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..THE WALL....1980..LIVE WALL..

The Wall studio album cover, Gilmour with his Black Strat in 1980, and the live Is There Anybody Out There? CD cover art

THE GUITAR TONES OF PINK FLOYD'S COMFORTABLY NUMB - The two guitar solos by David Gilmour in the studio version of Comfortably Numb from Pink Floyd's The Wall album are among the finest examples of guitar soloing in rock history. The guitar tone is considered by many, including me, to be one of the most incredible tones ever put on record. Numerous guitarists have cited those solos as the reason they took up playing the guitar. This song was what inspired me to learn guitar, and what got me hooked on Pink Floyd in the first place. The first solo is elegantly composed and fluidly dances around the chord progression of the chorus. The second solo is a tour de force of David Gilmour's incredible blues based playing and songwriting that takes you on an emotional journey - considered by many to be his finest solo. This article is all about how that tone was created, how to create a similar tone in your own rig, and detailed information about the writing and recording of the song. There is little that was actually documented about the exact gear and recording of this song, but enough information exists to peiece it together. There is also a good article about all The Wall studio and live gear over at Gilmourish.com.

Below are clips from the official release versions on CN. It is well worth purchasing each of these Pink Floyd albums and DVDs just to have every official release version of Comfortably Numb, as all are very different. The original song was recorded in 1979.

FIRST SOLO - from The Wall studio album. I have a page with clips about the first solo "wet" tone and modulation here.

OUTRO SOLO - From The Wall studio album 1979

OUTRO SOLO - From Is There Anybody Out There?, live performances from 1980-1981 (released in 2000)

OUTRO SOLO - From The Delicate Sound of Thunder, live performances from 1987-1988

OUTRO SOLO - From Pulse, live performance from 1994

OUTRO SOLO - From Live 8 Pink Floyd reunion in 2005

OUTRO SOLO - From the Remember That Night live DVD 2006

OUTRO SOLO - From David Gilmour Live in Gdansk 2006

The Guitar - David used his famous Black Strat for The Wall recordings and in the original live concerts. It was a late '60s model strat with a factory black finish painted over the original sunburst factory finish, with an alder body, and a 21 fret maple neck. It was fitted with a DiMarzio FS-1 bridge pickup and stock Fender neck and bridge pickups. The FS-1 was a rather hot sounding pickup and gives the distortion in the solos a nice clarity.

BLACK STRAT

Gilmour's Black Fender Stratocaster - 1969 body with Charvel 21 fret custom maple neck and DiMarzi FS-1 bridge pickup used for The Wall studio recordings

Amplification - Although David was known for using high powered Hiwatt amps and Leslie type rotary speaker cabinets in his live rig, in a 1979 interveiw just prior to recording The Wall, David said he used smaller amps in the studio, usually a Fender Twin Reverb or a Mesa Boogie amp. According to various sources, including Wall producer Bob Ezrin, the Comfortably Numb solos for The Wall were recorded with a setup similar to his live rig. He played through an Alembic F-2B preamp (Fender Twin style preamp) powering a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet, and a 100 watt Hiwatt DR103 head with WEM cabinet housing Fane Crescendo speakers, each miked independently. David had just used a two-Hiwatt, two-Yamaha rig prior to this for the Animals tour and for his first solo record.

The RA-200 was a combo amplifier with a 100 watts powering three rotating speakers in the top, and 200 watts powering four 12" speakers in the bottom. You could only use either the top or the bottom, not both at the same time, but David only used the rotating speakers in the top for his warm and lush Leslie style modulation. The RA-200 sound was actually different than a Leslie, which used a rotating horn for the high speaker, and a rotating baffle for the low speaker, creating a doppler 'rise and fall' effect as each rotated. The Yamaha had three identical rotating speakers, and while each rotated at the same speed with an adjustable speed control, the three speakers were out of sync, so the rise and fall of the doppler effect was more random than a Leslie. An approximation of the sound in an effect pedal is something in between an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress and a Boss RT-200 rotary speaker simulator, although no pedal sound quite like standing in front of an RA-200.

The Big Muff - At the core of this tone is David's very special "Ram's Head" Big Muff, or the version 2 Big Muff. There are many theories about exactly how this tone was achieved, and conflicting reports of what was used in the studio, but there is no doubt the primary element for the tone is the Big Muff. I have a huge section about Big Muffs HERE, and details on Gilmour's Ram's Head HERE. Phil Taylor, David Gilmour's guitar and gear tech, had this to say about David's Ram's Head Muff - "I introduced David to the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi in 1974. He liked it, and he has continued to use one ever since. David has tried many of the different incarnations and models over the years, but his original has often been preferred for most things. Finding another that sounds the same is not easy, I have even placed six in a row that externally appeared to be identical to his original, and they all sounded different. Often, when you look inside, some components and values are different..."

