THR Guitar Rig – Part 6 – David Gilmour and Sound on Sound

david-gilmour-sound-on-sound

One aspiration of the THR Guitar Rig design is the one-man-band aspect; to enable one player to sound bigger and fuller than a single instrumentalist. It is the digital equivalent of strapping cymbals to ones knees and a base drum on your back.

Certainly Ableton Live’s very capable loopers play well with this concept, but exploring ways to get large live sound beyond looping is a particular interest of mine. Plugins like Roger Linn’s AdrenaLinn Sync add layers of clock-synced effects and syncopated rhythms that add space, depth and an aural complexity to a single instrument. I am also experimenting with CamelSpace, the over-the-top rhythmic multi-effects plug in from Camel Audio. Another approach I have been playing with is recreating David Gilmour’s “sound-on-sound” technique in Ableton Live.

David Gilmour – Sound on Sound

When David was playing a series of acoustic concerts in 2001 he wanted to open the show with what many consider to be the quintessential Pink Floyd work, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. He pictured himself on a bare stage, acoustic guitar in hand, unaccompanied by other instrumentalists.

He developed a “sound on sound” approach using a dual amp setup with a digital delay to sustain chords on one amp while he soloed over the chords on the other amp, giving the song a rich and evolving backing track. Below is a video of a performance from 2002.

From gilmoursh.com:

The Sound on Sound effect, isn’t an effect from of a pedal but rather the effect achieved when splitting the signal in two with a long delay assigned to one channel. David strums a chord and makes a volume swell with the volume pedal assigned for the Sound on Sound channel. The signal travels to the Sound on Sound unit (basically a A/B router unit made by Pete Cornish) and into the Roland digital delay, which is set to 1500ms lasting about 20 seconds. The signal then travels into a Hiwatt and WEM cabinet used only for this effect. Gilmour lowers the volume pedal and plays a solo fed through the “normal” signal path, while the Sound on Sound pad is sustained by the long delay. The pattern is repeated for each chord.

This beautiful and deceptively simple approach is an elegant solution – when it works. Again, from gilmourish.com:

David struggled a lot with the Sound on Sound effect. Some times it worked and some times it didn’t and if it didn’t he got all sorts of feedback and ringing notes.

Sound on Sound in Ableton Live

I can relate to David’s frustrations as I endeavor to recreate this setup “in the box” within Ableton Live. I have made some progress using AdrenaLinn Sync as the delay and a SoftStep foot controller manipulating plugin parameters, sends and volumes in Ableton. I am still tweaking it, but once I crack the technique, I will post the results along with a demo here.

Sound on Sound Pedals

If I were still into hardware and pedals I would go the far easier route with the Hold – Delay – Chorus stomp box from ZCAT, or the Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer . Both look to be a very clean way to achieve this effect. Just hold down the button and boom – instant backing. Check out the video demo below of the Freeze to see what else can be done with this type of setup.

As president of Tracy Evans Productions, Inc. for over 18 years Tracy splits his time between being an animator, director, producer, stage magician, graphic designer, art director, programmer, editor, consultant, speaker and writer of third-person autobiographical blurbs.

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