On an Island live lead tones for solos

OAI Tour

In 2006 David Gilmour's third solo album, On an Island, added some new guitar tones to the Gilmour repertoire and gave us several incredible guitar solos. David's live performances during the OAI tour, featured in the Remember That Night DVD and the Live In Gdansk CD and DVD, were full of stellar performances and showcase his playing in top form. I like the tones from the tour better than what I hear on the studio recordings for On and Island, although the studio recordings feature some great work as well. The most noticable change from David's last album of new work, 1994's the Division Bell, was that David has almost completely stopped using modulation to color his guitar tones. This was a stark contrast to much of his previous work which featured chorus, flanger, vibe, and other modulations. David's trademark wet delayed sound however, was still present. The album had a softer acoustic feel than most of his previous work, but there were still plenty of overdriven and distorted guitar solo tones, especially on the subsequent tour. Those of us who followed his work knew that his trademark tones were not created by massive amounts of effects and processing, and this album and tour prove that more than any other Gilmour work.

David's basic setup was rather simple, with the core distortion and dirt tones coming from only three pedals. The Pete Cornish G-2 and Cornish P-1 were the feature pedals for most of David's distortion solos, and his trusty B.K. Butler Tube Drivers were the primary drive pedals. The P-1 is a high quality Ram's Head era Big Muff Pi clone, and the G-2 is Big Muff based overdrive circuit. David used two identical Tube Drivers, one set for heavy overdrive and one for a light drive tones and boosting his Big Muffs. Below are comparison sound clips of each of these primary On and Island pedals. Clips play in this order: BK Bulter Tube Driver, Ram's Head Big Muff, Pete Cornish G-2.

TUBE DRIVER, RAM'S HEAD BIG MUFF, G-2 COMPARISONS

Castellorizon tone comparison

Castellorizon tone comparison with Boss CS-2 compressor added for more sustain, and Tube Driver set for a gain boost into the Big Muff and G-2

ON AN ISLAND STUDIO EFFECTS - OAI was recoded on David's floating recording studio, the Astoria. Among the gear David used was his custom MK1 pedal board, built by effects gear guru Pete Cornish. The MK1 included a Demeter Compulator (compressor), Pete Cornish G-2, Electro-Harmonix Ram's Head Big Muff, Pete Cornish SS-2, BK Butler/Chandler Tube Driver, Pete Cornish T.E.S. (Tape Echo Simulator), and a Cornish Custom Stereo Chorus (modded Boss CE-2). David aslo used a Digitech Whammy WH-1 for pitch bending on The Blue, and the MXR Digital Delay Ststem II.

GUITARS AND AMPS - David's primary guitar for the lead solos for the live shows was his Black Stratocaster, though he also used a gold top Les Paul with P90 pickups. His main amp for the OAI tour was his Hiwatt DR-103 head with WEM and Marshal speaker cabinets. In the studio he used the Black Strat and gold top Les Paul, a wide variety of amps, including an old Fender Tweed Twin 40w amp, and the Hiwatt DR-103 for some parts. Other amps can be seen in the Astoria recording studio Pocket Full of Stones security video snapshots shown below, including a Marshal head, Alessandro, and others.

Astoria Gear 1 .. Astoria Gear 2

David recording On and Island at his Astoria floating recording studio. Note the wide variety of small amps and cabinets. Gilmourish.com has some great info about all the OAI guitars, amps, effects, and which songs they were used on.

ON AN ISLAND LIVE SOUND - The mixes of the On an Island official live recordings at various venues differ in tone from each other quite a bit, but you will notice all have a more direct, in your face, tone that the studio recording, with none of the modulation from previous tours. Below are solos clips from the studio recording and various live performances.

Take a Breath Solo - Original Studio recording, Royal Albert Hall, Abbey Road, AOL Sessions, Mermaid Theatre, and Gdansk Shipyards

ON AN ISLAND TOUR EFFECTS - For the On an Isand tour David had a new pedal board made by Pete Cornish, the Mark II. This was a revised and simplified version of his previous MK1 effects boards, and included the primary effects used for the studio recording. It featured unity gain all-tube buffering, to reduce the load long cable runs and pedals add to the signal and mimic the sound benefits of plugging directly into an amp. See the Tone From Heaven website for a comprehensive guide to David's Pete Cornish pedal boards.

