Syd Barrett's Guitars and GearPublished : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
Summary of Syd Barrett’s Gear
Syd Barrett was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, and his influence on the band’s early sound cannot be overstated. He was known for his experimental approach to guitar playing and his use of various effects pedals, which contributed to his distinct sound. Here’s a look at some of the guitars, amps, and effects that he used throughout his career.
Syd’s first guitar was an archtop Hofner model that he received as a gift from his mother, and he learned to play on this instrument before moving on to electric guitars.
Syd used several different electric guitars throughout his career, including a Fender Esquire, a Fender Telecaster, and a Danelectro 3021. The Fender Esquire was Syd’s favorite guitar, and he modified it extensively to suit his style, adding a bunch of mirrors to it which he would use during the shows to make various light effects. This modified Esquire can be heard on many of Pink Floyd’s early recordings.
In addition to his electric guitars, Syd also used a few different acoustic models. He owned a 1963 Harmony Sovereign H1260, a 1960s Levin LT-18, both of which he used with Pink Floyd, and a Yamaha 12-String, which he used in later years.
Syd’s effects and amps were an integral part of his sound. He primarily used a Selmer Treble N Bass 50 amp and a Selmer Stereomaster with Pink Floyd. He also used a variety of effects pedals, including a homemade fuzz box and a Binson Echorec tape echo unit. These effects gave Syd’s guitar playing a psychedelic and otherworldly quality that helped define Pink Floyd’s early sound.
Despite his significant contributions to Pink Floyd, Syd left the band in 1968 due to his struggles with mental health issues, particularly schizophrenia. He released two solo albums before withdrawing from the music industry altogether. Syd’s influence on rock music has continued to be felt long after his departure from Pink Floyd, particularly in the psychedelic and experimental genres. He remains a revered figure among musicians and fans alike, and his contributions to the world of music are still celebrated to this day.
List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett's Electric Guitars
Selmer Futurama IIISee images & more 1961
This was Syd’s first electric guitar which he bought for £25 sometime in the early 60s – probably around 1961. This guitar came about a year after Syd bought his first acoustic guitar, which was a Hofner, and about the same time he formed his first band called Geoff Mott and The Mottoes.
Since there are no photos of Syd playing this guitar, everything that follows is based on pure speculation, and on the guess that the guitar was made sometime between 1959 and 1961.
Syd’s Hofner Futurama was at that time the closest you were able to come to a Fender Stratocaster on a small budget. The guitar was made in Czechoslovakia and imported to the UK starting in 1959 and was often advertised as “the most advanced guitar on the market” – an easy claim to make considering the low amount of competitors on the UK market at the time.
As far as the specs, the guitar was equipped with three single-coil pickups and a tremolo. It was most likely finished in sunburst, since most Futurama guitars at that time were, and it featured a maple neck with a Strat-shaped headstock.
1960s Framus 5/59 SorellaSee images & more 1965
Syd bought this guitar presumably sometime after joining the band Tea Set (soon to be renamed Pink Floyd on Syd’s incentive). He was seen playing this particular guitar in a photo taken at a Tea Set gig sometime in late 1964/early 1965, at the time when Chris Dennis was still a part of the band.
The guitar appears to be a Framus Sorella – similar to the one Paul McCartney played almost a decade earlier. The instrument was made in Germany, presumably sometime in the early to mid-60s, and it featured an archtop design and a dark red finish with black edges.
What’s especially interesting about this guitar is that is seems to have featured a custom-fitted pickup. If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice that the control knobs are kind of just hanging from behind the bridge mounted on a small piece of metal, and the wires are hanging loose on the side.
1960s Hofner CommitteeSee images & more 1965
Syd was seen playing this guitar with the band Those Without sometime in early 1965. At that time he was already a member of Tea Set (aka early Pink Floyd), but he was known for playing with different people and never really being a strict member of one until Pink Floyd started getting serious.
It’s not perfectly clear whether this was his first guitar when he joined Pink Floyd as he switched from playing bass, or the first one to come was the Framus Sorella mentioned below. Not that it’s particularly important really, since both guitars were used very briefly anyways.
Although the only photo of Syd playing this guitar is black and white, Syd’s Committee seems to have been finished in a dark sunburst. It is also apparent that the guitar featured two “toaster” pickups, which were fitted on models made post-1960, so that gives us somewhat of an idea of when Syd’s guitar was made (read more on this at VintageHofner.com – a really excellent source of information on Hofner guitars).
1962 Fender EsquireSee images & more 1965
Syd bought this guitar in early 1965, allegedly agreeing to pay for it in installments. He would use this guitar as his main until late 1967 when he purchased a white Fender Telecaster with a rosewood neck.
