The Genius of David Gilmour
Jon Bishop looks at the rhythm and lead guitar style of Pink Floyd’s great blues-rock virtuoso David Gilmour, one of the UK’s most influential and best-loved guitar players.
DaviD Gilmour was born in 1946 and is best known for his work with prog rockers Pink Floyd. David has also had a successful solo career and is a multi instrumentalist. He is a famous user of Fender stratocasters and his iconic Black strat forms the basis of his signature Fender guitar. He also owns a first year of issue 1954 stratocaster with the serial number 0001!
The purpose of any article like this is to identify an artist’s key techniques with a view to incorporating them into your own trick back. The Gilmour lead style features techniques such as string bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, finger slides and vibrato, which are all used tastefully and are clearly inspired by the language of blues guitar.
string bending is a great way to add expression and feeling to lead playing. By bending a string (pulling down or pushing up while fingering a note), you increase its tension and therefore the pitch rises. once his string is bent to pitch, Gilmour often adds vibrato to help with the intonation and this also adds interest and feel.
one of the key aspects of his lead style is the use of space and pacing. Gilmour never gets carried away by playing long phrases or lots of fast notes. Everything is placed in a considered fashion and the emphasis is on the melody.
To keep things in a familiar setting the chord progression used for the backing track is in the key of E minor. The chord progression uses the chords E minor, B minor and C major. several scales are used to construct the Gilmour style licks and phrases. The first is E minor Pentatonic (E-G-A-B-D) and this very much forms the foundation of the ideas. it will be well worth reviewing the E minor Pentatonic fingering patterns, as learning them will help you to unlock the neck and appreciate the nuts and bolts of the phrases (see Figure 1). These fret box diagrams stack on top of each other and the fret numbers show the two places on the fretboard these shapes occur. Knowing where all the E minor Pentatonic notes are will also help you to work out where and when you can add in the extra flavour tones - for this feature they are either major 2nd (F#) or minor 6th (C). Adding these notes to E minor Pentatonic creates the E Natural minor scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D) which can also be referred to as the aeolian mode.
To give you a chance to try out some Gilmour style licks and ideas there are three backing tracks complete with 10 examples and one fully transcribed mega jam. The playing tip contain all the fingerings, articulations and phrasing from the audio performances. Please don’t be intimidated by the look of the notation, it looks complicated due to the slow tempo of 74bpm, but the ideas are all relatively straightforward to play. remember, Gilmour is about feel, not pace!
Hopefully there will be a new technique, lick or phrase in here somewhere for you to perfect. If you find one you like then memorise it and use it in future solos. The final step will be to construct your own solos incorporating some of the ideas, techniques and concepts in this article - just as David will have done with his own heroes.
I don’t even think whether I play the blues or not. I just play whatever feels right in the moment. David Gilmour