ON AN ISLAND EFFECTS BOARD - For the OAI tour and other live performances from this era David used the Pete Cornish P-1, G-2 and two B.K. Butler Tube Drivers for his lead tones. One Tube Driver driver was set for a clean boost and one for overdrive. Both were newly made reissues, slightly different than the old Pulse era BKB/Chandler Tube Drivers. The G-2 is a sort of a low gain Big Muff circuit mixed with a warm germanium fuzz-distortion tone, almost like an overdrive. The P-1 is a high quality Ram's Head Big Muff clone, and the BK Butler Tube Driver is a tube overdrive pedal. David also used a Demeter Compulator compressor, Boss GE-7 equalizer, Digitech Whammy WH-1, Univibe, Cornish modified boss DD2 digital delay, Pete Cornish T.E.S. (tape echo simulator), and MXR Digital Delay. Sometime during the OAI tour David added a Triangle Big Muff and a T-rex Replica delay to one of the MKII board send/returns, likely for the distortion leads played during the funky part of Echoes, where it was necessary to turn delay and distortion on and off simultaneously.

Note that David's signature modulation effect, the Boss CE-2, has been removed from this board. As far as I can tell, David's only modulation for this tour was the external rack mounted Univox Univibe.

Conrish mark II board. Gdansk DVD Snapshot. Gdansk DVD Snapshot. Gdansk DVD Snapshot. OAI tour board.

(left to right) David Gilmour's MK2 Pete Cornish custom all-tube, buffered pedal board, and a modified version of it from the 2006 tour. Note that some effect labels were changed for the tour. You can see a Triangle Big Muff and a T-rex Replica delay pedal mounted on top of the board in a few of these photos. This combo was likely used for Echoes. Please visit the Tone From Heaven website for more information about David's Cornish board and effects.

EFFECT SETTINGS - For this tour we were lucky enough to see some actual photos of David's rig with all effect settings shown from the Kodak Theatre performance in 2006. Below is a diagram of the MK2 board with the settings from one of the shows. The effects used for particular songs varied from show to show depending on the venue sound and David's preference at the time, but most of the effect settings likely remained the same for the tour, as indicated by the knob setting tick marks on the board. Also note that the actual board knobs are all upside down (180 degree rotation) from the way they would normally read (according to Pete Cornish from the Tone From Heaven website). This was to make it easier to read the knob indicator lines using the in board LED lights, which illuminate from the bottom. On my diagram below I have also shown the knob settings in the standard orientation. Gilmour said in a 2009 interview regarding this board - "I've got a pedal board that switches to a north track or a south track". As I understand it from Pete Cornish, the effects without the north/south toggle switch affect anything when on, whether the distortions or TDs are on in the north or south track. North/south just refers to the physical position of effects on the board, not two separate signal chains. It's more like an A/B switch. There was a puposeful limitation in the chain that prevented both the G-2 and P-1 distortions from being on at the same time, and both Tube Drivers from being used at the same time, but otherwise David could use any combination of effects.

