For the axe-slinging rockers of the world, guitar string gauges simply can’t be overlooked.
Cue David Gilmour, guitarist and co-vocalist of Pink Floyd, who – like many of the leading strummers of the past few decades – has opted for custom string gauges to craft his unique sounds. Unlike the fire fingers of most rockers, though, Gilmour has built a name around emotional tones that pack a severe guttural punch, with more than enough technique to back it up.
Gilmour has experimented over the years using a range of custom sets. His repertoire of strings started with a relatively clean and common .010 – .046 set and eventually moved up into a heavier .010 – .048 set (with a few small tweaks), a caliber at which some of his most ethereally dark and delicious tones are produced. Perhaps it’s this kind of versatility that helped Gilmour nab the 14th spot in Rolling Stone’s 2011 list of the greatest guitarists of all time (way up from 82nd in their 2003 list. So embarrassing).
David Gilmour’s Custom Guitar String Gauges
.010 – .012 – .016 – .028 – .038 – .048.
Thick-skinned and thicker-stringed
David Gilmour has always been open with his sound styling and experimentation. The reason behind the custom strings he states as building an intense drift and the beefier, deep tonal plunges of his solos.
In a 1988 interview with Guitar World, Gilmour discussed the methodology behind his work. He always knew his strengths rested in melody and pace, not necessarily sweat-inducing chord speed and glitzy flash. So he customized strings to match just that.
“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.”
He also attributes his love for blues as a major inspiration behind his work. Keeping things earthy, having his fingers truly feel the tight chords reverberate and the hardline rings off his customs strings are as necessary as they are nuanced.
And while no pun is intended (kind of), David Gilmour’s guitar string gauges really provides the keys behind the stylistic sounds and croons of a guitar. His solo riffs are the stuff of legend in tracks like – need we even say it – “Comfortably Numb,” and many of the big bends he deploys come courtesy of the lighter 2nd and 3rd string gauges in his custom string set.
Likewise, the heavier gauges on the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings creates more resistance when drawing out harder chords. The result is Gilmour’s crooning defiance, a sort of soul-blurring stealth creeping up from the sound’s density and weight.
Such a powerful and heady combination of solid technique with string signatures and chord experimentation make Gilmour the legend he is. It’s also the kind of sound impossible to replicate without customized gauges.
And come on now, who doesn’t want to master themselves some Dark Side of the Moon?