Boost? - For the studio version, the Big Muff may have been boosted by a Colorsound Power Boost or a Pete Cornish ST-2 treble/bass booster, which is a Power Boost clone. David likely had one or the other in the studio, but there is no way to know if he combined this with the Big Muff. What we hear on these solos is likely the Big Muff only. The "boost" that I refer to here is not a volume boost, but more of a combination of the Big Muff and a booster pedal, usually an overdrive, used to create a smoother or dirtier tone, depending on it's position in the signal chain and settings. Here is a section about boosting Big Muffs. Some sources say David used an Orange Treble & Bass booster for The Wall in 1979, including the comprehensive Fitch and Mahon book, Comfortably Numb. Orange was a small company making pedals in the early 1970s, but I have found no evidence that they ever made a "treble & bass booster", and this myth appears to be someone mistakenly interpreting Phil Taylor, Gilmour's gear tech, stating that David used an "orange treble and bass booster" in 1979. I believe this was actually a literal description of the Colorsound Power Boost , which was a bright orange colored treble and bass booster made by Sola Sound in the early 1970's. David had used it on the last Pink Floyd tour prior to The Wall. Some sources say that David had Pete Cornish replace the Power Boost, which had been his standard gear since the early 1970s, with the Cornish ST-2 (a refined Power Boost clone) in his Cornish custom effects board just prior to The Wall recordings. My opinion is that no booster was used.

The Modulated Tone - Modulations are effects that modify you guitar signal by passing it through filters that double, delay, or modify the waveform with some type of oscillation or frequency variation to create depth and space in your guitar tone. Chorus, phasers, flangers, tremolos, vibes, and rotating speakers are all types of modulation. The modulation you hear on the two Comfortably Numb solos is likely a mix of the Big Muff signal going to two separate amps - an Alembic F-2B preamp powering a Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet for the modulated tone, and a Hiwatt DR103 head with WEM speaker cabinet for the unmodulated tone. David used a similar setup for Pink Floyd's previous album, Animals, and for Roger Waters' follow up to The Wall, The Final Cut. The three rotating speakers in the Yamaha produced a swirling doppler effect that added space to the tone, similar to a flanger and chorus. The modulation may also be a mix of an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress (non deluxe) flanger going to one amp and the unmodulated signal going to another amp, although Bob Ezrin, co-producer of The Wall, stated in 1993 that Comfortably Numb was indeed cut using a combination of the guitarist's Hiwatt amps and Yamaha rotating speaker cabinets. David had an Electric Mistress at the time, and he did use it for the live performances of The Wall, along with a Boss CE-2 chorus, Yamha RA-200, and Big Muff, but I do not believe the Mistress was used for either solo in the studio. Regardless, whichever modulation was used, it is low in the track mix, unlike The Wall live concert tone, which is dominated by a blend of the the Electric Mistress, Boss CE-2 chorus, and swirling Yamaha speaker cabinet tone.

Here is another live clip with that setup from 1980. The swirling Yamaha rotating speakers, Electric Mistress, Boss CE-2 are very present in the tone, and very different from the studio sound.

OUTRO SOLO - From The Wall live 2/28/1980

Gilmour on the wall..gilmour on the wall..gilmour on the wall..golmour on the wall

David performing Comfortably Numb high on top of the wall in one of the original live performances

Delay - It is hard to hear a clear delay echo in the final studio mix of the song, but it is there. Listening to the dry track from the 5.1 surround mix the delay appears to be 480 milliseconds long, with two or three repeats. If the delay was recorded live it was likely mixed with the dry signal, or was simply sent to a separate "wet" amp when recording. The delay may have been added in post, at the mixing stage. David had a rack mounted MXR Digital Delay System 1 in the studio and for The Wall live shows. It is a very warm sounding delay, close in sound to David's Binson Echorec analog delay, and it is possible he used the MXR for The Wall recordings.

Reverb - In a 1979 interview with David for Guitar Player just prio rto recording The Wall it is stated "while it is often rumored that Gilmour dabbles in all manners of studio wizardry, he in fact does very little. He employs both close and far miking to achieve dimensionality in the sound. He views the production of a good guitar sound as a permanent struggle. He looks for a bright tone, but one which embodies a bottom also." Much of the big, ambient hall reverb sound in the song is thought to be studio magic at the mixing board, with compression, EQ, and reverb added later. I happen to think most of what you hear is what it sounded like when it was recorded. The 5.1 mix indicates the solo was recorded relatively dry up close to the cabinets, and also farther away to capture the large room sound. Some may think David used amp reverb, but It does not appear David ever recorded with spring reverb from an amplifier. Amp reverb tends to soak into and alter your tone, and it does not work well with a Big Muff for Gilmour tones in my experience.

