• David Gilmour’s phaser tones

    In this video we’ll look at the MXR Phase 90 phaser and how you can use this single pedal to cover all of David Gilmour’s 1973-75 era phaser and UniVibe tones.

    The MXR Phase 90 was released in 1974. David Gilmour is first seen using one summer 1974 and he would go back and forth between his old UniVibe and the Phase 90 for the 1974-75 leg of the Dark Side of the Moon tour. See the Dark Side of the Moon gear guide for more.

    The Phase 90 seems to have been favoured for most tones and was even left on for most of the set, including for songs like Echoes and all of the new songs they were working on, – Shine On, Have a Cigar, Raving and Drooling (Sheep) and You Gotta Be Crazy (Dogs).

    You can use any phaser although a vintage style 4-stage model will sound more authentic. See the Buyer’s Gear Guide – Modulations for more tips on models.

    I prefer having both phasers and UniVibes before any overdrive and distortion units. It sounds more natural that way. Placing it after dirt pedals makes these pedals sound thin and fizzy.

    Do you use phaser pedals? Which one and for what kind of tones? Let us know!

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11 Responsesso far.

  1. Spencer Landreth says:

    I have the MXR script 90. I’m really digging the tecnique of using it with the Electric Mistress for the Wall tones. The script 90 really gets me closer to Gilmour than any other pedal I have.

    • Bjorn says:

      Did a video on phaser+flanger here

      • Spencer Landreth says:

        Your video is where I learned it! I think half the boutique pedal boom can be attributed to your site! Definitely everything I know about building a pedal chain, I learned from you. Thanks as always, Bjorn!

  2. Arya Boustani says:

    Thanks Bjorn. That 74 reissue sounds really good! For the dirty tone, the tone gets altered so much that the repetition of phasing cycles seem to blend in especially with delay, but I found it becomes a bit too much for my taste, and too obvious repeating textures that in clean solo I always wanted something to vary or change the amount. I then discovered splitting the signal and passing the upstream unaltered to the left channel of the delay, and the out of phase content to the right channel of the delay, then I combine the two channels in the amp (into the two inputs of my Reeves). I found the tone is more complex and I don’t hear as much of the repeated phasing cycles in my face. Of course with the dirt pedal being there, you loose some of the dirt if you send the dirty signal to right and the clean signal to the left of the delay so that wouldn’t be a good idea unless the dirt is subtle like a mild transparent overdrive. I guess someone could potentially create two differently voiced ODs one with phaser and one without and get something special out of it when blending the two in the amp, like the body of a thicker OD that normally looses the top end and attack (like tube screamer kind of pedal), and one with thinner, milder, more transparent OD with lots of top end and attack (like Boss BD-2 or Vick Audio Overdriver). This is also valid for modulating with other mod pedals like chorus or flanger. Most of the time, if that one channel unmodulated blend scenario happen, you can actually increase the amount of modulation to create a more complex textures but without sounding tacky and without loosing the original voice.

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for the insights. I’m mostly using the SviSound Techno Phaser which allow for a bit more tweaking and fine tuning of the depth and frequency.

  3. Giuseppe Flore says:

    Gilmour uses these modulations after distortion pedals

    • Bjorn says:

      Yes. I like to have them first.

    • Brad Roller says:

      I feel you can get away with mods after gain if it’s a light drive or transparent. Like the power boost. But In my experience, a phaser doesn’t sound good after heavy gain pedals.

      • Troy says:

        I can’t think of a single recorded use of phaser before high-gain dirt though.

        For certain synthesizer-esque tones like Ernie Isley’s Strat into a Big Muff into a Maestro PS-1A Phase Shifter then DI’d on “That Lady” then phaser after high-gain dirt is just what is required.

        The only example I can think of DG combining a phaser type effect with high gain dirt was the solo of “Time” on “Pulse”. Big Muff through a Uni-Vibe – with a Tube Driver somewhere in the chain.

        Hendrix used high-gain fuzz into Uni-Vibe into cranked Marshall Plexi (kind of lower gain crunch if unaided by fuzzes & fed by a Strat) for things like “Star Spangled Banner” (silicon Fuzz Face) at Woodstock & “Machine Gun” on “Band of Gypsys” (later version Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz in a Fuzz Face enclosure).

        What seems a better alternative for those who don’t like phaser after high-gain dirt is rather than putting the phaser before – or not using phaser at all when using high-gain dirt – is to place a lower-gain dirt without a mid-hump (so no un-modded Tube Screamers) after the Uni-Vibe clone or phaser.

        So high-gain dirt (Fuzz Face or Muff type) > phaser or Uni-Vibe clone > overdrive set for lower gain. BK Butler Tube Driver or Effectrode Blackbird – on the classic channel – are my preferred units for this).

