David Gilmour Tone Analysis: “Dogs” (Animals, 1977)

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

When most people think about the classic tones of David Gilmour, eyes and minds will invariably shift to greats such as “Time,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and many others from the Floyd heyday, as almost a force of gravity, and for good reason. Many of these hits are still being played on classic rock radio stations and have been included on the set lists of both David Gilmour and Roger Waters’s various live tours over 30 years after their release. However, one sleeping behemoth in the Floyd catalog that remains untouched by radio stations and live shows since its initial tour is 1977’s Animals. It’s easy to get overshadowed by giants such as Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall but Animals really showcases Waters-era Floyd in the middle of a very tumultuous time for the band. It’s a Waters concept album dominated by very overt political overtones, as well as a very cold and gray musical feel. Although Pink Floyd has always been labeled as progressive rock, Animals is by far the band’s most progressive work by definition, with complex chord structures, long melodic interludes, and wide swathing thematic elements. The crown jewel of this album among Gilmour fans (and most Floyd fans) specifically is “Dogs,” which (in true prog fashion) is a 17-minute musical excursion, with the famous main chord progression written by Gilmour. It features some incredibly explosive and lyrical guitar work, as well as some truly mythical tones at a big changing point for the band and for Gilmour’s monstrous rig at the time. Today, I’m going to try and pick apart what makes that tone so special, and how you can try and achieve it yourself.

Pink Floyd - "Dogs"

Animals was a tumultuous time for the band, and was really the beginning of the end for classic-era Pink Floyd. Waters had taken overt control conceptually over the content of the lyrics, and ruled Floyd with an iron fist, unlike the Hitler-esque character of Pink in the latter half of The Wall film. Many of the lyrical concepts echo Waters’s feeling at the height of Thatcher-led England, and the album was a bit of an open middle finger to her and her administration. Gilmour and the other bandmates felt stifled by Waters’s complete conceptual control, and it is echoed in their playing. Gilmour’s playing is almost chaotic, and it almost sounds like it’s wriggling to break free of whatever weight is holding it down, whether it be Gilmour’s anger towards Waters or frustration with Pink Floyd as a whole, the playing eerily echoes what was going on in the band at the time, like most of Gilmour’s later work with Floyd. His rig was also going through quite a few changes. The Animals tour was when he ditched his trusted Fuzz Face, and began to use the now famous “ram’s head” Big Muff. He also began to lean less on his trusted Binson Echorec, and gravitated towards the use of the MXR Digital Delay System. Around this time is also when Gilmour began his longstanding relationship with British effects guru Pete Cornish. Let’s jump right into the heart of 1977 England, and learn about the incredible and elusive tone that is “Dogs.”


1970s Fender Telecaster Custom

A good rule of thumb when talking about Gilmour tone is start with a Strat. However, while it is documented that he used his famous Black Strat during the recording sessions of Animals, Gilmour actually used a 1959 Telecaster Custom on this track. It was fitted with a custom-wound Strat pickup in the neck, and was tuned down one step to DGCFAD, essential for playing along with the record. The downtuned guitars give a bit of a darker feel, but it can just as easily be played in standard. This specific guitar features a rosewood neck and an alder body, and it was the guitar that was used on most if not all of Animals and the subsequent tour. To get this tone, you don’t necessarily need a Telecaster; any low-output, mid-scooped bridge pickup should get the job done, but a PAF humbucker or overwound bridge pickup could also do it quite well. Articulation is the name of the game here; gobs of midrange muddying up the tone won’t lend to that liquidity or dynamic energy drive through, which is essential to this tone.


On Animals, there is really no documented use of any other amps other than the tried-and-true Hiwatt DR103s, and Yamaha RA-200 rotary amps. While the pickups give the articulation to the tone, the Hiwatts (unsurprisingly) are the power behind the tone. The Hiwatts are very punchy and clear, and they really accentuate the subtle dynamics, pick attack, and right-hand technique of Gilmour’s playing. They are the essential backbone of almost all Gilmour tone, and are necessary for getting an authentic recreation of the Floyd sound. I personally use a Hi-Tone DR30, which (in my opinion) is the closest you can get to a true Reeves-era Hiwatt. However, if you cannot afford a Hi-Tone, vintage Hiwatt, or the like, there are plenty of amps that can get the job done. The Laney Cub and Lionheart series are favorites of mine, as they maintain that warm, clean vintage British character without being bogged down by mud or excessive midrange. A Fender Blues Jr, or even a Bassman can get the job done with the right equalizing. Unfortunately though, I cannot recommend Marshalls for this tone. Although they are great amps in their own right, for the “Dogs” tone they lack the articulation to let the mid-range breathe. Marshalls are very mid-heavy, and running a Big Muff with a load of delay on top will muddy up the dynamics. That being said, with the right equalizing, you can get in the right ballpark.

The other amp Gilmour used during the time, which is the “secret sauce” to most of his tones for Animals and beyond, is the Yamaha RA-200 rotary amp. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this amp works differently than a normal Leslie by actually spinning the speakers instead of a baffle or horn to disperse the sound. The preamp and power amp are solid state, but Gilmour ran an Alembic F2-B (which is basically a clone of a Fender blackface preamp), in front of it, to warm it up. The character of the RA-200 is Leslie-ish, but is closer to a very complex chorus. The RA-200 is essential to this tone, but is a little tricky to achieve without an actual rotary amp. I use a Leslie 147, which really nails that sound. Some pedals I find do an incredible job of replicating the swirly goodness of the RA-200 is a vintage Boss CE-2, a Boss RT-20, or an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress (which was actually used by Gilmour during the Animals sessions and tour). The Electric Mistress is the closest you can get to the RA-200, and is yet again, essential to his tone in this era.


As previously mentioned, the Electric Mistress is essential to this tone. It has a somewhat darker modulation character and it covers a bit more depth than a standard chorus. The biggest part of this tone outside of the guitars and amps, is the Electro-Harmonix “ram’s head” Big Muff. Gilmour began his long relationship with this now mythic pedal at this time, and it is smattered all over this album, most importantly on “Dogs.” While vintage “ram’s heads” on the used market are unattainably priced, there is a heaping load of clones available nowadays to help fulfill fuzzy cravings. My personal favorites are the BYOC Large Beaver and the Thorpy FX Muffroom Cloud (even though the Muffroom Cloud is based on the “triangle” version of the circuit, the active Bass and Treble controls make it very easy to sculpt). Gilmour also used Colorsound Power Boost after his Muff, as a sort of EQ and extra kick to drive the amp’s preamp section even harder. To this day, the Buffalo FX Powerbooster remains to be my favorite, but I would not hesitate to recommend the “Vintage Pow!” kit from Fuzz Dog’s Pedal Parts in the UK, as it can be built for incredibly cheap and sounds amazing. In terms of delay, it is a subject of debate among many Gilmour aficionados if he used the Binson Echorec or MXR Digital Delay on “Dogs.” Truth be told, you can’t go wrong with either a good tape sim or digital delay, and at the top of my recommendation list for this tone is the TC Electronic Flashback delay, although the new Source Audio Nemesis delay looks to be very promising.

Note: While this song has five main solos, they almost all use the same tone, except for what’s known as the “dry” section (at 5:34 on the album version). To nail this tone, turn off all the modulation and delay, and dig in incredibly hard with your pick, really squeeze out the aggression from the boosted Big Muff.

So there you have it readers. A little glimpse into the illusive and aggressive tone of “Dogs.” I hope I helped de-mystify one of the most underrated Gilmour solos a little bit, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Until next time!

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