Kitís Secret Guitar, Gear, and Music Page
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Copyright Kit Rae.

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THE KEEP ....Mistress Mystery Page. ..

FLANGER AND CHORUS - The David Gilmour Modulated Wet Tone

MODULATION FROM THE WALL ERA - David Gilmour is well known for his spacious, liquidy smooth lead solo tones used on Animals, The Wall, the Final Cut, and the later Pink Floyd albums. The genesis of this modulated tone was the Leslie rotating speaker cabinets David used throughout the 1970s. The rotating speakers produced a swirling doppler effect. Changing the speed of the speaker rotationcould intensify or minimize the effect. David also used modulation pedals for a similar effect, such as the phaser and Uni-vibe, but the rotating speaker cabinet effect seems to have been a favorite in the recording studio.

Around the time of the Animals tour in 1977 David started using the Electo-Harmonix green Electric Mistress pedal. The Mistress was a relatively new effect pedal, a flanger that added a swirling modulation to the guitar tone, similar to the Leslie and Uni-vibe type effects. It was also used on David's first solo album David Gilmour, The Wall album and tour, The Final Cut, and possibly on A Momentary Lapse of Reason. When the Mistress was used in conjuction with the Ram's Head Big Muff it created a very smooth, liquidy, wet distortion tone unlike any other. Add some long delay to that and you are in Gilmour tonal heaven. After The Wall David started using a Boss CE-2 chorus for a similar effect to modulate his Big Muff tone, though the CE-2 was not quite as dominating to the tone as the Mistress was.

ra-200 . animals rams head. Electric Mistress

Left to right - The Yamaha RA-200 "Leslie" style rotating speaker cabinet, David's 1977 touring board with Electric Mistress and Big Muff, green Electric Mistress, the excellent Boss CE-2 chorus, the not so excellent Boss CE-3, and the better CE-5 chorus ensemble with mix knob, the Deluxe Electric Mistress flanger, and the Hartman Flanger, which is a very good replica of the old green Electric Mistress

A prime example of this style of modulated tone is the first solo in Comfortably Numb from The Wall album, which was created with a Ram's Head Big Muff, possibly with a light overdrive boost from a Pete Cornish ST-2 treble/bass booster or a Colorsound Power Boost. The light modulation you hear on that solo 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 modulation, and a Hiwatt DR103 head with WEM cabinet for the unmodulated dry tone. This has been stated in several interviews and articles, and David used a similar setup for Pink Floyd's previous album, Animals. It may also be a mix of an Electric Mistress going to one amp and the unmodulated signal going to another amp. These two signals were mixed together to create the deesired level of modulation in the final tone. Give it a listen.

COMFORTABLY NUMB FIRST SOLO - from The Wall studio album

The Wall film soundtrack version of Comfortably Numb was made from the same tracks recorded for the studio album, just remixed. Below is the dry channel of the first CN solo that I ripped from the 5.1 mix. It is interesting how this sounds relatively clean with very little modulation at all. The other 5.1 tracks with the solo all have delay and reverb added. This dry track may have been one recorded from the dry Hiwatt amp, and the other tracks may be recorded from the Yamaha rotating speaker cabinet. It is common to record a dry version of a solo so delay, reverb, and other effects and EQ can be added later in the mixing stage.

COMFORTABLY NUMB FIRST SOLO - DRY - dry solo extracted from the 5.1 surround sound mix from The Wall film soundtrack.

The Electric Mistress is a very dominating effect, so this is definitely not the Mistress 100% in the final mix, but it does not sound like a rotating speaker 100% in the mix either. Likely it is the Yamaha/Hiwatt mixed, or possibly a Yamaha/Fender amp mix. David used the Electic Mistress and a rotating speaker cabinet when he played this solo live for The Wall stage shows, creating a much heavier modulation than the studio mix. The rotating speaker doppler effect of the Yamaha creates a very different sounding modulation than the Mistress, but both can sound similar when dialed back in the mix. I prefer the lighter modulation of the studio version, so I often use the Mistress through a mixer pedal to dial the effect back 50-75%.

Here are several clips of the first Comfortably Numb solo from The Wall recording up to Live in Gdansk recording for reference. David's modulation went through many changes throughout the years - from using Leslie type speaker cabs, to Electic Mistress modulation, then Boss chorus modulation, then to no modulation at all for the On an Island album and tour.

COMFORTABLY NUMB FIRST SOLO CLIPS - From 1979 to 2006

Clips are in this order:
The Wall studio recording 1979 - dry Big Muff signal into both Hiwatt and Yamaha rotating speaker cabinets
The Wall live 1980/81- Green Electric Mistress, or possibly a Deluxe Electic Mistress and rotating speaker cabinets
About Face tour live 1984 - Boss CE-3 chorus
Delicate Sound of Thunder 1987/88 - Boss CE-2 chorus
Pulse 1994 - Boss CE-2 chorus and Doppola rotating speaker cabinets
Live 8 Reunion 2005 - No modulation
AOL Sessions 2006 - No modulation
Live in Gdansk 2006 - No modulation

HOW TO GET THE TONE - Here are clips of this solo from my rig with different Gilmour style chorus and flanger modulations for comparison. Signal chain: American Standard Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup > Colorsound Overdriver set for light drive boost > Ram's Head Big Muff > Modulation Pedal > Boss DD-3 Digital Delay > Fender Twin Reverb. The settings I used are shown below.

pedal settings

amp settings

[MP3] Vintage 18v green Electric Mistress - The original Mistress flanger sound, and the one used onthe originla 1980/81 The Wall live shows. These are hard to find in good condition, so a great substitue is the Hartman Flanger, which is a replica of this circuit,

[MP3] Deluxe Electric Mistress - Very different from the original Mistress, the Deluxe model was a bit smoother sounding and more "liquidy".

[MP3] Vintage Boss CE-2 Chorus - One of the finest chorus pedals ever made. Very warm and lush sounding. Used by Gilmour in the 1980s and 1990s.

[MP3] Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble - Mix knob set to 50% - Similar to the CE-2 but includes a mix level knob and two outputs for a simulated stereo chorus effect. Not quite as warm and rich sounding, but in a band mix it is hard to tell from the old CE-2

Also see my Mother Solo page for other comparison clips of the Mistress and Boss CE-2. I also highly recommend you visit Gilmourish.com. for a comprehensive guide to which songs from each Pink Floyd album these effects were used on. It is one of the best resources on the web for Gilmour gear information. Also visit The Tone From Heaven website for an excellent gear guide for the Pulse era modulated tones.

Here are a few older clips. Audio is not that great, but these were my first attmpts.

Comfortably Numb Solo #1 - Strat, Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup, and Skreddy Pink Flesh Muff

Comfortably Numb Solo #1 jamming to chords - Strat, Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup, and Skreddy Pink Flesh Muff

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 :) I am not a Gilmour/Pink Floyd gear expert, so your results may vary.

 

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