David Gilmour Talks About the Mysteries of His Famous Guitar Tone

The phrase “holy grail of tone” shows up a lot in the mar­ket­ing of gui­tar gear, a promise of per­fec­tion that seems more than a lit­tle iron­ic. Per­fect “tone”—that neb­u­lous term used to describe the sound pro­duced by an ide­al com­bi­na­tion of instru­ment, effects, ampli­fi­er, and settings—is ever sought but nev­er seem­ing­ly found. Gui­tarists bick­er and advise on forums, and reli­gious­ly con­sult the gear guides of the pros, who often deign in mag­a­zines and videos to explain their own pecu­liar setups.

While more and more man­u­fac­tur­ers are promis­ing to recre­ate the tone of your favorite gui­tarist in dig­i­tal sim­u­la­tions, true tone-ophiles will nev­er accept any­thing less than the real thing. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, a gui­tarist whose tone is unde­ni­ably all his own, has inspired a cot­tage indus­try of fan-made videos that teach you how to achieve “The David Gilmour Sound.” But there’s no sub­sti­tute for the source.

In the clip above from a BBC doc­u­men­tary, Gilmour vague­ly dis­cuss­es “the Floyd sound” and some of the tech­niques he uses to get his dis­tinc­tive gui­tar tone. Every dis­cus­sion of tone will include the admon­ish­ment that tone resides in the play­er’s fin­gers, not the gear. Gilmour sug­gests this ini­tial­ly. “It’s the tini­est lit­tle things,” he says, that “makes the gui­tar so per­son­al. Add a hun­dred dif­fer­ent tiny inflec­tions to what you’re doing all the time. That’s what gives peo­ple their indi­vid­ual tone.”

It’s a true enough state­ment, but there are still ways to get close to the sound of Gilmour’s gui­tar set­up, if not to actu­al­ly play exact­ly like him. You can buy the gear he’s used over the years, or some­thing approx­i­mat­ing it, any­way. You can learn a few of his tricks—the bluesy bends and slides we know so well from his emo­tive solos. But unless you have the lux­u­ry of play­ing the kinds of huge stages, with huge vol­ume, Gilmour plays, he says, you’ll nev­er quite get it. Small amps in small rooms sound too cramped and arti­fi­cial, he says.

And if you’re play­ing stages like that, you’ve prob­a­bly dis­cov­ered a holy grail of tone that’s all your own, and legions of fans are try­ing to sound like you.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch David Gilmour Play the Songs of Syd Bar­rett, with the Help of David Bowie & Richard Wright

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Son­net 18

Ital­ian Street Musi­cian Plays Amaz­ing Cov­ers of Pink Floyd Songs, Right in Front of the Pan­theon in Rome

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.