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1987 Momentary Lapse of Reason Lead Tones for Solos

1986-87 - THE MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON LEAD TONES - This first Gilmour-led Pink Floyd album, released in 1987, is one of the few Floyd albums that really sounds dated to the period. The 1980s sound is all over it, especially the gated drum sounds. Although it featured very little playing from Floyd members Nick Mason and Rick Wright, it was still very sucessful in relaunching Pink Floyd, with several radio hits like Learning to Fly, On the Turning Away, and Sorrow. There is very little information about the recording sessions, but some facts are known. Most of the demos and studio recordings were done in the cramped recording rooms of the Astoria, David's floating recording studio anchored on the River Thames. Recording and mixing stretched from November 1986 - March 1987. For amps, David used two small Fender Super Champ combos in stereo. For effects he used a Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, a Boss GE-7 graphic equalizer, a Gallien Krueger 250ML amplifier, a Boss CE-2 chorus pedal, a stereo Ernie Ball volume pedal, two Boss DD-2 Digital Delay pedals, and an MXR Digital Delay System II rack unit. For electric guitars, David used his 57V red Strat and a Steinberger GL3T, each equipped with EMG-SA pickups and the SPC EQ. He used the red Strat on the songs Signs of Life and Learning to Fly. David said in the October 1988 issue of Guitar magazine that the guitar solos for On the Turning Away and Sorrow were the first takes for each song. The Sorrow solo was recorded the day the song was written.

Promotional photo of David Gilmour, Nick mason, and Rick Wright during mixing sessions for A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and the white Steinberger GL3T with TransTrem used on much of the record

Looking at the rigs we know David used just prior to and just after MLOR, we can get an idea about some of the setups. He was still using a Big Muff, a Boss HM-2, Boss GE-7 equalizers, a Boss compressor, along with chorus and delay. The primary setup for most of the tracks seems to be a split signal with one feed going to a Boss HM-2 running into a Fender Super Champ amp set for a clean tone and the other feed going into the gain channel of a Gallien Krueger 250ML. Another setup seems to be the Boss HM-2 going into the 250ML(used in the signal chain as an overdrive effect) then into a Super Champ. Note the GK amp was used as an overdrive and EQ in the signal chain, not powering a speaker cabinet. That was a similar setup as David's 1984-86 rigs, but the GK amp is used in this setup instead of a Mesa Boogie.

1982 Fender Super Champ 18w amp

FENDER SUPER CHAMP - The Super Champ was a small combo amp from Fender's Paul Rivera design era, sold from 1982-1986. Rivera managed the revamped 1982 Fender design team responsible for all the Series II amps. The Super Champ was based on one of the first amps Rivera ever built as a young boy, a hot-rodded Princeton Reverb with a master volume, but without the reverb. That concept was developed into the '82 Super Champ by Ed Jahns and Rivera, and was one of the last point-to-point wired Fender amps built. It was powered by two 6V6GT tubes running 18w into a 1x10" speaker. Designed to compete with Mesa/Boogie 2-channel amps that were very popular at the time, the Super Champ also featured a 2-channel design with a foot-switchable Lead channel gain stage for an overdrive sound, master volume, reverb, and a mid boost pot. It was very versatile and covered a wide range of tones. The blackface style clean channel sounded very similar to a Fender Princeton. The 50w 10" Eminence speaker it shipped with had a lot of mid range and not much bottom end. These have become collectors items now, but the 6C10 compactron preamp tube it uses is no longer produced and is becoming hard to find, and very expensive.

Many consider it to be the best sounding of all the Rivera era Fender amps. Although it had lots of bells and whistles, David used it strictly for its Princeton-like blackface Fender clean tone. The Treble pull pot that added a mid boost may have also been something that appealed to Gilmour. David ran his signal chain into two Super Champs, one for the left channel and one for the right, similar to how he used his Fender Concert and win Reverb II amps from 1984-86. I doubt that David used the spring reverb in the Super Champ at all. There is a lot of reverb in the On the Turning Away solo, but it sounds more like room reverb.

 

David Gilmour's Gallien Krueger 250ML amp with white tic marks showing some of his settings. It was auctioned for charity in 2019.