The Playing - The outro solo was mixed together from several takes recorded on a sixteen track recorder. The playing is very fiery, with some fast finger and whammy bar tremolo work in places, and some slight pinch harmonics that happen just at the right moments, all of which add to the intensity of the piece. The best parts of each take were combined into one solo, which was the typical way David created solos in the studio. David, or possibly engineer James Guthrie (various sources say one or the other), mixed them into one solo for the final version. "I banged out five or six solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and make a chart, noting which bits are good. Then, by following the chart, I create one great composite solo by whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase until everything flows together. That's the way we did it on Comfortably Numb." - David Gilmour from Guitar World 1993

 

Ram's Head.....MXR delay...Electric Mistress

1973 Electro-Harmonix "Ram's Head" Big Muff distortion/fuzz, MXR Digital Delay rack unit, and Electro-Harmonix 18v green Electic Mistress flanger

Power BoostST-2

Colorsound Power Boost and a Pete Cornish ST-2 Power Boost clone, possibly used for recording

Alambic preamp...ra-200ra-200. hiwatt...WEM cabinet

Left to right - the Alembic F-2B Fender Showman/Twin style preamp, the Yamaha RA-200 "Leslie" style rotating speaker amplifier cabinet, Hiwatt DR-103 amplifier head, and WEM speaker cabinet loaded with fane Crescendo 12 inch speakers

animals rams head

Gilmour's touring "Ram's Head" V2 Big Muff and non-deluxe Electric Mistress in 1977, prior to recording The Wall

Gilmour's back stage rig for The Wall concerts including the Alembic F-2B preamp, MXR Digital Delay, Mesa Boogie MKI amp head used as an overdrive, and Hiwatt DR103 power amps with preamps disconnected.

Gilmour's back stage pedal board for The Wall, featuring a built in Big Muff.

rams head 1986.P-1.Gilmour's Civil War Muff..On an Island Muffs

Left to right - Gilmour's touring Ram's Head Big Muff from his 1986 board, his Cornish P-2 (modified Big Muff circuit) from the 1994 Division Bell board, a Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff from the Division Bell board, and both Ram's Head and "Triangle" Big Muff on top of his 2006 On an Island board

WRITING COMFORTABLY NUMB and the DEMOS

Gilmour solo

Comfortably Numb started off as a rough demo created by David Gilmour during the making of his first solo album David Gilmour, recorded in 1977 and 1978. It was just an instrumental idea at this stage, with David strumming some chords on a high strung guitar and humming along with the music.
"I actually wrote the chord sequence for it while I was in Super Bear doing my first solo album, right at the end. I didn't intend, I mean, I never was going to actually record it then for that solo thing. It was one of the things I'd just put down one day and stored away with my other demos." - David Gilmour 1984

Here is that original demo, recorded in early 1978. It sounds like a phaser or an Electric Mistress is used for the modulation. The vocal melody in the chorus sections is the same as the final song, but the melody in the verse sections was altered quite a bit in the final song.
COMFORTABLY NUMB ORIGINAL DAVID GILMOUR DEMO - 1978

When it came time to record The Wall David brought in this demo music to use for the doctor section of The Wall story line. Roger wrote the lyrics, but initially, according to producer Bob Ezrin, Roger did not like the music and did not want to include it in The Wall. The song was titled The Doctor at this point and featured very different verse lyrics to the final version.
"Roger and I had a good working relationship. We argued a lot, sometimes heatedly - artistic disagreements, not an ego thing. I don't think we argued over who would take lead vocals. Roger was not over-bothered who sang - but overall we were still achieving things that were valid. Things like Comfortably Numb are really the last embers of Roger and my ability to work collaboratively together - my music, his words. I had the basic part of the music done. I gave Roger the bits of music, he wrote some words, he came in and said, 'I want to sing this line here, can we extend this by so many bars so I can do that,' so I said, 'OK, I'll put something in there.' " - David Gilmour from a 1999 Mojo Magazine article

Pink Floyd recorded several demos during The Wall sessions in 1979. Here is an early demo with a heavy sounding electric guitar over the verse sections. David preferred it to the lighter final mix with the orchestra. He would later add the heavier guitar when he played this song live, notably heard on the Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell tours. The first solo was already established at this point, and it sounds like a green Electic Mistress was used for the modulation here. The outro solo already has a few phrases that will later appear in the final mix, but it is quite different sounding from the final version. The modulation appears to be a phaser, likely an MXR Phase 90, which was in David's pedal board at the time. There is also either a very short delay, or the track was duplicated with one track running slightly out of sync (ADT or automatic double tracking) with the other, to thicken the sound.
"THE DOCTOR" PINK FLOYD DEMO - 1979

