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The Syd Barrett Guitar Sound

November 2, 2019


[Musica] Hi, I’m Sebastiano and in this video
we’ll talk about the Syd Barrett Electric Guitar Sound. It was one
of the fundamental elements of the sound of the early Pink Floyd. In this video we will use more or less
the same instruments used by Barrett at the time some of which are
mine others have been loaned to me and let’s start with thanks Adriano Modica for the splendid Echorec
Binson that I have here by my side Corrado Rizzone for the Rickenbacker Bass and RoZa guitars for this splendid
replica of the Barrett Esquire. In the video I will say that the
Telecaster is superimposable as sound to the Esquire, and this is true however this Esquire here has a deadly
sound which is exactly what you need for the sound of Syd Barrett. The
Telecaster is very close, I use Telecaster to have Syd Barrett sounds
but this is absolutely perfect thanks let’s start right now Let’s start talking about guitars
used by Syd Barrett we will focus only on the
instruments who contributed in a decisive way to the sound of
Pink Floyd leaving out the first instruments he has used
We start from Danelectro DC59 It’s a cheap instrument
built with a Masonite body it comes with two single coil pick ups
called lipstick because of the chrome cover that looks like the
lipstick top. Syd Barrett bought it in 1965 and it will be his
main instrument for that year. Towards the end of 1965
Barrett bought a Fender Esquire it’s a very similar instrument
but not the same as a Fender Telecaster. Main difference is that
the Esquire uses only one pick up instead of 2 with an electronic
configuration that we will see later. The Esquire purchased by Barrett is in the classic blonde
colour typical of Fender guitars at the time from that moment on the Fender Esquire
will be the main instrument throughout
Barrett’s career in the Pink Floyd Barrett customize the Esquire covering the body with
silver leaf the same used in artistic works and in the front with round mirrors This is the Iconic instrument of Barrett in
the Pink Floyd well known as Mirrored Esquire After several months by the application of the
silver leaf and the mirrors begins the problems for this guitar Barrett does not care of
covering the silver leaf with a layer of a protective transparent paint therefore the silver leaf, because of sweats,
lights of the stage, the heat, starts to come off leaving the glue exposed, which makes the body sticky silver leaf begins to crumble, pulverizes,
leaving the body in bad conditions so Barrett is forced to replace the instrument He replaces the Esquire with a Fender
Telecaster which will be his main instrument for all the rest of his career the little career that remains in the
Pink Floyd is his whole solo career He is also seen on 12 May of 1967 on stage with a
Fender Stratocaster and could also have used in his career other non documented guitars. Here is the Mirrored Esquire this is a replica made by
RoZa Guitars I thank them for the borrowing This guitar is treated exactly like Barrett
customized his one and as you can see it was applied the silver leaf in little squares
throughout the body and in the front side were attacked these mirror discs,
the one in the pickguard with a yellow circle It’s a simple Esquire then the
electronic configuration is exactly the one of the Fender Esquire which is: position 1: pick up volume and output jack
without passing through the tone position 2: pick up, volume, tone and then
output jack. Position 3: the so called cocked wah.
It’s a typical configuration for the Esquires that uses two capacitors to filter the sound and make
it look like Wah pedal in mid-position halfway. Let’s hear the three sounds
We are on the Selmer Treble & Bass with rather low volume this is position 1 position 2 with the tone full open It’s rather identical to position 1 let’s close the tone a little This way we can create a combination using only
one pick up for a rhythmic sound and then lead position 3 Cocked Wah the position 3 Cocked Wah we find it
in the phrases in Lucifer Sam if you listen well there is a guitar line
with this sound the Fender Telecaster it was the instrument used
by Barrett after having abandoned the Esquire For Barrett use of the guitars the two instruments
are absolutely superimposable in fact the use Barrett preferred was with
the bridge pickup so in this position I’ll play Lucifer Sam on the Telecaster unlike the Esquire the Telecaster has two pickups in position 1 we have this pick up that goes by both
