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Delay / Echo

“A bit of delay can smooth out the unpleasant, raw frequencies you get from a fuzz box.” - David Gilmour

"I started off with a Binson Echo unit, which is like a tape loop thing. It's actually a metallic disc that spins around. It's just like the old Echoplex units. 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. My sound has everything to do with what sounds good to me. I don't care how I get it." - David Gilmour from Guitar for the Practicing Musician, 1985

"We also have an old MXR DDL (MXR Digital Delay System II) digital delay unit built into a rack unit. It has a digital readout, but it's really nowhere close to being accurate. Dave likes it because even though it's a digital unit, it still sounds a little dirty, like a tape unit." - Phil Taylor, David's backline tech

David often uses long echo delays to help create a his big, liquidy solo tones, and these delays are usually set in time with the song tempo, which helps hide the echo repeats. He has also sometimes used two separate delays with different delay times to create a larger sound. Two delays running at different times fill in gaps between delay repeats, making the delay sound smoother with less obvious repeats. This effect seems like reverb, but it is much different and less tone-robbing than reverb (reverb is never used in a Gilmour rig). A key to the way David has done this is to run each delay in its own separate channel, parallel and separate from the line signal. This way the echo repeat from one delay is not repeating the echo repeat of the other, and the original guitar signal is kept pristine rather than altered by going through two different delays. These three separate channels are blended back together with the original dry signal at the end of the signal chain. Read an explanation about how this is achieved here. Any delay with a 100% wet signal output can be set up in a parallel signal chain to do this.

Some songs require softer, warm analog tape sounding delays, and others require sharper, brighter digital sounding delays. Delay times typically range from 300ms-550 ms, with 5-8 repeats, but some songs require specific delay times. See the Delays section for an explanation of the different delay types - analog and digital.

DELAY SETTINGS - Below are some of the delay settings I use. Some are to duplicate the studio album delay times and some to duplicate the live delay times.

Delay Time: In millisenconds

Feedback: This is the number of audible repeats.

Delay Level: This is the volume level of the delay repeat compared to the original signal. Settings below assume a 100% delay level means the delay repeat volume is exactly the same as the original signal volume, so the note and the delay repeats will be exactly the same loudness, or 100%. The level or volume knob would be set to maximum on most delays for this. Some delays allow you to dial the volume level of the repeat louder than the signal level, which usually means 100% is when the knob is set to 12 o'clock.

Delay Type: Analog delays are warm sounding, with repeats that are softer sounding than the original note. Digital delay are cripser and sharper sounding, more like an exact repeat of the original note sound.

Some Standard Delay Times: 310, 380, 440, 480, 540, and 630ms.

Another Brick in the Wall Part 1:
delay time: 450ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats -- delay level: 25% -- delay type: analog/digital mix

Another Brick in the Wall Part II solo:
delay time: 440ms -- feedback: 4-5 repeats -- delay level: 18-20% -- delay type: analog

Breathe slide guitar (requires a volume pedal before the dealy in signal chain to create the volume swells) :
delay time: 440ms -- feedback: 5-6 repeats -- delay level: 30-35% -- delay type: analog
delay time to simulate delayed multi tracks: 930ms -- feedback: 4-5 repeats -- delay level: 30-35% -- delay type: analog

Coming Back to Life intro:
delay time: 630ms -- feedback: 4-5 repeats -- delay level: 17% -- delay type: analog

Comfortably Numb (Studio version):
delay time: 480ms -- feedback: 4-5 repeats -- delay level: 20% -- delay type: analog

Comfortably Numb (DB tour and Pulse version):
delay time: 480ms for DB tour and 540ms for Pulse -- feedback: 15-20% -- delay level: 20% (30-35% for waving part) -- delay type: analog

Castellorizon, Money, Young Lust, and other songs:
delay time: 310ms -- feedback: 4-5 repeats - delay level: 18% -- delay type: analog