Roger Waters and David Gilmour each had different ideas on how the final mix of the song should sound. Here is a quote by David from a Mojo magazine article in 1999.
"We went to LA with two versions of it - we recorded one backing track, just the drums basically, which Roger (Waters) and Bob (Ezrin) liked a lot but I felt was a bit loose in places so we did another take which I liked better - and we had quite a large row about which of these two versions we should use. In the end, we used bits of both, and I'm not at all sure if you played me one of those backing tracks and then the other one I'd know the difference now, but it seemed incredibly important at the time. You can divide "Comfortably Numb" into dark and light - the bits I sing, "when I was a child..." are the light, the "hello is there anybody in there" that Roger sings are the dark - and on the dark stuff I wanted to have a bit more of the grungey guitar element, while Roger and Bob wanted it just drums and bass and orchestra. We argued vociferously about that and I lost on that occasion, and I still feel I was right. On-stage I would always add the grungier tone."

...and another Gilmour quote from Guitar World 1993.
"Well, there were two recordings of that, which me and Roger agrued about. I'd written it when I was doing my first solo album. We changed the key of the song's opening the E to B, I think. The verse stayed exactly the same. Then we had to add a little bit, because Roger wanted to do the line, "I have become comfortably numb". Other than that, it was very, very simple to write. But the arguments on it were about how it should be mixed and which track we should use. We'd done one track with Nick Mason on drums that I thought was too rough and sloppy. We had another go at it and I thought that the second take was better. Roger disagreed. It was more an ego thing than anything else. We really went head to head with each other over such a minor thing."

Here is another quote about the song, this time from Roger Waters. Roger has claimed on a few occasions that he wrote the verse chord sequence.
"What happened is Dave gave me a chord sequence, so if you wanted to fight about it - and I don't want to fight about it - I could say that I wrote the melody, and all the lyrics, obviously. I think in the choruses he actually hummed a bit of the melody, but in the verses he certainly didn't. That's never been a problem for me, I think it's a great chord sequence."

This what Bob Ezrin, one of the producers and collaborators on The Wall, had to say about the song.
"Comfortably Numb started off as a demo of Dave's - a piece in D with a lovely, soaring chorus and a very moody verse. At first Roger had not planned to include any of Dave's material but we had things that needed filling in. I fought for this song and insisted that Roger work on it. My recollection is that he did so grudgingly, but he did it. He came back with this spoken-word verse and a lyric in the chorus that to me still stands out as one of the greatest ever written. The marriage of that lyric and Dave's melodies and emotionally spectacular guitar solo - every time I hear that song I get goosebumps."

There is a very good article examining Comfortably Numb by Bjorn Riis on the Gilmourish.com website, HERE.
 
EXAMINING THE MIX

Examining the 5.1 mix of the tracks used for the film version of The Wall, the elements I hear in the outro solo are artificial double tracking, modulation, delay, a second guitar playing chords, and a synthesizer playing the root notes under the chords. It seems it was standard procedure to record from a "dry" amp and separate "wet" amp when solos were recorded. Much of the film soundtrack was created directly from the original studio tracks recorded for The Wall album in 1979. The dry amp would have little or no effects, or just modulation, and the wet amp would have delay added. The wet effects could have simply been added in post, but I know Gilmour sometimes records wet from interviews, so I think there there were likely always two amps being recorded. I have found the same thing with the 5.1 mix of Gilmour's On An Island CD. Even the live Remember That Night and Live in Dgansk DVD 5.1 audio sounds like a dry track was recorded there as well. Having the dry track gives more options in the mixing room later.

THE WALL FILM POSTER

FIRST SOLO - Dry track - From the 5.1 surround sound mix from The Wall film soundtrack.

OUTRO SOLO - Dry track. From the 5.1 surround mix of The Wall film soundtrack, which was mixed from the original 1979 album track recordings.

OUTRO SOLO - Wet track. From the 5.1 surround mix of The Wall film soundtrack

OUTRO SOLO - Dry center track mix. From Remember That Night DVD 5.1 surround mix

Most of The Wall solos have modulation, and there is definitely heavy modulation in the 5.1 movie soundtrack mix. I did not expect it to be this heavily modulated as I do not hear it clearly in the wet final mix, but it is there and it sounds like the Yamha rotating speakers, not an Electic Mistress, although both can sound similar low in the mix. As stated by producer Bob Ezrin, this tone is likely a mix of the Yamaha rotating speaker cabinet and a Hiwatt amplifier. This solo also appears to be artificially double tracked (ADT) on the album mix, and the ADT is even more evident on the film soundtrack version. Simply, ADT means the track was duplicated and played slightly out of sync with the original track to give it a thicker sound, almost like a very short slapback delay.

