Saturday, June 22, 2013

David Gilmour - The Black Strat

The Black Strat is the Fender Stratocaster guitar owned and played by David Gilmour, who is the guitarist for Pink Floyd. This guitar is so unique and so associated with Gilmour that Phil Taylor, Gilmour’s guitar technician, published a book in 2008 called The Black Strat. In it he details the guitar and it’s history. I am utilizing much of this information.

The first time Gilmour used the guitar was at the 1970 Bath Festival.

Gilmour purchased this guitar that same year from Manny’s Music in New York City to replace another Stratocaster that was stolen during a tour.

This Stratocaster originally was finished in three-color sunburst, but had been repainted black at Manny’s. It also had a large Fender headstock.

Gilmour must be a bit of a tinkerer, since the guitar has undergone innumerable changes externally and internally.  Gilmour still favors this guitar. Fender borrowed it for their Custom Shop David Gilmour model.

During the 1970’s Gilmour frequently switched out the necks between maple and rosewood Fender Strat necks.  

In 1971, Gilmour replaced the volume knob with a Telecaster knob. The change did not last long. He replaced the original volume knob. 

Sometime in 1972 Gilmour installed and XLR connector for the guitar’s input to reduce the hum generated by his Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face distortion pedal. The guitar’s signal was radically reduced so he reinstalled the original ½ inch input. During these years he also replaced the guitar’s tuners with Klusons.

During this same year David Gilmour swapped out the original maple neck with a 1963 rosewood Fender Stratocaster neck. 

He still had the original 3-way selector on the Black Strat.

In 1973 Gilmour was still concerned about pickup generated hum, so he installed a Gibson PAF Humbucker between the bridge and middle pickup position on the Strat. He saved the original single coil pickups and put them in a black Strat pickguard. Essentially Gilmour now had a four pickup guitar.

That same year he also replaced the bridge assembly on the Black Strat with a Fender Bullet Strat bridge assembly he had on another guitar. 

In 1974 the original 3-ply pickguard was white and originally equipped with the standard 3 potentiometers.  Gilmour installed a new black pickguard .  This one was a 1-ply black beveled acrylic model with 11 screw holes..  A mini toggle switch was located on the pickguard to allow for the neck/bridge pickup combination.  

He apparently was still searching for “that sound” because in 1976 the original bridge pickup was replaced by a DiMarzio FS-1 pickup.  Later that same year the DiMarzio was replaced with a Seymour Duncan SSL1.

By 1978 Gilmour swapped out the 1963 Fender neck for a 22 fret Charvel/Jackson neck that came replete with Fender decals on the headstock. The stock Fender tuners were replaced with Klusons.

Perhaps the most unique feature of The Black Strat is it’s short tremolo arm.  Gilmour started using the shorter arm in 1984 when he replaced the original Fender tremolo synchronized unit with a Kahler system, which involved additional routing to the body. After this he had the tremolo arm cut down to 4 ¼ inches from the standard six inch Fender original equipment version. The tuners had to be changed to locking tuners due to the Kahler installation.

In 1985, Gilmour installed a 5-way pickup switch.

It was in 1986 that Gilmour retired The Black Strat allowing it to be displayed at the Hard Rock Café in Dallas, Texas. Gilmour replaced The Black Strat with three 1957 reissue Candy Apple Red Stratocasters

All of these guitars were equipped with EMG pickups. He also acquired a Cream coloured Stratocaster that he used primarily during the Roger Waters tours.

In 1997 Gilmour retrieved The Black Strat. A guitar tech went to work on it by removing the Kahler tremolo assembly and filling in the routed area. He replaced this with a Fender Synchronized Tremolo bridge unit. 

A new 1957 reissue Stratocaster neck replaced the Charvel/Jackson neck.

By 2003 Gilmour put the Black Strat back to work. He used it on the 2005 Pink Floyd Reunion tour called Live 8 and the 2006 On An Island tour and for the Dark Side of the Moon documentary.

By 2005 Gilmour swapped out the 1960’s neck for a new 1983 Fender 21 fret 57 reissue maple neck with a C shape and a 7.25” radius.

Fender contracted with Gilmour and his guitar technician Phil Taylor in 2008 to create the David Gilmour Signature Black Stratocaster. Taylor was key in its design. His notes from that period are the basis for his book.

The Black Strat is featured on many of Pink Floyd’s hits, such as Money and Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

The original guitar purchased from Manny’s had a 1968-69 alder body.  Perhaps this is the only part of the guitar that has remained unchanged.  

Gilmour Reproduction wiring
Much of the modifications were done through the years to improve the guitar’s sound quality and eliminate hum. The back of the Black Strat's pickguard is covered in copper foil to provide shielding. 

The ground connection has been rewired. The volume and tone potentiometers are connected directly to the output jack.

Gilmour tightens down the outer two bridge plate screws, but loosens the 3 inner ones to aid in tonality. He only uses 3 springs for the synchronized tremolo.


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The Black Strat is the Fender Stratocaster guitar owned and played by ...

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Anonymous said...

For an article that actually uses pictures from a book specifically about this guitar, this is VERY inaccurate in a lot of places.