Player Spotlight – David Gilmour

This week’s spotlight falls upon one of the forefathers of worldwide rock history. A player so innovative and artistically experimental he has paved the way for generations to come.

The 6th of March 1946 in Cambridge was a definitive moment for guitar culture as we know it, the birthdate of a wizard. A true master of his craft and heralded by many as one of the greatest guitarists ever.

Let’s discover the man, the myth, the legend; Mr David Gilmour. 🎸

“David is one of the all-time guitar greats, with an instinctive and distinctive sound; he was voted ‘Best Fender Guitar Player Ever’ in a poll in Guitarist magazine.”

https://www.davidgilmour.com/biography.htm



Educated Art & Psychedelia…

David was born into a very well educated family in Cambridge. His father was a Zoology University Lecturer at Cambridge University, whilst his mother (who was also qualified teacher) developed her skills to eventually work as a film editor for the BBC.

Many believe that Gilmour’s parents’ combined influences had a great impact on him as a guitar player. Evidently his creativity is both openly expressive but also precision engineered to perfection when it comes to his guitar prowess.

Like many others, David’s interest in music came to fruition as he experienced the birth of Rock’n’Roll.

Image courtesy – https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2015/david-gilmour/

“Gilmour’s parents encouraged him to pursue his interest in music, and in 1954 he bought his first single, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”. His enthusiasm was stirred the following year by Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”, and later “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers piqued his interest in the guitar. He borrowed a guitar from a neighbour, but never gave it back. Soon afterward, Gilmour started teaching himself to play using a book and record set by Pete Seeger”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gilmour

Little else is known about David’s journey into learning the instrument despite being deemed as one of the greatest guitarists ever. He is somewhat of a multi instrumentalist, also playing lap steel to a very high level.

The brief clip below from the BBC captures David discussing his early beginnings with the guitar and a vinyl record that was a gift from his parents containing instructional guitar chord boxes.

The mystery behind the man remains a closed book and the secrets of the master are kept very close to his chest. It’s this level of mystic that furthers the fascination of a living rock & roll legend.

For Gilmour’s 21st birthday, his parents gifted him his first Fender guitar… a blonde Telecaster with a white pickguard plate and rosewood neck. This guitar is now synonymous with his early career.

David is pictured below left with the blonde Fender Telecaster in 1967 with Bullitt, his last band before joining Pink Floyd, (left) and (right) an early concert appearance with Pink Floyd in Amsterdam, May 31. 1968.

Tea Set To The Pink Floyd … ☕️

Image credit: https://guitar.com/guides/essential-guide/guitar-legends-david-gilmour-pink-floyd/


There are only a handful of bands & artists in musical history that can truly live up to the title of ‘legend’.

Few musicians and their catalogue of work stand the test of time in a way that Pink Floyd have.

They are the soundtrack to many of our lives and represent part of our heritage and culture seamlessly and eternally, in much the same way that we think of the classic English Sunday roast dinner… something that is embedded into our subconscious and the foundations of our very empire.

Pink Floyd started out as an outlet for a group of well educated middle-class students looking for escapism.

They went on to form the band “Tea Set” (along with a few other alternative names). The band name was eventually changed and formulated from the visionary and creative mind of Syd Barrett (the front man of the band at the time).

“This cool and charismatic son of a university don was the original creative force behind the band (which he named after the Delta bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council). His vision was perfect for the times, and vice versa. He would lead the band to its first precarious fame, and damage himself irreparably along the way. And though the Floyd’s Barrett era only lasted three years, it always informed what they became.”

https://www.pinkfloyd.com/history/biography.php

It was at this pivotal moment that David Gilmour entered the scene and from here Pink Floyd started to develop on what had already been built by the tragically talented Syd Barrett.

Pink Floyd (along with David Gilmour) have become one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, starting from humble beginnings as more of an experimental/psychedelic outfit and developed into incredible atmospherically epic songwriters and recording artists.

https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/art-and-culture/pink-floyd-archival-concerts-live-streaming-6369495/

The visionary developments both sonically and visually was something so ahead of its time that they remain influential to many future generations.

Pink Floyd produced some of the greatest and most prestigious songs ever written along with some of the most tasteful, technical and exquisite guitar playing ever put to tape.

