David Gilmour and the Fender Stratocaster

Updated on July 13, 2018
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

David Gilmour, Master of Psychedelic Guitar

David Jon Gilmour is one of the single most accomplished musicians living in the world today. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the UK Music Hall of Fame, and he has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. David Gilmour has a net worth exceeding one hundred and forty million dollars. With a guitar playing style unlike any of his peers, or any other human's, he's ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the fourteenth greatest guitarist in history.

With all that money and all those accolades, it is clear David Gilmour isn't an ordinary musician. In fact he is a pioneer of a sound which had never previously existed, and will never be replicated. Eschewing all popular trends and styles throughout his career, Gilmour has been Gilmour, and there was never any reason to attempt anything else.

David Gilmour, of course, is the guitarist and singer for the great Pink Floyd. Having sold over two hundred and fifty million records internationally, it is safe to say the legacy of the band is indestructible. Generations will pass and the music of Pink Floyd will remain.

David has been the primary guitarist on all albums, except for the band's debut. Masters of psychedelic concept albums, and music for the theater of the mind, we can at least hope that Roger Waters and David will play together again someday.

Let's not forget the massive props and the laser light shows. I have been blessed to have seen Pink Floyd in concert, and I'll cherish the memory always. Without hesitation, and with no reservations, I can say the music of David Gilmour has made my life better than it would be without it.

Gilmour and The Black Strat.
Gilmour and The Black Strat.

David Gilmour Playing Style

We've witnessed and enjoyed the age of shred guitar playing, and we don't knock the greats of that style, but Gilmour can punch the wind right out of a listener with a single note. Examples of this proclivity to bring one to tears with fewer notes than anyone are found in examples such as the song Comfortably Numb, which was ranked as having the 4th greatest guitar solo of all time, by readers of Guitar World magazine.

There are many many more famous solos by Gilmour which persons recognize the instant they hear even one note. Those of us who have more trained or seasoned ears can identify David's playing near instantly even though we are hearing a thing of his for the very first time. How do we characterize such an iconic playing style?

Well, David goes for very large sounding, but simple riffs. He's very fond of using ringing chords for ambient textures, and his solos are straight out gutsy. He never plays fast. He's very fond of big string bends, and hand vibrato, and the use of the Stratocaster synchronized tremolo bar. He has a half centuries worth of inflections up his sleeve and at his disposal at all times.

David Gilmour doesn't play the Fender Stratocaster exclusively, but by and large, the sound of Pink Floyd's guitar is the sound of the amazing Mr. Gilmour, and his Stratocaster.

David Gilmour Signature  Relic Stratocaster Artist Series Fender Custom Shop
David Gilmour Signature Relic Stratocaster Artist Series Fender Custom Shop

David Gilmour Signature Relic Stratocaster Artist Series Fender Custom Shop

Referred to as simply The Black Strat, this guitar is world famous. It has appeared on all the most unforgettable Pink Floyd albums, and has been modified numerous times in several ways. Gilmour acquired this guitar in 1969, and it is, in fact, a 1969 model Fender Stratocaster.

Many of the changes to the guitar were undone soon after being done. David loved the guitar, and loves it still, but was forever having it tinkered with. At one point he retired the instrument and put it on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas, Texas. It is possible I even saw it there as a child, as I used to get to go there during the time it was there.

Of course David would reclaim his black Stratocaster and take it on the road again. The guitar had become too much an icon all its own.

Today you can own a guitar made exactly as David's black Strat is now. He'd finally decided to stop modifying the thing, or perhaps he'd just arrived at a place to where he felt the guitar couldn't be improved upon. The David Gilmour Signature 'Relic' Stratocaster is just so, and it is created to where perhaps even David wouldn't be able to tell it from the one he's spent so much time with.

Every scratch and scuff is recreated faithfully in the exact places where they should be. This sort of reproduction does cost a lot of money, but were there no market for such things, there would be no production. Take a close look at the image above and you can see the scratches on the body, and the wear on the fingerboard.