Echoes - live Gdansk Version:
standard delay time: 440ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 15% -- delay type: analog

buildup and arpeggio delay time: 300-310ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 40% -- delay type: analog/digital

Hey You:
delay time: 475ms -- feedback: 5-6 repeats - delay level: 15% -- delay type: analog

In Any Tongue live 2016/16 version:
delay time: 425ms -- feedback: 5-6 repeats - delay level: 15% -- delay type: analog

Money live 1977 version :
delay time: 520ms -- feedback: 5-6 repeats - delay level: 20% -- delay type: analog

On an Island:
delay time: 540ms -- feedback: 5-6 repeats - delay level: 15% -- delay type: analog

Run like Hell:
delay time: 380ms -- feedback 7-8 repeats - delay level: 90% -- delay type: digital

Shine On You Crazy Diamond:
delay time: 370ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats -- delay level: 20% -- delay type: analog

Shine On – Syd’s theme:
delay time: 290ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 20% -- delay type: analog

Short and Sweet - David Gilmour Live 1984 version :
delay time: 480ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 75% -- delay type: digital

Sorrow - Delicate Sound of Thunder version :
delay time: 540ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 25% -- delay type: digital

Take It Back :
delay time: 410ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 90% -- delay type: digital

Time - Delicate Sound of Thunder version :
delay time: 430ms -- feedback: 7-8 repeats - delay level: 20% -- delay type: digital

WHY CAN'T I HEAR THE ECHO REPEATS IN SOME GILMOUR/PINK FLOYD SOLOS? - David often has a big, watery delay tone, as if he were playing in a large hall, but the actual audible echo repeats in his solos are almost absent in many cases. It makes for a sound that really adds depth to the guitar tone in the mix, but is not cluttered by delay repeats. This is something us Gilmour fans have sought to recreate in our own playing. Using spring or digital reverb does not even get close, but some people struggle getting a delay pedal to sound right. So why don't you hear the repeats most of the time? There are several reasons.

1. The primary reason is becasue the delay time is usually set in time with the tempo of the song, so each repeat lands on the beat. When you have a drum and bass note landing at the same time it somewhat masks the repeat. The delay volume is often not very loud in the studio recordings, so in a full band context, the other instruments mask the repeats.

For example, I compared the 5.1 surround sound mix of the second On an Island solo with the solo in Castellorizon (from David's 2006 On an Island album). Based on what I hear the guitar delay levels are not much different in either song, but I noticed the delay repeats are very clear in Castellorizon, but I barely hear them in OAI . This is because the orchestra in Castellorizon is not loud enough to mask the repeats, but the band playing under the solo in On an Island certainly is. If you listen to a song where the band is not playing at all, like intro to Pink Floyd's Coming Back to Life, the delay repeats are very clear.

2. David has often usied very long delay times, so the repeats are not as obvious because he is playing the next bit of a solo phrase right when the repeats from the previous notes start. Shorter delay times are more obvious because the repeats are heard in between notes and phrases. Try playing the Comfortably Numb solo with a 380ms delay with 4-6 repeats, versus a longer 540-600ms delay to hear the difference. Occasionally David may be using a long repeat time on one delay, and a shorter repeat time on another delay simultaneously. The shorter delay fills in the gaps between the longer delay repeats, creating a smooth delay sound, but the delay time on both makes the repeats fall inline with the song tempo. There are also instances where he has had a long delay time, but only one or two repeats, which gives the big sound, but makes the repeats almost inaudible in the band mix.

3. If you are playing at home on your amp with delay, the delay sound will be much more apparent than when you are playing with a full band, where the delay repeats will blend in the band mix much better. Record yourself playing alone verses playing along with a backing track to see what I mean. When playing alone, I find I often turn the delay volume down, but with a band or backing track I turn it up.

