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 Reverb.com (opens in new tab) 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.’”

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.