David Gilmour is perhaps the most underrated guitarist of our time. He is often overlooked as one of the most talented and gifted players. His choice of effects, tones, and phrasing have helped lead Pink Floyd to super-band status for over 30 years. In these pages I will attempt to help describe and explain the devices that David Gilmour uses(d) to achieve "the tone from heaven". I want to focus mainly on his 1994 Pink Floyd Division Bell rig and his recent Solo shows, since they are the most recent. The pages will describe effects used by David Gilmour and by myself. Most, if not all, of the effects have been modified by Pete Cornish to insure compatibility and reliability.
Look at the A/B comparisons from Gilmour's 94 rig and my board, then read about the effects below.
The Signal goes through David's rig starting with the compressors. The Boss Cs-2, MXR Dyna Comp, and the Ibanez CP-9 were the Compressors of Choice for Mr. Gilmour during the Division Bell Tour. Why three different compressors? Each one adds its own character to the tone.
The CS-2 is a more musically sounding compressor, which gives a nice smooth compression to the tone of the guitar. It keeps a lot of the general characteristics of the guitar. The CS-2 also acts as a sustainer, however the settings used by Mr. Gilmour would suggest that he is using it more for the compression portion, while keeping the sustain in a middle position. The CS-2 is the more transparent compressor of the three used. This pedal is more than likely used primarily for cleaner rhythm parts. The Cs-2 was on Gilmour's solo board, and was used on the '94 tour rig.
The DynaComp is the more aggressive compressor on his rig. The DynaComp is also a sustainer, which produces mountains of sustain and its own unique brand of compression. It is dark and smooth, sustaining forever. This pedal darkens the over all tone of the signal and is far from transparent. It is very noticeable. The DynaComp is one of the few pedals to remain a constant on Gilmour's Boards since 1970's! This pedal is more than likely used on most of David Gilmour's solos. This was on the '94 tour rig.
The Ibanez CP-9 is a bright sounding compressor and limiter. This compressor is fairly transparent and adds brightness to the tone when on. The difference here is the limiter function. Unlike a compressor which levels out a signal and reels in the highs while bringing up the lows for an even tone, the limiter will operate only after a threshold has been set. In laymen's terms, the signal is unaltered until a certain point is reached. This compressor produces a very poppy and tangy sound. Every compressor can achieve this, but because of the brightness inherent with this pedal it is much more noticeable. This pedal is more than likely used primarily for clean rhythm parts requiring a brighter attack. This was on the '94 tour rig.
On "Time" the intro part of the song, David Gilmour used all three Compressors. For Shine On first solo, David used the CS-2 and the MXR Dyna Comp.
Next after the compression, the signal hits the distortion portion of the rig. Here is where you will hear the most notable effects used by Mr.Gilmour.
From the CP-9 the signal goes through a DIGITECH IPS-33B. This unit, no longer made, is a pitch shifter unit which can be heard on the song Marooned. Used on his '94 rack system. (no pic available because I don't use it) and heard on the Strat Anniversary DVD.
From IPS-33b the signal hits the Boss MZ-2 Metalizer. This is a unique sounding "distortion" pedal in that it has more of an overdriven sound to it with a hint of modulation. It is almost a cross between an overdrive and a Chorus. To me it has the right amount of punch to it that creates that "Gilmouresqe" sound. I find that the doubling effect and the chorus effects aren't all that great, but the magic is the blend with those off. It is a great sounding pedal. Contrary to other reports, it is in fact the Metalizer on Gilmour's rig and not a Hyper Fuzz. The Hyper Fuzz was originally on the rack but replaced with the Metalizer and the rack tags were never changed to reflect it. It was used on the '94 tour rig.
Next in line is the Pete Cornish P-2 Fuzz. This has been mislabeled as the Pete Cornish Big Muff. In fact it is similar in tone to the Muff, but has a better overall sound. Its basis is in the mids, with a very controlled break up. This pedal has extreme punch at all volumes, and a great sounding fuzz. The difference between this and the Big Muff is quality. The P-2 fuzz is built to last by rocks most proven effects guru: Pete Cornish. It is quiet when on or off, and there is no mistaking the tone from this monster when it is engaged. It started with David Gilmour's Wall board as a Custom Fuzz. This pedal was found too Bassy for use, so the P-2 as we have it today was born! This was on the '94 tour rig.
