Technique and Gear Used by Pink Floyd’s Crazy Diamond Syd Barrett

April 20, 2023 8:23 am117 commentsViews: 710

Luckily researchers at Guitar Player Magazine have examined photographs, interviewed collaborators, and researched press clippings from the 1960’s to compile a list of the musical gear he used. Now modern fans can gain insight to Syd’s approach to sound and song writing.

Syd’s Gear

Guitar most often used: A black Danelectro 59 with a single coil pickup and a white pick guard.

Guitar sometimes used: Fender Squire with glued on mirrored disks that Syd reported lost sometime in the late 1960’s.

Guitars Rarely Used (as replacements for live shows while on tour in the U.S): Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster.

Amplifier: Selmer Thunderbird 100. 100 watts, four 12’’ speakers, spring reverb and tremolo.

Effects: Tape delay via the Binson Echorec, and a custom made fuzzbox, for distortion. A metal Zippo lighter or a glass slide on the strings to generate sounds.

Song Writing

Most of Syd’s songs used the Phyrgian mode which includes sixths and sevenths and is more often used in jazz and Spanish Gypsy music than rock ‘n roll. This becomes apparent while playing any of his songs and looking at the Phyrgian scale.

One can assume that because Syd was a self taught guitarist with a background in visual art that this was an intuitive choice and not a calculated utilization of musical theory. Syd was an innovator and as such sought ways to break out of standard blues progressions, although this was the music that got him started playing.

Lyric Writing

Syd was known for whimsical yet dark fairy tale-like lyrics that make bizarre associations while remaining playful and humane. He had a knack for commenting on internal feelings that are not easily expressed directly. Much of what he wrote was spontaneous reportage of experience reflecting his subjective internal state. For instance the lyrics for the song Vegetable Man begin with him simply describing how he was dressed in the studio at the time of recording:

“In yellow shoes I get the blues

Though I walk the streets with plastic feet

With my blue velvet trousers, make me feel pink

There’s a kind of stink about blue velvet trousers

In my paisley shirt I look a jerk

But oh, oh, my hair cut looks so fab!

Vegetable man where are you?”

Syd Barrett , “Vegetable Man”, 1967.

Here we have a description of young London 1960’s scenester dressed to the 9’s in the latest fashion yet paradoxically he feels out of sorts in the costume. It makes him anxious to be wearing it without being confident that he knows who he is on the inside, he feels merely a vegetable, a fixture, but at least, he concludes, his hair cut looks good. Even while singing about dissociation from the self Syd would come through with leavening humor.

Syd was also know to lift lyrics directly from texts he found interesting. For instance the lyrics to the song “Chapter 24” are taken from the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of divination, verbatim.

“All action is accomplished in six stages

And the seventh brings return

The seventh is the number of the young light

It forms when darkness is increased by one”

Syd Barrett, “Chapter 24”, 1967.

Because Syd Barrett wrote so many interesting songs in such a short amount of time it would serve anyone who aspires to song writing to understand the techniques he used himself.


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