Another key to the second solo tone is the chord progression played under the solo on an electric guitar with distortion, possibly from a Fuzz Face or Power Boost pedal. It fills out the space and makes the solo sound larger. There is also a bassy Prophet 5 synthesizer, played by David Gilmour, thickening the bass guitar notes played under the chords that really impacts the ominous feel of the solo. Here are some interesting breakdowns of the tracks, extracted from the 5.1 sourround mix created for The Wall film.
COMFORTABLY NUMB - Dry mix channel

Compare The Wall film version to the original album version of Comfortably Numb and you will find the solos are mixed more up-front in the film version, with more apparent artificial double tracking. Here is a mix of the 5.1 version, with full, dry, keyboard, and wet tracks islolated, to illustrating those elements.
5.1 MIX ISOLATED TRACKS

Here are a few other interesting extractions from the mix.
SYNTHESIZER - Prophet 5 synthesizer played by David Gilmour under the outro solo

ORCHESTRA TRACK - The orchestra and sound effect track from the first verse of the song. Orchestions by the late Michael Kamen, recorded in New York 1979. According to interviews, Gilmour was not a fan of having the orchestra and wanted a heavier guitar sound in the verse sections instead.

ORCHESTRA AND SCREAM TRACK - The orchestra and "scream" sound effects tracks from the second verse

GETTING THE TONE

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 amp you use, your guitar, and pickups, and fingers.

Here are my suggestions for getting the Comfortably Numb outro solo tone. I have a page about the first solo tone HERE. Getting the basic tone is nothing terribly complicated with the right gear, but understand you will never get the EXACT tone without using a real Yamaha rotating speaker cabinet blended with the Hiwatt/WEM speaker cabinet setup, and a similar room reverb sound. Start with a vintage sounding Triangle or "Ram's Head" Big Muff, or a clone, a chorus or chorus-like modulation, and a delay. David has changed the tone over the years when playing these solos live, but at the heart is always a Big Muff. It's almost cliche to say this, but majority of his "tone" does come from his fingers and playing. You really need to invest the time to learn his techniques. You can have David's exact gear, but you won't get the tone if you do not not examine and learn to play in this style. Study his solos, the subtle phrasing, smooth note bends, and subtle pinch harmonics and tonal variations done with his pick and thumb. The thumb affecting the tone when picking the string is key to much of the note coloring, not the gear used. Much of what people think is the gear making the playing sound good is simply the fingers making the gear sound good. Finger and whammy bar tremolo is extremely important. Gilmour's tremolo speed usually matches the song tempo. It is very smooth and David can go from finger tremolo on one note to whammy bar on the next, and sometimes he switches in the same note! David never lets a note just sit still. It is always moving or changing. Big Muff's tend to be a bit harsh and fizzy, but when you add some fluidity and pick harmonics to your playing it brings something out of the Muff that you can't get with any other distortion pedal. Add a sweet modulation and some long delay over that and you are in tonal heaven.

Good Numb Muffs

BIG MUFF - A good Ram's Head Big Muff, early V3 Big Muff, or Civil War Big Muff are the ultimate pedals for this tone. For The Wall studio recording tone use a Ram's Head type Big Muff or a boutique replica, and for the Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse era tones use a Civil War or green Russian style Big Muff or replica. There is a "magic" area for the Gilmouish tone knob setting on a Muff, and that is around 35-40% /10:30-11:00 from true zero. It will vary depending on how much sustain is dialed in on the Muff, and how bright your amp and other gear is set. There are other pedals with Big Muff based circuits that work as well, such as the Stomp Under Foot Violet Ram's Head or Civil War fuzz, Pete Cornish P-1, Pete Cornish P-2, Skreddy Pink Flesh, Skreddy Pig Mine, Blackout Effectors Musket, MJM Foxey Fuzz, BYOC Large Beaver, and numerous others. The ProCo Rat is an alternative to the Big Muff sound, though not an accurate sunstitute. Something like the Boss DS-1 is a bit too thin to get close to that tone. A modern USA reissue Big Muff, Little Big Muff, or Tone Wicker Big Muff can be used, though I find they are not as dynamic for this particular type of solo as most vintage style Big Muffs. My top pics are my real 1973 Big Muff, Stomp Under Foot VRH, MJM Foxey Fuzz, or BYOC Large Beaver triangle spec. At various times, David has used a vintage Ram's Head Big Muff, a Pete Cornish P-1 Ram's Head Muff clone (prior to The Wall recordings and in 2006), a Pete Cornish P-2 modified Muff clone, a Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff, and in 2006 an old Traingle Big Muff.