David Gilmour Signature Relic Stratocaster Artist Series Fender Custom Shop features

  • "Body: Alder Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer Neck: one-piece maple, reissue C-shaped, .790"" to .870"" taper Fingerboard: Maple, 7.25"" radius Frets: 21, vintage Scale Length: 25.5"" Nut: 1.675"" Hardware: Vintage Tuning Keys: Vintage Bridge: Vintage Stratocaster with Custom shortened vintage tremolo arm Pickguard: .120"" one-ply black acrylic pickguard (exclusive to Gilmour model) Pickups Neck: Custom Hand-Wound Fat '50s Strat Middle"
  • " "The David Gilmour Signature Series Stratocaster Guitar from the Fender Custom Shop has an alder body, black or black over three-color sunburst finish, a black pickguard, a one-piece straight-grain maple neck, custom pickups, and Gilmour's now-famous electronics and shortened vintage tremolo arm
  • A cornerstone of Pink Floyd's incomparably revolutionary sound, Gilmour's Black Strat is featured extensively on The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall and his critically acclaimed 2006 solo effort, On An Island
  • The Fender Custom Shop worked hand-in-hand with Gilmour and his longtime guitar technician, Phil Taylor, to create this signature model instrument, a detailed reproduction of the Black Strat-complete in its unmistakable look, sound, and feel
  • The David Gilmour Signature Strat comes with a custom Fender guitar case, an Evidence high-end guitar cable and Gilmour's three-disc Live in Gdansk CD/DVD set

David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster Artist Series  Fender Custom Shop
David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster Artist Series Fender Custom Shop

Fender Custom Shop David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster NOS

The whole relic industry with guitars is a fine thing for those who love it. I absolutely admire the artistry in perfectly recreating a guitar with all the dents and scratches, but such things are very expensive, and besides, when I buy a new guitar, I want it to look like a brand new guitar. This leads us to the NOS version of the Gilmour Stratocaster, for this is the guitar recreated in the image of David's, but this one is without the dents and the scratches.

This guitar is still a long way from affordable. This is priced at over five thousand dollars. You think about that, and you realize you could probably buy five good Stratocasters for that amount of money. You could also drop in some custom pickups, and have someone do some fancy wiring to make one a lot like this one. Then again, there are people out there who have enough cash to simply just buy one. Hats off to those blessed souls, I figure.

There is one thing about these guitars which has to be pointed out. People talk about these as though they are the Holy Grail, and I get that. I understand completely the love of gear and the love of Gilmour. But analyzing the specifications, you need to be certain you can deal with that round fingerboard radius these guitars have. Today's players are more and more used to flatter fingerboards, and this is just not one of those. So I would plead with someone to absolutely spend some time with one of these guitars before you up and spend five thousand bucks on one.

Fender Custom Shop David Gilmour Stratocaster NOS Features

  • Alder body with nitrocellulose lacquer finish
  • One piece maple neck with 1983 Fender 'C' shape thin shoulder profile
  • Maple fingerboard with 7.25" fingerboard radius
  • Neck pickup- Fender Custom Shop fat '50s single coil Strat
  • Middle pickup- Custom wound single coil Strat
  • Bridge pickup - Seymour Duncan SSL-5 single coil Strat
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (neck pickup), Tone 2 (middle pickup)
  • Switching: 5-way blade switch with an additional two way toggle switch that activates neck pickup to the middle and bridge positions
  • Bridge: American Vintage synchronized tremolo with custom-beveled tremolo block, shortened tremolo arm
  • Accessories: Evidence Audio guitar cable, custom leather strap, David Gilmour's Live In Pompeii Blu-ray, and David Gilmour signature GHS strings

Fender American Professional Stratocaster - Black with Maple Fingerboard
Fender American Professional Stratocaster - Black with Maple Fingerboard

Fender American Professional Stratocaster

What's a poor boy to do? Your best bet for the money is to buy a new Fender American Professional Stratocaster in black. You'll have a better guitar than a 1969 Strat, and the price is far, far more reasonable than what you'd have to pay for a David Gilmour Strat.

The white pick-guard which comes on this guitar is not a serious aesthetic obstacle. Nor is it a big deal monetarily. Black Strat pickguards are easily acquired for between twenty and forty dollars. If you're not feeling up to changing one out, it can be done for you at your local guitar store, though I'm unsure what someone would charge you for changing that out. It couldn't be much.

