When I was a kid I really wanted to know what Pink Floyd sounded like. All the people I saw wearing Pink Floyd t-shirts were the freakiest looking dudes with the longest hair and I guessed they had to be the heaviest band in the world. So I bought The Wall and it wasn’t nearly as heavy as I had imagined. Still, and although it was a weird kind of music to these eleven year old ears, I liked it. So I bought Delicate Sound of Thunder next, figuring a double album was the way to go. It was this live greatest hits album that introduced me to songs from the next two albums I would get: Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.
Pink Floyd formed in London in 1965 when Syd Barrett moved down from Cambridge and joined fellow musicians Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Rick Wright. The band’s first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was released in 1967. Due to increasingly erratic behavior, Barrett would only remain with the band for another year. He was replaced by guitarist David Gilmour in 1968. The band spent the next few years recording film scores and albums that were more psychedelic experiments than the songs of Piper. The group would eventually cast aside their psychedelic works for stronger songwriting and achieved their first real commercial success with Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. It was followed by Wish You Were Here in 1975 and The Wall in 1979.
The first band to include Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason was called Sigma 6. They were joined by Waters’ childhood friend Syd Barrett in 1964. They changed their name to Tea Set. That name lasted until they discovered another band with the same name was going to playing at one of their gigs! Barrett quickly changed the name to Pink Floyd, deriving the name from two blues musicians whose records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
During these years bassist Roger Waters exerted more creative control over the band. While each member of Pink Floyd can be found with songwriting credits on Dark Side of the Moon (Mason has a credit on “Time”) and Wright has numerous contributions on Wish You Were Here, Waters is the principle songwriter on The Wall, although you will find Gilmour collaborated on the music of Young Lust, Run Like Hell, and Comfortably Numb. This phase culminated with Waters being the sole credited songwriter credit on the 1983 album The Final Cut, which proved to his last record with the band.
After a lengthy legal dispute concerning the use of the band’s name, Pink Floyd returned with David Gilmour at the helm, releasing two albums and touring successfully in the 80s and 90s. Pink Floyd’s final studio album was The Division Bell in 1994. The band reunited briefly in 2005 to perform at the Live 8 concert. Syd Barret died in Cambridge in 2006. In September 2008, keyboardist Rick Wright died at the age of 65. David Gilmour credited Wright with having a huge influence on the overall Pink Floyd sound.
Pink Floyd for Guitar
David Gilmour’s distinctive guitar style is often regarded as the most familiar aspect of the Pink Floyd sound. It’s instantly recognizable for its economy and tone and his gift of melodic phrasing is still influencing guitarists all over the world.
Guitar Noise features several lessons on the music of David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. If you’re going to play an emotionally charged song, you can’t hide behind a single strumming pattern. Comfortably Numb is one of the highlight songs from The Wall and we have arranged it for a single guitar, using many strumming and crosspicking techniques we’ve gone over in our Guitar Noise Podcast series.
For the solo acoustic guitarist there is a two part lesson on Wish You Were Here. The first part of Wish You Were Here gives beginners a step by step lesson on getting the strumming pattern to sound natural.
Part two picks up where the first part leaves off. It’s aimed more at intermediate players and deals with the intro solo. The solo at the beginning of Wish You Were Here uses four basic guitar techniques: hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and bends.
More ambitious students might like to look at Wish You Were Here arranged for two guitars in the lesson Applied Science. While actually a lot simpler than it sounds, this lesson covers alternate tuning, alternate chord voicings and basic leads and fills.
Absolute beginner might want to take a stab at Brain Damage / Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon. This lesson takes very basic chords and adds a very simple strumming and picking pattern.
Those interested in alternate tunings and a challenge should take a look at the lesson Cover Story. This lesson looks at how to use alternate tunings as a tool for arranging imaginative versions of people’s songs and coming up with wild interpretations of old familiar tunes. Included is a solo acoustic version of the Pink Floyd song Take It Back.