Syd Barrett’s Guitars and Gear

Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006) was an English singer, songwriter, guitarist, and painter, best remembered as a founder member of the band Pink Floyd. He was the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter during the band’s psychedelic years, providing major musical and stylistic direction in their early work. Barrett left the group in April 1968, and continued working as solo artist until releasing two albums –  The Madcap Laughs (1970) and Barrett (1970). In 1972 he went into self-imposed seclusion in his hometown of Cambridge, UK lasting until his death in 2006.

Perhaps the most significant and most memorable part of Syd’s gear was his 1962 Fender Esquire, which Syd decorated with polished metal circles to enhance at that time already mesmerizing light effects during some of Pink Floyd’s early gigs. Main part of his amp setup was a 50W Selmer Truvoice Treble n’ Bass played through a 2×12 cabinet, and his main effect unit was a Binson Echorec box, also used by his friend and a brief band-mate David Gilmour.

Syd Barret’s Electric Guitars:

1961 Selmer Futurama III

Futurama Grazioso This was Syd first electric guitar, bought sometime in the early 60s – probably as early as 1961, for £25. This guitar came about a year after Syd bought his first guitar, which was an acoustic Hofner, and about the same time he form 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 from 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 of Futurama guitars at that time were, and it featured a maple neck with Strat-shaped headstock.

Our guess is that Syd sold this guitar before leaving to London in summer of 1964 to study painting at Camberwell College of Arts. There is some debate going on whether the guitar was Futurama II or III model, but we tend to believe Roger Waters who said that Syd played the later.

1950s Hofner 500/5 Bass Guitar

Hofner 500 5 Bass Syd bought this guitar sometime in early 1964, when he decided to start playing a bass. At that time he occasionally played with a band called Hollerin’ Blues, which prompted him to make the switch from a regular guitar, although he didn’t seem to be a strict member of the band. He also played with a band called Those Without during holidays starting from July 1964, although it’s not clear whether he exclusively played bass during that period.

We only came across one photograph of Syd actually playing this guitar, which was presented at the beginning of the first part of the BBC omnibus called “Syd Barrett: Crazy Diamond” released in 2003. Due to copyright laws, we’re not sure if we’re allowed to post it here, so if you’re interested be sure to watch that documentary – it’s well worth it.

As far as the specs, the Hofner 500/5 featured archtop construction based on a Hofner Model 457 which was in production from 1952. The guitar was equipped with two pickups, one placed at the neck position, and the other just slightly further down in the middle position.

One promising theory of what happened to the guitar after Syd went back to playing a regular guitar after joining the Tea Set is based on a photograph circling around the internet from early 1965 showing Syd playing a Framus Sorella guitar, and Roger Waters playing a blonde Hofner 500/5, with Chris Dennis on the microphone. It is possible therefore that Waters, who himself switched to bass just couple of months prior, got that Hofner bass from Syd.

1960s Hofner Committee

Hofner Committee 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 guitar 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 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 when Syd’s guitar was made (read more on this at VintageHofner.com – a really excellent source of information on Hofner guitars).

What happened to this guitar after Syd switched to playing a Telecaster is unfortunately a mystery as with most of his guitars. If you happen to know anything, please message us using the form at the end of this list).

1960s Framus 5/59 Sorella

Framus Sorella 5 59 Syd bought this guitar presumably sometime after joining the Tea Set (soon to be renamed Pink Floyd on Syd’s incentive). He was seen playing this particular guitar on 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.

It took us depressingly long time to figure out the exact model of this guitar, but it eventually turned out the be a Framus Sorella – a guitar similar to the one Paul McCartney played almost a decade earlier. The guitar was made in Germany, presumably sometime in the early to mid 60s, and it featured archtop design and 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 linked in the first paragraph, 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.

The exact model of the pickup fitted on Syd’s guitar is called DeArmond Rhythm Chief 1000, and is fitted on a guitar by clamping it on the strings behind the bridge, with a metal rod extending toward the neck and holding the pickup itself in a desired position. This design allowed amplifying an archtop guitar without drilling holes in the body, or damaging it in any way.

We learn two things from this observation. The first one is that the guitar was originally an acoustic, and the pickup was installed later on, possibly by Syd or someone close to him. The second one is that Syd preferred the bridge position of the pickup, which became even more obvious with him obtaining a Fender Esquire later on in Pink Floyd – which is basically a Telecaster without the neck pickup.