4. In some of the studio recordings you are hearing the guitar delay and room sound or studio reverb, not just delay. An examination of the individual tracks from some of the 5.1 surround sound studio album releases reveals both were used. The reverb could have been added in the mixing stage, or it could be natural room reverb from mics positioned in the recording studio to capture the natural room sound. Regardless, it is the combination of both delay and reverb that makes the delay sound so smooth in some instances. Note that I am not talking about spring or amp reverb, or a reverb pedal, which is a completely different sound.

5. The official live recordings often have an even larger delay sound than the studio versions. You should keep in mind that these official recordings have been sweetened to sound as good as possible. I'm not saying David sounds nothing like this live, but you are hearing the natural hall or stadium reverb of the venue in these recordings and in many cases, studio reverb added in the mixing stage. Listen to some of the 5.1 live tracks separately and you can clearly hear this. If you listen to some of the better bootleg recordings and compare them to the official live releases, you will find David's real live sound is typically drier, with less delay. Often during the live songs that do have very loud delays, you do hear the repeats clearly.

HOW DO I REPLICATE THAT SMOOTH GILMOUR DELAY SOUND? - Be sure to read the section above. The best way I have found to create the smoothest delay sound is to simply use long repeats, but set in time with the song tempo. Longer delay times (440ms to 620ms) will sound smoother than shorter delay times (310ms to 380ms). Another option is to run two delay pedals simultaneously. One set for a slighly shorter delay time, and a lower echo repeat volume, running into a longer delay with a slightly louder echo repeat will give you a very smooth sound. Even better is to run the delays parallel so one delay does not repeat the other, which sometimes sound messy. It helps to have the echo repeats of the first delay fall right in between, or on the repeats of the second delay. Too much volume from the first delay will make a mess of double tapped delay sounds, so be careful not to over do it.

REVERB OR NO REVERB ? - In general, NO! Spring or amp reverb, or a reverb from a pedal drenched in the signal chain will give you a completely wrong sound when trying to replicate Gilmour's big delay sound. I have sometimes used amp reverb to compliemnt the delays in my rig, but set very low so there is just a hint of that sound. Too much will severely alter the guitar sound and take you out of the Gilmour tone range. That is not to say that David has never used reverb. For the studio recordings, reverb has definitely been added in many cases, and in some cases much more so than delay. For example, I have split the 5.1 surround sound channels of David's On an Island (his 2006 solo album) solo apart and I hear a guitar recorded dry, a reverb only track, and a long delay only track. The delay and reverb are not mixed particularly loud, but the overall combined wet delay effect is very effective. Note that this is more akin to a natural room sound, which is a very different to the sound of a spring reverb in an amplifier.

HOW TO FIND THE PROPER DELAY TIMES - It is easy to find a delay time that works with a song tempo, even if you can't clearly hear the echo repeats when listening. I'll keep this simple rather than going into an explanation of time signatures. Turn the feedback on your delay up to around 80% or so, so the repeats are almost infinite. If you have a subdivisions setting (quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted eighth notes, et cetera) set it to quarter notes, or the normal setting. Set the delay time so the repeats are in time with the song tempo (beats per minute) or drum beat, approximately one repeat for every beat. You can check this by mute picking a single note simultaneous with a drum beat, then listen to the repeats. If the repeats are faster than the tempo, increase the delay time. If the repeats are slower, reduce it. Fine tune it until you hear the repeats are exactly in sync with the song tempo. Once you have that, turn the feedback down so there are only about 3-6 repeats, adjust the delay volume to suit the song, and you are ready to go.

