Pink Floyd is synonymous with epic classics like Echoes, Comfortably Numb and Shine On You Crazy Diamond but I’ve always loved their ability to make even a basic rock song stand out as masterpiece. Time has it all and not least one of David’s finest guitar solos. In this article we’ll examine David’s playing and gear and ways to achieve that legendary fuzz tone.
Time was written around Christmas 1971-72. Pink Floyd had been touring almost continuously since Syd’s departure in early ’68 and although they’d released many albums since then they we’re still beating the old songs and felt they badly needed something new that would finally let them break free from the psychedelic days. Dark Side of the Moon not only did that but it also catapulted Floyd into superstardom.
I’ve always considered Time to be a bit underrated. Not in the sense that it’s not a fan favourite – it’s one of the most played Floyd songs on radio and a live favourite since its release – but I think that to fully appreciate the genius of Time you need to put in a bigger context than just hearing it on Dark Side of the Moon or PULSE. It’s easy to think of Time as just another rock song with a cool guitar solo but to me it’s a culmination of everything Floyd is all about. A big melting pot of every cliché but in a good sense… just like Beatles’ Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds. It’s more Beatles than Beatles. Time is also interesting in terms of how it evolved from originally being a slow Echoes dreamy kind of song in early 1972 to the hard edged rock number that ended up on the album. Listen to shows like Rainbow (February 1972) and Hollywood Bowl (September 1972) and hear the difference.
The intro is a structured version of any free form instrumental improv number Floyd would typically perform around 1969-70. The endless theme over a few chords, the sound effects and instruments drenched in echo is the very essence of early Floyd. The tight rhythm section – the steady bass and groovy drums are the signature of Waters and Mason going back to Atom Heart Mother, Echoes, Childhood End and later Have A Cigar, Pigs etc. David’s guitar solo is a powerful statement from a new guitar God that had finally found his place in the band but also a tribute to contemporary influences like Jimi Hendrix. The solo also refelcts David’s ealier work on songs like Let There Be Light, The Nile Song and Echoes.
Relicating an authentic tone for Time is both easy and difficult. A guitar, amp and 2-3 effects doesn’t require a master’s degree to figure out but it has its obvious limitations, which is good to keep in mind… don’t overdo things. Much of the magic lies in the way the album was recorded. Microphone placement, volume, studio compression, limiters, noise gates… everything makes the sound. Not just the actual rig. It’s about allowing space in your playing and creating the contrast between a dry straight to the point rhythm and echo mayhem on the solo. Listen to how David’s using his tone and volume to create the violin like sustained notes on the solo and how he’s adding small fills and licks to the rhythms rather than strumming like mad.
The studio and live versions of Time is very similar. David actually went all the way back to the 1972 pre-album version with his PULSE setup adding the UniVibe for both rhythms and the solo. While Dark Side feature very little guitar on the rhythm sections later live versions and PULSE has a bit more guitar following the drum and bass pattern.
I’ll be focusing on the album version and PULSE for the setups and tone tips. Please see the Album Gear Guides for details on David’s setups for the 1972 Eclipse tour and 1973-75 Dark Side of the Moon tour, 1987-89 Momentary/Delicate tour and 2006 On An Island tour.
Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd recorded Time and Dark Side of the Moon in Abbey Road between June 1972 and January 1973. David’s main setup featured:
Fender Stratocaster “The Black Strat”
- 1969 black alder body with a white pickguard, ‘63 rosewood neck and stock Fender late 60s pickups.
Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads
Fender Twin Reverb silverface 100W
WEM Super Starfinder 200 cabinets
- with 4×12” Fane Crescendo speakers with metal dust caps.
Note: David fitted his Black Strat with a Gibson humbucker in January 1973. It is not documented when David recorded his guitars for Dark Side of the Moon but the basic rhythm tracks were done in June ‘72 and the majority of the album in October ’72 indicating that the pickup was installed after David’s main sessions.
Coloursound Power Boost
- (mainly set for full overdrive) bass 50%, treble 30%, gain 75%
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (silicon)
- fuzz 100%, volume 75-100%
- intro (swell mode) 350ms
- solo (repeat mode) 350ms
Pink Floyd’s last live album PULSE was recorded at a number of European shows in 1994 and featured a complete performance of Dark Side of the Moon. David’s setup for Time:
Fender Stratocaster ’57 reissue
- 1983 candy apple red body with a white pickguard, maple neck and EMG SA pickups with SPC and EXG controls.
