Pink Floyd's David Gilmour Talks Technique and Gear in 1988
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.
On both tunes he takes his time and builds the solos artfully. Rather than just a series of tricky licks, he seems to orchestrate his statements carefully for maximum emotional effect, and yet he doesn't work out these solos ahead of time. Gilmour's finest solos are like spontaneous compositions.
There's tension and release, statements and resolutions. And like Carlos Santana and the whole lineage of bluesmen from T-Bone Walker to Otis Rush to Eric Clapton, he knows how to squeeze every bit of juice out of a single note. He savors each note before going on to the next, and he comes up for air (take that, speedmongers).
I sound like a curmudgeon. I’m sorry, that's the way I feel. That's the way David Gilmour feels, too. We're both dinosaurs in this day and age. But if the old adage What Goes Around Comes Around IS actually true, Gilmour's music, that sound, will be around long after all the Yngwie clones have been put out to pasture. After all, whose music did the joint Soviet-American colony on the moon choose for their national anthem? I rest my case.
Any parting advice to young guitarists, Dave?
"Well, it's very hard to advise people, but in general I would say listen to as many different types of music as you can. And don't worry. Let everything come out of you in whatever way feels right, rather than wasting a lot of time and energy in trying to be someone else. That's what I'm trying to do myself."
And succeeding quite well, I might add.
GILMOUR'S GEAR: MOMENTARY AX OF REASON
David Gilmour is a renowned guitar collector. Over the years, with the help of his right-hand man, Phil Taylor, he has acquired such rare gems as a Gretsch White Falcon, a Gretsch Penguin, a Plexiglas Dan Armstrong, a '55 Fender Esquire, a Martin D-35 acoustic, a Fender Strat with the serial number 0040 that once belonged to Homer Haynes of the country duo Homer & Jethro, as well as several Rickenbacker Hawaiians dating back to 1933.
But perhaps his most prized possession is the Stratocaster that bears the serial number 0001. According to Phil Taylor, "I don't think it's the original Strat—it'd be real hard to ascertain that. But it's definitely early, dated 1954 on the neck. I bought it from Seymour Duncan, who bought it from Leo Fender, and I sold it to David."
At one point in the not too distant past, Gilmour actually had a guitar gallery in his home in london. These ancient axes were hung on the walls for years, but now, as Taylor explains, "David is in the process of moving. The guitars are literally packed away in storage right now. It's pretty strenuous, really, taking charge of it all. We used to have a humidifier going at all times, thinking that it would keep the guitars in better shape, but to be honest, it kind of made the instruments a little rusty. So now, after David settles on a place to live, we'll re-assemble the collection."
"I haven't added anything to my collection in quite a long time," Gilmour continues. "And I haven't gotten around to selling some of the ones I should sell. Like, for instance, I have doubles on quite a few of them. I mean, you find one guitar you want, and then later you find a better version of that same one and before you know it, you have a whole roomful of them. But it's a little unfortunate that I've placed them all in storage, because I haven't got around to playing them."
David's touring guitars with Pink Floyd (and for a series of shows with Pete Townshend a couple of years ago) are six Fender Strats from the '57 vintage reissue series of a few years back. Varying in colors from candy apple red to a creamy off-white, all are outfitted with EMG SA pickups and presence controls. Though David retains the standard Fender bridges, he has the vibrato arms shortened and re-bent so that he can palm the arm while he strums.
"David goes through hundreds of Strats,” Taylor explains. "He goes directly to the factory in California and picks them up and plays 'em. He knows exactly what he wants and plays them acoustically and sees no point in even plugging them in if they don't pass the acoustic part of his test. And they must have maple fingerboards, too; David's pretty adamant about that."
Gilmour also travels with a '61 Telecaster with a Charvel neck, which was pictured on the cover of his 1984 solo album, About Face, as well as a '52 vintage series re-issue Tele for the song "Run Like Hell." Add to that a couple of Steinbergers, outfitted with TransTrems, which David especially likes for spur-of-the-moment gigs around home.
"He likes to play with friends in clubs," Taylor explains, "but since he can't be hacking about with all these other guitars, the Steinbergers suit this real well." As far as acoustics go, David plays a couple of Takamines on tour ("can't remember the model number," Taylor laughs), as well as an Ovation Custom legend from '75. The Martin D35, which is a studio staple, has been deemed too precious to go on the road.
"I do believe David would flip out if anything happened to that one," Taylor suggests. Signal-wise, Gilmour is serious and methodical. While he might still be using his Bradshaw switching system when the Pink Floyd tour hits your town, a couple of component changes may occur.
"We're probably going to change a couple of things," Taylor projects. "The 19-inch effects might be getting lost. We are using a Boogie top as a valve overdrive–a very expensive foot pedal!
And we have a custom-made fuzz box made by [English effects systems builder] Pete Cornish, like a Big Muff. Most of the time David is unhappy with his sound, even when everyone thinks it's wonderful."
In the studio, David likes to tinker around and get his sound as quickly and as easily as possible. He plugs into a Boss CS-2 compressor, a T.C. 2290 for delay and a Yamaha SPX90 for stereo chorus. Then it's into a Gallien-Krueger 250Ml amplifier at an overdriven setting into a Fender Super Tube amp at a clean setting.
"A lot of the time," Taylor explains, "David will be right in the control room with the amp right there on the floor as he plays. I guess he likes that immediacy of the sound. It's a good way of knowing where you're at!" — Joe Bosso and Bill Milkowski