sent to two identical amplifiers on the left and right for stereo. Sometimes David would use four Fender combo amps, two for left and two for right.

GETTING THE TONE - I have experimented for many years to find the exact setup David used for the fantastic guitar tone in No More Lonely Nights. There are several combinations that work, but the closest I have gotten is this setup: Strat with a hot bridge pickup, Boss HM-2 into a Mesa/Boogie Mark III amp head (used as an overdrive in the signal chain) or Mesa/Boogie Studio Preamp (using the MAIN signal Output) set for light overdrive using the lead channel, Boss DD-2 digital delay set for 510ms, Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, into a Fender Twin Reverb.


GUITAR GREATS CONCERT 1984 - David used this same session rig and 62V Stratocaster from the No More Lonely Nights session a month later for the Guitar Greats concert performed in the Capitol Theater, New Jersey, on November 30th, 1984. David performed You Know I'm Right and Murder, as well as two other songs with all of the guest guitarists cramming the stage. It aired on MTV in February 1985. An MXR M-190 1500ms digital delay was added to the rack, replacing the MXR Delay System II, but otherwise the effects remained basically the same as the Lonely Nights rig. This time David used two Silverface Fender Twin Reverbs on top of the two 1983 Fender Concert amplifier combos. The sound was very much like his About Face tour. David again had the Roland GR-700 guitar synthesizer/pedal board, but it is unknown if he used it. There was is a pitch/harmonizer effect used on Murder, but it sounded the same as the MXR Pitch Transposer used on the 1984 tour for Until We Sleep. The lead tone sounded like the Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie and Boss CE-3.


Top stack L and R: Fender Silverface Twin Reverb combos
Bottom stack L and R: 1983 Fender Concert combos
Pedal Board with Boss effect pedals: Boss SD-1, Boss GE-7, Boss CS-2, Boss HM-2, Boss DD-2, Boss CE-3
Rack - top to bottom:
MXR M-190 1500ms Digital Delay (Digital Delay, Hold, Flange, Double, Echo)
MXR Pitch Transposer Display
MXR Pitch Transposer
MXR Digital Delay System
Mesa/Boogie Mark I amp head


BOYS AND GIRLS (1985) Session with Bryan Ferry for his sixth solo album. - Gilmour had been friends with Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music for a long time and has worked with each on several projects over the years. Sometime late 1984 or early 1985 Gilmour played guitar in sessions for Ferry's Boys and Girls album, released in June 1985. There were many guitarists who played in these sesions and most of the work is clearly not David. The album only has a general performer credits, not specific to any songs, so it is unlcear which tracks David plays on, but he is definitely playing the guitar solo in Sensation, the triplet time delayed guitar and some of the lead fills in Boys and Girls, and possibly the atmospheric guitar coloring in the background of Chosen One. David is often credited with the solos on Slave to Love, but those were actually played by Keith Scott and Neil Hubbard.

mp3Gilmour Guitar excerpts from Sensation and Boys and Girls

The echo repeats in the Sensation solo have a flanged/phased effect. This may be the effect from the GR700 guitar synthesizer that David described in Guitarist magazine after the sessions were complete.

"I have the synth going through a DDL and a chorus, and I also have a volume pedal for it. In fact, I have had the guitar synth volume pedals altered, so I can use them side by side, controlling them individually or both at the same time with just my right foot. The guitar synth is a little slow to react, so I tuck it in just behind the guitar level. Now,when you bend or use the tremolo arm the one follows the other down and you get this flanging sound. That's an accidental benefit and it sounds great!!" - David Gilmour interview by Bob Hewitt from Guitarist, June 1986

LIVE AID CONCERT 1985 - A modified version of the rig was used on July 13th, 1985 when Gilmour played a set of songs with Bryan Ferry's band for the Live Aid benefit concert in London's Wembley Stadium. His guitar was not working for the first few songs, but he can be heard on Slave to Love and John Lennon's Jealous Guy. David used four Fender Concert combo amplifiers, stacked on top of four Fender speaker cabinets, which do not appear to be mic'd. The Boss SCC-700 pedal board system and Boss pedals were again seen, as well as the Roland GR700 guitar synthesizer pedal board, but it appears only a few rack effects were used. It is not clear if the Mesa/Boogie amp head was used with the Boss HM-2 this time. David played his new Candy Apple Red '57 Stratocaster reissue with his new EMG-SA pickups and SPC control installed. This was the first major appearance of his red EMG Strat.