This guitar was originally white, but in late 1966 Syd wrapped it in silver melinex plastic film and glued a few circular polished metal discs on the body. He was most likely inspired to do this by Mike Leonard, a landlord of the house where members of Pink Floyd lived in 1965.
Mike is an architect who experimented with light effects in the 60s, and he was the man orchestrating light effects during early Pink Floyd shows. He was one the first people to build color light show devices, or essentially projectors to be used to improvise light effects during the band’s live performances. Syd himself would use the mirror surface of his guitar to reflect those lights back on the audience and create ever more dazzling effects.
Metal disks on the guitar eventually became worn and Syd for one reason or another slowly stopped using the Esquire and switched to a white Telecaster by late 1967. He allegedly left the guitar outside in the rain one night, and this resulted in some of the hardware becoming oxidized – so that may as well be one of the reasons.
1960s Danelectro 3021See images & more 1965
Syd bought this guitar sometime in 1965 and used it in the early days of Pink Floyd as his spare guitar. The most notable appearance of the guitar is perhaps during the UFO Nightclub gig in 1966.
Danelectro was actually one of the more affordable guitars back in the 60s but still managed to draw attention from popular guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, and obviously – Syd Barrett. The body featured a masonite top and bottom, and a frame made of poplar wood holding everything together.
1960s Fender StratocasterSee images & more 1967
Syd was seen with this guitar at the Games For May show played at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, on 12th May 1967. The guitar was an early to mid-60s Stratocaster with a white finish and a rosewood fretboard.
Not much else is known about this particular guitar but if we’re to guess, it most likely belonged to the band – as Syd only picked it up that one time. David Gilmour was seen playing a very similar Stratocaster about a year later with Pink Floyd, but his guitar seems to feature a large headstock compared to the small pre-CBS one on Syd’s, so they are two completely different instruments.
1964 Fender TelecasterSee images & more 1967
This guitar first appeared sometime in late 1967, probably intended as a backup and eventual replacement for Syd’s Esquire. But by the time the guitar started seeing any usage time, Syd was already going through personal problems and was less and less present at the band’s live gigs, so this guitar never really had the time to become notable.
Syd’s Telecaster was likely made sometime in the early to mid-60s and featured a white body finish and rosewood fretboard. The guitar is essentially a more versatile version of the Esquire which was Syd’s previous guitar, as it features additional pickup in the neck position.
Although the bridge pickup is the same as on the Esquire, the wiring and the toggle switch serve a different purpose on each guitar. The switch on the Esquire modified the tone of the pickup by making it bassier in the forward position while enabling the use of the tone control knob in the middle position. With the switch in the rear position, these tone controls were bypassed entirely for a “hotter” lead tone.
1968 Fender Telecaster CustomSee images & more 1968
Syd traded this guitar in mid-1968 for the Fender Esquire that he used with Pink Floyd, and following his departure from the band and the eventual withdrawal from the music scene, this turned out the be the last electric guitar he would ever use professionally.
This guitar is somewhat of a mystery, considering that Julian Palacios, who wrote the book “Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe” listed the guitar as a 1962 Telecaster Custom. A problem arises from the fact that Fender didn’t produce maple neck Telecasters until the late sixties, so the guitar couldn’t have been made before 1968. Going from that, it’s also safe to think that Syd got this guitar almost brand new when he exchanged it for the white Esquire.
Syd used this guitar on both of his solo albums as it was the only electric guitar he had at the time. It is likely that he sold the guitar in the late 70s when he was living alone in London, slowly spending all of his remaining cash and eventually returning to Cambridge to live with his mother.
Syd Barrett's Acoustic Guitars
1950s HofnerSee images & more 1959
This is the first guitar that Syd ever picked up, and the one he’d use to learn the basics on. He had the guitar for about a year, before deciding to switch to an electric.
The exact model is unfortunately only a guess from our side, but going from the fact that he got the guitar in the late 50s, it could be something like a Hofner Congress, but who knows? If you happen to know anything on the subject, please do leave a comment below.
Unknown AcousticSee images & more 1963
There are a couple of photos from 1964 of Syd with an acoustic guitar in the backyard of his house in Cambridge. Unfortunately, after going through countless pictures of old Hofners, Harmonies, and obscure European brands, we couldn’t come up with the exact model – so again, if you’re knowledgeable of the subject, please leave a comment below.
It seems that Syd used this guitar from around early 1963, and it was probably the guitar he had with him while playing acoustic gigs around Cambridge with David Gilmour, whom he met at Cambridge Technical College.
