David Gilmour: The Delicate Sound of Thunder

By Cleveland, Barry | Guitar Player, January 2009 | Go to article overview

David Gilmour: The Delicate Sound of Thunder


Cleveland, Barry, Guitar Player


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It is a nearly inexcusable cliche to state that the sound of this or that musician is "immediately recognizable." But in the case of David Gilmour, the transgression is nonetheless justified. The four-note arpeggio transitioning out of the opening drone on "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." the searing and frenzied slide work throughout "One of These Days," the Uni-Vibed chords on "Breathe In the Air." the choppy wah stabs and screaming solo lines on "Money," the harmonized Tele melodies on "Dogs," the spanky chording on 'Another Brick In the Wall (Part 2)," and the majestic solo on "Comfortably Numb"--all these iconic notes and tones evidence Gilmour's singular touch faster than you can say "Ummagumma."

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Since joining Pink Floyd at age 21 in 1967, Gilmour has continually avoided even the proverbial path less traveled, opting instead to craft a style that reaches for the galactic core while remaining rooted in the earthiest blues. Whether it be sitting amidst the empty ruins of Pompeii coaxing clusters of cosmic sound from a handful of pedals and a Binson Echorec in 1971, or standing in front of an elaborate assemblage of amps and effects processors playing "A Great Day for Freedom" to an audience of 50,000 in the Gdansk shipyards in 2006, Gilmour has remained true to his original trajectory.

Gilmour's latest release, Live in Gdansk [Columbia], spotlights material from his most recent solo album, On an Island, supported by the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra. Also included are live versions of Pink Floyd classics such as "Astronomy Domine," "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Comfortably Numb," and "Echoes." Formats range from a 2-CD set to a 3-CD/2-DVD Deluxe Box to a 5-LP Box.

Recent months have also seen the introduction of two Fender David Gilmour Signature Series Stratocasters, an updated version of Phil Taylor's Pink Floyd: The Black Strat, A History of David Gilmour's Black Fender Stratocaster, and two sets of GHS David Gilmour Signature strings.

You are generally thought of as a "Strat guy," but you play quite a few different guitars--even in the live show. Can you describe a few of your favorites, and what it is about those particular instruments that you like?

The Stratocaster obviously has to take first place. That was the guitar I always wanted when I was a kid--mostly because Hank Marvin had one. I just loved the Strat, but I couldn't afford one, so I played other guitars. The one I played most often while I was in bands in my hometown was a Hofner Club 60, which was a very nice little guitar. Then, when I was 21, my parents--who lived in New York at the time--bought me a Telecaster, which was the first actual Fender I owned. It was lovely, but I still lusted after a Strat, so I got one as soon as I could afford it. The Stratocaster is the most versatile guitar ever made, and it has this funny way of making you sound like yourself. In my view, you can recognize guitar players who play a Strat more readily than you can those who play Gibsons, and that's an opinion I've held for some time. Having said that, it's very nice to play something else occasionally, like my goldtop Les Paul with those old single-coil P-90s.

Does it have Los Paul's original trapeze bridge or a stop tailpiece?

It has a stop tailpiece. For the last album, I wanted one with a Bigsby vibrato, but I didn't want to change the old one I'd used to play, for example, the solo on 'Another Brick In the Wall Part 2," so I found another one. I suppose you could say that they are a little raunchier than Fenders.

You also play a Gretsch?

I've got an old black Duo Jet I've had for a very long time. I actually used it on a couple of tracks on my first solo album in 1978. It's quite hard to play, but it's a real beauty, and it's a beautiful-sounding instrument that fits perfectly for some things. I played it on "Where We Start. …

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