GALLIEN KRUEGER 250ML - The 250ML was a small, lunchbox-sized solid state stereo amp with built in effects, first marketed in 1983. David Gilmour first used one in his 1986 stage rig as well as in recording studios in 1987 and 1988. It was a tiny amp that looked like an '80s boombox with two built in 4” speakers. Many people used it for a practice amp, but it was actually a 100w gigging amp head that could power two 4x12 speaker cabinets in stereo. It sounded a little similar to a Rockman headphone amp, but with a full power amp inside and full EQ controls, as well as a built in chorus and delay. It was used by numerous hair metal bands like Iron Maiden at the time, but guitarists like Alex Lifeson of Rush and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi used them too. The clean channel with chorus is very much a 1980s sound. Many people found the sound too sterile and processed sounding for the blues-based style rock and roll. It was definitely a change from David's familiar Big Muff and Boss pedal tones from the previous years.

250ML had switchable clean (A) and distortion (B) channels. The clean channel included a button-switchable gain boost and compression, for a light overdrive sound. The distortion channel also included a gain boost button and the level of distortion gain increased with the volume. There was also a switchable chorus and echo effect that worked with both channels. There were two ways to run the 250ML in a pedal board signal chain like David used it. One way was to send a line from the pedal board to the 250ML front Input, then return to the pedal board using the effects loop Send jack on the back. This bypassed the chorus and echo effects however. Another way was to use the XLR Direct output on the back, which retained the built in effects. Unfortunately there was no way to switch off the built in speakers when using the Direct output on the original version of the 250ML that David owned. GK added a switch to turn the speakers off in the Series II version. A dummy plug can also be inserted into the headphone jack to bypass the built in speakers when using the effect loop Send.

STEINBERGER GL3T - Steinberger headless guitars were very popular in the 1980s, used by musicians like Mark Knoppfler of Dire Strats, Eddie Van Halen, and briefly by David Gilmour. Ned Steinberger designed this series of bass and electric guitars in the late 1970s that featured a revolutionary minimalist design. He eliminated the large body, headstock, and moved all the tuning hardware to the tail of the guitar body. The small body and neck were completely synthetic, made of a practically indestructible carbon fiber/graphite mix. Steinberger could not keep up with the high production demand and sold the company to Gibson in 1987, but they quickly went out of favor with guitarists and production stopped in 1990. They are now collectors items and in the 2000s Steinberger guitars returned to production with the Synapse and Spirit lines. Although those guitars had similar headless look and body styles, they retained little of the materials and specs of the original Steinbergers.

The GL3T model was introduced by Steinberger in 1986 and Gilmour bought one in 1987. The 3GLT was a three pickup version of Steinberger's GL model, fitted with EMG-SA pickups like David's 57V Red Strat, which was also used to record the album. The 9v battery that powered the EMGs was stored in a compartment on the back of the guitar. Steinbergers were fitted with a TransTram tremolo system that not only stayed in tune but allowed all six strings to stay in tune when changing pitch with the tremolo. This made it possible to play chords and have them stay in perfect tune when bending the the tremolo bar up or down. David used this to good effect with the intro to the song Sorrow, as well as the tremolo work on many of the guitar solos on the album. I remember first hearing Sorrow on the radio and being blow away by the intro sound.

Gilmour's Steinberger GL3T with TransTrem and EMG-SA pickups. It was sold at auction in 2019.


............Mistress Mystery Page. .... . .


Determining the exact setups David actually used to create the album tones can be a bit tricky, since David, his Backline tech Phil Taylor, engineer Andy Jackson, author/researcher Richard Mahon, and author David Mead all seem to give contradictory info. Both David and producer Bob Ezrin have stated that David used a Gallien Krueger 250ML amp and Fender amps for most of the tracks recorded on the Astoria, but there are a lot of confusing details that cloud the exact setup, pedals used, and signal chain.