Gilmour is a guitar hero of astronomical proportions, he is revered as one of the greatest guitarists ever and rightfully so. 🎸

The soundscape created by Pink Floyd is so monumental it has been embedded into our culture and society not just in the UK 🇬🇧 . Their sonic capabilities transcend worldwide and their connection is so strong it doesn’t identify by country or culture but by humanity.

https://www.thisdayinmusic.com/artists/pink-floyd/

The Guitars … The Collection The Sound … Myth & Legend

When you develop the level of Guitar God status that David Gilmour has, you are under constant scrutiny and fascination.

People from all over the world, continually search for that epic sound and will go to great lengths to get it at any cost!

Fans of Gilmour have created forums, websites and discussion groups dedicated to his guitars, pedals, amplifiers and string choice.

Never has this been more relevant than when David decided to auction off his guitars recently to fund a world charity very close to his heart.

“In June 2019, David raised $21.5m from the Christie’s sale of more than 120 of his instruments and artefacts. He gave the proceeds to ClientEarth, a charity which uses the power of the law to protect the planet and its people.

“The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face,” said David. “I hope that the sale of these guitars will help ClientEarth in their actions to use the law to bring about real change. We need a civilised world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond, in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.”

For more information on ClientEarth, their work and how you can help, please visit clientearth.org.”

https://www.davidgilmour.com/home.htm

In the hope of change and climate revolution, David auctioned his guitars and gave the proceeds to his beliefs.

A very Pink Floyd thing to do in our opinion ✌️ .

This was an incredible landmark event in musical history, I attended myself (Phil, Strings Direct) and it was mind-blowing to witness all the historical instruments all in 1 room.

The David Gilmour Guitar Collection sold for $21.5 million!!

“Bidders from all over the world competed to buy guitars from the personal collection of the Pink Floyd singer and songwriter, including ‘The Black Strat’, which realises $3,975,000

The David Gilmour Guitar Collection, the largest and most comprehensive sale of guitars ever offered at auction, told the story of one of the world’s most influential guitarists. The 126 lots, which included iconic instruments played by Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s greatest tracks as well as his solo albums, totalled $21,490,750 — the most valuable musical instruments sale in auction history — with proceeds being donated to ClientEarth. 

In the months leading up to the auction, over 12,000 fans attended the tour stops in London, Los Angeles and New York to get up-close to the guitars played by the Pink Floyd guitarist, singer and songwriter. In excess of 500,000 people viewed the content around the sale on Christies.com, and more than 2,000 bidders from 66 countries registered for the sale, which took place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center HQ.”

https://www.christies.com/features/David-Gilmour-Collection-auction-results-9974-1.aspx?sc_lang=en#FID-9974

Strings engineered symphonically .. 🎼

“Despite all his collaborations, it’s Pink Floyd that defined Gilmour as a player. With their drawn-out tracks and keyboard atmospherics, Gilmour’s Floyd highlights were usually interwoven into a bigger whole – he’s not known for trademark big riffs. But as a soloist and texturalist, his work still stands up 50 years after he first made his mark.”

Michael Leonard 30th June 2020 – guitar.com 

David Gilmour and The Black Strat, circa 2010. Photo by Eamonn McCabe / Redferns / Getty Images

So a masterful wizard such as Mr Gilmour must have very precise and methodical string choices… Of course he does. 😉 

David Gilmour’s Custom Guitar String Gauges

Strat: .010 – .012 – .016 – .028 – .038 – .048

Les Paul: .0105 – .013 – .017 – .030 – .040 – .050

David is a long-standing ambassador of GHS Strings and has his gauges customised according to his playing style.

The way he expresses himself on the guitar involves some serious multi tonal bending.

“David Gilmour’s connection with GHS Boomers series goes back to 1979, when he started using them on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” project. He uses gauges 10, 12, 16, 28, 38, and 48 on his Fender Stratocaster™, and gauges 10.5. 13, 17, 30, 40, and 50 on his Gibson Les Paul™. Decide for yourself which is right for you!”

https://www.ghsstrings.com/products/11344-david-gilmour-signature?category_id=1964662-boomers

Now there isn’t any public documentation or quotes that we can find of David personally discussing or reflecting on his string choice.

In fact, the closest you can get is a very brief quote from his tech Phil Taylor – “PT: He uses a customized set of GHS Boomers. The gauges are .010, .012, .016, .028, .038 and .048. For his acoustic guitars he uses Ernie Ball Earthwood light gauge strings.”

http://www.pink-floyd.org/artint/dagear.htm – Interview with – Phil Taylor

But what is most interesting about the make up of both sets is the flexibility found within the G and the B strings.