From the P-2 Fuzz, the signal goes to the first of two BK Butler Chandler Tube Drivers. This pedal uses a 12ax7 tube inside to deliver a very nice tube overdriven distortion sound. You can replace the tube inside to slightly alter the tone of the distortion. A 12ax7 produces a very bright, gainy distortion, while a 12at7 give slightly more punch with less distortion than a 12ax7. You can also use a 12au7 which will give a cleaner sound. This distortion is smooth and stringy. Depending on where it is in the chain it will give its characteristics to other distortions. Alone it is a little thin, but the beauty of this pedal is if you put the gain all the way up, it sounds very similar to the Fuzz Face, which is not on Gilmour's current boards. The Chandler Tube Driver seems to be used in conjunction with the Soft Sustain as his primary distortion sounds from the Division Bell to present. This tube driver would be set to give an overdriven tone. This can be found on the '94 tour rig and on his All Tube Effects board currently in use.
From the first CTD, the signal travels to the Pro Co Ratt. This is a fairly generic sounding Distortion unit. It handles its task well enough. Similar to a Marshall amp overdriven. This is on Gilmour's '94 rack. This pedal is used for the middle dry section of Money in conjunction with a Chandler Tube Driver and for the song "What Do You Want From Me?"
Next the signal travels to the Pete Cornish Soft Sustain-2. This pedal was designed by Pete Cornish to fill the gap between a clean amp and a totally distorted amp. Having the foresight to know that players wanted something "in between" the Soft Sustain was born. Gilmour's Soft Sustain has a EQ band added at the top of the pedal, where as mine in the picture does not. It was found by Gilmour that the EQ was not needed, and therefore is not used by Mr. Gilmour. That is why the Soft Sustain-2 does not have one built in. This pedal has an excellent overdriven sound to it. It is as soft and gentle as you want it to be, or it as huge and gigantic as you need it to get. It accentuates every note, during chords, it rings true and clear allowing each individual note in a chord to ring out. Excellent sustain and delivers a in your face "crunch" that I have not found anywhere else. The Soft Sustain finds its home on the '94 rig, and his current solo board. The Soft Sustain seems to be the distortion of choice for Mr. Gilmour from the Division Bell to present. This can be found on the '94 tour board and on his All Tube Effects board currently in use.
From the SS-2, we now come to the Sovtek Big Muff PI. The Big Muff has seen a few evolutions in its time, but one thing ultimately remains unchanged: its tone. This pedal offers one of the most enormous sounding Fuzz's from a pedal. The sound is huge. In the Big Muff you find the staple of Pink Floyds guitar sound for soloing from the middle of the Animals years to present. Most notably, it was used on The Wall. Songs like "Comfortably Numb", "Hey You", "Young Lust", "Mother", "Sorrow", "Yet Another Movie" to name a few, wouldn't have been the same with out the Big Muff. When you need balls to drive your solo, the Big Muff is the pedal to chose. Nothing else is quite like it. It is bassy, yet handles the highs extremely well, and has a ton of sustain. This pedal was on the '94 rig and on his All Tube Effects board currently in use.
From the Big Muff, we travel to the second Chandler Tube Driver. Gilmour uses two of these, and depending which is switched on, will determine how much effect from this pedal is achieved for the sound. If the first is selected then another distortion after, the first tube driver will be predominant. Conversely if the second is switched on after another distortion, it will lend its color to the first distortion. I have a post BK Butler Tube Driver as well as the BK Model. In this pedal I have a 12at7 tube which gives a nice punchy distortion, a bit smoother than a 12ax7 tube. An A/B comparison of the two tube drivers, yields subtle differences. The BK Butler is more musical and has a character all its own. The post chandler tube drivers are brighter and punchier, yet have an almost generic feel to them. However, for most applications, unless you are a purist, the sounds are similar. This tube driver would be set as a boost for other effects namely the Big Muff, Soft Sustain, or to boost a clean signal.
Following the distortion phase of the rig, we come to the modulation portion. Here is where the tone is colored by various types of modulation pedals, flangers, chorus, univibe to name a few.
From Chandler #2, the signal travels to the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress. This is one of the most noticeable flanger in existence. It produces haunting swells creating a very unique swirling, chiming effect for the guitar. This pedal in conjunction with the Big Muff was predominately heard on the WALL live shows. It is difficult to find "the right setting" but patience and perseverance will produce an excellent smooth flanged tone. This pedal can be found on the '94 rig.
From the Mistress the signal travels to the Uni-Vibe. The Uni-Vibe replicates the rotating speaker effects. It adds a great dimension to the sound and can be heard a bit on the Dark Side of the Moon album. This can be seen on the '94 tour rig, on Live 8 and for On an Island.