"...so we couldn't keep the (big) amps in the same room with us, and we were forced to use slightly smaller amplifiers. But after playing around with them in the demo stages of the project, we found that we really like the sound. So a Fender Princeton and a little G&K amp became the backbone of Dave's guitar sound for that record." - Bob Ezrin from Guitar World February 1993

No one else mentioned a Princeton in the studio, just the Super Champ, so I think Ezrin is mistaken there or just thought it was a Princeton, as the Super Champ had a similar Blackface Princeton sound. The one song we have specific (but contradictory) studio gear info about is Sorrow, so I use that as the basis of the album setups, and my ears. Author Richard Mahon detailed the rig on his Spare Bricks website, with info from engineer Andy Jackson. He refers to the Sorrow intro here, but Jackson also said this was the main setup for the whole album:

"The guitar signal was split by a stereo volume pedal into two delay pedals. The volume pedal also ran between the pre-amp and power amp of the first feed--into a Gallien-Krueger 250ML amplifier. The second feed was sent to a Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal into a Boss GE-7 graphic equalizer then into a Fender Super Champ amplifier. The main guitar track of "Sorrow" was recorded this way. This was the basic setup for most of the album. The (Sorrow) intro was a Steinberger plugged into a Big Muff then a Fender Concert amp. Gilmour took the tapes and ran the intro through a loudspeaker setup at the Los Angeles Sports Arena."

Jackson's signal chain description is probably unintentionally confusing and out of order, as the delays would not be first in line, but that may have been how the pedals were laid out when he saw them on the studio floor. Author David Mead (Guitar Techniques magazine) claims David used a Steinberger through a Big Muff for Sorrow, along with a Boss GE-7 equalizer, and an Ernie Ball volume pedal. No mention of the Gallien Krueger or HM-2. He also says it was originally played through a Fender Concert 1x12, not a Super Champ, then that recording was replayed through the Los Angeles Sports Arena PA system and re-recorded using a holophonic recording system

Phil Taylor, David's backline tech, claims the amps were Fender Super Champs, not a Fender Concert, but like David Mead he thinks the Big Muff was used for both the Sorrow solo and intro. David often used a two-amp stereo setup, which is why Phil referred to the amps in plural:

"David recorded the guitar parts and solo from Sorrow from A Momentary lapse of Reason on it (Steinberger with EMG-SA's), playing through a Big Muff distortion pedal, MXR delay, Gallien Krueger ML250, and Fender Super Champ amplifiers."

David himself actually stated the setup in 1988, just a year after recording it, so I assume it was still fresh in his memory. He is only talking about the Sorrow intro here:

"That very nasty distortion you hear at the beginning of the song is basically the result of the Steinberger going through two little amps in the studio - a Fender Super Champ and a Gallien-Krueger. I use a Boss Heavy Metal distortion pedal (HM-2) and a Boss digital delay pedal (Boss DD-2), which then goes into the Fender Super Champ. And that in combination with the internal distortion on the Gallien-Krueger was how I got that particular sound."

Note that David said "internal" distortion of the Gallien-Krueger, which could mean it was recorded direct instead of using the built in speakers. In the October 1988 issue of Guitar magazine David described the setup for the Sorrow guitar solos, but he does not mention the Boss HM-2, and it sounds like the Gallien Krueger was used as an overdrive in the signal chain:

"The solo was done first take with a Steinburger through a little Gallien-Krueger and a Fender Super Champ. I never got around to doing it again."

So Richard Mahon, David Mead, and Phil Taylor all say the Sorrow intro was a Big Muff and multi amp combo, but David says it was an HM-2 and multi amp combo. Phil says David uses an MXR delay, but David says it was a Boss DD-2. All we can get from that is that probably all of that gear was used in the sessions at some point, and there were different setups used for different songs that may have gotten confused. David, Phil , and Jackson all say the Fender amps used was a Super Champ, not a Princeton or Concert, so I think at least that part is correct.

David was also doing a lot of session work in 1987 and 1988 for other musicians (Dalbello, Bryan Ferry, Sam Brown, Peter Cetera, Liona Boyd, John "Rabbit" Bundrick), in addition to touring with Pink Floyd. Phil Taylor again talked about David's studio setup in a 1988 issue of Guitar World, referring to his recent session work. No mention of the Boss HM-2 this time.