 

"I change my echo settings fairly often in concert. I have two 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. That may be just my fantasy; I don't know. That's another one of the personal esthetic judgments that you use in trying to get something to sound nice to yourself." - David from Guitar Player Magazine, November 1984

"...I have a bunch of pedals - 4 DDL's - which I use in different combinations, MXR Digitals and the little Boss DD2's...I usually have one DDL with a short single slap on it. I have one for specific time settings, for things like Run Like Hell and Give Blood, so I know in numbers (delay time in milliseconds) what setting I need to use. I use the MXR with the read-out on it, so I instantly have the right tempo. Then I have two regular Boss units (DD2) which I set so one works in a triplet and the other in a 4/4 time - they're actually set in time with each other, so they combine and make a nice sound. When I'm recording I'll often set them in tempo to the track, so although they are just acting as an echo, the echo is rhythmic in away and has a triplet and the 4/4 beat in it." - David Gilmour interview by Bob Hewitt from Guitarist, June 1986

FINDING THE TRIPLET TIME DELAY FOR A SONG - David has sometimes used a rhythmic 3/4 time delay, what hecalls "triplet" time. You can hear this in songs like Another Brick in the Wall Parts I and III, Run Like Hell, One Slip, Keep Talking, Take it Back, Allons-Y, and Short and Sweet. This is actually not quarter-note triplets. David probably just uses the term triplet because what he does has a similar feel. It is actually dotted-eighth-notes, or one eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes. It sounds very complex because the delay is filling in and creating a guitar rhythm in between the notes David does not play, but it is actually rather simple to do. David could play a chord while the delay rhythm repeated, and jump back to the delay rhythm before the repeats stopped, almost as if there were two guitars playing. It takes some practice, and you have to be very precise with your timing or you can easily get out of step with the song tempo. The delay time must be precisely in time with the song tempo.

If you want this sound and have a delay that shows the time in milliseconds, follow these steps. Find the delay time for the song as described above. Multiply that number by 75% to get the triplet time delay. Example: You determine the 4/4 beat song tempo is 600ms. Multiply 600 x 75% to get the triplet time delay of 450ms (or divide 600 by 4 to get the quarter note time of 150ms, multiply that X3 for a triplet time, which equals 450ms). You can change the feel of the delay repeats by cutting the 600ms delay time in half to 300ms, 1/4 time to 150ms, or double it to 1200ms, et cetera. They all will be in the same tempo as the song.

If you don't have a delay with a millisecond display, it is still possible to find the proper 3/4 delay time in a 4/4 time signature. Find the song tempo delay time as described above, so your delay is making one repeat per song beat, exactly in time with the beat. Note or mark that time setting on your delay. Next cut that delay time in half so you hear two repeats per beat, or 2/4 time. Note that setting. The 3/4 "triplet" time will be inbetween in between these 4/4 and 2/4 settings on your delay. If you adjust the delay time in that in-between zone while listening to the song, you will hear when it is right in 3/4 time. In four beats you will hear 5 repeats (including the pick), and and that fifth repeat will time right on the fourth beat. Again, if you mute pick with the repeats set almost infinite, the repeats will be perfectly in time with the song beat on every 5th repeat.

David also used the triplet delay setup on many other songs such as Give Blood from Pete Townshend's White City, Blue Light from David's second solo album, About Face, The Hero's Return from Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, among others. Here is a clip of a single 330ms delay playing the Blue Light riff. In this example I am showing how just using a single triplet 330ms delay is sufficient for this effect, but a second 4/4 feeling delay of 440ms or even a double triplet delay time to 660ms, could be added to enhance the space.

Blue Light Riff - with and without delay. BKB Tube Driver, Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, TC Nova delay

RUN LIKE HELL - This is one of the standout tracks from Pink Floyd's The Wall double album, with music written by David Gilmour. It is a great example of what David calls "triplet time" delay playing. The delay time and your playing must be precisely in time with the song tempo. To recreate this delay, all you really need is one digital delay set for 380ms, 7-8 repeats, with the delay volume almost equal to the signal volume. It helps to have a delay with a digital display to set the exact delay time.

David has stated he used two delays for the studio recording of Run Like Hell, one in 3/4 time and one in 4/4 time. He doubled tracked two guitars for the main delay rhythm that runs throughout the song, one in the left channel and one in the right. He had an MXR 113 Digital Delay System at the time, but the MXR has a high end roll-off on the repeats to simulate a warm tape echo sound. The repeats in the Run Like Hell studio recording are clear and clean, with no high end roll-off, so I do not think that was the delay used for the recording.