THE CORNISH MARK II BOARD - The switches on the MK2 board are labeled in this order, left to right:
COMP - Switches the Demeter Compulator on/off. David seems to use the compulator as an added gain boost for solos. In fact, he had the gain trim pot of the Compulator moved to the top of the board as a proper control knob, which is shown at almost maximum gain in the diagram below. According to interviews, David used this to accent certain places in solos, and has been seen often switching it on and off for added effect during live performances. He mostly uses it with his clean neck pickup tones.
OCTAVE - This send/return switch is dedicated to the WH1 Whammy octave pedal used for The Blue. This also appears to be the switch David used to turn on the Triangle Big Muff and T-Rex delay that were in a loop on top of the MKII board for the latter half of the OAI tour. That setup was likely used for the funky section of the song Echoes.
DIST - Swaps between P-1 and G-2. The P-1 is labeled MUFF, and is very similar to a "Ram's Head" Big Muff. The G-2 is a modded Big Muff that has a warm Marshall type amp tone. Pete Cornish has said both distortions cannot be on at the same time and that David likes to EQ his high gain distortions with low gain Tube Drivers, which we somewhat misleadingly call "boosting." David only boosts with the Tube Driver #1 set for a light drive, not the overdrive TD. It is more of a blend of the two pedals, not a volume boost. The boost setting shown below gives a slight gain/drive boost. It is meant to add some additional gain to the Big Muffs, blending them with the saturation and tone characteristic of the Tube Driver, and using the Tube Driver EQ to sculpt the Muff sound slightly.
DIST 1/2 - This toggles between the P-1 and G-2 Muffs.
TUBE - Turns on the Tube Drivers. Tube Driver #1 and Tube Driver #2 are seen above this switch, one set for a light boost and one for overdrive. Tube Driver #1 is used when boosting David's Muffs, and for all slightly dirty neck position tones. Tube Driver #2 is for heavy overdrive tones from the Neck and Bridge pickups.
TUBE 1/2 - Toggles between TD#1 and TD#2
EQ - Turns on the Boss GE-7, seen on the board right side up. According to interviews, David used this EQ pedal to accent certain places in solos.
UNIVIBE - This send/return switch is dedicated to the Univibe, which was a rack mounted external effect.
DELAY 1 - Turns on the modded Boss DD-2 delay. The setting shown below is 440ms, with a rather long feedback of approximately 10 repeats.
B/W (bandwidth) - Turns on T.E.S. Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator circuit. Note there is also a b/w mix control in the Delay Masters section. This is a hi cut knob set for 4k.
MXR DDL - This send/return switch is dedicated MXR Digital Delay, which was a rack mounted external effect.
The blue knob marked MXR is a mix knob for the external MXR delay.

Cornish Mk II Board Settings

(shown above) David Gilmour's MK2 Pete Cornish effects board settings from the Kodak Theatre performance. Note that most settings also correspond to the tick marks on the board, but David likely adjusts his settings from venue to venue.

Cornish Mk II Board Settings B

(shown above) David Gilmour's alternate settings seen on the live in Gdansk DVD. The Tube Driver #2 and G-2 are the only effects with slightly different settings.

SIGNAL CHAIN - Here is the signal chain from the MKII board from the Pete Cornish website, with my additonal notes:
Pete Cornish Tube Buffer - unity gain tube INPUT BUFFER.
Demeter Compulator
Send / Return #1 - for additional effects if required. David ran the WH-1 whammy, through this, and also a Triangle Big Muff and TRex delay that were mounted on top of the MKII.
Pete Cornish G-2 - Warm Germanium sounding Big-Muff-mixed-with-a-Rat type distortion. Used with the Tube Driver #1.
Pete Cornish P-1 - Vintage "Ram's Head" Big Muff clone (sorry Pete - I know you don't like your pedals to be called clones). Used with Tube Driver #1.
2 X BK Butler Tube Driver plus 2 X Pete Cornish Tube Buffer - One set for a light drive and one set for overdrive. Note that the Tube Drivers follow the Muffs in the signal chain.
Send / Return #2 - for additional effects if required. David ran the Univibe through this send.
Boss GE-7 equalizer

Custom Volume Pedal insert - Used to control volume, and for volume swells for songs like Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator with Pete Cornish Tube Buffer - David uses echo delay for prectically everything. This is a very versatile, warm sounding digital delay, based on the old Boss DD-2. Mixed parallel with original signal. The setting shown in the Kodak theater photos shows 440ms.
MXR Digital Delay (Rack mount) with Pete Cornish Tube Buffer - Mixed parallel with original signal.
2 X Outputs with Pete Cornish Tube Line Drivers

OUTPUT BUFFERS - Note that many effects feature a unity gain tube buffer in the output stage. The net effect of the output buffer is that the signal of each effect pedal circuit is balanced and reacts as it it were the only pedal in line from the guitar before it hits the amplifier.

BOOSTING BIG MUFFS WITH A TUBE DRIVER - The G-2 and P-1 pedals are essentailly Big Muff circuits, although the G-2 is heavily modified for more of an overdrive sound. It is known that David has used one of his Tube Drivers as a boost/EQ pedal for his Big Muffs in the past, and this was the case for the On and Island tour as well. When David "boosts", he is not using the drive as a volume boost, but to create a blend of the two pedals, and EQ the sound. Since the Tube Drivers follow the P-1 and G-2 in the signal chain, it is actually one those two pedals that are boosting the Tube Driver. I experimented with the exact pedal settings shown above, using the exact same pedals David used, and a Hiwatt custom 50 amp. I found that when the Tube Driver #2 with the low drive setting is placed after the Cornish P-1, it simply adds a slight gain boost. There is practically no tone coloring of the P-1 sound with the lo and hi EQ settings, and no volume change. The added drive makes the P-1 distortion sound like it is almost to the point of breakup, giving it a slighlty dirtier sound, similar to the way a speaker breaks up with high volume, and some of the buziness of the Muff is sonftened. The difference is minor, but it is a breakup the P-1 will not create on its own through a Hiwatt amp, even when the P-1 sustain is at maximum. You can hear this tone on the second On an Island solo.