Jon Carin was a member of Bryan Ferry's backing band at the time, and he would later work extensively with Pink Floyd and on David Gilmour's solo albums and tours.

mp3Gilmour Guitar Solos from Live Aid


WHAT DETERMINES WHETHER YOU WILL PLAY A SESSION? "Either because I like the artist or I think I might learn something, or they're friends of mine."- David Gilmour from Q Magazine, September 1990

IS YOUR LOVE STRONG ENOUGH? (1985) - Session with Bryan Ferry for the Legend movie soundtrack. I did not know David played on this song, but when I heard Is Your Love Strong Enough for the first time on the radio, I recognized that it was David playing even before it got to the guitar solo. From the beginning and throughout the song there are beautiful, ambient volume swells from David's guitar, in addition to the lengthy guitar solo. He used a volume pedal and a digital delay with a long delay time for the volume swells. The solo sounds like the Boss HM-2 + Boss SD-1 combo described above for the Deep End concerts in 1985, only with lots of delay. This song, originally called Circles, was a left over from Roxy Music's Avalon album. Bryan Ferry was asked to contribute a song to the American version of Ridley Scott's movie Legend, so this song was dusted off and recorded with his friend David Gilmour. This is the longer solo from the extended version of the song.

mp3Is Your Love Strong Enough_extended solo

GETTING THE TONE - Similar to the Deep End setup (described above). Run a Boss HM-2 before a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive (with the SD-1 Drive dialed off and the Tone set around 1:30), a digital delay, Boss chorus like the CE-2 or CE-3, into a Fender Twin reverb or other clean sounding Fender amp. Another way to get a similar tone is to use ProCo Rat in place of the HM-2 and SD-1.

For the solo leads, use a 640ms digital delay, with long repeats. Use the bridge pickup on a Strat and playe with a deep tremolo from the whammy bar, in time with the song. To create the volume swells, use a volume pedal before the delay in the signal chain, then fade the volume up and down after picking a note. I hear two different delay times on the volume swells. Some are set at 370ms and some are set at 640ms, with long repeats. There is a variety of things David is doing with the volume swells to create the atmosphere of the song - fading in while using the tremolo bar heavily, bending a note up then fading in on the down bend, fading in while adding tremolo to a note and dropping the whammy bard down on the fade out, fading in after picking pinch harmonic and bending the note.

BROTHER WHERE YOU BOUND (1985) Supertramp Session - One of the first times I ever heard David Gilmour do a guest solo with another band was on the Supertramp song Brother Where You Bound, from the album of the same name. The playing is very fiery and intense, and probably the best thing about this long title track. David only played on this one track. The setup sounds like another variation of his Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie into a Fender setup.

mp3Brother Where You Bound Solo

Supertramp drummer Bob Seibenberg, about the the spur-of-the-moment idea of using David Gilmour to guest solo on Brother Where You Bound? "We were sort of going, ‘Well, a Dave Gilmour-kinda thing would be neat here'...Norman our engineer went, ‘Well why the…don’t you just call up Dave Gilmour?!’...So we sent him a cassette, and he came back to us in a couple of days and said, ‘When?’ And he was just great to work with. I mean you don’t have to do anything at the desk. He works out there with his roadie for a couple of hours, and fiddles with all his stuff, and it’s like ‘Ready!’ You just slip the fader up and it’s just there – like a trademark sound.” - from an interview by Steve Newton from Georgia Straight Newspaper, June 28, 1985


DEEP END CONCERTS 1985/1986 - David Gilmour played guitar on Pete Townshend's White City album and in his short lived Deep End band in October and November 1985. The band only played a few shows, recorded and released on the Deep End Live! album. Townshend put the Deep End band together again in January 1986 for a performance at Midem, Cannes, but David's guitar tone seemed different and did not have the same magic it had in 1985. I was obsessed with replicating the 1985 tone at the time, without much success.

GETTING THE TONE - Gilmour used a similar rig as he had for the Guitar Greats and Live Aid concerts, including the Boss SCC-700 pedal board system, Boss HM-2, Boss SD-1 and other Boss effects, and Fender Concert combo amps. David's lead tone for the 1985 performances could be one of two setups. One is a blend of the Boss HM-2 + Mesa/Boogie amp head, EQ'd with a Boss GE-7 for a brighter tone with more mid range and treble. A digital delay was used, set around 420-440ms.