The main 3/4 time delay is 380ms, or what David inaccurately calls "triplet" time, and the second 4/4 delay time is 507ms, or one repeat on every qurter note (one beat). The second delay thickens space between the main delay repeats by double tapping your 3/4 repeat with a 4/4, creating a huge delay rhythm. When using one amp, it is best to place the second 507ms delay after the main 380ms delay in your signal chain, and set the second delay repeat volume MUCH lower, with roughly half the repeats of the main delay. That second delay is just barely there, and too much volume can make a double tapped mess of the main delay. If using a 2 amp setup, you can try running one 380ms delay to each amp and keep the volume and delay repeats about the same for each, or you can run the 380ms delay to one amp and the 507ms dealy to the other for a slightly different feel. To figure a 4/4 dealy time to work with any 3/4 triplet delay time, you can split the 3/4 time delay into thirds. For example, 380ms is your triplet time. 380 divided by 3 = 126.7ms. To get the 4/4 time delay, simply multiply 126.7 x 4 = 506.8ms.

You may also want to try setting the second delay at 760ms, double the triplet time delay (380 x 2 = 760ms). Sort of a triplet on top of a triplet time delay. This creates a bouncy feel to the delay rhythm. You can also set the second delay to 254ms, which gives three repeats for every beat and adds a shorter double tap sound to the main 380ms delay. There are lots of different ways to use two delays at once for an integrated rhythm, so use your ears and experiment.

Run Like Hell Demo Instrumental - excerpt from The Wall demos

Run Like Hell - extended intro from the long version of the original studio recording - one guitar in L channel and one in the R

Run Like Hell R channel - same as above, but just the R channel so you can hear just the single guitar playing the riff.

Run Like Hell Live Excerpts - from Is There Anybody Out There - The Wall live 1980-81, David Gilmour live in 1984, the Delicate Sound of Thunder, and Pulse

"It's all on a D pedal. That came from an old trick I'd been using, which is having a DDL in triplet time to the actual beat. When you play across it, it helps you to double-track yourself. It has a certain feel, which sounds boring and ordinary if you put it in 4/4. If you put it in a 3/4 time it has an interesting bounce to it. Because the DDL keeps running along, you've got time to leave the pedal playing and play a couple of chords while the effects carry on" - David Gilmour from Guitar for the Practicing Musician, January 1995

To create the tone on the studio recording David used a Yamaha RA-200 rotary speaker cabinet or an Electric Mistress flanger to add some modulation and a spacious feel to the delay tone. I use an old green 18v Electric Mistress or a 1980s era Deluxe Electric Mistress in the big box. Electro-Harmonx has made a few small boxed versions of the Electric Mistress, but these have completely different circuits and sounds as the originals. The Mooer Elec Lady is a good, inexpensive clone of the Electric Mistress that sound much closer to the original large box Mistresses. A good chorus like the Boss CE-2 or CS-5 can also be used in place of the flanger. There is a also bit of light overdrive in the tone. I use a compressor or a Tube Driver for this. I use a Boss DD-2 for the 3/4 time delay and a second one for the 4/4 time delay.

Run Like Hell Tone Building - Boss CS-2 compressor, Hartman Flanger, and two Boss DD-2 delays.

Shown below are my Boss delay time settings to replicate the Run Like Hell studio recording sound. The first is set in 3/4 time for about 8 echo repeats at exactly 380ms, or three repeats for every song beat. This is the primary delay time you hear in the song. The other delay is set at 507ms, or one repeat on every beat. It is not absolutely necessary to have the second delay, but it makes the delay rhythm pattern sound thicker and fuller, and also adds some fullness to the verse chords. Gear used: Telecaster into a fender twin Reverb and Reeves Custom 50, Boss CS-2 Compressor, Tube Driver set for light overdrive, Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, TC Nova delay.

