TOOLS OF THE TRADE: 1970 Black Fender Stratocaster, Red '57 Reissue Fender Strat, Hiwatt DR-103 amps
KEY ALBUMS: Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, The Wall
SIGNATURE SONGS: "Time," "Money," "Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 2)," "Comfortably Numb"
HIDDEN GEM: "Sorrow"
HALLMARK: Soulful, soaring Strat lines and tone
We've all heard the contrary response to a fiery display of shred guitar: "Yeah, OK, but can he solo with feel?" Well, we think that "solo with feel" phrase was coined for legendary guitarist David Gilmour's heartfelt, atmospheric fretboard excursions.
Gilmour came to fame, of course, as a member of Pink Floyd. He may not have been the original guitarist in Pink Floyd (that would be mad genius Syd Barrett), but starting with the band's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, it was Gilmour's voice and singing guitar lines that became the signature sound of the prog-rock icons.
Over the next few albums, Gilmour and bassist and principal songwriter Roger Waters polished and fine-tuned their evolving brand of grand-scale experimental "art-rock," culminating with the 1973 masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, arguably the greatest album of all time, having spent an astonishing 741 consecutive weeks (that's over 14 years!) on the Billboard album chart. The band continued its success with subsequent albums Wish You Were Here (1975) and Animals (1977), before hitting big-time once again with 1979's ambitious double concept album, The Wall. Following 1983's The Final Cut, however, the band became to unravel, with tension between Waters and the rest of the band reaching an unsustainable level. Waters left and subsequently sued Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason, to dissolve the group's partnership. Waters lost the lawsuit, and led by Gilmour, Pink Floyd returned to the Top 5 with 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The band's final studio album, The Division Bell, was released seven years later in 1994 and foreshadows the musical approach and style heard on Gilmour's 2006 solo album On an Island.
As a guitarist, Gilmour is truly in a class by himself. His blues-based lines—rife with crying bends, shocking overbends, and just the right amount of breathing room—are required listening for any serious guitarist. Fans and critics often point to Gilmour's solos in "Comfortably Numb" as among the greatest of all time—simply transcendent and the perfect encapsulation of his muscle, touch, and tone.
Gilmour evoked that signature sound largely from a 1970 black Fender Stratocaster, which over its storied lifetime, has seen myriad modifications (for a complete history of this iconic guitar, check out "The Black Strat" by Phil Taylor, available here). And as opposed to many of his fellow '70s-era peers, Gilmour eschewed the concept of plugging into a cranked Marshall, instead seeking the perfect clean tone, and using fuzz boxes and overdrive pedals to create his distorted tones. This approach largely contributed to Gilmour's crisp, articulated sound. Of late, he's also favoring a red '57 reissue Fender Strat loaded with signature EMG pickups.