Hiwatt DR103 100w heads
Hiwatt STA-100w heads
Alembic F-2B tube preamp
WEM Super Starfinder 200 speaker cabinets
Marshall JCM 800 400w speaker cabinets
Doppola rotating speaker cabinets
MXR Dynacomp (intro)
- sustain 10:00, volume 2:00
Ibanez CP-9 (intro)
- attack 11:00, level 11:00, threshold 1:00
- speed 11:00, depth 1:00
TC Electronics 2290 (intro/solo)
- long delay 500ms
Lexicon PCM 70 (intro)
- multi-tap echo 350ms
Chandler Tube Driver
- level 11:30, hi 11:30, low 3:00, drive 4:00
Sovtek Big Muff
- sustain 60%, volume 60%, tone 40%
- volume 2:00, intensity 12:00, slow speed 2:00, fast speed 4:00 (o’clock), mode: chorus
Note: All settings above are based on pictures of David’s gear and my own experience. You may need to make further adjustments for your rig.
Although you could get away with using a Les Paul or humbuckers in general I recommend a Stratocaster for the authentic tone and feel. The album version especially is all about that bright screaming single coil Hendrix tone. Which pickups to go for depends on whether you prefer the 70s version (like me) or PULSE. For the 1972-75 tone I’d go for Fender Custom Shop 69 or Duncan SSL1 (or similar late 60s pickups). You can also beef things up by having a Duncan SSL5 or DiMarzio FS-1 in the bridge (this is also a perfect setup for the 2006 version of the song). If you prefer David’s tones on Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and PULSE (1994) then the EMG DG20 set is the way to go. It’s hard to achieve that tone with anything else but keep in mind that these pickups will give you a hard time achieving classic single coil sounds (see my review here).
As mentioned throughout this site an amp with as much headroom as possible is crucial for David’s tones. Time is all about finding the sweetspot between the amp and your pedals using the amp as a powerful basis for the overdrives and fuzz tones. Again, Time is all about using your tone and volume to create powerful rhythms and a screaming fuzz solo. This is very hard to achieve on a small transistor amp without having to push the amp into overdrive resulting in feedback and a generally oversaturated tone. Don’t expect your Roland Cube to perform like a 100w tube stack just because you have a Strat and a large pedal board. A Hiwatt, Sound City, Reeves and similar would obviously be the best choice. The powerful clean tone and tubes makes them ideal for the vintage fuzz tones. Playing at home requires something smaller like the great Peavey Classic 30 combo or Fender Blues Junior. Budgetwise I’d go for a Fender transistor like the Frontman to match David’s fairly bright album tones. Check out the Buyer’s Gear Guide for more tips.
Always connect your effects into the front inputs and set your amp to something like this: bass 50%, treble 50-60%, mids 40% and the master volume should be about 1/3 of the channel volume. If your amp allows it I also recommend linking the normal and bright channel inputs for more presence (link the upper normal and lower bright and plug your guitar into the upper bright. Set the bright volume slightly lower than the normal volume).
As I’ve mentioned Time is about keeping things simple. It’s easy to overdo things adding compressors, EQs, chorus etc but as with almost everything David does it’s based on the tone from his guitar and amp. Don’t be too caught up in the huge PULSE rig but narrow it down to just the basics.
The term boosting can be a bit confusing. Volume boost? Gain boost? Should the booster go in front or after the distortion? Boosting is essential to get David’s lead tone on Time. A single fuzz or Muff may sound quite dull and lifeless but adding an overdrive adds character, dynamics and a slight volume boost.
A booster is basically any overdrive pedal. The Colorsound Power Boost and BK Tube Driver are ideal for this purpose with their transparent bright tone that doesn’t colour as much as Tube Screamer would, which has more mid range. Keep in mind that when you combine two gain pedals you need to match the gain and volume on both. If you max your Muff and add a booster you’ll only get a lot of feedback, noise etc. The fuzz needs a bit more gain to fully saturate though so you need to be extra careful with the booster.
Set the fuzz or Muff up for unity level with the amp and about 50-60 gain on the Muff and 80-100% gain on the fuzz. Connect the overdrive/booster after the fuzz/Muff and set the gain just on the edge of overdrive and the volume for a mild boost. Fine-tune the settings until you get the desired tone. Remember to use the clean channel on your amp and set the master lower than the channel volume as explained above.