Run Like Hell Delay Settings

How to Set Two Delays for Run Like Hell - one in 380ms and one in 507ms, in line so the 380ms delay is repeated by the 507ms delay (actual DD-2 settings shown above)

Example of Two Delays Run In Stereo - one in 380ms (left channel) and one in 507ms (right), going to separate amps

Playing the RLH Rhythm Fills - with and without the delay

Playing the RLH Verse Chords - with and without delay

Run Like Hell Intro Runs - Examples of the left hand muted runs up and down the neck to create some of the intro delay sounds similar to what David Gilmour has dome when playing this song live.

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART I - This one is very similar to Run Like Hell, played in D, with a 450ms delay, around 7 repeats, with the repeat volume equal to the signal volume. The tempo is much slower, but the delay is played in triplet time exactly like RLH. In the studio recording I hear one guitar playing the single note triplet time rhythm, a second guitar playing the fills, and a third guitar playing occasional accents on top of the fills. However, it is possible to play this one one guitar. You simply have to practice your timing so you can play the fills and get back to the D rhythm note exactly in time with the delay repeats. You can also add a second delay to thicken the sound, similar to what was done with RLH, with both the 3/4 time and 4/4 time delays. The exact delay times would be 450ms for the 3/4 time and 600ms for the 4/4 time. The 450ms delay should come before the 600ms delay in your signal chain. Set the 600ms dealy to half the repeats of the main delay, with a MUCH lower delay volume. That keeps you from getting a loud, double-tappy mess. The second delay should just be accenting the first, filling the space between the 3/4 repeats. Depending on your second delay EQ, you may need to experiment with the number of repeats and repeat volume. To figure a 4/4 dealy time to work with any 3/4 triplet delay time, you can split the 3/4 time delay into thirds. For example, take 450ms divided by 3 = 150ms. Exact 3/4 time is 150 x 3 = 450ms, which is our main delay time. To get the second delay in 4/4 time, multiply 150 x 4 = 600ms.

BREATHE and GREAT GIG IN THE SKY SLIDE GUITAR VOLUME SWELLS - Breathe from Dark Side of the Moon features some beautiful David Gilmour slide guitar work. The notes fade in and out, like a pedal steel guitar. The slide parts actually were played on a pedal steel, a Fender 1000, but David just used it as a slide guitar and removed the foot pedals. The slide parts were made up of several multi tracked recordings, each playing slightly different, but similar phrases. The long delay, and multi tracked guitars add to the smooth, lquid feel of the notes. There is a 440ms delay on the guitars in the studio recording. A second and third guitar repeat similar slide phrases, playing slightly behind the first guitar. This gives the impression of a 920-930ms delay. David used a Binson Echorec for his delay at the time DSOTM was recorded, but the Binson cannot create a delay as long as 440ms. They averaged from 300-340ms. The studio recording was likely duplicated and played back 440ms behind the original guitar recording to create the effect, or the mixing board was outfitted with a longer delay to create the effect in the mix. The fact that these two delays were studio effects may explain why David never played the slide parts live in the original DSOTM concerts.

The volume swells can be easily created today with a delay and a volume pedal. Place the volume pedal before the delay in the signal chain so when you drop the volume to zero the delay repeats still decay naturally. David would play a two note chord, then fade the volume in as he slides to the next position. You can also do the volume swells with the guitar volume knob, although it is much easier with a volume pedal. Set one delay for 440ms, 2 repeats, 30-35% volume. If you have a second delay, set that one to 930ms, 4-5 repeats, 30-35% volume.

Breathe Intro Using Two Delays

Breathe Intro Using One Delay - One 440ms delay with 4-5 repeats also works well.