COMPRESSION AND BOOSTING - I always like to add some compression from a Boss CS-2 compressor/sustainer with my Big Muffs to punch up the clarity and smooth the Muff fizz out. An MXR Dynacomp also sounds good with a Muff, but I think the CS-2 is the best combo. Some people also like to lightly boost their Big Muff with a driver like the Colorsound Overdriver or BK Butler Tube Driver. David Gilmour has done this live and he may have used a booster in the studio. I get a remarkably similar tone to Comfortably Numb when adding the Colorsound with drive at 90% before the Muff with its sustain at about 45%. I also get the Muff to sound very close by itself, simply by turning the sustain up to around 80%. The Civil War and green Russian Big Muffs sound really good with a Tube Driver on low boost placed before the Muff for a smooth distortion, or after it for more attack and dirt. David has used the Dynacomp, CS-2, and Demeter Compulator for compression throughout his career. For boosting he has used the Colorsound Power Boost, Colorsound Overdriver (similar to the Power Boost, but more gain), Pete Cornish ST-2 (Power Boost/Overdriver clone), B.K. Butler/Chandler Tube Driver, and later B.K. Butler Tube Driver.

MODULATION - David's Comfortably Numb tone is almost always modulated, starting with what was likely rotating speakers in the original studio recording, then a flanger/chorus/rotating speaker mix, then a chorus only, and in 2006 Gilmour stopped using modulation altogether. I think the Boss CE-2 chorus gives the best modulation to match the light rotating speaker effect of the studio album tone. The Hartman Flanger also works well for a more dominant modulation. I typically run the CE-2 and Hartman to a separate amp, but for the clips below I use a loop mixer to mix the modulation about 60/40 with the original signal. For the really heavy live Wall era modulation, the old green 18v Electric Mistress, Hartman Flanger, or a Deluxe Electric Mistress should be used in conjunction with a Boss CE-2 chorus, or if you have one, a rotating speaker cabinet. The various modulated effects David has used live throughout the years are:


•Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet - The Wall studio recordings and live 1980/1981 - a very dominant effect unless mixed with an unmodulated speaker cabinet.
•18v green Elecrtic Mistress flanger - The Wall studio recordings.
A very dominant effect unless mixed with an unmodulated speaker cabinet. In the settings David used it almost sounded like a chorus.
•Deluxe Electric Mistress - The Wall live tour 1980/1981. Used with a Boss CE-2 and Yamaha RA-200 speaker cabinets.
•Boss CE-3 chorus - About Face tour 1984 - Not the best sounding Boss chorus, but David managed to make it sound good in his rig.
•Boss CE-2 chorus - A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell tours 1987 - 1994. This is perhaps the best chorus ever made, though it is a very dominant effect. David had a separate amp dedicated for the CE-2.
•Doppola rotating speakers - Division Bell tour 1994. I think this was used with the CE-2 on many songs. The Doppolas were basically heavy duty rotating speakers that created the "doppler" effect of a smaller Leslie speaker, but the Doppolas were larger with more output volume, and more suitable for live use.

DELAY- An essential part of the Gilmour "wet" sound. The studio recording is delay time is approximately 480ms with 3-4 repeats, but low in the mix. The live delay times varied, but generally David liked to use long delays 540-560ms, with around 3-4 repeats. David used the MXR digital delay to simulate the sound of his old Echorec analog delay around the time of The Wall. David typically uses two delays when playing live, with one set to a longer delay time than the other. I have used various digital delays over the years, including the Boss DD-2, DD-3, DD-20, Ibanez DE-7, and the TC Electonic Nova delay. All are good delays, but I find the DD-20 and Nova were my favorites. The Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and MXR Carbon Copy delays are two other good analog delays that have a warm tape delay sound, though some may find them too warm. People are tempted to add reverb to create this tone, but reverb will suck and color all the "Gilmour" out of your tone. If you must use it, keep it dialed in low. I have spring reverb built into my Fender Twin, but never dialed above 2 or 3.

