Although David had already established himself as a vital force in Pink Floyd it was on Echoes that he would really shine and create some of his most memorable moments. In this article we’ll look at the signatures and some of the many variations.
Echoes was written during a period when Pink Floyd were constantly touring and at the same time trying to write new material that would (hopefully) free them from the Barrett era and the old songs they’d been playing to death. The song was written during several studio sessions in January and February 1971 and played live for the first time in Norwich, UK, April 22. 1971, – seven months before the release of Meddle.
David’s guitar tracks were recorded in May and June 1971. Little is documented from the sessions but he did use the Bill Lewis guitar to record the main solo and the Black Stratocatser on most of the rhythm parts. The effects used were a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (BC109), Vox wah wah and the Binson Echorec II.
- Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (BC 109): fuzz 100%, volume about 70%
- Binson Echorec II: time aprox. 310ms with adjusted feedback and volume.
- Colorsound Power Boost: volume and bass 12:00, treble 10:00 (David added the pedal in 1972 and used it on all the rhythms and for boosting the Fuzz Face. The settings are based on my own setup with CS 69 pickups and Sound City tube amp).
David was fairly true to the studio version while performing the song live but it’s interesting to hear how his sound got heavier as the shows grew bigger. Although the structure is the same, the version heard on Live at Pompeii is quite different to that performed at Knebworth Park, UK in 1975, – the last performance with Roger. Echoes was also played on a handful of shows in 1987 and again in 2006, as documented on the Remember That Night DVD. Here’s a look at some of the guitar parts and how they evolved over the years…
The violin effect
The “violin effect” is a long, sustained high pitch tone that rings on throughout most of the song, mainly the verse and chorus sections. This is something David frequently did at the time, especially on the many instrumentals performed in 1969-71. The effect is achieved by using a slide and gently sliding (or rubbing) it across the string – rather that up and down the neck as one would normally do – while muting the strings with the left hand. David used loads of echo and a very mild Fuzz Face for a slightly boosted signal. It can be a bit tricky but you need to use the bridge pickup and to find just the right balance between the amount of echo and boost (without getting too much feedback or noise). One can also achieve a boost by increasing the input signal on the echo/delay unit (both the Binson and the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man – among others – has the option).
On live versions in the 70’s David would only do the “violin effect” during the intro before playing a “normal” slide solo (instead of the blues solo on the album) when the drums enters, as seen on Live at Pompeii. The effect is not played on the 2006 version.
The verse and chorus sections are fairly straight forward with mostly randomly strumming using the middle pickup and a clean tone. The “funky part” also includes a bright rhythm guitar with a Fuzz Face in addition to the fuzz fills (more on this below).
Live 1971: Clean tone with a hint of echo, adding a very mild Fuzz Face on the run-downs after the choruses for a slightly crunchy tone.
Live 1972-75: Colorsound Power Boost set to a mild overdrive used for rhythms and boost for the fuzz on the solo and fuzz fills on the “funky part”. David also added a MXR Phase 90 and a Leslie rotating speaker in 1974-75 that he’s using throughout the song.
Live 2006: BK Butler Tube Driver and mild delay.
The album version includes several guitars, – the main two appears to be a clean Stratocaster and the Bill Lewis with a Fuzz Face and echo (bridge pickup). David’s playing is very typical for his style at the time with strong influences from classic blues and Jimi Hendrix. The solo is also a forerunner to his playing on Time and Money.
Live 1971: Fuzz Face and Binson echo (bridge pickup).
Live 1972-75: Colorsound Power Boost boosting the Fuzz Face with Binson echo (bridge pickup). During the 1974-75 tours Dick Parry plays a saxophone solo in addition to David’s solo and fuzz fills on the “funky part”.
Live 2006: David’s using what appears to be a Pete Cornish G-2 boosted by a BK Butler Tube Driver and delay (bridge pickup and randomly using the neck/bridge combo).
The funky part
This section consists of two guitar parts, – the rhythm and the screaming fuzz fills. The rhythms on the album version compiles two or three guitars playing random patterns, some clean and some with a Fuzz Face. On live versions, David is following the bass and drums creating an extremely tight rhythm section. The same pattern can be heard on songs like Childhood End, Time and also to some extent on Have a Cigar. The fuzz fills are played with a Fuzz Face and echo (David stomps on both pedals simultaneously, on/off).
Live 1971: Clean tone and kicking on/off the Fuzz Face and Binson echo simultaneously (middle pickup).
1972-75: Colorsound Power Boost for a mild overdrive and kicking on/off the Fuzz Face and Binson echo simultaneously (middle pickup).
2006: BK Butler Tube Driver for mild overdrive and kicking in (what appears to be) a Pete Cornish G-2 and delay simultaneously (middle pickup).
The seagull squeals
The seagull squeals or the reversed wah wah effect is perhaps the most innovative sound on the song. In an interview with Guitar Player in 2008 David talks about how a roadie “discovered” the effect when he plugged wah in the wrong way. On 1970’s live performances the effect was fed through the quadraphonic sound system making it even more dramatic. Here’s a step by step explanation of how the effect is achieved:
1. Set up for a clean tone with lots of echo (or delay) at aprox. 310ms with long feedback. Make sure that the volume and the upper tone control on the guitar are set to 10 and the lower tone to 0/off (this is important to avoid any loud noises… yes, the volume should be at full).
