FAQ

Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of the more popular topics and common questions. Please read through this section and check out the linked to features, before you contact me with your questions. Hopefully you’ll find your answers here. The list will be constantly updated so do pop in from time to time. See also post category “Tip of the Week” for more tips.

How can I get David’s tones on Comfortably Numb?
See this in depth feature with the complete history of the song, David’s gear on the different versions and tips on how you can achieve the same tone. Learn also how to do the “waving part” heard on the live versions.

How can I get David’s tones on Echoes from Live at Pompeii?
See this in depth feature with the complete history of the song, David’s gear on the different versions and tips on how you can achieve the same tone.

How do I achieve the “seagull screams” on Echoes?
See this in depth tutorial with a detailed description of the effect – including a YouTube clip.

How can I get David’s tones on Dogs and the Animals album?
See this in depth feature with the complete history of the song, David’s gear on the different versions and tips on how you can achieve the same tone.

What pedal did David use for overdrive on Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals?
David started using overdrive pedals in 1972. The Colorsound Power Boost was featured on all albums between Obscured By Clouds and The Wall and can be heard on songs like Time, Money, Have a Cigar and Pigs. The Power Boost has a distinct bright transparent tone with a powerful clean boost and glassy overdrive. David used the pedal as a dedicated overdrive and for boosting the Big Muff. The Colorsound Power Boost is still available at Macari’s in London. The ThroBak Overdrive Boost, Boss BD2, Butler/Chandler Tube Driver, Fulltone OCD are similar sounding effects.

How can I get David’s tones on PULSE?
David’s setup on PULSE is huge and it may seem too complex but his setup for each song is pretty basic. Although any single coil pickups will do, the EMG SAs that he used at the time are essential for the fat, warm tone and rich sustain. These are now available as the DG20 custom set from EMG. Pedalwise you can either go for an overall versatile setup with a ProCo RAT distortion, Ibanez TS9/Maxon OD808 overdrive, an analog chorus and a delay or if you want more authenticity you should consider hunting down a Boss CS2, Sovtek Civil War Big Muff and a Boss CE2 off EBay. Add a BK Butler Tube Driver for overdrives and boost and a delay and you’re there! See the PULSE gear guide for more on David’s rig.

How can I get David’s tones on Live in Gdansk?
David’s tones on the 2006 On an Island tour is very similar to his late 70’s tones from Animals and The Wall. The Black Strat with its single coil pickups and the powerful clean Hiwatts makes up the basis with the Pete Cornish All Tubes MKII pedal board. The BK Butler Tube Driver was used for both boost and overdrive and for most of the leads David would use a Pete Cornish P1 – a clone of the mid 70s ram’s head Big Muff. A Pete Cornish G2 was also featured in the board and used to replicate the early lead tones. The BK Butler Tube Driver is recommended but check out the excellent Boss BD2 Robert Keeley model as well for similar tones. Search EBay for an original ram’s head Big Muff or check out the many clones like the BYOC Large Beaver or the Pig Hoof ram’s head clone from Electronic Orange. In addition you also need a delay.

What’s the difference between fuzz and a Big Muff and does it matter what I use?
David used fuzz pedals between 1968-75. Like Hendrix, he started out with a Fuzz Face with germanium transistors. The tone is fairly mild and dark and can easily be manipulated with the guitar volume for anything crunchy overdrive to full blast fuzz. David switched to silicon transistors in 1971. These has a brighter, more aggressive character with little compression.

Apart from the slightly more complexe circuit, the Big Muff has a considerably more saturated tone, smoother sustain and an overall richer frequency spectrum. As a rule, the Muff can replicate most of David’s lead tones, as he’s done on the last tours to cover his own tones from the 70s. However, a fuzz won’t give you those smooth sustained tones you need for PULSE and GDansk. If you need to choose, I’d get a Muff but ideally you should have both for authentic tones from all eras.

I’m having a hard time deciding on which Big Muff that’ll suit my setup.
Check out this comprehensive Big Muff Buyer’s Guide. All models are tested for both home and stage setups with David’s tones in mind. I’ve also given each pedals a score based on my very subjective opinion.

I just bought a Big Muff but it sounds like an agry bee no matter what I do.
The Big Muff is a demanding beast and not all amps can handle it. To get David’s super smooth tone and sustain, you also need to be able to play loud, which can be difficult on a home setup. Check out this feature for some amp setup tips and the Big Muff Buyer’s Guide for tips on Muff models that are particularely suited for smaller setups. If nothing seems to work, you might need to replace the Muff with something a bit more versatile. See this feature for tips on similar sounding distortions.

