Although The Endless River is an unusual album in the Floyd catalog it sure is filled with many beautiful moments and great guitar playing. Itâ€™s an interesting peak into the recording of an album and we also get to hear how Davidâ€™s experimenting with his tones and trying out new gear. In this feature weâ€™ll analyse his setup and Iâ€™ll also try to share some tips on how you can achieve the same tones.
The majority of The Endless River was recorded in 1993. Mainly at Olympia Studios and Astoria in London. Pink Floyd had started writing for a new album but more important, the sessions started out with the band trying to find its form and like in the old days they would spend days just jamming. This is what we hear on Endless River. The material dates from these early sessions where no songs had taken any form or structure. At least not in the sense of how we know them from Division Bell.
David is experimenting with his tones but as we can hear on the album heâ€™s really focusing more on the playing and trying to come up with interesting bits and pieces rather than cranking out heavy Muff tones. These came later, when the songs started to form into songs and guitar solos were ready to be recorded.
As covered in the Endless River Gear Guide, Davidâ€™s setup for the sessions were fairly consistent. Although the footage reveals a jawbreaking setup he would mainly stick to a very small palette based on his guitar, the amp setup and a few trusted pedals. Both David and his long-time technician Phil Taylor has talked about how they brought out all this gear for the sessions. It was a mix of old stuff David used in the 70s and new gear that they would try out. After nearly a decade of using digital equipment, like most guitarists at the time, this was a return to classic analog pedals and tube amps.
Another new tool David employed was the EBow. The device came out in the late 70s but the â€™93 sessions was the first time David used it. He explains in an interview with Guitar World (1993): â€œ(â€¦) On a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar (â€¦) I had a Zoom in my control room one day and I was mucking about with something. Suddenly, I thought I should stick the E-bow on the strings and see what would happen. It sounded great, so we started writing a little duet for the E-bowed acoustic guitar and a keyboardâ€.
Another important ingredient to Davidâ€™s Endless River tone are the EMG pickups. The set featured three SA single coils and active tone controls, EXG (bass and treble boost) and SPC (mids boost). He had been using these pickups for some time, including on the Momentary Lapse of Reason album and tour, but the â€™93 sessions were really the first time when the pickups came to their right and they played a huge part in the guitar sound.
Their headroom, warmth and hot output gave David a powerful foundation for all his tones. The active tone controls also provided instant EQing and the ability to tailor the tones for specific parts.
David did use several different guitars, including Telecasters, Les Pauls (with P90s) and a Gretsch but his main guitar for the sessions were his favoured red 1983 â€™57 reissue Stratocaster with the EMG pickups.
The amp setup featured a stereo combo of two Fender Bassmans and two Hiwatt SA212. In addition to this, there was also a Rover rotating speaker. The Bassman lack mid range and can sound a bit thin but the clean tone is unmistakably Fender, with a warm punch and smooth top end. The Hiwatt SA212 has a classic Hiwatt tone, with lots of presence and mid range. Combining these two very different sounding amps gave David the best of both worlds. Although we donâ€™t know how he would use them or how they were mixed, he had the opportunity to use the whole setup together or just specific amps for certain tones.
The Maestro Rover rotating speaker plays a big role in Davidâ€™s lush tones on Endless River. The signal from the board boards where split into the amps, which were dry, and the Rover. The Rover was then mixed with the amps creating a wide 3D effect that swirls on top of everything.
For the 2013 sessions David would employ his old Yamaha RA200 for rotary sounds. Compared to the Rover, the Yamaha has a slightly more noticeable modulated character. See the Leslies, Doppolas and Rovers feature for more on David’s rotary setups.
Large portions of the guitars are newly recorded in Davidâ€™s new home studio, Medina located in Hove, UK. We do not know with certainty which parts are new but almost all of the original recordings were done live in the studio. This means that there was only one guitar track. Most of the lead guitars and slides thatâ€™s present on a track with a rhythm guitar are new.
The lead on Itâ€™s What We Do is from the 1993 sessions. You can hear the combination of the clean Fenders and EMGs, with the watery Rover on top. The lead on Anisina and Louder Than Words are from the 2013 sessions. The tone is slightly more aggressive and brighter and you can also hear the slightly more modulated Yamaha in the background.
Most of the slides are new as well, like Sum and Surfacing. This was recorded on the blonder Fender Deluxe with what sounds like a Tube Driver. You can also hear the Yamaha rotating speaker being very present.
You need a Stratocaster, with preferably EMG SA/DG20 pickups. You can also use passive single coils but you wonâ€™t get the advantage of the active tone controls. A way to compensate it either to add an EQ in your setup or choose effects that has either a distinct mids scoop (to compensate for the EXG) or mids boost (to compensate for the SPC). A Les Paul with P90 pickups will also sound similar to the EMGs.