Our good friends over at StringJoy have pretty much described this perfectly in both text and video so I’m going to leave you with their fine thoughts and expertise on the great David Gilmour.  🎸

“So what’s cool about these well, you know, for one they’ve got a really flexible B and G, which I think is kind of cool. The high E is standard, it’s a 10, but then the 12 and the 16 are almost closer to what you’d see in a set of nines than what you’d usually see in a set of tens. So this allows for really easy bends on the B and G, and more stiffness on that high E comparatively. That is an interesting thing because that same concept exists on a lot of popular custom sets from big-name guitarists, a SRV’s set went 13, 15, 19. So basically a 13 on top and then a set of Eleven’s on the B and the G, whereas David Gilmour’s here has a 10 on top and then basically a set of nines on the, the B and the G. I don’t know exactly what that’s all about, but I have seen it in a few different signature sets from big-name players, and I just have to imagine that they like having a lot of flexibility on the B and the G. So I’m guessing they just wanted a ton of flexibility on the plain strings, but wanted that high E to not get lost in the mix the way that it can when you’re using a nine or an eight or whatever. And then rounding out things on the bottom end, we have a 28, 38 & 48, so that is classically a standard set of medium wound strings.

So basically in building the set, what I kind of can infer is that he took a light gauge or a .010 gauge set for the high E, took a super light or .009 gauge set for the G and the B and then took an .011 gauge set for the wound strings, which I think is pretty cool. It’s an unconventional set, but it makes a lot of sense. You’ve got a lot of flexibility up top and then some nice fullness on the bottom end so it doesn’t get lost, especially on a Strat that can get a little bit weird and overly snappy which isn’t really his vibe.

So I wanted to walk you through the set because I think it’s kind of a cool way of looking at building a custom set. Basically, you can look at a set of guitar strings and think like, huh, I really liked the way my E sounds on a set of tens, I really liked the way my G and B feel on a set of nines, and I really liked that low-end power that I get on a set of Eleven’s. Then you can mix those gauges and make a custom set that works just right for you in the same way that David Gilmour did.

Now I’m not sure if GHS designed this for him or if this is what his tech put together or what, I don’t really know the backstory there, but I do think it’s a cool set and more than anything kind of a cool jumping-off point for you to build your custom set yourself.”

https://stringjoy.com/david-gilmours-guitar-string-gauges/

References

https://stringjoy.com/david-gilmours-guitar-string-gauges/

http://www.pink-floyd.org/artint/dagear.htm

https://www.ghsstrings.com/products/11344-david-gilmour-signature?category_id=1964662-boomers

https://www.davidgilmour.com/home.htm

https://www.pinkfloyd.com/home.php

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-gilmour-mn0000582930/biography

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/04/david-gilmour-pink-floyd-interview-1978

https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2015/david-gilmour/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gilmour

https://societyofrock.com/david-gilmour-opens-up-about-learning-guitar-says-he-owes-it-all-to-this-one-item/

https://www.groundguitar.com/david-gilmour-gear/

https://www.christies.com/features/David-Gilmour-Collection-auction-results-9974-1.aspx?sc_lang=en#FID-9974

https://www.christies.com/features/The-Black-Strat-David-Gilmours-iconic-Fender-Stratocaster-9908-1.aspx

https://www.gilmourish.com/

http://guitar.com

https://musicalinstru.com/ghs-gb-dgf-david-gilmour-signature-electric-guitar-string-review/

2 Comments

  • Perry Freeman

    It’s a great piece about David’s background and history, & tech but string gauge is only a part of it? What string material does he use? How is the neck fretted to allow this kind of bending and so on.
    I have a Strat which was recently restrung, strings supplied by Strings Direct, but I chose Stainless Steel. Having just had the guitar fret dressed and the action lowered, the guitar sounds the closest to a David Gilmour Strat I have ever achieved: setup – USA Deluxe Stratocaster through TC G system processor and Herbert Diezel amp and rear loaded cabinet.

    • stringsdirect

      Hi Perry, thanks for the message. Yes of course, string gauge is only one piece of the puzzle if you are looking to emulate Gilmour’s tone. FYI he personally uses the GHS Boomers which are a nickel plated wound string wound over a round shaped core. Unfortunately we aren’t 100% sure how the neck is fretted on his guitar. That’s one for another blog we think 🙂

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