"In the studio, David likes to tinker around and get his sound as quickly and as easily as possible. He plugs into a Boss CS-2 compressor, a T.C. 2290 for delay and a Yamaha SPX90 for stereo chorus. Then it's into a Gallien-Krueger 250ML amplifier at an overdriven setting into a Fender Super (Fender Super Champ) tube amp at a clean setting." "A lot of the time," Taylor explains, "David will be right in the control room with the amp right there on the floor as he plays. I guess he likes that immediacy of the sound. It's a good way of knowing where you're at!" - Phil Taylor from Guitar World magazine 1988

My Gallien Krueger 250ML Series II and Boss HM-2

I happen to think the Boss HM-2 into the Gallien Krueger 250ML was used for most of the lead solos on that record, including the On the Turning Away solo, as that is what it sounds like to my ears. The Gallien Krueger amp EQ's the HM-2 tone and adds a touch more gain. This is simply another one of David's blended, multi-amp setups. Very small amps in this case. If you listen to some of the solos on David's 1984 About Face album, such as Let's Get Metaphysical, and compare it to the OTTA solo, you will hear a similar tone.

So how did David use the 250ML and HM-2 together? Those various quotes say David used the built in distortion or the overdrive of the 250ML along with the Boss HM-2, going to two separate Fender amps, but nothing clearly indicating whether the 250ML and HM-2 were split to separate signal chains to each amp, or both in the same signal chain, with the split to amps after. Here are three possible setups:

Stereo Volume Pedal split to two channels:
Channel 1 > Boss CS-2 > (Boss HM-2 or Big Muff) > Boss GE-7 (bass boost, mids cut ) > Boss DD-2 > Chorus > Fender Super Champ set for a clean tone.
Channel 2 > Gallien Krueger 250ML set for overdrive using B channel. Recorded using the built in speakers

Boss CS-2 > Distortion (Boss HM-2 or Big Muff) > Boss GE-7 (bass boost, mids cut ) > Stereo Volume Pedal split to two channels:
Channel 1 > Boss DD-2 > Chorus > Fender Super Champ set for a clean tone.
Channel 2 > Gallien Krueger 250ML set for overdrive (using the Direct Out or Send) > Boss DD-2 > Fender Super Champ set for a clean tone

Boss CS-2 > Distortion (Boss HM-2 or Big Muff) > Boss GE-7 (bass boost, mids cut ) > Gallien Krueger 250ML set for overdrive (using the Direct Out or Send) Stereo Volume Pedal split to two channels:
Channel 1 > Digital Delay > Chorus > Fender Super Champ set for a clean tone.
Channel 2 > Digital Delay > Fender Super Champ set for a clean tone

I tested all three ways using a clean tone from a 65 Twin Reverb and a 59 Bassman amp in place of the Super Champ. I think most of the songs use the first two-channel setup with the HM-2 going to the Super Champ in one channel and the 250ML in the other, so they do not interact. I also think there are some parts with only the HM-2 and Super Champ, other parts with the 250ML into a Super Champ, and others with only the 250ML. Photos of David's 250ML have tic marks indicating his EQ settings and that he used the B channel with the gain switch engaged. I tried various settings running the HM-2 into the 250ML using the B channel with gain switch engaged. I then tested using the HM-2 with the 250ML clean channel, with and without the gain boost engaged. It is very diffucult to dial in the correct settings with both the HM-2 and 250ML to get anything that sounds like the album lead guitar tones. Depending on the EQ settings, either having the gain boost engaged or off can be made to sound like the lead tones using either the clean or distortion channels. Using the 250ML alone (no HM-2) with gain boost off, seems to be the clean tone heard on most of the record, including Signs of Life. I tested both using the built in 250ML chorus and using a Boss CE-2 chorus. I think David used the built in chorus when playing clean tones, and the CE-2 with when he used the HM-2 and 250ML together or separate.

BEST SUBSTITUTE FOR THE G-K 250ML/HM-2 COMBO? - The Boss MZ-2 Digital Metalizer is very close to this sound, and David actually started using one himself in 1988 during the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour. The MZ-2 blends very well with overdrives and distortions like the TC-BLD, Boss Blues Driver, BK Butler Tube Driver, and Big Muff. It is a Gilmour-in-a-box pedal and is perfect for the lead tone heard in On the Turning Away when played through a mid scooped Fender amp like the Twin Reverb. Boss released it in late 1987 as a replacement for the HM-2, although it did not really sound anything like the HM-2. It is voiced similarly to the Gallien-Kreuger with Gilmour's EQ settings, and even includes a built in chorus like the G-K, so this may have been an attempt by Boss at appealing to the G-K users.


