Watch the Gear & Tone online guitar lesson by Angus Clark from Play in the Style of David Gilmour
There's a lot of material devoted to David Gilmour’s gear and tone choices. Be my guest, and visit gilmourish.com
and revel in the minutia, it's fun. But don’t think for a second it’ll make you sound like David Gilmour.
He is most known for playing a Stratocaster, but a great deal of his work, particularly early work, was done on a Telecaster - which is what Syd Barrett used. Some of his most classic solos, including “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” were played on a Gold Top Les Paul with p-90's. Most of the Fender guitars used traditional single coils, the only exception being the EMG's that he used during the “Momentary Lapse of Reason” phase. He has a custom Bill Lewis guitar that he used on a couple of cuts on Meddle
and Dark Side
, most notably the solo on “Money”.
It’s fair to say that David played what he liked when he liked, and over the span of his career he’s made choices for the same reasons most of us do: What feels right, what’s available, what suits the song, what inspires you. You have to consider to what degree a person in his position is enabled by having the means of keeping numerous guitars at the ready at all times. The fact that he will choose to play a whole concert on a stratocaster at this point tells you what the default position is, and we're keeping the focus there for that reason.
David’s amp and effect choices have gone through an even longer and more diverse journey than his guitar choices. One might say that his main live rig represents a hoarder mentality: he finds a new version of a chorus or distortion effect and never removes the old one. So at any one time he might have had three versions of a rotating speaker effect: Two real ones (both in stereo) and one fake one (like a uni-vibe). We're going to have to approach this in broad strokes.
The Amp: David mostly runs his amplifier clean. He started out using the Hiwatt 100 Watt amplifier through WEM cabs. And while he may have turned them up loud - he wasn't gaining them up. Most of his gain has always come from pedals. Over time he expanded the amplifier rig to include rotating speakers, either Leslie, Yamaha, or Doppola (a custom unit), and with that expansion came the need for a separate preamp. That preamp is an Alembic F2-B, which has been so extensively re-wired that it can be considered a custom-made amp, but the word is that it's almost indistinguishable from a Bassman preamp. Once the Alembic came in, they removed (or bypassed) the preamp circuitry from the Hiwatts altogether. The end result is essentially the same - the amplifier itself is being run clean with the gain is coming from pedals.
The Pedals: David uses a fairly classic effects chain - compressor, fuzz/overdrive 1, fuzz/overdrive 2, modulation, delay, amp. What is most open to interpretation is the choice in the fuzz/overdrive area. Over time he has used a variety of pedals in different combinations, you'll have to experiment with what you have available to see what gets you the closest. Some of the classics are an RK Butler Tube Driver, a Fuzz Face, a Big Muff, etc. For modulation, the two most classic ones are the Electric Mistress and the Uni-Vibe.