David Gilmour’s Stratocaster

In January/February 1988 when Pink Floyd were on tour in Australia I was asked to repair David’s main stage Fender Stratocaster®. The guitar was a maple neck, candy apple red body reissue of the 1957 Strat, made in 1982-3 at the time when Fender brought out the first of the modern reissues.

David’s long time guitar tech Phil Taylor discussed with me the repairs and maintenance that was needed and was a real gentleman to deal with: extremely professional, polite and knowledgeable.

What Phil asked me to do was the following:

1.  take off the pickguard and take the neck and body apart.

2. dress the frets to remove wear areas and improve the cleanness and sustain of the notes when David bends the plain E, B and G strings, especially higher up the neck.

3. Mill the pickup cavities in the wood of the body lower by approx 3-4mm so that the deep EMG pickups and wiring coaxial cables had room to be lowered to the levels that David preferred. The standard Fender routs in the body were done originally to a depth of approx 5/8″ which suits the shallower Fender single coil pickups, but if the deeper EMGs were fitted to a Strat® then often the guitar would have problems with not enough depth available.

Phil told me that David particularly liked to set the EMG pickups as low as possible in the pickguard which gave him a more Strat®-like tone from the powerful output fatter sounding EMG pickups. In other words, setting them low ‘thinned up’ the EMG sound somewhat and gave more of an approximation to the original style Strat pickup sound that David favoured.

(The pickguard was loaded with cream coloured EMG-SA pickups, an EMG-SPC fat boost control and an EMG-EXG expander control.)

4. Repair the D string nut slot and lightly recut the other nut slots to get cleaner open strings sounds. As is common on Strats® and most other electric guitars, the D string nut slot had worn down in the bone nut (the serrated edge of the wound string acts like a little saw on the bone surface),and the string was buzzing when the the open D was played.

I used Romney Godden’s favorite recipe for nut slot repair for bone nuts: bone dust and super glue. Once this mixture is set in the slot, the nut slot can be recut to its correct level and this mixture makes a surprisingly good tough and long lasting repair. I then added my favorite mix of graphite and oil in the slots of the bone nut. Over the years I have found that this graphite and oil mix is effective for reducing friction in all bone nuts and especially in Fender Stratocaster® nuts where use of the tremolo bridge constantly moves the strings through the nut slots which inevitably causes the strings to build up friction, sticking and then causes tuning problems.

5. Reattach tremolo bridge, springs and reset 6 pivot screws, restring (with David’s then preferred gauge of .010, .012, .016, .028, .038, .048), slight adjustment of the truss rod and then slight adjustment of the height of the strings. From memory only a couple of strings were touched heightwise, because the guitar was extremely well setup to begin with as you would imagine with one of David’s guitars.

Backstage pics Sydney Entertainment Centre February 1988:

David Gilmour's main red Stratocaster is in the foreground on the padded guitar tech area of Phil Taylor. This is the guitar which I did the repairs and maintenance to.

David Gilmour’s main red Stratocaster is in the foreground on the padded bench guitar tech area of Phil Taylor. This is the guitar which I did the repairs and maintenance to.

Pink Floyd Sydney Feb 1988 #2

2nd guitarist's guitar rack

2nd guitarist’s guitar rack. One of David’s maple neck Strats lying flat on top of the roadcase at far right. Phil showed me both of David’s main stage Strats; the candy apple red one which was the preferred stage Strat at the time and also the white maple neck Strat. Both were from the Fender reissue 1982-3 series with Alder bodies and maple necks. Not period correct reissues of course but very nice guitars nevertheless.

Nick's drums and the triffid which emerges behind him

Nick’s drums and the triffid which emerges behind him

Pink Floyd 1988 tour backstage #3

Nick's drums

Nick’s drums

Circular back screen

Circular back screen

Phil Taylor jumps down to answer a call

Phil Taylor jumps down to answer a call

The other triffid emerges from the pit stage right

The other triffid emerges from the pit stage right. David’s effects racks and pedalboard at right also

My custom made daphne blue Strat which I took along to show Phil and David

My custom made daphne blue guitar which I took along to show Phil and David. Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard neck and Alder body, this guitar features my custom design single coil pickups which were like a cross soundwise between a Strat and a P90

Stratocaster® and Strat® are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and Fender Australia Pty Ltd. Fryer Guitars is not affiliated in any way with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation or Fender Australia Pty Ltd.