Drafted into Pink Floyd to compensate for an increasingly erratic Syd Barrett, David Gilmour quickly became an integral part of the band. He briefly played alongside Barrett, then replaced him one fateful night when the band decided not to pick up Syd for a gig. As Floyd drummer Nick Mason observed: 'After Syd, Dave was the difference between light and dark. He was into form and shape, and he introduced that into the wilder numbers we'd created. We became far less difficult to enjoy.' Gilmour commented: 'My role was to try to make it a bit more musical, help create a balance between formlessness and structure, disharmony and harmony.'
Much of Gilmour's formative years were spent listening to blues. 'I had a lot of blues records when I was young. Blues is a distinct and large part of my influence, yes, but all sorts of other things are as well. My last album On An Island is a blues album – my sort of blues. The blues is really black American folk. I'm a poor white boy from England. Well, not so poor... but at least trying to express myself the best way I can, and that's what the blues is about. I don't want to restrict myself to a 12-bar form or anything like that.'
Besides his arranging skills, songwriting and mastery of tone and guitar effects, Gilmour is also a formidable soloist. In the studio he often pieces solos together from different takes, as with his epic second solo in Comfortably Numb from The Wall. 'I just followed my usual procedure, which is to make a chart, putting ticks and crosses on different bars as I listen – two ticks if it's really good, one if it's good, and a cross if it's no-go. Then I follow the chart, whipping one fader up, then another, jumping from phrase to phrase and trying to make a really nice solo all the way through.'
While his playing is rooted in the blues, Gilmour has used a vast array of effects to recreate the wide range of sounds on Pink Floyd albums. When asked, though, he'll insist that 'it all comes from the fingers'.