From there one could save to change out the pups to match what Gilmour is using, but what is evident in the all new in 2017 Fender American Pro Strat are three all new Strat pickups designed by pickup guru Tim Shaw. Were I you, I'd stick with the pups in there, they are fabulous; but if having Gilmour's exact pickup recipe is a major desire, there are pickguards loaded with Gilmour's exact set already available online.

This guitar also solves the problem a lot of modern players would have with the Gilmour guitars rounder fingerboard. This guitar has a much more modern and flat 9.5" fingerboard radius. All new are the rolled edges which make this a super comfortable neck to hold and spend countless hours with. The narrow tall frets, I can attest to you, allow for the deepest Gilmour-esq string bends made with wondrous ease.

Friends, I can't say enough about the new Fender American Professional line. I'm not even very good, but playing one of these makes me feel like I'm a not too shabby guitarist. If you can't get the Gilmour mournful wails out of this guitar, the issue is not the guitar.

  • Fender American Professional Stratocaster - Black with Maple Fingerboard
  • A Stratocaster design that blends the best of modern and vintage construction
  • Balanced-sounding alder body
  • Maple neck with comfortable deep "C" profile
  • 3 Shaw-designed V-mod single-coil pickups are balanced across the positions
  • Narrow-tall frets are the most requested size in the Fender Custom Shop
  • 2-point tremolo with pop-in arm
  • Comfortable 9.5" fretboard radius

Young David Gilmour and joining Pink Floyd

Though David Gilmour's parents weren't employed in music, they encouraged their son's musicianship. His parents were very intellectual persons, his father a zoologist, and his mother both a teacher and a film editor. You can see how David inherited the capability to be involved in the creation of such massive and intellectual works of art as the albums of Pink Floyd.

A young David was musically stirred by Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock, and the music of Elvis Presley, and the Everly Brothers. David would borrow a guitar from a neighbor, but he'd never return it to its owner. He'd teach himself some guitar playing by use of a book by the great Pete Seeger, and in school at the young age of eleven, he'd become acquainted with the late Syd Barrett, and Roger Waters.

You've heard of paying one's dues, or suffering for your art? David did that as a young man. He and Syd Barrett had traveled about busking. In 1965 the two and others were traveling Spain and France, playing songs by The Beatles on street corners. David became so malnourished he had to be hospitalised.

Syd Barrett would part from David, and go on to form Pink Floyd without David in the group. The magnetic and genius that was Syd Barrett then was something beyond description for those who were not there, but the sad tale of what happened has become legend in the annals of music. Syd Barrett was an incipient schizophrenic, and he abused psychedelic substances to the point of him becoming incoherent.

The only way the band could continue was to replace Syd Barrett, and there was David Gilmour waiting in the wings. Maybe no one anywhere had the creative genius that Barrett had once had, but David Gilmour had a steady and dedicated mind, and together with Waters, Mason and Wright, they had enough brilliance between them to put together stuff for the ages. Music that might never die is what happened.

Hope for the Future of Pink Floyd

Now with the fiery Roger Waters as the band's primary lyricist and conceptual leader, the Pink Floyd would become an incomparable band who's progressive and psychedelic music would be loved world wide. Masters of concept albums which took the listener far from where they sat, they'd sell over two hundred and fifty million albums.

That kind of success and persons can develope large egos. Roger Waters has been described by some as a bully. Well, he managed to bully Richard Wright out of the group, and the last Pink Floyd album with Roger Waters involved may as well have been a Roger Waters solo album. Waters would leave the group himself, Wright would return, and Gilmour would take the helm. There were lawsuits and bitter disputes, but Pink Floyd soldiered on.

Waters and Gilmour both have had terrific solo careers too. Waters great album Amused to death was a political tour de force. David Gilmour's first solo album, simply titled David Gilmour, was a gold record which I personally have always enjoyed a great deal.

As it is now in 2018, Syd Barrett has long since died, and Richard Wright has also passed away. Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour are all quite healthy and very active.Their last reunion show together worked out well, perhaps there is hope for the future.

We, as die hard and loving fans hope their hearts aren't obscured by clouds, and they can perhaps get together for one last trip around to the darkside of the moon. Thanks for reading.

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    © 2018 Wesman Todd Shaw

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