David Gilmour: Comfortably Numb Analysis

An Analysis of David Gilmour's renowned guitar solos in "Comfortably Numb"




Addiction Inflictioncrucifixion  IS THERE ANYBODY IN THERE?

Live in Gdansk
Solo 1    2:08 - 2:38 (Heaven)Solo 2    4:30 - 8:30 (Hell)
TONE: Big Muff (Ram's Head), Colorsound PB, Delay
Comfortably Numb is in the key of B minor and follows a Bmin > Amaj > Gmaj > Emin chord
progression and modulates to Dmaj during the chorus. The first solo is often called the "Light Solo" because it is primarily based in D major just as the chorus progression that underlines it. It walks a very ambiguous line, often choosing to begin phrasings on notes such as F# and quickly raking them to terminate on long vibrating F#'s as can be seen in the first measure. Interestingly, if examining the first measure strictly based on the notes selected, a very obscure scale such as F# Neopolitan Minor may seem more acceptable (I bII bIII IV V bVI bVII), however the second measure very boldly states a D being bent a full step into E with an extensive vibrato. This bold lyrical statement then descends the D major scale to terminate on a long vibrating D, establishing the key as D major.This ambiguous opening instills a sense of curiosity before decisively establishing D major and reflects David Gilmour's mastery as a composer. The initial measure alludes to a darker side, F# being the perfect fifth of the diabolic solo in B minor which concludes the song, but rescues us with a slew of uplifting D major runs.
     This is it. This is psychedelia defined: Taste, tone, and timing. David Gilmour's renowned second solo, also known as the "Dark Solo", is a five minute long trip in B minor through the darkest depths of the human intellect. This solo consistently ranks amongst the greatest rock solos of all time by all credible publications. While initially making references to F# and walking ambiguous lines, it isn't until measure 75 that Gilmour manipulates B in a quick ascension paralleled by a quick descension to an octave lower which lingers and shoots chills. F# (V), is a note that is used extensively and acts as a link to the first "Light Solo", often being achieved by a bent E as can be seen in the phrasing in measure 73. While this solo follows mostly a blues pentatonic approach to B minor, other diatonic notes are used such as D# in measures 75 mostly by way of subtle bends. The bent triads in measure 85 introduce an element of dissonance to an otherwise fairly decisive composition. What makes this solo resonate so universally is Gilmour's approach to how he constructs his predominantly typical blues stock phrases. Each phrase represents a singular module and usually terminates in a droning vibrato. These droning notes are what create anticipation of his next quick, but dramatic lyrical statement. In the Gdansk version, Gilmour creates a very distinct screaming "alien" sound at 6:52 by performing unison bends in sync with the depression/release of the tremolo arm. Also, Hendrixian-style unison bends at approximately 7:37 become a recurring element as the solo builds to a conclusion. 
Cover Image: http://robertbeth.webs.com/pink_floyd_001.jpg
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