Featuring two very well known Guitar Solos, Comfortably Numb, from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, is a great song to learn to play… just takes a little work at first.
From their 1979 record entitled The Wall, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb features two very well known Guitar Solos, and it’s legendary for having caused huge arguments between band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters.
For the Guitar Solos and heavy bits, David Gilmour uses an Electro Harmonix Big Muff Fuzz pedal and some delay. He’s using a black Fender Strat with a Charvel maple neck through a Hiwatt DR103 100-watt amp and there’s a little bit of rotary speaker blended in. The Rhythm Acoustic section uses an Ovation Guitar with Nashville Tuning. The E, A, D strings use the high ones from a 12-string set and are tuned up an octave. The final Solo was pieced together from several Solos that were recorded for the song.
Comfortably Numb – Key and Scale
This song is in the key of B Minor Aeolian, which is a mode of the D Major scale and both scales share the same notes.
B Aeolian = B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A
D Major = D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#
Comfortably Numb – Intro
The first two bars of the song act as an Intro to the song and it features a long slow slide up the fretboard. This is what it looks like. (Fig 1)
The top tab is the slide. Let’s take another look at that chord. (Fig 2)
We can see here that the chord is a basic B Minor in the second position, which is also the Key of the song.
Comfortably Numb – Verse
The Verse is a four-bar section that repeats. It looks like this. (Fig 3)
Let’s take another look at those chords. (Fig 4)
Here, we can see that we start with the same B Minor chord that we use in the Intro before moving to an A Major. We then move to a G Major chord and finally to an E Minor, but with a passing tone of F# between them. This sets us up with a I-VII-VI-V-IV-I (1-7-6-5-4-1) progression. B-A-G-F#-E-B.
For the Chorus I tabbed out the keyboard melody because I noticed most other sites do as well. We will break it up into a few sections to make it easier to look at.
Chorus Pt 1
The first part of the chorus is two bars that repeat once and it look like this (Fig 5)
Let’s have another look at the Guitar chords first. (Fig 6)
We can see here that the progression goes from a D Major chord to an A Major, which results in a I-V (1-5) chord progression.
The arpeggiated notes that the keyboard plays over the D Major chord contain the notes D, E, F#, A, from low to high. The keyboard plays all of the notes from the D Major chord and adds an E note, which gives the bar a D Major 9th feeling.
The arpeggiated notes that the keyboard plays over the A Major chord contain the notes C#, D, E, A, from low to high. In this bar the keyboard plays all of the notes from the A Major chord, but this time adds the D note, which is the 11th.
Comfortably Numb – Chorus Pt 2
The second part of the Chorus is very similar to the first part but with different chords. It looks like this. (Fig 7)
Let’s take another look at those guitar chords. (Fig 8)
We can see here that we are using a C Major chord followed by a G Major, which creates a I-V progression just as with the first part. The first thing that we might notice is that there is no C note in the B Aeolian/D Major scale that this song is in. This is because we need to change keys and move down one whole step to play in the key of A Aeolian/C Major for this section of music.
Just as with the last section, but moved down one whole step, the arpeggiated notes that the keyboard plays over the C Major chord contain the notes C, D, E, G, from low to high. The keyboard plays all of the notes from the C Major chord and adds a D, which gives the bar a C Major 9th feeling.
The arpeggiated notes that the keyboard plays over the G Major chord contain the notes B, C, D, G, from low to high. In this bar, the keyboard plays all of the notes from the G Major chord, but this time adds the C note which is the 11th.
Comfortably Numb – Chorus Pt 3
The third part of the Chorus is where David Gilmour sings “I have become comfortably numb.” There are no arpeggiated keyboards in this section so I dropped the third staff. It looks like this. (Fig 9)
Let’s have another look at those chords. (Fig 10)
You can see here that we are using all Major chords A-C-G-D with a B passing note between the A and the C chords giving us a I-II-III-VII-IV (1,2,3,7,4) progression, with the final D Major chord establishing our return to the B Aeolian/D Major key.
Solo and Analysis
We will tab the solos in a future article, but here’s a look at the chords behind them and the scales that they are in.
The first guitar solo is played over the Chorus, but without the arpeggiated keyboard. David Gilmour always plays this Solo the same way live. The first half of this Solo is played in the B Dorian mode at the 12th, then 7th positions. (Fig 11)
The second half of the solo is played in A Dorian, first at the 12th position and then at the 7th position. (Fig 12)
The second solo is an extended outro Solo that David Gilmour often uses as a platform to improvise. The Solo is played over the Verse chord progression and he uses mainly the B Minor Blues scale in the 7th position with some additional notes from the B Aeolian scale later in the Solo, when he moves up to the 14th position. (Fig 13)
Once you have learned the above parts, you should be able to play the whole song.
A = Intro
B = Verse
C = Chorus pt. 1
D = Chorus pt. 2
E = Chorus pt. 3
The song =
B(3x) First Verse
C, D, C, D, E Chorus 1
C, D, C, D, E Solo 1
B(2x) Second Verse
C, D, C, D, E Chorus 2
B(7) Solo 2