That setup works very well, but there is another, more simple way to match the tone. Run the Boss HM-2 before the Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, with the SD-1 Drive dialed off and the Tone set around 3:00. The SD-1 has a very bright mid range, and running it after the HM-2 acts as a mid range EQ for the HM-2 tone, creating the same smooth, fuzzy overdrive tone heard in the concerts. The latter is likely what David used. I have also tried using a TS-9 Tube Screamer with the HM-2, and it does work as a substitute, but it does not blend with the HM-2 quite as well as the SD-1. Another way to get a similar tone is to use ProCo Rat in place of the HM-2 and SD-1. For delay, used a digital delat setting, around 420-440ms. For amps, use a clean Fender amp like a Twin Reverb or similar.

Boss HM-2, SD-1, and CE-3 settings for the Deep End lead tone

The SD-1 is an iconic overdrive, like the Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer. Sonically the SD-1 is also in the same tone family as the TS-9, but it has a bit more low end and a bit more dirt in the distortion. Interestingly, this tone is very reminiscent of the Fuzz Face tone from David's solo in the Pink Floyd song Biding My Time, recorded way back in 1969! David probably used a cocked wah wah pedal to EQ the Fuzz Face to get that version of the tone.

mp3Gilmour Guitar Solo excerpt from Pink Floyd's Biding My Time - 1969

mp3Gilmour Guitar Solos from Pete Towshend's 1985 Deep End Concerts

Pete Townshend's Deep End band with David Gilmour performing in October and November 1985. David's rig again consisted of a Boss pedal system, MXR rack effects, a Mesa/Boogie amp head, and Fender Concert combo amps. The Boss effect pedals seem to be the same as the 1984 tour: Boss CS-2, Boss SD-1, Boss HM-2, Boss GE-7, two Boss DD-2s, and a Boss CE-3 stereo chorus.

Pete Townshend's Deep End band with David Gilmour performing in January 1986 using the same rig as 1985, although David's sound was slightly different.

David played a lovely flame top Charvel San Dimas Strat-styled guitar for almost all of the 1986 Deep End concert. He bought the guitar at No1 Music Center in Hamburg, Germany during the About Face tour in 1984. It was an early 1980s model, hand-made in the San Dimas, California shop. It was given to No1 Music Center as a gift from Charvel, not intended for sale, but Gilmour was allowed to buy it. Grover Jackson made an arrangement to make a similar looking guitar for No1 to replace the one David bought. Phil Taylor replaced the pickup with an EMG (probably an EMG-H) and installed a dual SPC presence control / volume pot to replace the stock volume pot. It was used several times by David in 1986 and in Pink Floyd's Madison Square Garden concert in 1987.


1986 RIG CHANGES - David finished most of his session and live work with Bryan Ferry, Pete Townshend, and others, including producing an album for Dream Academy. He began work for what would become Pink Floyd's next album. Unhappy with the Kahler tremolo system on his black Strat, David had Dive Bomber Tremolo Upgrade system added to one of his other Strats at this time. "Dive Bombing" is what dropping the tremolo arm all the way down was called, and many players had issues with the Strats going out of tune. This kit included a graphite nut and graphite string trees, replacement saddles with roller nuts (so the strings would roll instead of binding in the saddles) and higher quality springs. This system was later deemed non effective.

David Gilmour 1986 rig

David's rig as it appeared in early 1986. An extra chorus and DDL were added for his guitar sythesizer, as well as a Gallien-Kreuger 250ML amp

David's rig was similar to the 1985 version, but it had grown slightly, with a few important changes. The main change was that the Mesa/Boogie was moved first in line to use as a pre-amp for the high gain lead tones, and a Gallien-Krueger amp took its place later in the signal chain as an overdrive after the Boss SD-1 and Boss HM-2. David described the whole rig in detail in early 1986.

"From the guitar I use a Radio Transmitter system - Shaefer Vega - into a Roland/Boss pedalboard which is computerised. I go into a Mesa/Boogie head next, which I use as a sort of pre-amp for the loud and raunchy stuff and then I have a bunch of pedals - 4 DDL's - which I use in different combinations, MXR Digitals and the little Boss DD2's... From there we go into a Boss Chorus Stereo unit which splits into two Fender Twin Reverb 2 heads and they got to one Marshall and one WEM cabinet each. There is also a little Gallien-Krueger amp in there as well, which is very nice in the studio-they say it's very much like using a Rockman. I've used a Rockman in the studio, straight into the desk, but the Krueger is very handy. I just put it down here on the floor of the control room with this microphone, get a nice sound, record it, and worry about the EQ afterwards!" - David Gilmour interview by Bob Hewitt from Guitarist, June 1986