AMPLIFIER - For amplification, you need a clean amp with lots of head room. "Clean" meaning the amp does not break up or have any distortion when you turn it up. Sending a Big Muff signal into a slightly dirty amp generally sounds bad for Gilmour tones from my experience. Solid state amps may work, as long as they are clean, but I have never found one that sounded good with a Big Muff. Real tube amps sound much better. Having the amp fairly loud is also important with a Big Muff. The hotter the tubes get in the amp, and more the speakers are on the edge of breakup and feedback, the more saturated and alive the Big Muff tone gets. I use a Fender Twin Reverb 100w amp and a Reeves Custom 50 (Hiwatt clone), for the best simulation of the Alembic (Fender style) preamp and Hiwatt DR103 amps David used. I hear more of the darker Fender amp sound in this tone than I do the Hiwatt.

Please visit the Gear Guide at Gilmourish.com for some other great info on gear selection for your Gilmour tone, including a list of the best amps to use for Gilmour tones.

MY COMFORTABLY NUMB CLIPS - Here is my basic setup to recreate the studio tone for the second solo, in the correct signal chain order. This setup also works for most of the other guitar solos from The Wall album. I use a modulation pedal in place of the rotating speaker cabinet. For these clips I use either the Boss CS-2 or and Electric Mistress/Hartman Flanger. Since a big part of this tone is the artificial double tracking and large hall reverb sound created in the mixing stage, I have attempted to replicate these effects in a rather simple fashion using Garageband. The dry clips with modulation illustrate what the raw tone should sound like without those effects of the final mix.

SIGNAL CHAIN

Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup
Boss CS-2 Compressor - set for a light compression
"Ram's Head" Big Muff by Electro-Harmonix - this is a vintage Muff from 1973
Boss CE-2 chorus or Electric Mistress - I demo both below
TC Nova Delay - set for a light 480ms delay
Fender Twin Reverb and Reeves Custom 50 (Hiwatt replica) amplifiers - from stereo outputs of the TC Nova delay to each amp

SOUND CLIPS

OUTRO SOLO - Dry tone with Boss CE-2 Chorus modulation

Same with ADT to thicken the sound

Same with 480ms delay and room reverb added to simulate the final studio mix tone

OUTRO SOLO - Dry tone with Electric Mistress modulation

Same with Arificial Double Tracking (ADT) to thicken the sound

Same with 480ms delay and room reverb added to simulate the final studio mix tone

DIFFERENT AMPLIFIER TONES - Below is a clip illustrating the difference between the Fender Twin style amp tone and the Hiwatt style amp tones. The clip alternates between a Reeves Custom 50 (Hiwatt clone) with Vintage Purple (Fane Crescendo replicas) speakers and a Fender Twin Reverb. Boss CS-2 compressor, 1973 Ram's Head Big Muff, Boss CE-2 Chorus, slight delay (480ms) from a TC Nova. Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup.

AMP TONES - Reeves Custom 50 (first) and Fender Twin Reverb (second) comparison

Below are the typical settings I use for the Fender Twin Reverb amp used in most of my clips. I always use the reverb channel, though I use very little amp reverb, and I never use the bright switch. Also shown are settings for my Reeves Custom 50PS

amp settings

ARTIFICIAL DOUBLE TRACKING - Here are a few older clips I made, taking my Ram's Head Big Muff dry solo tone, copying the track and panning left and right, with both slightly out of sync with the original by a few milliseconds. I added reverb and delay to the copied tracks, trying for a bigger sound like you hear on the studio recording. This is not exactly a true ADT, but close. I'm not sure this got any closer to the ADT sound of the original recording, but there is definitely some artificial doubling of the solo track on that version.

OUTRO SOLO - Dry solo only

OUTRO SOLO - Artificially doubled tracks in left and right channels with "wet" delay and reverb added

OUTRO SOLO - Both mixed with a backing track, with the doubled wet tracks slightly out of sync with the center dry track for a larger sound

BIG MUFF CLIPS - Below are examples of my takes on the Comfortably Numb studio and live tones with my rig, using various Big Muff and boutique Big Muff vintage replicas and variants (yes, I am obsessed with this tone). Signal chain: American Standard Strat with Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup -> Muff -> modulation -> delay -> clean '65 Fender Twin Reverb RI. Backing track is by Jani Ovaska from Gilmourish.com.

FIRST SOLO - I have a page with clips about the first solo "wet" tone and modulation here.

