Perhaps more than any other player, David Gilmour is the epitome of lead guitarist who plays melodically and “for the song”.
Although primarily a player with blues sensibilities, the progressive nature of Pink Floyd would see the young Gilmour become both a sonic and melodic experimenter. Listen to Floyd’s recorded output, especially from 1973 The dark side of the moonbarely a note is misplaced, every note counts and every sentence has a purpose.
And, while none of us have Gilmour’s musical ear, we can all learn from his approach to guitar and songwriting. From his signature bending technique to his sublime note choice and phrasing, there’s plenty to try in our lesson. And once you’ve tried our lesson, why not try writing some of your own Gilmour-style plans?
Here we look at a handful of scales. Familiarize yourself with the forms and you will better understand his choice of notes and his phrasing. The first is the minor pentatonic scale (shown here in D), which David uses to create these blues-influenced lead lines.
To add sophisticated color to the pentatonic sound, he will often add E and B notes – creating the cooler, softer sounding Dorian mode. Our acoustic example is in the key of G major so the pentatonic G major will work here.
Example 1. Spatial Arpeggios
We start with some spatial arpeggios, as heard in classic Floyd songs like us and them and Shine on your mad diamond. Using alternate picking may feel a little unnatural at first, but it helps maintain an even feel, especially at the slow tempo of our example.
Example 2. Clean Solo
The key to soloing clean sounds such as Another brick in the wall, pt. 2 is to select the neck pickup and dial in a fair amount of compression for smoothness and sustain. Pick slightly near the end of the neck for a fat, expressive tone.
Example 3. Pentatonic scales with added notes
David uses the good old minor pentatonic scale as the backbone of many of his solos, adding an extra note for color. Here we use the D minor pentatonic scale with the intervals wiPthamgaejo1r 2ondf (1E) and 6th major (B) added. These notes can also be tasteful points for bending the string.
Example 4. Funky Doublestops
Using double stops (two notes at once) is a great way to introduce some funky punctuation into debates, and it’s an approach Gilmour uses frequently. Check Another brick in the wall, pt. 2 at around 2:21 for a typical example of his phrasing. Our lick shows off some of David’s typical shapes.
Example 5. Using a fuzz tone
A fuzz pedal can be used to add an insane amount of sustain. David used this effect to create the soaring solos in songs like Time and comfortably Numb.
Example 6. Unison Bends
With their characteristic drawling and dragging sound, unison bends feature heavily in David’s main style. Our example should give you a general idea. In each case, bend the third string until it reaches the pitch of the fretted unbent note on the second string. The vibrato is the icing on the cake.
Example 7. Using dotted timelines
Run like hell of The wall is one of David’s signature dotted eighth delay moments. For our simpler example, we’ve set a tempo of 120 bpm with, therefore, a delay time of 375 ms. For full Run like hell effect, keep the number of repeats (i.e. feedback) high enough for a cascading and layered sound.
Example 8. Wide interval string bends
We’ve already shown you how David executes those huge, wide interval turns at tracks such as Another brick in the wall, pt. 2 and Shine on your mad diamond, but now it’s your turn to try it on our backing track. We’ve stuck with three-semitone bends here, but you can try a four-semitone bend in bar 2 if you’re feeling brave.
Example 9. Using the Whammy Bar
One of David’s signature sounds is the addition of vocal-like whammy bar vibrato on string bends and long held notes. It also uses the bar for “scoops”, like in the repeating phrase idea we’ve included here in our sample tab.
Example 10. Acoustic cable
David is no stranger to the acoustic guitar and has used it to great effect for songs like wish you were Here and Out of words. As with many of Gilmour’s melodic ideas, simplicity is key here.