From the Univibe we now enter the Boss CE-2. The Ce-2, not currently made by Boss anymore offers a very warm organic Chorus. It is by and far the best sounding Chorus I've heard. It offers Rate and range, with no tone adjustments. To be frank, it doesn't need one. It has a sweet chorus effect that is unmatched. This pedal was on the '94 rig and on his All Tube Effects board currently in use. Mr. Gilmour tends to color the left channel of his signal with a chorus pedal to open up the sound and create more "space" to his tone.
From the CE-2 we come to the Demeter Tremolo. This unit creates the vibrating sounds heard throughout the song "Money". It is found on the '94 rig. (No Pic Available because I don't use one)
From the modulation section we now travel to the Equalization section. Gilmour uses a total of four Boss GE-7's on his '94 rig. Three of the four are labeled BASS, MID, and T & B(treble and bass) Here is where he can change the frequencies of his tone to suit his tastes and mood. Each labeled GE-7 does exactly what it says. Bass boosts the Bass, Mids boost the Middle range, and T & B boost the treble and bass for cleaner fuller sounding rhythm chords and the like. The Fourth GE-7 is dedicated to the Ratt pedal to give it more midrange. These pedals can be seen on the '94 rig. For the Solo Shows, a custom valve EQ was made by Pete Cornish.
From here the signal travels to an Alembic F2B preamp. This unit, primarily used for bass, is built on a fender circuit. It has been modified with an extra tube for more warmth and helps level the bass section of his tone. Used on the '94 rig. (no pic available since I don't use one)
After the F2b, the signal goes to an Ernie Ball Volume pedal, then to Gilmour's three Delay Units. The Lexicon PCM-70, the TC Electronics 2290 and the MXR DDL (used only for "Run Like Hell") I use an Ibanez DE-7. Before you say, Ibanez pedals suck, hear me out. The reason I chose this pedal is because it is a digital delay, but also an analog echo. The echo sounds awesome and I tend to use it for most of the older Floyd stuff. The Delay is decent and allows me to adequately duplicate most of the Floyd stuff. For the '94 rig, the PCM 70, MXR, and the 2290 are used. For the solo shows Gilmour uses a Roland 3000, and a Pete Cornish T.E.S Tape Echo Simulator. This delay unit is based on a Boss DD-2 delay, with the added feature of tape simulated echo.
From the delay the signal travels to a Custom Pete Cornish Routing system, then meets the Amplification section. Here Gilmour uses HIWATT Custom DR103 Amps all packed with Mullard tubes. I use a HIWATT DR504 from 1973. When choosing an amp, you want to take into account what kind of environment you are playing in. A large venue would be adequate for a DR103, but for smaller areas such as a room, or bar, you want a smaller amp, hence my choice for the DR504 which is the 50 watt version of the DR103 a 100watt amp. Hiwatts produce crystal clear tone no matter what the volume is set at. There is no breakup when the volume is cranked. It provides a blank canvass for you to color with your effects. Not all Hiwatts are the same. When choosing a HIWATT, remember to try and get the four input model from the '70's. Later versions went to a PCB board instead of Point to Point wiring and thus lost a lot of their appeal. Gilmour used Hiwatt DR103's for the '94 tour and for the solo tour he used Fender Twin Reverbs, and Hiwatt SA212 50 watt combos.
For speakers Gilmour uses Marshal Cabs with Celestion speakers and WEM cabs with Fane Crescendo speakers.
Also of note, for Gilmour's solo shows he chose the Pete Cornish G-2 Fuzz. This distortion effect uses high quality germanium transistors to produce one of the most musical sounding units available. It was chosen for its sound which complimented the mood of the shows, over the P-2 Fuzz which wouldn't have fit in nicely with the type of show. This effect can best be described as a Marshall amp in a box. This effect was also used on the Strat Pack DVD and during Live 8 where it is heard on Money and Comfortably Numb solos.
In 2004 the all tube board was modified to replace the Boss CS-2 compressor with the Demeter Compulator. This compressor was found to be more transparent than anything Gilmour had used and is currently being installed into his new all tube board by Pete Cornish.
For the On an Island Live shows, BK Butler made David Gilmour four NEW Tube Drivers. Two were placed in the new All Tube Effects Board.
Also for the New All Tube Effect Board David Gilmour had Pete Cornish resurrect one of his favorite effects, the Precision Fuzz which was made for the Wall Boards. To keep in time with his new effect titles, it has been aptly named the P-1. Very similar to a Big Muff tone, it is a huge effect made for stadium type settings.
I've taken the next step and this can be seen on the Evolution page!