volume and the tone, so the position 1 corresponds to position 2 of the Esquire
in position 2 we have both pickups and in position 3 we have only the neck pickup.
It’s possible to customize a telecaster in order to have also the Cocked Wah. It’s possible doing
that replacing the selector with a 4 way type they are widely available on the internet or with a
push/push, push/pull pot, whatever you want I should have somewhere
the wiring diagram to do this modification these two are the amps that contributed to
create the sound of the first pink floyd Let’s start from this:
Selmer Treble & Bass MKII It’s a 50W head, with two channels
a Bass channel and a Normal channel each with a Normal input and a
Low Level input, which is for for instruments with a low impedance
output such as the organ each channel has three simple controls:
volume, high and low the two channels can be mixed with a jumper Barrett usually used the normal channel in
the Normal input The preamp of this amp uses three ECC83 tubes
two EL34 as power amp tubes and a GZ34 as a rectifier It has a very aggressive voice not so clean
and raising the volume above 2-3 at most it starts to go frizzly a lot
giving a typically crunchy sound that grows very high bringing the volume to the top, up to
territories we know with Interstellar Overdrive for example. As you can see
it’s an extremely spartan amplifier Controls are reduced to minimum
even the power doesn’t have of what most tube amps have: separate
switch for the amp and the standby This is the amp used for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
recordings, it can be recognized at first note Selmer Stereomaster. This second amp
was introduced in Selmer catalog towards the end of 1965. It’s very rare to find
and consists of two halves. Basically it’s two amplifiers,
each of the two halves is a 50W Amp with their own separate controls
very similar to the 3 Treble & Bass also in this case we have three knobs
Bass, High and Volume Normal and Low Level Input and
unlike the Treble & Bass we have this selection mechanism
of equalization, Selmer calls it Selectortone, made of six buttons that corresponds
to 6 equalization presets from Contra Bass to Bass to Medium, to Treble,
to High Treble and Standard Rotary In the Standard Rotary position
I can use the two bass and high knobs to get my eq configuration.
This button gives me the ability of using the amplifier as two separated 50W amps
each one with its own Cabinet Exit in the back side or as a
single 100 watt amplifier Inside there are 6 transformers two of which are
used for the 50W of this amp here Two of which for the 50W of this amp here and
two others needed for 100W mode It weights about 30 kg
an enormous weight for a tube amplifier and each of the two channels
uses three ECC83 for the preamplification a GZ34 as a rectifier, 2 EL34.
Unlike the Treble & Bass has more headroom and the clean sound is more
although even this one never has a really clean sound
but even at low volume the sound is always fresh and crispy
with nice sharp mid-high frequencies this was used expecially in 100W mode when
Pink Floyd played in large venues because at high volumes, however, the two
amplifiers tend to play alike despite I repeat this one does not have the same
distortion of this other one. Moreover it’s the amp used by Roger Waters for
the Bass and often also from Wright for his Farfisa In the picture in Mike Leonard’s flat
that I’ll show you on the screen you see Syd Barrett oddly connected to the Bass channel
while the Normal channel receives a cable that seems coming from the Farfisa in lower left side
in the Stereomaster we have connected Waters on the Left channel I mean on the Left amp
While probably on the right side is connected the microphone in front of Syd. Syd Barrett used his amps with a 2×12 cabinet,
the matching cabinet of this amp It’s a simple 2×12 closed back with Goodman speakers.
Let’s try the Selmer Treble & Bass MKII with Volume at about one third of its coarse
right away we notice that the sound it’s not exactly a clean We see that the sound is very fresh, sparkling,
brilliant, perfect for this kind of thing If we turn up the volume to 2/3 of gain
the crunch becomes quite full-bodied and heavy if we go to the maximum gain we are exactly
in “Interstellar Overdrive” field Let’s try the Selmer Stereomaster We try the combinations of ready-made
equalization starting from Contra Bass Bass Medium Treble High Treble finally the combination with the knobs
