To start with, I will select my amp which in the case of making David Gilmour tones, is always going to be a HiWatt 100 (HiWay 100 - not the PreAmp) because that is what he uses and I will almost always use the HiWatt 4X12 cab as well, but sometimes I will use another cabinet if it sounds better or fits the targeted tone more. I have saved this as my Clean HiWatt patch. To start a new tone I always set all the controls on the HiWatt amp to 49% except for the Bias which I set to 75% and I turn the hum all the way down because I don’t want amp hum, and I set the microphone E.R. at 0%. Of course you can use whatever settings you want as this is only a guide as to how I myself make my tones. As I said before, I always select a HiWatt 4X12 cabinet and use a U67 or U87 or SM57 microphone as I have read (and seen in photos) this is what he uses (microphones) in his most recent recordings (Division Bell, On an Island, and so on) so that is what I select. I also have a set of Base patches that are setup David Gilmour Style as shown below.
Gate-Red Comp-Rat-Tube Driver-MXR Phaser-Compressor-Dimension-Digital Delay-Cave Reverb
Gate-Blue Comp-Big Muff-Tube Driver-MXR Phaser-Dimension-Digital Delay-Reverb
I use those combinations for other types of Gilmour tones and they all have either Dimension, Analog Chorus, Digital Delay, Uni Vibe or some other modulation added in as well as reverb but the base pedals in the chain are as shown above. David Gilmour uses and Electric Mistress which is not modeled in HD 500 so you have to be creative with the Chorus/Flanger choices in your tones.
Another set of effects I use is having a Tube Screamer (Screamer) in front of the Tube Driver or the Big Muff (Fuzz PI). This gives you a very good David Gilmour sounding distortion and makes the distortion smooth and gives it a fuller sound and it breaks up the distortion a bit more without making it sound too harsh, at least to my ears. I used this combination for creating the tone for A Great Day For Freedom and it came out very nice. When I use this combination I will usually add a Tube Compressor after the amp.
If I use a Tube Compressor, I will always set it at Threshold 20% and Gain at 25%. I never vary far from this and if I adjust it I will only adjust the gain to a value that falls between 15% - 30%. I normally don’t go beyond that point either up or down but in the case of the tone for Marooned I needed more sustain so I kept the Red Comp dialed down and used the Tube Compressor and set it at middle point values for the sustain I wanted to achieve. (Compressor image from Gear Box)
I set my inputs on my HD 500 to Input 1: Guitar - Input 2: Guitar + Variax Ch1 as this is the cleanest sound I get with my HD 500. My master volume on the deck of my HD 500 is set to 50% because I am using pro quality headphones when I create tones. This gives me a very comfortable starting volume level and clean amp sound through my headphones. By the way, I am using a set of really great sounding Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones which to me are wonderful headphones and I highly recommend them, they are incredibly clear and no buzz with high gain tones! You can hear music exactly as it was recorded and even the things you weren’t supposed to hear. They are that good.
RISK OF DEAFNESS WARNING: I mistakenly followed Line 6’s advice to set the master knob on the deck of my HD 500 at 100% for best signal to noise ratio and nearly blew out both eardrums when I selected a new amp model while a chord was still ringing that I just played and when the new amp switched on I nearly lost my hearing. It felt like someone stuck firecrackers in my ears and lit the fuses. However, I did notice my headphones handled the episode in stride producing an incredibly clear and undistorted Em chord that sounded like was an inch away from a HiWatt amp cabinet on volume 10. My ears rang for a good couple of days after that. BEWARE! If you use headphones NEVER EVER set your HD 500 master to over 50%-60%! Okay, back to it… this is how my initial amp setup looks in HD Edit.
In this particular tone (Marooned from The Division Bell) I have chosen the following;
Pre: Noise Gate, Red Comp, Whammy Pedal, Tube Driver
Post: Tube Compressor, Rotary Drum, Digital Delay, and Cave reverb.
That is the signal chain in which I think it supposed to follow and I swapped positions on most of the effects to see what sounded best to my ears and according to different combinations of what I have seen in photos of David’s boards, so I set mine up that way to start with. You can also try putting the Noise Gate just after the Red Comp as I find in some cases it is better to put it there. I experimented with the Big Muff (Fuzz PI) for this tone but I decided he must have used the Tube Driver for this track. I usually would not have added a Tube Compressor for this effects chain but in this case it sounded better when I added it. I have set all controls to 49% just as I do with my chosen amp on every tone I create and name the patch ToneName-Base, in this case Marooned-Base.h5e and I save that to HD Edit and send it to the HD 500. I am in the habit of always sending every tone to the unit itself. That is now my starting reference tone for tweaking. This is how it looks.