1962 Fender Esquire

Syd Barrett Fender Esquire Syd bought this guitar in early 1965, allegedly agreeing to pay for it on installments. He would use this guitar as his main until late 1967, when he purchased a white Fender Telecaster with a rosewood neck.

The guitar was originally white, but in late 1966 Syd wrapped it in silver melinex plastic film, and glued couple of 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 a color light show devices, or essentially projectors to be used to improvise light effects during 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.

Nonetheless, he’s been quoted saying that even though he went through a number of different guitars, this one was by far his favorite. He kept it until the Pink Floyd’s second album, when he swapped it for a black Fender Telecaster with maple neck, but regretted making that decision ever since. It’s current whereabouts are unknown, and the person in the possession of this guitar might not even realize the value that the guitar holds.

1960s Danelectro 3021

Danelectro 3021 Syd bought this guitar sometime in 1965, and used it in the early days of Pink Floyd as his spare guitar. 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 masonite top and bottom, and a frame made of poplar wood holding everything together.

The neck was also built using masonite on the models made after 1956, with rosewood being used on the fingerboard itself. The guitar featured unique set of single-coil pickups, designed by the owner and founder of Danelectro, Nathan Daniel.

As with all of Syd’s guitars, we couldn’t find out what exactly happened to it since he stopped using it. It probably got sold sometime before he left the Pink Floyd.

1964 Fender Telecaster

1964 Fender Telecaster This guitar first appeared sometime in late 1967, probably intended as a backup and eventual replacement of Syd’s Esquire. But by the time the guitar started seeing any usage time, Syd was already going through personal problems and well less and less present on the bands live gigs, so this guitar never really had the time to become notable.

Syd’s Telecaster was likely made sometime in early to mid 60s, and featured 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 Telecaster, the wiring and the toggle switch serves 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 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.

When David Gilmour replaced Syd as the touring guitarist, Syd let him use this guitar as a spare. At the same time, David played an identical white Telecaster given to him by his parents for his 21st birthday. There’s a pretty cool photo showing both guitars taken during the Bouton Rouge TV-show in early 1968.

Syd allegedly received his guitar back during the Saucerful of Secrets studio sessions, but he didn’t seem to use it anymore from that point on.

1960s Fender Stratocaster

 1961 Fender Stratocaster white rosewood Syd was seen with this guitar at the Games For May show played at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 12th May 1967. The guitar was an early to mid 60s Stratocaster with 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.

1968 Fender Telecaster Custom

Black Telecaster Custom Syd traded this guitar in mid 1968 for the Fender Esquire that he used with the 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 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 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 Hofner Acoustic

1950s Hofner Acoustic 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 late 50s, a Hofner Congress seems to be the most likely answer. If you happen to know anything on the subject, please message us using a form at the end of this article.

1960s Unknown Acoustic

Syd Barret Unknown Acoustic Guitar There’s 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, use the contact form to send us a message.

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.

1960s Harmony Sovereign H1260

Harmony Sovereign H1260 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 second one being an electric Futurama which he played in the band Geoff Mott and The Mottoes formed in mid 1961.

We have contacted the 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’s 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.

1960s Levin LT 18

Levin LT 18 Syd used this guitar on the last song he would record with the Pink Floyd, “Jugband Blues” from the 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets. The guitar can be seen in the music video of the song [Pink Floyd – Jugband Blues].

According to David Gilmour, who at that time covered for Barrett’s eccentricities, talked a little bit about the guitar they used during the A Saucerful of Secrets era:

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]

Syd Barrett’s Guitar Amps:

In the early days of Tea Set/Pink Floyd, Syd seemed to have used a Bird Golden Eagle 4/25. The amp featured EL34 tubes, 25W of power, and was fitted with a single 15” speaker. Around the time he bought the white Esquire, he also picked up a Vox AC30.

In the studio on Pink Floyd’s debut album Syd allegedly used a 50W Selmer Truvoice Treble n’ Bass played through a 2×12 cabinet, and a Watkins Dominator combo.

Syd Barret’s Guitar Effects:

Barrett’s primary effect unit was a Binson Echorec, which he used extensively on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Echorec was made in Italy from the early 60s, and was basically a mechanical echo unit which recorded sound on a analog magnetic drum and played it back again with a slight delay.

Next to the Echorec he allegedly used a Selmer Buzz-Tone pedal (some sources talk about a home-made fuzz box) and a Selmer Fuzz-Wah pedal.

During his solo years Syd also started using a Roger Mayer’s Octavia pedal, made popular by Jimi Hendrix who Syd was an admirer of even in his later years.

Contributors: Stephen, luizbadia