in which you can choose yours equalization we will use it in the Mono mode so
using it as a 100W amp we are at about 1/3 of the volume
let’s see how it sounds here we are in Lucifer Sam field Raising the volume here, the type and level of
distortion is different remaining a bit cleaner than the Treble & Bass
but still quite aggressive However we are far from the levels
of Interstellar Overdrive more or less the maximum Volume on the Stereomaster
gives the same level of distortion of the Treble & Bass at about 3/4, 2/3 of the Volume
Turn back with the Volume because the Stereomaster gives its best
in these conditions Even with the bass the Stereomaster
plays good, is a very nice amp The Effects are probably the most tricky topic
in research of the building of Barrett sound Let’s start from what we know for sure:
there is only one photograph that shows Syd Barrett with a guitar effect. Just one no other pedal visible in any video and
photography in the entire Syd Barrett career if we look carefully at the photos, the most,
indeed almost all of the times the guitar cable goes behind Barrett’s legs and we can
suppose that from behind Barrett’s legs it goes straight to the amp or at least at the
Echorec Binson that we will see later if Syd Barrett had pedals on the floor the guitar cable
would be leaning in front of him on the ground instead if the guitar cable goes behind the legs then
it is quite sure that the cable is going straight to the amp without going through any
pedal on the floor Syd occasionally used fuzz-type distortion pedals.
In the Pink Floyd the first example is Candy and a Currant Bun but also in his solo works.
The only certain thing is that there is only one photo involving a particular pedal.
The photo is from the 12 May 1967 at the event called Games For May we see it here.
You see the pedal at Barrett’s feet It’s a Sola Sound Tone Bender On some sites on some web pages or on
some books you will find that it is a Vox Tone Bender it’s impossible for a fundamental detail.
You see the cable here on the right side of the pedal it’s the cable that goes to the amplifier.
The cable (I mean the jack) on the left side of this pedal is the cable that goes to the guitar,
so it’s the pedal input the Vox Tone Bender we see here has the input and
the output inverted than this pedal so it’s impossible that it’s a Vox Tone Bender
this is certainly a Sola Sound Tone Benderr the problem however is that in 1967
two different versions of Tone Bender coexisted in the market:
MK 1.5, that is a 2 germanium transistor Tone Bender we can call ita as an ancestor of the Fuzz Face,
MK II uses three germanium transistors with much more articulate and rich
and compressed type of distortion they are very different pedals since there is no way to identify from that single
photo the version of the Tone Bender used by Barrett, we are unable to answer this question
Furthermore, as we see from the photo the pedal is disconnected
so Barrett is not using it I show you a series of photos that show this
prevalence of Guitar-Amp path or Guitar-Binson-Amp Mike Leonard’s Flat in January 1967 during rehearsals
Guitar and amp Hornsey School of Art 1966 18 November
also here guitar directly in the Selmer Amsterdam april 1967, nothing on the floor here
is a picture in which you see right the stage with what’s around Barrett and Waters as you see
at the feet of Barrett there is absolutely nothing the guitar cable passes behind the legs
and goes directly to the amplifier zone also in this case coily cable behind legs UFO Club cable, you see, goes behind the legs June of 1967, cable behind the legs also here UFO Club January 67 cable behind the legs 1970 Olympia Exhibition Hall in London with
David Gilmour on bass and Jerry Shirley on percussions also in this case we have Barrett with a Telecaster
on a Fender head and the cable passes behind the legs straight to the amp the examples is wasted and they are all of a kind here we see a photo of the Games for May
where we have the Stratocaster with the coily cable that goes to the Binson and
then from the Binson to the amp from behind: Stratocaster that goes directly
to the input of the Binson On some books it’s written that Selmer heads had been
modded to insert an effect loop allowing the use of the Echorec Binson
in the effect loop we actually see that Barrett goes from
the guitar to the Binson and from the Binson to the amplifier so no Effect loop. To check the Tone Bender sound in Barrett setup
we will use a RambleFX Twin Bender. It’s a pedal that contains both versions of the Tone Bender:
MK 1.5 and MK II There are addons that we will not use
we will leave the pedal in stock mode as if it’s an old MK 1.5 or an old MK II This is one most enigmatic points
because wherever talking about Syd Barrett it comes automatically of a Selmer Buzz Tone as a
fuzz used with the guitar, there is no evidence however we will try it I have a clone here the
Jext Telez Buzz Tone that besides work the classic Buzz Tone way it can also work
6v or 9v powered for more headroom or different type of distortion. We will use it
in the classic, original mode Wah pedal.
Barrett used occasionally a Wah pedal also in this case we don’t have any documentation,
some sources says it’s a Selmer Wah it could be anything. for our tests
I will use this Color Sound Supa Wah Wah of that time that has the same identical circuit of the Selmer Wah
and the same circuit of most of the Wah of that era we will probably get very close with this pedal here The Echorec Binson is a drum echo, with a
rotating magnetic drum, and heads that reads and write creating the echo effect.
Syd Barrett uses it to create these ethereal, open, wide landscapes using a feature
of the echo that is the self oscillation of which it is capable the Echorec Binson which
consists in the infinite repetition distorted, degraded of the original sound
Syd Barrett mostly used the Baby version of Binson which is similar to this one here but with
less controls and a shorter delay time another important element in the
creation of the Barrett sound is the coily cable. The main feature of the coily cable is
that in its greater length compared to a straight cable has a higher capacitance that means
a high frequency cut We conclude with the Zippo. Syd Barrett used a Zippo
lighter for slide guitar parts instead of the classic bottle neck.
The difference between the ligher and the bottle neck is this: the bottle neck has a round
section so when it’s over the strings touch the strings with its section very precisely,
the lighter has a flat section with a small bend this means that over the strings he is out of
tune, where exactly the ligher touches the strings also the angle that you give to the ligher also the
small mass and weight of the lighter gives you less sustain, forcing Barrett to pick more frequently Now let’s see the gain pedals Let’s start with the Buzz Tone with the
Jext Telez clone this is the clean sound The intro of Candy and a Currand Bun we also try with the Tone Bender MK 1.5 let’s move on to the MK II Version lowering the gain
because it’s too much let’s try to increase the volume of the head this is the sound without pedals let’s try Interstellar Overdrive without
and with gain pedals let’s try the Buzz Tone MK II MK 1.5 as you can see using any of the three pedals,
the Buzz Tone, the MK 1.5 and the MK II we loose the grittiness of the last E chord and of the two passage notes between
the first and the second riff because the two pedals add more compression making the
whole thing less intelligible so much more compressed I’m pretty sure that in Interstellar Overdrive
in which it is taken for sure the use of a fuzz there isn’t any, and
the sound of Interstellar Overdrive is given by the guitar with the volume at max
and the head with the volume at max now let’s try the Wah Wah as we have seen there are no special secrets to get the
Syd Barrett sound the ingredients are all in all simple, a few,
and easy to find. Regarding guitars it’s obvious that using a Fender Esquire you get the point, but you can
come very close with any single coil instrument preferring the bridge position new digital technologies can help us too
in fact, I registered all of the musical interludes between a chapter and another and using only my
digital processor so without using the amplifiers the only real secret in the sound of Syd Barrett
has been unveiled by Peter Bown at the time of the recordings of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
sound engineer at Abbey Road Studios I make you read an interview thank you for watching this video Bye

3 Comments

  • Reply Fabrizio Villa October 30, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    Gran bel lavoro Sebastiano!

  • Reply Hattix October 30, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Video fantastico, grazie, per fortuna ci sono ancora grandi appassionati di syd

  • Reply RoZa Guitars October 31, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Onorati d'aver contribuito! Grandissimo lavoro Sebastiano!!!

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