Pink Floyd's David Gilmour Discusses His Technique and Gear in 1988 Guitar World Interview
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour discusses his technique and gear in this interview from the July 1988 issue of Guitar World magazine.
Gilmour admits a great love of the blues, but says that the key to his playing is his melodic sense. "Yes, there's a lot of the blues in my playing. When I was young, I actually sat down and learned many of the classic blues solos by Eric [Clapton] and Hendrix as well as studying old Howlin' Wolf records. But I don't consciously delve into that area now. Blues lines as such are fairly specific.
"It's like, you've got a series of things that you can put together in different combinations but there aren't that many moves you can make. Instead, I try to approach things, given my limitations and strengths, from a more melodic standpoint and just work on it until it sounds ... nice. I don't really have any plan in hand that helps me to deal with this. I try not to be too tied down by rules and regulations. So the blues influence may come out at times but I like to think I come at it from a different angle."
"Oh, I'd say my sense of melody. My sense of going for the unusual at times."
"Well, I can't really play fast,per se. Not like so many players today. I don't have a very disciplined approach to practicing or anything, but I do tend to have a guitar around most of the time, which I strum on most of the day. But about once a year I have sort of an attack of a guilty conscience about my abilities, so then I'll sit and run through a couple of scales. But generally, I'm not too ambitious about that sort of thing. I just tend to strap on the guitar in the studio and do something crazy.
“Again, I don't have a very precise method of doing anything. I'm sorry ... I feel like I'm being awfully vague about all this, but that's the way I am. I just play intuitively and work the same way in the studio. I don't have any magical effects or anything that helps me to get my particular sound. It's all very hard to explain. I just keep fiddling with the little knobs on different boxes until it sounds right to me.
"I like to approach every track and every solo I do with an open mind. I don't really have any kind of general philosophy of playing, I don't think. And to be honest with you, I can't really remember how I achieved certain sounds in the studio. I don't really approach anything with any great plan, except that I work on the sound until it sounds right to me ... forgetting instantly afterwards how on earth it was done."
Okay, thanks for the workshop, Dave.
In this day and age of neo-classical metal-whatever, where young (and I mean young, like 18) guitar daredevils are racing up and down the neck at inhuman speeds, skipping across strings like Evel Knievel hurtling a row of school buses on his cycle, blazing through scales and arpeggios like sewing machines on automatic pilot, David Gilmour stands out as an anomaly.
Call him a throwback, a dinosaur, a relic, if you will. But for my money, he could teach these young whippersnappers a thing or two about phrasing, about finesse and taste, about making a personal statement on the instrument, not through any magical gadgets but through one’s own personal touch ... bare fingers on strings.
“One thing about my guitar sounds,” offers the humble Floydman of few words, "I think I could walk into any music shop anywhere and with a guitar off the rack, a couple of basic pedals and an amp I could sound just like me. There’s no devices, customized or otherwise , that give me my sound. It comes off my fingers. It all comes down to personal taste, I guess.
"Like vibrato, for instance. I like a kind of refined version, which I do either with a finger or with a wang bar ... sometimes both at the same time. But I must say that a lot of vibrato that's used today just doesn't appeal to me at all. It doesn’t sound musical."
Being a rich, semi-reclusive Englishman with a country home and family, Gilmour doesn't spend much time making the scene in London, New York or L.A., hanging with the cats, keeping up with the latest trends in music, the newest innovations in technique. He admits, for instance, to never having heard Yngwie Malmsteen or any of the clones who spun off from that school of playing. But he admits, "I do like Eddie Van Halen's playing a lot. Of course, I can't do that at all. I don't have the fingers for it."
Other players he admires?
"Steve Lukather is great. I really love his playing. I love a lot of people's playing, but I mostly tend to like some of the old guys, you know? Eric, Jeff Beck, people like that. They're more to my taste.”
His taste coming basically out of the blues while young turks like Yngwie and his ilk basically shun the blues in favor of classical scales. As far as Gilmour is concerned, you can keep your Paganini scales and flourishes. He prefers the simple boogie-woogie of John Lee Hooker and the dirty urban blues of Muddy Waters, which he pays tribute to on "Dogs Of War," a sort of symphonic slow boogie blues with a whole section of sample cellos droning that familiar ostinato riff.
Simple, yes, but full of feeling, especially when Gilmour sails over the top with his distinctive stereo delay sound, warm and slightly wet, as opposed to the standard dry, treble-piercing shrieks that many young guitar phenoms seem to prefer today.
Yeah so David's a dinosaur. Fine. But I'll take his solo on "Yet Another Movie" over 90 percent of the flailing fretboard work on record today. Of all the tunes on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, this is perhaps his most thoughtful, well-crafted solo of the bunch. That, and his moving solo on the anthemic "On The Turning Away," based on a traditional Celtic melody.
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