1963 Harmony Sovereign H1260See images & more
The guitar is currently at the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, labeled as a 1963 Harmony Sovereign and Syd’s first guitar. This doesn’t seem to make much sense though, because by 1963 time Syd had already gone through at least two different guitars – one being an acoustic Hofner, and the second one being an electric Futurama which he played in the band Geoff Mott and The Mottoes formed in mid-1961.
We have reached out to Hard Rock Cafe though, and they have clarified that the label should read “Syd’s first quality guitar” – which is perhaps somewhat closer to the truth but still unnecessarily overemphasized.
They did point out correctly that Syd used this guitar with Pink Floyd on their first album, as it was most likely his only acoustic guitar at the time. Some sources also mention a Fender acoustic and a Yamaha 12-string, but we haven’t found anything tangible on that subject.11966
1960s Levin LT-18See images & more 1969
Syd used this guitar on the last song he recorded with Pink Floyd, “Jugband Blues” from the 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets. The guitar can be seen in the music video of the song (photo below).
This is also confirmed by David Gilmour, who in an interview with Guitar Herous in 1984 noted that the band did use Levins during the A Saucerful of Secrets era. Furthermore, he himself was filmed playing what was possibly the same gutiar that Syd was using.
At the beginning we used Levins, which were quite good guitars, a bit like Martins, made in Sweden or somewhere, then we moved onto Martin D-35s and things like that and now we tend to use Ovations mostly for recording and things.
Guitar Heroes #9 May 1983
Yamaha 12-StringSee images & more 1971
Syd got this guitar sometime in 1971. This was after the release of Barrett (album), so the guitar likely was not featured in any of Syd’s studio work.
Also, the guitar was never photographed, and the only reason we know it existed is because of the 1971 interview Syd did with Rolling Stone magazine.
I worked this out yesterday. I think it’s much better. It’s my new 12-string guitar. I’m just getting used to it. I polished it yesterday. It’s a Yamaha.
As far as the model, in 1971 Yamaha produced at least four different 12-string models, the FG2500 (produced from 1971-75), FG230 (1968-72), FG550 (1969-72), and the FG630 (1971-78). It could’ve been any of those, because, once again, we have no pictures of the guitar.
Syd Barrett's Amps
Selmer Treble N Bass 50See images & more 1966
Based on how frequently Syd was seen with this amp compared to others, it’s very likely that this was his main amp with Pink Floyd. At the same time that Syd was using this amp, Roger Waters used Selmer’s Stereomaster.
Selmer StereomasterSee images & more 1967
Syd was seen using this amp during the studio recording of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Nick’s Boogie” in London in 1967.
Syd Barrett's Effects
Binston Echorec DelaySee images & more 1966
Syd used this effect extensively during his time with Pink Floyd. Even after Syd had left the band, David Gilmour continued using the effect, as it was key in achieving some of the early Floyd sounds.
The Binstone Echorec is a delay effect unit, which instead of a tape, used a magnetic disk to achieve the effect by playing the sound back with a slight delay. It was made in Italy, and nowadays working units are extremely rare, and extremely desirable, often selling for thousands of dollars.
The two people who are definitely most responsible for the popularity of the unit are Syd and David. Syd seemed to have used the “Baby” version, which was as the name suggests a smaller-sized unit, while David, at least in the early days used an Echorec 2.
Homemade Fuzz BoxSee images & more 1967
According to Syd, he used a fuzz pedal that was made for him by a personal friend who used bits and pieces of the fuzz pedals that were available on the market.
I use a Fender Telecaster, with a 100-watt Selmer stereo amplifier and a homemade fuzz box built for me by an electronics friend out of bits of other fuzz boxes!
Syd Barret, August 1967
Unfortunately, to our knowledge, there are no images of this pedal, so the specifics are unknown. It’s also unknown to what extent Syd used the pedal.
Roger Mayer OctaviaSee images & more 1969
During his solo years, Syd started using Roger Mayer Octavia pedal, made popular by Jimi Hendrix who Syd was an admirer of even in his later years. The effect can be heard in the song “No Man’s Land”.
According to Roger Mayer, Syd was one of five people to receive a limited run of Octavias in early 1969. Prior to this, Roger only made “work in progress” pedals, usually just for Jimi.
At the end of 1968, I decided to build a limited run of 5 or so Octavias and 5 Distortion Pedals, all housed in the wedge enclosure. These units were completed in early 1969 and went to guitar players like Syd Barrett, Steve Marriot, Peter Frampton, Keith Reif, and Jimi of course.
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