The boost effect is slightly different when the G-2 is blended with the Tube Driver. The distortion created by the G2 is not as high gain as a typical Big Muff circuit like the P-1, and the tone is a bit thinner. When blended with the Tube Driver #2, The G-2 drive gets a boost, and the tone color smooths out slightly. One weak point of the G-2, in my opinion, is the low gain, so this combo puts the G-2 on par with the P-1. The G-2/TD blend is actually very hard to tell apart from the P-1 sound in a band setting, but the P-1 has a slightly thicker tone. I don't know how often David used the Tube Driver and G-2 at the same time, but I hear the G-2 on the Time solo and the G-2/TD combo on Take A Breath solos from Live In Gdansk.

PARALLEL MIXED DELAYS IN THE MK II BOARD - The delay system inside and outside the Mk II board is very interesting. People always wonder how David gets his smooth delay sounds. David often uses two 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 one delay creates repeats that are then repeated again by a second delay, which can create a messy, mushy delay sound. David's setup in the Mk II board is very different.

MK2 Chain

Inside the board is a two mode delay. The first mode is a Boss DD-2 digital delay, with controls located in the Delay 1 section. Controls are identical to the old Boss DD-2/DD-3 delay. L/M/S (shown in the board diagram above) represent long, medium, and short delay time modes. David has tick marks for only long and short positions. DTM is delay time. F/BK is feedback, or the number of echo repeats. Knob settings shown above correspond to a Boss DD-2 set at approximately 440ms delay with feedback/echo repeats set at 80%, or around 10-11 repeats. The red knob marked DLY in the Delay Masters section is a mix knob for the DD-2.

The second mode of the delay circuit is the T.E.S. This is meant to simulate the warm, limited bandwidth sound of an old analog tape echo delay by rolling off the high frequencies (hi-cut) gradually wth each echo repeat. The on/off switch for the TES circuit switch is labeled B/W on the board, for bandwidth, and the B/W knob in the Delay Master section is an EQ to control the amount of roll off the TES applies to the DD-2 echo repeats. It appears David has his set for a 4k hi-cut. The blue MXR knob is a mix knob for the external MXR digital delay.

Cornish TES

The Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator (TES) delay. This is the stand alone pedal version made by Pete. It is essentially a Boss DD-2 digital delay circuit combined with a five position hi-cut circuit to simulate the limited bandwidth decay of an old tape echo unit.

There are foot switches to turn the delay on (Delay 1), switch to the T.E.S. circuit (B/W), and switch on the external MXR digital delay (MXR). To maintain the best possible signal quality, these delays are mixed parallel with the original signal. This keeps the original dry signal from being altered when running through the delay circuits by splitting off a separate signal to the delays, while the original dry signal is allowed to run through the other effects on the board. The delay signal is mixed back with the dry signal at the end of the signal chain before it hits the amplifier. The signal splits three ways - a dry signal, a DD-2/TES signal set for 100% echo repeats only (meaning no dry signal, only the repeats), and an MXR signal set to 100% echo repeats only. These are then mixed together inside the board with the red and blue mix control knobs you see in the Delay Masters section. By having the two delays in separate signal chains, one delay does not repeat the other. This allows David to get the benefits of two delays, each with different delay times, creating a huge delay sound without very noticable echo repeats. At times it has the feel of reverb, but without the negative tone altering effect of reverb. The unique characteristics of each delay remain intact, and are nicely blended together with the pristine dry signal before they hit the amplifier.