Rhythms – Overdrives
Dark Side of the Moon – Colorsound Power Boost
PULSE – Chandler Tube Driver
The Colorsound Power Boost was David’s main overdrive between 1972-1983 (in various forms and clones). Its bright, transparent tone is ideal to boost a tube amp into punchy overdrive and it’s an excellent booster for both a fuzz and Big Muff.
The Chandler/BK Tube Driver has been David’s main choice since the early 90s. It’s very similar to the Colorsound Power Boost ca be used for any period.
There are many Colorsound Power Boost clones on the market (ThroBak, Vintage FX, Absolutely Analog) but none of these manages to come close original in my opinion. Similar sounding pedals would be the Boss BD2 (be sure to get a modified version – AnalogMan or Keeley), Fulltone OCD (my favourite!) and check out the Behringer Vintage Tube Overdrive 911 for a good sounding budget model.
The Power Boost and Tube Driver can be a challenge on smaller solid state amps or if you’re mainly playing at home on a low volume. These pedals are designed for loud powerful tube amps and can sound quite flat and harsh on the “wrong” set up. If you’re in doubt I recommend something a bit more versatile like the Fulltone OCD or Fulldrive or simply an Ibanez/Maxon 808 Tube Screamer. Check out this article for more on choosing the right overdrive and distortion for your rig.
Solo – The Fuzz
Dark Side of the Moon – Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (silicon)
PULSE – Sovtek “Civil War” Big Muff (in combo with a Tube Driver)
The Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (silicon) was David’s main fuzz/distortion between 1971-77. There are different reports on what amp David used for the solo. David mentions a Hiwatt in several interviews but both Alan Parsons (engineer) and Chris Thomas (mix) remember that he used a Fender Twin with a Fuzz Face “so loud that they had to leave the studio”. The Fuzz Face’s bright, dirty tone is the signature on many Floyd classics like Echoes, Time and Money. To make an otherwise harsh and dirty fuzz sing like a violin you really need to crank the hell out of your amp and I also recommend using a booster/overdrive behind it to add a bit more balls.
A vintage Dallas Arbiter is extremely expensive and hard to come by but there are plenty of great sounding clones to choose from. My favourites are the Analogman Sun Face BC108 and the MJM London Fuzz (blue). You’ll have a hard time getting any closer to David’s Dark Side/Pompeii tones! Check out the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face and the Skreddy Lunar Module as well. The Dunlop Classic Fuzz and BBE Free Fuzz should match most budgets.
David’s PULSE rig featured two Big Muffs – the Sovtek “Civil War” and a Pete Cornish P2 (they’re more or less identical – David used the Sovtek on Time). Compared to the early 70s Muffs they have a bit more mid range and bass. David combined the Big Muff with a Tube Driver adding a mild boost (see details for boosting above).
The old Sovteks are beginning to get quite pricy but you can get your hands on a green model (more or less identical to the yellow) for a reasonable price. Any Muff will do though and I prefer a ’71 triangle model myself. Check out Stomp Under Foot Civil War, Absolutely Analog Green Russian and Top Tone DG1 for Sovtek/P2 clones, the excellent BYOC Large Beaver triangle/ram’s head Muff (my definitive favourite) and the MJM Foxey Fuzz (triangle clone). There aren’t many cheap good sounding Muffs on the market (I don’t recommend the current US and Sovtek models) but the EH Big Muff Tone Wicker (with some cool features for tone expansion) and the EH Little Big Muff will do the job.
As with the Power Boost and Tube Driver, fuzz and Muffs are quite demanding and a bit tricky to dial in. Again, these pedals were originally designed for loud powerful tube amps and I strongly recommend something more versatile if you’re uncertain whether these are suited for your rig or not. The RAT is a potato that works with just about any guitar and amp. You can easily tweak this for warm Muff tones or screaming bright fuzz. Just be sure to get a model with the LM308 chip for a smoother tone (pre 2000 models) or get a clone (BYOC Mighty Mouse, Absolutely Analog Ratzo). I also recommend the Boss DS-1 AnalogMan model (modified for a much smoother tone than the stock Boss model).
Dark Side of the Moon – Binson Echorec
PULSE – TC Electronics 2290 (long single delay) and Lexicon PCM 70 (multi ping pong delay)
On Dark Side David used a Binson Echorec for echo/delay. It’s not documented which model he used but as the Binson II has a maximum tempo at around 300-310ms I assume that a Binson PE was employed for the track.