MY MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON SETUPS - Photos of David's 250ML taken when it was auctioned in 2019 have knob markings indicating his exact settings, but there are no photos showing his HM-2 or amp settings. I tried various signal chain setups using various amp settings, HM-2 settings and GE-7 equalizer settings, but I have never successfully replicated the album lead tones. Below is a sound clip of the closest I have gotten to the Sorrow intro tone.

mp3Sorrow Intro - Boss CS-2 compressor > Big Muff > Boss GE-7 > Gallien Krueger 250ML clean channel, no gain boost > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

David's 250ML show tick marks that indicate David's settings and that he used the gain from channel B

My favorite tone on the album is the solo from On the Turning Away and I have struggled finding that exact tone for years. It's one of the few Gilmour solos that is awash in heavy reverb, which is a big part of the tone. I do not think David used the built in reverb of the Super Champ, and it sounds too big to be room reverb from the small recording rooms on the Astoria. I think it was added to the mix in post. To simulate it, I use a tiny amount of Fender spring reverb, hall reverb from a Free The Tone Ambi Space pedal, and some additonal hall reverb added to the mix in post.

mp3On the Turning Away solo - Here is one of my early attempts at the studio version of this solo tone using only the HM-2 for distortion, but I think it is a poor replication of that tone. Strat with EMG-SA pickups (SPC control on 4-5), Boss CS-2 compressor, Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal, Big Muff, Boss GE-7 equalizer (set for mids boost), TC Nova delay, Boss CE-2 chorus, into a clean Fender Twin Reverb.

Below is a test using the 250ML distortion only, not Boss HM-2. The sound is similar, but still not very accurate, and a bit too nasal sounding to my ears.

mp3On the Turning Away solo - Strat with EMG pickups > Boss CS-2 Compressor > Gallien Krueger 250ML channel B with gain boost engaged > Boss GE-7 > Boss CE-2B chorus set at 50% mix > Future Factory 580ms delay > Ambi Space reverb > 65 Fender Twin Reverb

Below is a test using the Boss HM-2 into the 250ML clean channel. The sound is closer, but still missing something.

mp3On the Turning Away solo - Strat with EMG pickups > TC Electronics BLD > Boss HM-2 > Boss CE-2B chorus set at 50% mix > Future Factory 540ms delay > Gallien Krueger 250ML channel A with gain boost disengaged

Boss pedal setings and Gallien Kreuger 250ML settings shown in green

65 Twin Reverb settings

Below is my high gain signal chain for the OTTA and Sorrow solos, using the Gallien-Kreuger 250ML, a Strat with EMG-SA pickups, and a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier. I send a line after the Boss HM-2 to the 250ML input, then use the XLR Direct output to send the signal back the the pedal board with an XLR-to-1/4" cable.

Boss CS-2 compressor > Distortion (Boss HM-2 or Big Muff) > Boss GE-7 > Gallien Krueger 250ML clean channel, gain boost engaged > Boss CE-2 chorus > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

Below is the signal chain for the clean tones, like the Signs of Life solo.

Boss CS-2 compressor > Gallien Krueger 250ML clean channel, gain boost on, built in chorus on > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

Other detailed setups and sound clips for the On the Turning Away solo can be found on this page.

Boss MZ-2

ALTERNATE MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON LEAD TONE SETUPS - Another simple alternative to get the MLOR high gain lead tone is the Boss MZ-2 Heavy Metal pedal. The settings shown above match the On the Turning Away lead tone sound. For me, it sounds most accurate into a Fender Bassman, but it gets close to the MLOR tones with other amps as well, including a Hiwatt.

mp3On the Turning Away solo using Boss MZ-2 - Boss CS-2 compressor > Boss MZ-2 > Boss CE-2B chorus > Future Factory delay > Fender 59 Bassman

 

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