I will use either a DynaComp (Red Comp) or a Boss CS1 (Blue Comp) in almost every David Gilmour tone I make and the reason is simple, sustain for days. The Comp I select will vary depending on the tone I am working on and I will switch them out to test the two in that particular tone and go with the one that is giving me the right sound. The Red Comp will almost always be used on heavier tones with more distortion and lots of sustain, for example this tone, Marooned. This one needs to have bit more sustain and some good distortion to give it the power it needs to deliver the emotion of the solo, yet I don’t want it too saturated because I want to hear the cleanest sound I can get, yet still overdriven (if that makes any kind of sense). In some cases the tone will call for a Tube Screamer at the beginning of the chain (after the Noise Gate).
For tones that require a cleaner sound I will use the Blue Comp instead of the Red Comp. You will notice in the above screen shot from HD Edit that this particular tone is called Marooned-Clean. I always create the tone from a middle ground perspective (everything at 49% - amp/effects) and then adjust from that point until I have dialed in the tone as close as I can get to what I want, minus the distortion. Below is a screen shot of the patch after I have tweaked it, but prior to working out the distortion settings being finalized. This will end up being named Marooned-Clean.h5e and will overwrite the initial patch where everything was set at 49%. If you want you can save the initial 49% everything patch as ToneName-Base like I do and that way you can always start from scratch with that base patch if you really botch things. This base patch will not be modified in any way and is used in case I totally ruin the patch I am working on and have to start again. It saves you from having to load all the effects and set them to 49% all over again. Here is a screen shot of what the initial first tweaks of the patch look like.
This first set of tweaks gives me the essence and feel of the targeted tone. After I have made the initial tweaks this patch will be saved as ToneName-Clean, in this case I called it Marooned-Clean.h5e. Up to this point I have already dialed in all the other effects but still leave the distortion and Red Comp/Blue Comp turned way down (49%). This now becomes my reference patch for the given tone and is very clean sounding prior to working on the distortion and the final tone. This clean patch now becomes my springboard for creating my final tone.
Effect Chain Order:
I usually work in this order when I setup an effects chain. (Noise Gate is always used).
1.Comp – set to 49% - If EQ added I tweak that to match the amp and Comp mix until I get the right sounding tone to begin with.
2.Distortion box (but not dialed in yet and rolled back to 49% or even less on all parameters).
3.Modulation - Chorus or Phaser – I then set the parameters for this according to what sound I want to get (or match).
5.Compressor – I usually have the same settings for all patches if I do end up using the Tube Compressor.
6.Rotary Drum – I always set this to Tone 72 - Mix 43 and I keep the drive low, usually less than 25%. In general the depth is 50% or less.
7.Delay – I then set my delay timing and adjust tone and mix and feedback.
8.Reverb - I then add the reverb to get the right feel for the tone I want and in most Gilmour tones I use either Cave, Plate, or Chamber.
9.In some cases I will add a “Room” reverb to the end of the chain and this fattens up the tone but you need to dial all the setting back to around 30% or less and then tweak up from that until you get the roomy feel that sounds right.
The Tricky Part:
I find that the real trick with the POD HD is getting the tone close to the right sound you are after as far as delay, chorus, reverb, modulation, or whatever else you are using in your chain dialed in first, then work on the distortion part last, at least this is how I see it from my own experience. On the delay, I will listen to a delay tempo to count the approximate milliseconds I need to set it at, the same with the chorus, I listen to a sample of what I want and then dial it in, same with the reverb. Getting all of those things done first without any distortion (or as little as possible) will give you the correct “essence” and “feel” of the tone you are seeking. I find that by starting without too much distortion first and then dialing it up to where it needs to be after you have everything else dialed in first you get a much better result and it takes less tweak time to dial it all in together. Once you have the delay, reverb, compression, and modulation correct, you don’t really need to tweak those aspects of the tone that much so again, once I have all this dialed in I will save the patch as ToneName-Clean (minus distortion) and save it to HD Edit and to the HD 500.
NOTE: It is also a good idea to copy the initial saved “Clean and Base” patches to a backup folder because sometimes in your tone creating confusion you will overwrite the clean patch by mistake, trust me, you will.
Now that I have overwritten the initial ToneName-Base patch with settings of 49% that I began with, this second stage “clean” tone now becomes the springboard for the tone you are now working on perfecting, if there is such a thing. This way you are now only working on one critical aspect, the right amount and blend of distortion and amp settings, and if you get lost in the tweaking you can just start fresh from the “clean” patch you saved which has all the other aspects already saved to your liking. By working in this way I can focus on the distortion values and not have to worry about adjusting other parameters and then getting lost and trying to remember what I changed and having to start all over again. It may not be the way you like to do things, and it may not be the best way to do things, but it certainly works well for me and I find it saves a lot of time when you have the pre-dialed reference patch you saved as clean. I look at it like painting a guitar, first I want to have it all sanded and primer applied perfectly, let it dry, and then I spray the gloss coat and polish it. When I say let it dry I mean this. I get the first part done (the clean) and then I will walk away for a while, get something to eat, have a nap, go for surf, or whatever will kill an hour or so of time and then come back and listen to the clean again to make sure it is what I thought it was. If it isn’t then I will tweak the clean again before I finish off the tone by dialing in the distortion.
