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David Gilmour's "Comfortably Numb" Arpeggios

(Image credit: Jo Hale/Getty Images)

David Gilmour's first guitar solo on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" is a soaring, melodic masterpiece that uses almost exclusively arpeggios.

In this lesson video, Joe from examines how Gilmour uses arpeggios in relation to the root notes of the chord progression—and how he moves from position to position.

As a bonus, you get to see (and hear, obviously) several pedals in action, including the Tym Guitars Big Mud, the Catalinbread RAH, two MXR pedals (Dyna Comp and Carbon Copy Analog Delay) and an Alexander Oblivion Vintage Delay.

Gilmour’s classic solo was cut using a combination of Hiwatt amps and Yamaha rotating speaker cabinets, Bob Ezrin—co-producer of The Wall—told Guitar World several years ago. But with Gilmour, he added, equipment is secondary to touch: “You can give him a ukulele and he’ll make it sound like a Stradivarius.”

Which doesn’t mean Gilmour didn’t fiddle around in the studio when he laid down the song’s unforgettable lead guitar part.

“I banged out five or six solos,” Gilmour said. “From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and make a chart, noting which bits are good. Then, by following the chart, I create one great composite solo by whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase until everything flows together. That’s the way we did it on ‘Comfortably Numb.’”

Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.