Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour is a uniquely gifted guitarist. His grasp of phrasing is exceptional: his sense of melody and timbre unparalleled. As a result, he’s created some of rock’s defining guitar parts and inspired generations of players in the process.
With over 50 years of playing and a formidable back catalogue under his belt, it’s unsurprising that Gilmour has a few words of wisdom to share on guitar playing, and his creative process.
Today, we’ve compiled some of our favourite Gilmour quotes from interviews we’ve read over the years; on everything from influences to improvisation. Whether you’re a full-on-Floydian, or a casual fan, these are well worth a read.
On his blues influences (via Guitar World)…
"… There’s a lot of the blues in my playing. When I was young, I actually sat down and learned many of the classic blues solos by Eric [Clapton] and Hendrix as well as studying old Howlin' Wolf records. But I don't consciously delve into that area now. Blues lines as such are fairly specific.
"It's like, you've got a series of things that you can put together in different combinations but there aren't that many moves you can make. Instead, I try to approach things, given my limitations and strengths, from a more melodic standpoint and just work on it until it sounds ... nice. I don't really have any plan in hand that helps me to deal with this. I try not to be too tied down by rules and regulations. So the blues influence may come out at times but I like to think I come at it from a different angle."
On the importance of formative imitation (via Uncut)…
“When you start out, you copy… Trying to be too original when you’re too young is possibly not the best thing. But I learned copying Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix. All sorts of people.”
On resisting the urge to reunite with Pink Floyd (via Louder Sound)…
“Been there, done that. Obviously I accept there are people who want to go and see and hear this legend that was Pink Floyd, but I’m afraid that’s not my responsibility. To me it’s just two words that tie together the work that four people did together. It’s just a pop group. I don’t need it. I don’t need to go there. I’m not being coy or difficult, I just think that at my age I should do whatever I really want to do in life.
But I’m thrilled that each new generation that comes along seems to latch on to us, and we get a fresh bunch of followers and listeners as the years tick by. Though I don’t quite know what’s made it work for us that way when it doesn’t for quite a lot of other people.”
On his distinctive guitar sound (via Guitar World)…
“One thing about my guitar sounds… I think I could walk into any music shop anywhere and with a guitar off the rack, a couple of basic pedals and an amp I could sound just like me. There’s no devices, customized or otherwise, that give me my sound. It comes off my fingers. It all comes down to personal taste, I guess.”
On the appeal of vintage guitars (via PinkFloydz)…
“I do unrepentantly like the old ones. Older instruments have a tonality of their own that often takes years to develop. But these things go in waves. Acoustic guitar makers like Gibson and Martin went through periods where they were manufacturing beautiful guitars, then through periods where they tightened their overheads and made things that weren’t so good. Eventually, they learned their lesson, and in the long run they went back to making great guitars again. Luckily, I know the periods of guitar and the types of guitar that I like, and I’ll eventually hunt down another 1969 D-35 that is as good as the one I originally owned. You just need to look in the right places and, as you say, there are a lot of them about these days.”
On improvising live (via Music Radar)…
"When I go to hear other bands and they launch into a big pop hit of theirs, if the guitar player goes off in a completely different direction I'm pissed off, frankly. I'm thinking; that ain't the way it is, that's not how it's supposed to go! And so my tendency is to start off pretty much like the record and then see how I'm feeling. If I move off it and it feels good, inspired and original, then I'll stay off the beaten track.
"But sometimes I realise I'm off the beaten track but it's just dull. Then I'll go back into the safety net of pretty much the original solo because I know that will turn a lot of people on more. So yeah, it is a balance."
What’s your favourite Gilmour guitar moment? Have you ever seen him live, either with Pink Floyd or as a solo artist? As always, Share your stories in the comments section.
The Allmans’ recorded output went practically unnoticed. However, their reputation as a live act grew, thanks in no small part to their relentless touring schedule. In 1970 alone, the band played over 300 shows, honing their chops and building an underground following. Given the band’s prowess as a live act, talk inevitably turned to capturing the band in concert for a future release. As Duane Allman told DJ Ed Shane that year: "You know, we get kind of frustrated doing the [studio] records, and I think, consequently, our next album will be ... a live recording, to get some of that natural fire on it."
“If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you'll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you'll get to where you want to be.”
“I'm not a rock star. Sure I am, to a certain extent because of the situation, but when kids ask me how it feels to be a rock star, I say leave me alone, I'm not a rock star. I'm not in it for the fame, I'm in it because I like to play.”
The revolutionary impact of his playing reverberated pretty much from the get-go. Legend has it that when Van Halen supported Black Sabbath at London’s Hammersmith in 1978, half of the crowd vanished after Eddie and co. finished their set; decamping to nearby pubs to try and make sense of what they’d just witnessed. In the face of the literal Eruption that Edward brought to the stage, the lumbering, power chord chug of Iron Man was positively Jurassic.