You want the amp to have as much headroom as possible. Fenders and Hiwatts has tons of it but if you choose a smaller amp for your bedroom then make sure itâ€™s capable of producing a warm and well balanced clean tone. If you already have an amp, you should set it as clean as possible but donâ€™t be afraid to experiment with the balance between the pre-amp and output. The amp usually sounds best just at the very edge of breakup. If your amp has two channels then the gain channel can often produce a better result. It often has a dash more compression and mid range than the clean channel, which goes well with your pedals. See the Amp Tone feature for more on setting up your amp.
Starting with the compressor. As a good portion of the tones are either clean or only slightly overdriven a compressor is a powerful tool for enhancing the overall tone, evening out the frequencies and balance it better. David is seen using both a MXR Dynacomp and Boss CS2 although the latter was probably his favoured.
Next is the Digitech Whammy pedal. Sadly the original is no longer made and its predecessors are not nearly as smooth sounding although the latest addition is very close to the original. Perhaps not a must but definitely invaluable if you want to replicate the pitch effect on songs like Itâ€™s What We Do and also Marooned and The Blue.
The most important pedal in your Endless River setup would be the overdrive. David had Tube Drivers in both the 1993 and 2013 setups and itâ€™s most likely that he used these to produce most of the overdrive tones. The tone is reminiscent of the early Marshall amps, with a transparent tone and a distinct tube-quality producing both a natural break up and slight compression. The Wampler PlexiDrive is in my opinion the closest match and ideal for smaller amps. The Boss BD2 also works great on darker amps, while the Fulltone OCD adds a bit of mid range and warmth to bright scooped amps.
Thereâ€™s not a great deal of modulation on Endless River. The amp setup feature two Boss CE2 chrous pedals probably lined up for each rack to enhance the stereo spread but the effect is subtle and personally I think a stand alone chorus would be too dominating. The song On Noodle Street feature a phaser or possibly a UniVibe but unless you want to nail this specific song neither of the effects are essential.
My tone for Louder Than Words has a bit more gain than Davidâ€™s. Itâ€™s perhaps a better reference to some of his Division Bell tones. David also used his Black Strat when he recorded the solo in 2013. Iâ€™m using the EMG pickups which rolls off some of that crisp top-end. Iâ€™m using a Wampler PlexiDrive instead of a Tube Driver, which David most likely used, and for replicating the Yamaha RA200 rotary tones Iâ€™m using a Boss RT20. My setup is mono so I don’t get that wide stereo spread but setting a moderate effect level on the RT20 produce a similar to as the Yamaha.
In the next clip, Iâ€™m jamming along to Wearing the Inside Out. The song appeared on Division Bell but the Special Edition of Endless River feature the song Evrika, an early version of Wearing. Again Iâ€™m using the Wampler PlexiDrive instead of a Tube Driver but to replicate the wide rotary tones of the Rover Iâ€™ve sent the mono track to a stereo bus with a Leslie simulation in Logic Pro. This allows the initial guitar track to cut through and I can add just the amount of rotary that I want.
A good sounding delay is crucial for both Endless River and Davidâ€™s tones in general. His main delay for the 1993 sessions were the MXR digital delay rack unit. Itâ€™s digital but has the warmth of an analog unit. Multi effects like the TC Nova Delay, Eventide Timefactor and Boss DD20 allows provides a wide range of different types of delay and allows you to store your own presets, which can be very handy when covering several songs and different tones. The best stand alone pedal you can choose is probably the TC Flashback. I wouldnâ€™t recommend tape or analog pedals as these are often a bit too dark and lack some of that pristine tone weâ€™re looking for.
The secret to Davidâ€™s lush tone on Endless River, both the original recording and the new, is the addition of a rotating speaker. It makes everything sound smoother and it adds an almost watery texture to the overall sound. Perhaps youâ€™re lucky enough to already own a rotary cabinet but if not, there are several ways of simulating this. First of all, a rotating speaker is not the same as a phase, UniVibe, chorus or flanger. Although you can use these to achieve some of the same effect they will not be authentic enough to achieve the tone we want. In my opinion the best alternative is the Boss RT20. Place it either last in your chain or, if youâ€™re running a stereo setup, place it after your chain and lined to one of the amps. See this feature for more on replicating Davidâ€™s rotary tones.
My best tip is to keep it simple. Experiment with your guitar and amp and try to get the best clean tone possible. Donâ€™t overdo it with the effects but set up a mild overdrive, add compression if needed and try to set up at least two different delays for different applications. Listen to the album and notice how Davidâ€™s using different vibrato techniques to create both modulation and sustain. Keeping one finger on the volume control also enables you to create a dynamic tone and a slight top end roll off if needed.