Having the Boogie before the distortion pedals in the effects rack signal chain did not last long. In 1987 it was moved back to its position after the distortion pedals on the rack. Something interesting to note is a change added to the Mesa/Boogie owners manual in 1986. Boogies were among the first amps to have Slave outputs and Effects Loop send/returns. The effects loop was added in 1981 and allowed the insertion of pedals and effects in between the preamp and power amp stages on the amplifier. The Slave output was a direct output of the whole amp signal, meant for direct connection to a mixing board or to another amplifier. David sent his pedal board signal to the amp input and used the Slave output jack to send it directly back to the board. In 1986 Mesa released the Boogie Mark III and a rack version, the Mesa Boogie Preamp. The Slave output was renamed the Direct output, and this line was added to the Mark III owners manual - "In some sophisticated set-ups, players run their Direct into their Effects Rack and then from the Effects into other, external amplifiers. Also note that a speaker or load resistor should be plugged into a Speaker jack when using the Direct." That is an exact description of what David was doing in 1984-85, so I suspect this owners manual change may have been inspired by his rig.

Back of a Mesa/Boogie Mark I showing the Slave output and Effects Loop Send/Return jacks

COLUMBIAN VOLCANO APPEAL 1986 - On February 9th, 1986 David played four songs for the Columbian Volcano Appeal fund raising concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. His band was made up of mostly Pete Townshend's Deep End band members, along with Mick Ralphs, who played rhythm guitar for David in 1984. He again used his Charvel San Dimas guitar with the EMG pickup and SPC control. David's rig was basically the same 1984 tour rig, with the Boss SCC-700 pedal board system, Boss pedals, MXR rack effects, Mesa/Boogie amp head, and Fender Twin Reverb II amp heads. His tone and performance of Comfortably Numb that night was one of his best!

GETTING THE TONE - David's lead tone sounded like his 1984 tour setup of the Boss HM-2 + Mesa Boogie into a Twin Reverb, described above, but with a slightly less dominating chorus effect as in 1984.

mp3Comfortably Numb solo from February 9th, 1986

 

David's effects rack, including Mesa/Boogie amp head and Fender Twin Reverb II amp heads, can be seen in the background

David's SCC-700 Boss pedal board and Boss effect pedals

David's custom Charvel San Dimas guitar with EMG pickup and SPC presence control


MISSING and THE PROMISE (1986) - Sessions with Arcadia for the So Red the Rose album - Arcadia was a side project made up of members of the band Duran Duran in 1985 (Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor). David plays guitar on Missing and The Promise, mostly just coloring the songs, no big guitr solos.

mp3Arcadia Guitar Excerpts

PINK AND VELVET (1986) - Session with Berlin for their Count Three & Pray album. Bob Ezrin, who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall and David's About Face album, was producing this fourth album by the new wave band Berlin. He called his friend David up and asked him to record an epic guitar solo for the song. Pink and Velvet was not only a good song for the time, but David's guitar solo was hauntingly beautiful and fit the song like a glove.

mp3Pink And Velvet Solo


David's live rig from this period was used for many of his guest appearances on other artists recordings in 1985-87. He was usually seen with two or four combo amps, rack mounted delays with the Mesa/Boogie stacked in the middle, and a Boss pedal board on top of the rack. This rig varied throughout the 1980s, only changing by the amount of delay and the type modulation used. Sometimes the tone had more mid range, sometimes less. Sometimes more bottom end, other times less.

There are numerous examples of David's stellar playing using this setup throughout the mid 1980s and early 1990s, like Warren Zevon's Run Straight Down from 1989, I Put a Spell on You by Mica Paris in 1991, and many others. Here is a 14 minute medley of different Gilmour guitar solos from this period, many of which sound like exactly the same setup. Here is the Song List in the order they are heard.

mp3Gilmour Guest Solos from the mid 1980's - early 1990's.

Most of the time David was using the bridge pickup with this setup, but occasionally he used the neck pickup on songs such as Deep in the Blues (with Les Paul), and the version of I Put A Spell On You he played with Mica Paris and Jools Holland in 1991. This setup sounds great with either pickup, but I suggest turning the guitar volume down slightly and adding a compressor when using the neck pickup.

Here is one of my favorite Boss HM-2 setups: Boss CS-2 compressor, Boss HM-2, Cornish P-1 (or a Ram's head Big Muff) with sustain dialed off, TC Nova delay at 540ms, ambient reverb delay from a Catalinbread Echorec, into a Fender Twin reverb in the left channel and Yamaha RA-200 rotary speaker cabinet in the right.

mp3Slow Blues - HM-2 / P-1 Combo into Fender Twin and Yamaha RA-200 rotary speaker cabinet

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