        Phaser type effects before high-gain dirt can produce undesirable sonic side-effects too so for some they may be no better than phasers or vibes used after high-gain dirt . The solution that I propose above can be just the ticket using these tones together. Three of my Effectrodes – Mercury fuzz > Tube-Vibe > Blackbird (on classic/blue channel) – are perfect for this.

        Muff clone > low-resonance phaser or Uni-Vibe clone > Butler Tube Driver (or you could try a Boss BD-2 as Bjorn often suggests) will make a usable tone too.

        • Bjorn says:

          I don’t agree. I always use UniVibes, RotoVibe and phasers before dirt and I never have any issues with unwanted frequencies. My experience is that they blend much better but it’s obviously the combination between the phaser, dirt pedal and amp. I’m sure if you used the “wrong” amp and dirt pedal in this combo, the phaser would sound horrible as it would if placed after. Keep in mind too that Van Halen always had his Phaser 90 and MXR Flanger going into a cranked Marshall. I think you can find that approach on countless rock recordings of the late 70s and 80s… not to mention Zakk Wylde’s current tones.

          • Troy says:

            EVH “might” have had phaser before his amp head (this pre-dirt) in his early recordings but this is far from settled from what I have come across. it may have come after his Marshall amp head was fed into a dummy load with an output level control that then the was processed by the MXR pedals & the Echoplex before going into a solid-state power amp then onto the cabs. To my ears it sounds too strong to be before.

            The following is interesting reading from a page that features info from several sources (you have to scroll down a bit to get past the less insightful stuff). The phaser could be:


            “I can go into detail about the Eddie Van Halen method of loading the amp then driving the effects and echo at line level into a power amp (he used H&H power amp) then into 4 paralleled cabs into 4 ohms. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and heard it from the horse’s mouth!! The setup is a 100 watt Marshall plexi with Sylvania 6CA7’s. The head is plugged into a Variac to lower the mains voltage to about 90 VAC or whatever he’s in the mood for. This browns the sound slightly and helps lenghten the tubes’ life. The speaker out is set at 8 ohms. The dummy load resistor is adjusted to about 20 ohms. Then the load resistor is tapped at center and sent to a box with a potentiometer in it and and output jack. The output jack is a line-level low-impedance source and will not muddy up the tone anywhere. The pot. is adjusted for whatever drive level you want. It then goes into the MXR Phase 90, MXR flanger, and Echoplex-EP3. This then goes to the power amp, usually a low-powered one, 100-200 watts. … The final power amp he used was by H&H and he paralleled 4 cabinets down to 4 ohms to connect it to power amp. This IS the setup for his early days. … The reason why the load resistor is set higher than the selected impedance of the amp selector is because a 100 watt Marshall head at full volume into a resistive load set to the same impedance as the head will put out way over 100 watts, try 160-180 watts. This is because the amp will go into class B mode. When a cabinet is being played at full volume its impedance climbs, especially higher if it is a sealed closed back cabinet. This higher load tends to keep the amp at around 100 watts. A head played into a resistor of the same value will fry the primary windings of the transformer due to the excessive A.C. currents. So increasing the load resistor by at least twice sort of keeps the A.C. currents in the range that the output can deal with, at full volume. This does not muddy the sound. After the potentiometer, it is low impedance source and can drive the effects with no problem. That’s why his flanger had so much of a strong effect. The Echoplex is quiet in this setup. If you were to connect a EP3 Echoplex in front inputs to a 100W Marshall on full volume, the noise and hiss levels would be insane. I hung and partied with this guy for years.”

            The writer adds a lot of additional detail later, some of which conflicts with the info above.including:

            “As for the Phase 90 it was a script logo version and it was connected in front of the amp, not afterward. He had a EP3 in the loop AFTER the load with MXR flanger, and some Univox echo unit in the bomb shell next to the H&H amp.”

            I think that he got it right in the first post. It’s not cut & dried though. He had a complex rig on VH1.

            Apart from EVH I don’t recall any rock guitarists using phaser with high-gain dirt in that same late 70’s into the 80’s era. It was going out of fashion with the arrival of BBD modulation (flanger & chorus).

            I will concede though that – for my tastes – phaser will work better before higher-gain amp overdrive (or pedals emulating that than it does before Muffs. In the latter situation the wave of the sweep can end up sounding a bit warped.

            As you say: “I’m sure if you used the “wrong” amp and dirt pedal in this combo, the phaser would sound horrible as it would if placed after.”

            At the end if the day though it is what ever serves the tune best. I’ve put wah after drive – even though I normally much prefer wah before drive – because the former suited the tune much more. Effects use in recordings definitely benefit from experimentation.

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