How do I achieve David’s liquidy rotary sounds without having to carry a three ton Leslie cabinet?
While most guiarists would use Leslies as a stand alone, dominating effect, David would blend them with his Hiwatt stacks. By mixing the rotary speaker cabinets lower than the dry amps, he could add a bigger dimension to his tones without colouring the initial signal. The signal is split in two from the pedal board with one line to the Hiwatts and one to the rotary cabinets. See this feature for different ways of achieving the same effect with chorus and rotary sim pedals.

What’s a booster and where should I place it on my board?
A booster is essentially any gain pedal but the term “booster” or “boost” is often used to describe overdrive pedals that are either used in combination with distortion/fuzz pedals or to add more gain to an overdriven tube amp. Depending on what tone you want I recommend a transparent booster that doesn’t colour the distortion too much but rather adds attack, gain and volume. David has used boosters with his fuzz and distortion pedals since the early 70s but rather than adding volume he’s set bot the leads and the booster fairly mild utilizing the character of both. Keep in mind that combining gain pedals means more noise so you need to be careful with the settings and not just crank everything. I recommend placing the booster after any fuzz and distortion but spend some time experimenting with different setups and settings. David used a Colorsound Power Boost in the 70s and a Tube Driver from ’93 to present. Check out similar pedals like the ThroBak Overdrive Boost, Fulltone OCD and the Boos BD2 (preferably Keeley mod).

What pickups are in David’s red Stratocaster?
David’s candy apple red 1983 Fender ’57 reissue Stratocaster originally featured late 50s type single coils but David replaced these with EMG SA active pickups in 1985. In addition, he replaced the stock passive tone controls with the SPC and EXG active EQ controls. The set is now available as a the DG20 from EMG. See my review here.

What pickups are in David’s Black Strat?
David’s black 1969 Fender Stratocaster originally featured standard late 60s single coils but these were replaced in 1973 with the pickups from a second black Strat that David had at the time. These pickups were similar to the originals and the current Fender Custom Shop 69s. In 1979 he replaced the bridge pickup with a custom wound Seymour Duncan SSL1, which is still in the guitar today.

The Fender Custom Shop David Gilmour signature Stratocaster feature slightly different setup – a Fender Fat 50s neck pickup, Fender custom wound middle pickup (CS69-ish) and Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup. See the Black Strat feature for a detailed history.

How does the additional pickup toggle switch on David’s Black Strat work?
Ever since the early 70s David experimented with different pickups and additional switches allowing multiple pickup combinations. The switch featured on the Black Strat today was installed in late 1978. David rarely use the switch but he apparently used it to combine the neck and bridge pickups for the first solo on Comfortably Numb.

Where can I get David’s Jimi Hendrix strap for my Black Strat replica?
Visit JeriDesigns.Com for the closest replica of the Hendrix strap.

How can I keep the tremolo arm in place on my guitar?
People use all kinds of things like gaffer tape around the arm’s threads and glue but the most effective solution is a spring from a ball pen or a spring offered by Fender that you simply drop into the hole. Callaham Vintage Guitars also offer high quality bridge systems that are designed to improve you overall tone, sustain and tuning as well as featuring a custom “pop in” arm that’ll stay in place. Callaham also offer shortened arms like David’s.

It’s impossible to get a clean tone from my amp but I can’t afford anything else.
Check out this review of affordable low wattage tube amps and see this feature for some tips on choosing the right overdrive and distortions for your amp.

My guitar is impossible to keep in tune when I use the tremolo arm and bend the strings.
There are lots things you can do to improve the tuning stability on your guitar. A golden rule is to restring at least every 3-4 weeks if you play about an hour a day. Use a lubricant like hair wax and/or pencil graphite in the nut slots and on the bridge saddles. Proper intonation, string height and neck curvage is also essential. Check out this article for more tips on how to keep your guitar perfectly tuned.

My guitar is noisy and it’s almost impossible to use overdrives and distortions.
Noise comes in many forms. Static hiss and loud buzz that changes in volume and pitch as you move around is caused by electrical interference from lights, TVs, computers, power sources, mobile phones etc. Eliminating as many of the sources as possible as well as shielding the guitar, amp and power supplies in your rig usually takes care of the problem. Static noise that goes silent when you touch metal parts on your guitar is caused by bad ground and you need to make sure the guitar and all other components in your rig is properly shielded and have a free path to ground. Noisy pedals can be placed in loops or with noise gates. See this feature for more troubleshooting.

It’s hard to find David’s gear in my country and my budget is tight.
Most guitar stores has a product range that’ll give you the tones you’re looking for. Remember that David’s tones isn’t just his pedals but a combination of the guitar and its pickups, the amp, the combination of pedals and effects and of course David’s technique and playing. I recommend that you prioritize a decent guitar and amp rather than a bunch of pedals. Mediocre pedals can sound great on a good amp but hi-end pedals will sound like crap on a crap amp. EBay and your local classified ads are also a great place to start looking. Check out the Buyer’s Gear Guide – Budget Rig for tips on which gear to choose for your Gilmour tones.