Here is a breakdown from the Great Gig multi tracks. It plays through first with the guitar and delay, then plays through again with just the left channel dry guitar, then again with the right channel, which is a multi tracked guitar, but delayed behind the left channel guitar.
Great Gig Slide Guitar Breakdown

Here's another, starting with the dry guitar in the left channel, then the right channel with the 440ms delay.
Great Gig Slide Guitar Breakdown

PARALLEL MIXING DELAYS - Stacking one delay after another in your signal chain can degrade your tone because your original signal travels through, and is altered by, two delay circuits before coming out the other end. Also, two delays in line, while useful for some double tap delay effects, means that the repeats from the first delay are then repeated again by a second delay when both are on at the same time, which can create a messy, mushy delay sound. To avoid this, and to keep the dry signal more pure, the delays in David's live rigs are sometimes mixed in parallel with the dry signal, then mixed back together before going to the amp. He has used this type of setup in his 1987-89 rig, his 1994 rig, and in his 2006 On An Island live rig. In 2006 the dry signal split off at the end of his pedal board signal chain into two separate loops, each going to a separate delay. Only the wet delayed signal was returned from those two delays, into a mixer were the two wereare blended back with the dry signal before going to the amps. There are several parallel looper pedals that can be used for this task. Sometimes they are called parallel mixers or looper pedals. The Boss LS-2 Line Selector is one, as well as the Barge VB jr.

Parallel Delay Chain

Parallel Signal Chain

THE BOSS DD-2 DELAY - The 1983 Boss DD-2 was one of the first, and best sounding digital delays to come out of the early days of digital effects pedals. It is one of my favorite pedals for Gilmour-ish delay. David used the DD-2 extensively in the mid to late 1980s, as well as using a Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator (TES) in 2006, which included the Boss DD-2 circuit. Shown below are some typical Gilmour DD-2 delay times. The Effect Level (volume) and Feedback (number of repeats) will vary. Mode should always be set at 800ms.

Boss DD-2 Gilmour Delay Settings

Even though the DD-2 delay chip only produced a 12 bit sample, the circuit blended part of the clean signal back in, producing a crisp, accurate digital repeat. It still retained the warmth of the original signal rather well, but it is by no means a "warm" analog delays. It is bright ans shimmery. When using both the mono and stereo outputs together (each running to a separate amp) the DD-2 produceds a very defined stereo field, with one channel being the dry signal only, and one being the delayed signal only. The early Boss DD-3 pedal was exactly the same delay, sold at a lower price when the chips became less expensive to manufacture. Later versions of the DD-3 have different circuits.

Fingers and Whammy Bar

It's almost cliche to say this, but a majority of what is percieved as Gilmour's tone and sound really does come from his fingers and playing. Gear selection helps, but much of the tone comes from the way the strings are played. Note choice is obviously another key, but you really need to invest the time to learn the picking and tremolo techniques and phrasing to have this solo sound. David rarely lets a note just sit still. It is always moving or changing. Much of what people think is the gear making a solo sound good is simply the fingers making the gear sound good. For example, Big Muff's tend to be a bit harsh and fizzy, but when you add some fluidity and subtle harmonics to your playing it makes the Muff sound very un-Muff like, and brings something out of the it that you can't get with any other fuzz pedal. Add a sweet chorus and some long delay over that and you are in tonal heaven. I won't go into the blues scales David uses or the mechanics and theory of the type of music he plays, but below are are a few pointers about the style and techniques of playing.

Though this section of the website is dedicated to a study of David Gilmour's tone and playing, I suggest you use this as a jumping point for your own tone and style. You should also study other artists you like and learn their techniques as well, then mix them together to create you own unique signature sound and playing style. Any style you study and play will eventually filter through your brain and come out in your own playing.

dg fingersdg fingers

GILMOUR PLAYING STYLE
It sure sounds better when you use the right gear, guitar, pickups, amp, and settings - but you still won't have that sound and tone unless you take the time to learn that style of playing. Most of what we hear as "tone" is from the playing. Using the right gear just colors and accents it.