OUTRO SOLO - Ram's Head Big Muff (vintage V2) - Boss CS-2 Compressor >Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% mix) > TC Nova Delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Pete Cornish P-1 - Boss CE-2 chorus (60% mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Triangle Big Muff (vintage V1) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Big Muff (vintage V4 op-amp) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Big Muff (vintage V6) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - NYC Reissue Big Muff (V9) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Little Big Muff (modern) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Tone Wicker Big Muff - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Civil War Big Muff (vintage) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Red Army Overdrive (vintage) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Green Russian Big Muff - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Black Russian Big Muff (small box) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Stomp Under Foot Violet Ram's Head - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Stomp Under Foot Civil War - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Pete Cornish P-2 - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Pete Cornish G-2 - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - ProCo Rat (non LM308) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Large Beaver Ram's Head version - Boss CE-2 chorus (60% mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Large Beaver Triangle Big Muff version - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Barber Trifecta on Tri Big Muff setting - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Pig Mine - Mids switch set to Fat position > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Pig Mine - Mids switch set to Lean position > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Mayo with switched scooped mids - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Mayo with switched flat mids - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Pink Flesh with Fat switch on - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - Blackout Effectors Musket (V2) - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - SkullyTone FX Russian Spi with Silicon diodes switched on - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

OUTRO SOLO - SkullyTone FX Russian Spi with Germanium diodes switched on - Boss CS-2 compressor > Muff > Boss CE-2 chorus (60% in mix) > Muff > TC Nova delay > Fender Twin Reverb

PEDAL SETTINGS: Settings for some of the clips above are shown here. Settings may vary on your rig depending on your gear.

cn solo2 settings

Here are some older clips. The audio is not that great on these, but you can hear the basic Muff + modulation tone.

OUTRO SOLO - Skreddy Pink Flesh - Signal chain: Keeley compressor -> Pink Flesk -> Boss CE-5 chorus -> TC Nova delay -> Fender Twin Reverb amp

OUTRO SOLO - Sovtek green Big Muff - Signal chain: Keeley compressor -> Big Muff -> Boss CE-5 chorus -> TC Nova delay -> Fender Twin Reverb amp

BOOTLEGGED LIVE VERSIONS

 

GILMOUR ....Gilmour ...Gilmour

David Gilmour with the Black Strat performing The Wall live in 1980 and 1981

Here is a collection of live bootleg recordings of Comfortably Numb from 1980 to 2006. I suggest not listening to these in one sitting unless you want to get sick of this song! David Gilmour has used a wide variety of tones for the solos throughout the years. Some performances are better than others, but all of these are good. David never plays it the same twice, but there are key phrases from the original solos and phrases for live versions that David often repeats and mixes around to keep it interesting. I think he gets better at playing this on each tour because knows it so well, and the 2006 performances were incredible and full of energy. David has said that if you hear him play the outro solo note for note it is because he was not inspired that particular show, but when you hear him deviate and create something new, that's when the magic happens. Enjoy!

Gilmour

Nassau Coliseum, NewYork 2/28/1980, with the Black Stratocaster

Earls Court, London 8/6/1980

1980

Earls Court, London 8/9/1980

...

Earls Court, London 6/17/1981 - Last Wall Show

1984

Hammersmith, London April 1984

1984...1984

About Face Tour 1984 (exact date and venue unknown)

Gilmour Pulse

Royal Albert Hall, London 2/9/1986 - Columbian Volcano Appeal. Gilmour switched to using a red Stratocaster with EMG SA pickups from here on, and the Black Strat was retired.

Venue unknown 1986

JFK Stadium, Philadelphia 9/19/1987

1988

Rosemont, Chicago 9/25/1987

1989...1987

Omni, Atlanta 11/23/1987

1988..1988

Budokan, Tokyo 3/2/1988

1988

Lille, France 7/28/1988

1988...1988

Wembley Stadium, London 8/5/1988

1989

Finland 6/10/1989

19901990199019901990

Knebworth, England 6/30/1990

Cologne, Germany 2/8/1994

1994

Superdome, New Orleans 4/14/1994

Torino, Italy 9/13/1994

Rome, Italy 9/19/1994

Earls Court London 10/20/1994 - This is the full length unedited televised U.K. performance that was later edited shorter for Pulse

2001...2002

Royal Festival Hall 1/16/2002

live 8live 8live 8live 8

Hyde Park, London 6/2/2005 - Live 8 Reunion with the return of the Black Strat, brought out of retirement in 1997. David may have used his Cornish G-2, not a Big Muff.

Gilmour 2006

Dortmund, Germany 3/10/2006

2006

Milan, Italy 3/25/2006

Firenze, Italy 8/2/06

2006

Gdanska, Poland 8/26/2006 - Last concert of the OAI tour

"It think it's just pretty much him. He is obviously using a couple of effects, like a Big Muff and a delay, but it really is just his fingers, his vibrato, his choice of notes and how he sets his effects. I find it extraordinary when people think they can copy his sound by duplicating his gear. In reality, no matter how well you duplicate the equipment, you will never be able to duplicate the personality.

- Gilmour's gear tech, Phil Taylor, on how Gilmour achieved his great tone on Comfortably Numb

This article was written in October of 2009. Got any interesting info to add? Email me.

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