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DAVID GILMOUR - Real Guitar heroes - Guide To The World's Best Guitarists

Updated on December 6, 2011


Long before Nine Inch Nails, before Yes, and even before Genesis, there was Pink Floyd. A product of the psychedelic rock of the 1960s, Floyd began with Syd Barrett and Roger Waters on guitar, but only after David Gilmour replaced Barrett on guitar did they break into worldwide commercial success. Gilmour's sparse but soaring guitar solos on albums like "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall" provided the perfect counterpoint to the nihilistic lyrics of Roger Waters.

David Gilmour

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Dark Side Of The Moon

Although never a speed virtuoso like some of his contemporaries, Gilmour would go on to construct what is considered by many to the be the best guitar solo of all time in the song "Comfortably Numb,".

Plus of course, other solos such as the one in "Another Brick in the Wall," to say nothing of the timeless guitar effects and riffs in "Dark Side of the Moon."

Gilmour's Early Influences

Gilmour lists a number of musicians as his influences—Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, even Leonard Bernstein—in a 2006 interview with the Guardian. However, no influence was perhaps as great in the early days as that of Roger "Syd" Barrett, who attended Cambridgeshire High School with Gilmour.

Widely considered to be the premier psychedelic band of the 1960s, Floyd's debut album featuring Barrett pushed the musical limits of the time, both in lyrical content and in use of newer technologies like stereo which was just becoming common.

Eventually, however, Barrett's heavy use of LSD, among other things, would push him out of the band and necessitate Gilmour's taking over his role. His influence on both David Gilmour and Roger Waters, however, was assured, and the two paid him a musical tribute in the song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," on Wish You Were Here.

Comfortably Numb

Just Another Brick in the The Wall

Perhaps the most well-known solo in all of rock, and certainly one of the most distinctive, is the solo to the song "Comfortably Numb." Although the list of guitars, amplifiers, and effects used by David Gilmour is longer than a rap sheet for Al Capone, the setup for this particular solo was remarkably simple, according to an interview by Phil Taylor on "I think it's just pretty much him. He is obviously using a couple of effects, like a Big Muff and a delay, but it really is just his fingers, his vibrato, his choice of notes and how he sets his effects."

Pink Floyd and The Dark Side Of The Moon

Yep, that pretty much sums up everything it takes to play like David Gilmour. The Big Muff he refers to is a simple pedal produced by Electro-Harmonix in the U.S. and by the Russian company Sovtek elsewhere.

Delay pedals—well, you can take your pick among modern digital delay pedals, but chances are that he used an MXR delay pedal of some type, because they were one of the effects companies that was around at the time. According to a column by Richard Mahon on the Pink Floyd webzine, he also used an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress Flanger for the solo as well.

The Sound Of A Stratocaster

But the quintessential Floyd sound is, and will always be, a Fender Stratocaster. Gilmour's main guitar, a black 1970s era Stratocaster, has been modified quite a bit over the past 20 years.

The most important modification for those wanting so sound like him is a switch that combines the signal from the bridge and neck pickups. Push it through an amplifier setup that includes Hiwatt DR 103 heads fed into a couple of cabinets with Fane Crescendo speakers in them and a Yamaha RA-200 Rotating Speaker Cabinet, and you've got yourself the authentic David Gilmour sound.

Oh, and did I mention years of practice to master the guitar so that it becomes one with your body and mind, a tool for expressing emotion as easily as spoken words?

Another Brick In The Wall Prt 2

David Gilmour's sound seems to have been made just for the warm melodic tones of the Stratocaster, piercing you with its straight-from-the-heart quality. However, the other well known solo on the album, the one in "Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)", was played on a 1959 Gold Top Gibson Les Paul with Gibson P-90 pickups.

Endorsements and Honors

David Gilmour is one of the few artists from the 1960s that up until last year was still performing regularly. His first "real" album since the departure of Roger Waters, The Division Bell, went Double Platinum in the U.S. in 1994, and he has performed live as recently as 2006.

Fender paid tribute to David's perennial use of their instrument in September of 2008, with two versions of David Gilmour Signature Series Stratocasters. Both modeled after his black 70's era Strat, the guitar comes in two versions: "Relic," and "N.O.S.," and come with all sorts of goodies, like free case, cable, DVD, and Phil Taylor's book, Pink Floyd: The Black Strat.

Of course, if you want to sound like David, be prepared to pay for it: the "N.O.S." retails for just under $4,000, and the "Relic" for almost $5,000.

So - guitar hero? You choose. He may not be as popular on the video games, but as a real guitar hero playing real guitar he takes some beating!

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