I remember when I was first learning some Gilmour songs back in the About Face (1984) days. I went out and got basically the same pedals David had at the time and a Strat style guitar, but I was frustrated I could not get that sound at all. I learned the solos note for note, but I was just pressing frets, not actually playing in that style. Years later when I actually took the time to learn the subtleties of that style - finger and whammy tremolo, the subtle harmonics that are on just about every note, nailing those string bends, and phrasing - it all came together rather easily. The correct gear was just tonal icing on top of that. That's why David says he can go into any music store and with just some basic gear he can still sound like himself - the gear does not make the sound.

FINGER AND WHAMMY BAR TREMOLO - David does not just shake a note when he adds tremolo. He sometimes lets the note sit before slowly starting the tremolo, other times starts it fast. Sometimes he uses finger tremolo, other times he uses the whammy bar, and sometimes he goes from one right into the other on the same note. The tempo of the tremolo is important. It really should be as close in time with the beat tempo as possible, but study the time as well. Really slow tremolo is hard to master, but it is key to this style of playing. Being able to go from subtle slow one note, to short and fast tremolo the next really adds dynamics to your playing. This was probably the most important part of applying temolo that I learned. Playing standard one speed tremolo on every note like 90% of the players out there do does not have even half the feeling that David can get out of one note with his style. Much of the beauty and soul of David's playing comes from his signature use of tremolo. David's whammy bar tremolo is very smooth like his finger tremolo. He typically pushes down more tha pulling up when vibrating the bar. My tremolo is floating, so I vibrate in between sharp and flat, gently pulling up and down. It helps to have your tremolo bar cut short so you can hold it in your plam when playing. Some information on how to do this can be found here.

NOTE BENDS - Practice those bends! The Another Brick in the Wall II solo is a great one to study and master. David can bend and hold notes in exact pitch fluidly, and his bends are precise and in time with the song. He often bends a whole or half step, holds, then bends up or down another note, then back to the original bend position, before bringing the bend back down - sometimes adding his subtle tremolo to a few areas of these notes in mid bend! David also mixes slow bends with fast bends, but all in very precise time with the song tempo. It is rather easy once you get it down, and adds some great phrasing to your playing, but practice, practice, practice. Being slightly off key or out of time in a bend can ruin the effect.

HARMONICS AND NASAL TONE - If you listen to David playing you will occasionally hear him add a pinch harmonic squeal to a note - such as the very first note in the Comfortably Numb outro solo, or many times in the Young Lust solo. Those pinch squeals are important to learn, and David's sound very unique and subtle compared to the harsh, trebly pinch harmonics of some other players. If you listen to David's playing closely you will find that there are subtle harmonics in most of the other notes in his solos as well, not just those squeals. Many people mistake this as something the effects he uses are adding to the sound. Effects like chorus and the Big Muff can accent these harmonics, but David's fingers are where the sound is coming from. He uses his thumb a lot when picking, letting his flesh touch the string as he picks to add those subtle harmonic tonal variations to the notes. This harmonic phrasing and coloring is all over David's playing - to the extreme on just about every note in the Young Lust solo, and more of a subtle harmonic coloring in the Coming Back to Life or On an Island solos. Some refer to this tone coloring as a "nasal" sounding. It is very evident on David's playing for the On an Island tour, featured in Live in Gdansk.

Gilmour Guitar Picks

Three standard sized pics (top) compared to Fender 354 tear drop shaped pics (bottom)

You can let the flesh of the thumb touch the string while picking using most picks, but tear dropped shaped picks like the Fender 354 pick, are much easier to use for this than larger triangular shaped pics. The 354 pick is almost the same length as a standard pick, but not as wide and with a sharper point.

MORE NOTES VERSUS LESS - You will notice that David is not a very fast player, but at times he can sound more intense that someone playing a barrage of notes at light speed. That is because David adds all of these elements described above to just about every note. Each note is always moving and doing something, adding to the complex feel some of his solos have. Just playing the individual notes of those solos you will find there is nothing very complicated. When you add the tremolo, harmonics, bends, and other elements of David's playing, and how he plays over the music it becomes something very complex and moving.

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