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How to Capture David Gilmour’s Guitar Tone

Jim Dalrymple

If there was ever a master of guitar tone, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s name would have to be among those at the top of the list. Gilmour’s tone changes all the time, but it always seems to fit the album or song he is working on.

Gilmour uses many different guitars, including a few Gibson Les Pauls, but it’s his use of the rest of his gear that’s really astounding. By looking at his rig, you might think there isn’t an effect he hasn’t or wouldn’t use.

That’s okay, because he uses them in the right way. Far too many guitarists add effects on top of one another with no regard for the overall sound.

Gilmour was a fan of Hiwatt amps, which give you a very nice, clean sound, but can also crank out a high gain tone, especially with a screamer or other overdrive effect in the signal chain.

The pedals he used were plentiful and included a Big Muff, Phase 90, Chorus, Dynacomp, Digital Delay, Uni-Vibe, Wah, Fuzz Face and several Pete Cornish pedals and boards.

Knowing what Gilmour played and being able to replicate his sound are two very different things. His tone is a mix of effects, amps, guitars and a lot of engineering behind the scenes. I love the way he isn’t afraid to try anything, but it makes it a bit more difficult for us to duplicate on our home computers.

With that in mind, I decided to make an all-purpose Gilmour tone. This will allow you to play many of his high-gain riffs and, by turning off the screamer, play some of the softer tunes as well.

In Guitar Rig 3, I used the High White amp ― which is Native Instruments’ model of the Hiwatt ― a Screamer, Delay and Studio Reverb. With the right settings on the amp, you can actually have a nice high-gain and cleanish sound without having to make too many adjustments.

For the amp I used these settings: Master 9; Normal 8; Brill 9; Bass 5; Middle 7; Treble 6; and Presence 7. I adjusted the mic slider on the cabinet to 80 percent on mic A. The Dry/Air mix is at 4.77 and the master volume on the cab is at -19db.

If you give it a strum, you should hear a little bit of crunch, but while picking, the sound should be pretty clean. Now let’s crunch it up a bit.

Adding to the Gilmour tone, I put in a Screamer with the Volume 3; Tone 8 and Drive 10. We need to crank the Screamer a little bit here in order to tackle songs like “In the Flesh,” but do it in a way that’s not going to ruin any clean sounds we may want.

Gilmour has some masterful delay in his songs. I chose the Delay Man with the Dry/Wet setting at 56 percent Dry. That’s quite a bit, but it will work with songs like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” Other delay settings are Time 1/8; Feedback 52%; and Depth 52%.

The final effect I added was a little bit of Studio Reverb. There is no need to go overboard with this one at all. I put this in just to enhance what was already going on in the signal chain, not to overpower anything. Reverb Mix is 20%; Bright 6%; and Room Size is 6%.

That should be enough to get you going with an all purpose David Gilmour tone. To play any clean parts, you’ll need to turn off the Screamer, but other than that you’re good to go.

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