I find that after spending a long time on a tone your ears get saturated and you develop tonetweakitis and can’t really hear the subtle changes as much as you think you can because your head gets kind of saturated with tone tweaking syndrome. Taking a break from it and coming back gives you a fresh perspective and “clean ears” that are more critical to tone definition than ears that have been trying to tweak the same tone for a couple of hours and are growing weary. Creating a good tone takes time so don’t ever try to rush it or you won’t get what you really want. This particular tone took me three days to get it to where I wanted it.
Line 6 gripe section:
I don’t like HD Edit. I really prefer the simplicity of Gear Box and most of all, I loved the EQ option Gear Box gave you, a nice little graphical display that showed you what the EQ was doing, the knobs on the Amps, etc. Gearbox is just a much better interface when considering a user friendly point of view. You could see what you were tweaking and for me the new HD Edit option is not good at all; you can’t see the device as you should be able to do. Please Line 6! Make Gearbox HD! I find Gearbox much cooler with its graphical look that shows the amp control knobs and so on. Look at that EQ, so easy to figure out what you are adjusting unlike the new HD Edit way. So, with the new HD Edit option I really have no idea what I am doing with the EQ and just adjust it until it sounds good, but 9 times out of 10 I will not use the EQ simply because I have no idea of how to adjust any of them and in reality I can’t ever dial out high or low frequencies for the simple reason I can’t see what is being adjusted. Unless you are an advanced user and know about EQ’s and how they work you are not going to like the EQ options in edit because you have no graphical reference for what you are adjusting. Look at Gear Box... so simple and easy.
Tweaking in the distortion:
I always find this is the most critical aspect of creating a tone, at least for me it is. The right blends of distortion and amp gain and volume either makes or breaks a tone (in the case of distorted/dirty tones) as far as I am concerned. You need to get the distortion mix just right and this for me is the most critical part of making a David Gilmour based tone, or any other tone for that matter. Working with my saved “clean” patch I will then start tweaking the distortion until I get the correct dirtiness/sustain combination I am seeking (tonal wise that is). When I do this, I try to do it by setting the distortion control on the given effect and in this case it is the Tube Driver and the Red Compressor (which I consider more of an overdrive/sustain pedal) to 49% or even less and work from there. Since my amp is always starting with the gain at 49% and the volume is at 49%, when you dial up the Red Comp and Tube Driver you need to roll the volume and gain back on the amp so it doesn’t blow out your ears, I find 20% or less is a good start for the amp volume and gain. The Comp and the Tube Driver are going to increase the gain quite a bit so dial down the amp volume. In the case of this tone I ended up with a volume of only 42% and Drive ended up at 15% in the final result. What I try to do is ALWAYS keep the amp’s gain under 50%. For me it always sounds the cleanest if you don’t go over 50% on the digital version of amp gain.
This is the trick, dialing the distortion in by trying to keep the levels of the Tube Driver and the Red Comp (or whatever distortion you are using) as close as possible to 50%-60% and the amp gain under 50%. I try to keep the drive of the Tube Driver at less than 70% if I can and then adjust the amp gain and volume to balance out the tone I am seeking, but sometimes you have to turn the drive up a bit more for the Tube Driver to get that good distorted sound. You have to work back and forth between the distortion pedals (in this case Red Comp/Tube Driver) and the amp gain and volume to get it right, at least this is what I have found works the best for me. So, as I am turning up the drive on the Tube Driver (and/or the Red Comp) I am lowering the gain on the amp and adjusting the amp volume to keep it all at the level of output I want to hear in my headphones. You just have to tweak until you get the right blend and you’ll hear it when it is right. Below is a screen shot of my final effects settings for this particular tone.
And this is how the amp settings ended up in the final result of this particular tone…
As you can see, I ended up dialing the Red Comp up to Sustain 69% Level 59% and the Tube Driver at 79% drive and 79% output and dialed down the amp gain to 15% and the amp volume to 42% to get the balance I wanted. With my guitar, pickups, and setup this is what sounded good to my ears but it may sound different on your guitar and setup unless you have the same thing I have, which I doubt. This is the nature of the beast with HD 500, tweak, tweak, and tweak some more.
You will find that using the basic set of tools for a particular tone (knowing what pedals/effects are used by the original guitarist) is going to be the first step in creating the tone you are after. You want to select models in the HD 500 based on what the original tones were made with as that is going to get you in the ball park, pretty much in the first couple of rows of seats. From there it becomes a matter of tweaking those known factors and adding or replacing one or two effects if needed in order to get you where you want to be. My final amp and effects settings ended up as shown in the screen shots above which are very close to what I started out with. After you have finished, record something with your tone and then listen to it against the original (if you are trying to duplicate a tone). If not and you are making your own original tone then record a track and see how it sounds. If it sounds right you are done, if not… tweak tweak tweak!
The final result for this patch can be seen here on my You Tube channel… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up77qtDA7F0
The set of patches are here…