Vintage Binson Echorec II, MXR Digital Delay rack unit, MXR Digital Delay System II, and TC Electronic 2290 Digital Delay rack unit

David's MXR Digital Delay System II rack unit from the On an Island tour showing a note for David's Echoes delay time of 300ms, one for the delay in Time, and 423ms in the display

ON AN ISLAND SOLO #2 - Recreating the live tone

This is one of David Gilmour's most superbly crafted solos, from the title song of his On and Island album. He supposedly used a Pete Cornish G-2 for the solos on the record, and a Pete Cornish P-1 or G-2 with Tube Driver boost, or in some cases just the Tube Driver #2 when playing live. It is likely David did not use the same pedal every time a dong was performed, but rather chose the one he thought would sound best for the venue, and his mood at the time. Here are clips of both solos from the studio recording, with isloted parts from the 5.1 mix.

On an Island solo #1 - Isolated guitar mix without delay and reverb. Les Paul and Black Strat.

On an Island solo #1 - Here's the room reverb and delay track. You can hear the delay distinctly if you listen close.

On an Island solo #2 - Isolated guitar mix without delay and reverb. Black Strat.

On an Island solo #2 - Here is the second solo delay track. This is mostly just the delay repeats with a bit if the original signal.

On an Island solo #2 - Here is the same, but what sounds like deep room reverb from another mic.

Since I was going for the live tone here, below are clips of Gilmour playing the solo live at different times from 2006 for reference

On An Island Solo #2 Clips - From the AOL Sessions, Remember That Night DVD, and the Live at Gdansk CD

On An Island Solo #2 Clip - From Dortmund, Germany. March 10, 2006

On An Island Solo #2 Clip - From the Mermaid Theatre, London. March 6, 2006

I found that just about any good vintage sounding Big Muff or Muff clone will give you a similar sound when lightly boosted with a BK Butler Tube Driver and colored a bit with a Boss GE-7 EQ. The Ram's Head Big Muff seems to be the best match in my rig. David uses some delay here, so you need a warm sounding digital or analog delay. You need a clean tube amp with lots of headroom like a Hiwatt DR103 or Fender Twin, and the amp should be set fairly bright. I would stay away from using amp reverb, unless it is set very low. Below are clips I made with the various pedals David has used for comparison, and some alternates.

Signal chain: Am Std Fender Strat w/Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pup > Muff (or clone) > BK Butler Tube Driver > Boss GE-7 > TC Electonic Nova delay. Played into a clean '65 Fender Twin Reverb RI. Backing track was created by Deck, posted on The Gilmour Gear Forum, with a bit of the studio track mixed in by me. The settings on the Tube Driver, EQ, and delay are basically the same on each clip, EXCEPT the Tube Driver overdrive clip, which is just the TD and some delay. Settings used are shown below.

My OAI Settings

Pete Cornish G-2 (heavily modified Big Muff with Germanium diodes)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Ram's Head Big Muff - vintage
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Pete Cornish P-1 (Modified Ram's Head Big Muff clone)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track diminished, for exact tone reference


Solo with backing track. P-1 only. No Tube Driver or GE-7

Same as above but without backing track diminished, for exact tone reference

Pete Cornish P-2 (Modified Ram's Head Big Muff clone)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference


Solo with backing track. P-2 only. No Tube Driver or GE-7.

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

BK Butler Tube Driver overdrive - with “TUBE 2” overdrive settings from David's Cornish board (No separate EQ)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

ALTERNATE PEDALS - Below are some clips of this solo using other Gilmourish sounding pedals. Some sound much better for this tone than others, but each have thier own unique character, so this is a good reference for the tonal differences in each pedal. The settings (pictured above) on the Tube Driver, EQ, and delay are basically the same on each clip, except the Pink Flesh, which does not require the Tube Driver boost.

Sovtek Green Big Muff
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

USA Big Muff Re-Issue (current V9 Muff)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Skreddy Pink Flesh (Triangle Big Muff clone with some built in boost). The Skreddy Pig Mine is another alternative for this tone.
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

B.Y.O.C. Large Beaver (Triangle Muff clone - 4 Knob Version)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Absolutely Analog Green Russian (Green Sovtek Big Muff clone)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

ProCo Rat 2 (A Muffush sounding distortion)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Skreddy Lunar Module (Not a Muff, but more of a Fuzz Face/Overdrive type pedal)
Solo with backing track

Same as above but without backing track, for exact tone reference

Article written in 2008. Updated 2009, 2010, 2011

 

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