Echo/delay tempo reference clip (recorded with a Line 6 POD X3).
- First three notes are digital single delay 500ms. Recommended if you only have one unit in your rig or for blending with the analog echo.
- Second three notes are analog echo 350ms. Recommended if you only have one unit in your rig or for blending with the digital delay.
- Last three notes are digital ping pong delay 350ms. This is a great alternative for replicating the Binson multi head repeats.
The Binson is of course nearly impossible to come by and if you do it’s going to cost you a shitload. The Binson’s playback heads creates a unique echo with several notes in each repeat – as heard on the intro. This can be replicated by using a digital ping pong delay set for around 350ms. Most digital processors like the Line 6 (DL4 and Echo Park), TC Electronics Nova, Lexicon etc feature ping pong modes. A single tap also works nicely for both the intro and solo. For authentic 70s tones I recommend an analog echo/delay pedal with a slightly darker tone compared to a typical digital unit. Check out the T-Rex Replica (my favourite), MXR Carbon Copy and EH Deluxe Memory Man and the Ibanez DE7 and EH Memory Toy for great sounding budget models.
A digital delay with a brighter tone fits PULSE nicely. Check out one of the processors mentioned above or try to get your hands on the wonderful Boss DD-2.
Modulation is not a must but David’s been using different effects throughout the years for adding depth and character to his tone. The UniVibe is a classic Gilmour effect featured on the early 1972 versions and on PULSE (both rhythms and solo). You can also use a phaser like David did on the 1974-75 leg of the Dark Side of the Moon tour (placing the phaser in front of the gain effects makes it sound even more like a UniVibe). For authentic UniVibe tones I recommend the MJM Sixties Vibe and Fulltone Deja Vibe. The Voodoo Lab Micro Vibe and Lovepedal PickleVibe are great sounding budget models.
David also used chorus on both the Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and PULSE (1994) versions. Personally I think this is redundant and bit against the whole idea of keeping it basic be sure it’s an analog model like the Boss CE2, Ibanez CS9, EH Small Stone or the BYOC Analog Chorus (CE2 clone).
My stage setup
- 1996 MIJ 50’s Collectable Series Fender Custom Shop 69 pickups (neck and middle) and Seymour Duncan SSL-5 (bridge).
Reeves Custom 50w tube amp with linked inputs
– bass 50%, treble 50%, mids 40%
Sound City speaker cabinet
- 4×12” Weber Thames 80w speakers
Intro (bridge pickup)
Gollmer Composus: comp 1:00, sust 2:00, vol 2:00
Colorsound Power Boost (clean volume boost): treble 9:30, bass 12:00, volume 9:30, master 1:30
T-Rex Replica: echo 9:00, repeat 12:00, level 12:30 unity, tempo
Boss DD2: level 12:00, feedback 12:00, time 11:30
Rhythms and solo (middle pickup, bridge for solo)
AnalogMan Sun Face (added for solo): fuzz 100%, volume 75%
Tube Driver (mild overdrive): level 2:00, hi 1:30, lo 2:00, drive 12:00
MJM Sixties Vibe (added for chorus parts): rate 40%, volume unity, intensity 70%
T-Rex Replica: echo 9:00, repeat 12:00, level 12:30 unity, tempo 6 points.
My setup is kind of a mix between early 1972 versions and 1975. I love David’s UniVibe tones from 1972 but I don’t think it fits the solo when I’m using a fuzz so I’m only using it on the chorus section to add a bit more character and depth.
I’m using two delays on the intro – one set for a fast slap back echo and one for a single long delay. The echo is mixed slightly lower than the delay adding a sense of reverb. I’m also using the Colorsound Power Boost set for a mild volume boost for a bit more bite.
As a basis for the rhythms and solo I’m using the Tube Driver set for warm, fairly mild overdrive. I’m using the guitar volume control to increase the volume for the fills and roll it back a hair or two for the rhythms. I prefer a dry tone without any delays to keep the verse as tight as possible. For the solo I hit the Sun Face on top of the Tube Driver and add rich delay for a stellar tone!
So, I hope this made sense and that you got a little wiser. I think the main focus should be to keep things simple and trying to understand how David’s using only a handful of effects and volume to create his tone. Please feel free to share your own Time tone tips!