2. Connect the guitar to the OUTPUT and your amp/next effect to the INPUT on the wah wah (reversed connection).
3. Set the pickup switch in the 4. position (2. position from the bottom).
4. Turn on the wah wah and let it stay with the “heel” all the way down and turn the lower tone knob up towards 10. You should now hear a loud feedback.
5. Adjust the pitch of the feedback by carefully turning up and down the lower tone knob. Somewhere between 3-2 the tone fades and by making a really slow fadeout you can achieve the “laughing” effect.
6. Combine these techniques with switching the pickup switch up and down from position 1-5 and by adjusting the pitch on the wah wah.
Note that effect is best achieved with vintage Stratocaster single coils. It can also be achieved on both humbuckers and Telecasters but the tone will be pitched differently. I also recommend using vintage type wah wahs, either Vox or Cry Baby. It appears that it’s difficult to achieve the effect on some of the modern models.
Reference clip >>
Here’s a number of different techniques: 1) The first is just a fast turn of the tone knob to about 5-6 and slowly turning it down for the pitch to lower and the “laughing” effect. 2) The second is the same technique but you turn the tone fast on then fast off and then repeat the above for the “laughing effect. 3) On the third I’m turning the tone up while carefully pitching the wah wah forwards for a higher tone. 4) On the fourth I’m keeping the tone off while wiggling the pickup switcher back and forth. 5) The fifth is a bit tricky. Turn the tone on and off very fast while you pitch the wah wah up and down simultaneously for a “whistling” tone.
The build up
The build up is the long chord progression that leads back to the last verse and chorus after the mid section. David plays a percussive, rhythmic guitar that resembles what he did on Another Brick in the Wall (part 1). On the album version there are two guitars with a clean tone panned for stereo. The tone is slightly muted by letting the wrist gently rest on the bridge.
Live 1971: Clean tone and Binson echo (middle pickup).
Live 1972-75: Colorsound Power Boost for a mild overdrive and Binson echo (middle pickup). David also added a MXR Phase 90 on the 1974-75 tours.
Live 2006: BK Butler Tube Driver for a mild overdrive and delay (middle pickup).
The arpeggio riff
Perhaps the most challenging part on Echoes is the arpeggio piece right before the last verse enters. Again the trick is to use lots of echo (about 310ms) and a hint of overdrive or boost to create the impression of a bigger sound or several guitars playing at once. As you can see from this figure, the pattern is fairly simple and it’s basically a matter of timing and using pull offs to make it flow effortlessly.
Reference clip 1 >>
Here’s the arpeggio piece note by note. See figure below.
Getting the Echoes sound
David’s setup for Echoes is fairly simple and much of his tone lies in the powerful clean tone from his Hiwatt tube amps and Fender Stratocaster with vintage single coil pickups. I think it will be hard trying to achieve the classic 70’s tone with say a Les Paul with humbuckers and a Marshall solid state. I recommend either Fender CS 69 or 54 pickups for the purest tone.
Obviously you’ll need an echo or delay unit. An echo unit will give you the most authentic tone, like EH Memory Man, T-Rex Replica, Boss DD-2 or the Ibanez DE-7, which is a great budget model. Any unit will do really.
I strongly recommend a good sounding silicon transistor fuzz pedal to get that wild, screaming tone heard on Live at Pompeii and the mid 70’s bootlegs. I prefer the AnalogMan Sun Face BC108, which sounds incredible with the Colorsound Power Boost. I also recommend the MJM London Fuzz II, Fulltone 70’s, Dunlop JH-F1 Fuzz Face and the BBE Free Fuzz, which is a great budget model. You can also get a great lead tone with a Big Muff (preferably a “triangle” model – read more about Big Muffs here), a RAT and the Keeley modified Boss DS-1.
I also recommend a booster or overdrive unit for the rhythms and for boosting the fuzz for a wilder tone. The Colorsound Power Boost is an ideal match for the (silicon) fuzz and it will give you that naturally saturated tube tone for the rhythms. Do also check out the ThroBak Overdrive Boost and the VintageFX Colordrive, which both are clones of the Colorsound. The BK Butler Tube Driver is also an excellent choice. Mind though that these pedals are designed to work with a clean tube amp and it will sound different on a solid state. For this I recommend a Keeley Boss BD-2, which is a classic transparent booster/overdrive with fat lows. For this particular song I’d stay away from the more mid boosted overdrives such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer and other Boss pedals.
So there you have it. I hope it made you a bit wiser and for those of you who know the song by heart, I hope you agree. Next time we’ll sink our teeth into Comfortably Numb.
- “Meddle”, original recording 1971
- “Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii”, concert film 1971
- “Atom Heart Mother Goes on the Road”, BBC, London, UK, September 30. 1971
- “Bowl de Luna”, Hollywood Bowl, USA, September 22. 1972
- “Yeeshkul”, Toronto, Canada, March 11. 1973
- “Live at Wembley”, London, UK, November 16. 1974
- “Echoes in the Gardens”, Boston, USA, June 18. 1975
- “Remember That Night”, concert film 2006
- “Echoes – The Complete History of Pink Floyd” by Glenn Povey
- “The Black Strat – A History of David Gilmour’s Black Fender Stratocaster” by Phil Taylor