You Too Can Play Like The Edge

11.07.2012 U2 live in Boston

So you wanna play guitar like Mr. Dave Evans, aka The Edge of U2?

With each U2 release the guitarist's setup has become increasingly more complex. Nowadays The Edge tours with two racks full of effect processors as well as a myriad of vintage pedals. In this feature we'll take a look at how The Edge play the songs “Elevation” and “Until The End of The World” in a live setting, and see how you can recreate that sound in a home environment.

When time came for U2 to record what would become Achtung Baby, one of the main focuses of the band was to update their sound, stepping away from the sound that brought them worldwide success with the Joshua Tree album. The Edge, who had built a lot of his sound around embracing new guitar effects and coming up with innovative ways of using them, acquired a signal processor called the Korg A3.In many ways, this piece of equipment became the back bone of U2's new guitar sound for the album. It has been definitely confirmed that it was used for “Mysterious Ways” and “The Fly,” as well as for “Numb” from the follow up album Zooropa. It is also quite likely that the compressed guitar tone during the main riff and chorus of “Until The End of The World” is based around a Korg A3 preset. Now, some twenty years later, the A3 is a relic in terms of musical equipment, and can only be found on auction sites like eBay. But with today's availability of guitar effect processors it is relatively easy to recreate a tone similar to that of the original.

When U2 perform “Until The End of the World” live, The Edge use a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.

The humbuckers are perfect for creating that fat tone needed for the song. When it comes to the tone for the picked riff during the verses, a slightly overdriven tone should be used, so that the notes sound increasingly distorted depending on the force by which you hit the strings. The Edge favors using a Boss OD-2 or a Boss SD-1 for distortion. For this song, the OD-2 is most likely the appropriate route to go, but with any multi-effects processor you should be able to find an overdrive pedal that sound reasonably close to the original sound. When it comes to the chorus, more distortion is needed, and it might be a good idea to have a second overdrive or distortion pedal on hand for extra grit. During the solo, The Edge kicks in a compressor pedal to beef up the tone. He often uses an MXR Dyna Comp or a Boss FA-1. Again, experimenting with compressor settings on a multi-effects unit should bring you close.

For the guitar solo, you also need delay, and The Edge uses his classic dotted eighth delay for “Until The End of The World.” What dotted eighth means is that the note repeats at ¾ of a beat after it's been picked. The effect is quite spectacular, and it does make what you're playing sound that much more advanced. Since a dotted eighth delay is a very precise setup it is extremely important that the delay time is set according to the bpm of the song being played. A delay that has a tap tempo function to set the delay speed is preferable in case your drummer speeds up or slows down.

For the song “Elevation” The Edge took his creativity to a whole new level. If you look at the intro riff of the song you'll see that it's nothing more than two notes played over and over, an E and an A note to be correct. But what Edge is doing to get that sweeping sound is he's running the guitar signal through a modified Kay Fuzztone pedal, which has been retrofitted in the casing of a wah pedal. When The Edge is rocking the pedal back and forth it actually sweeps the tone control from high to low, thus creating that pulsating fuzz sound. This author uses a Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler to recreate the intro riff for “Elevation.” With this piece of equipment you can easily set up a volume pedal to sweep the treble control of a fuzz pedal, mimicking the effect that The Edge creates. The guitar of choice for “Elevation” is a Gibson SG, with The Edge proving that you don't have to be in AC/DC in order to rock out on an SG. For the verses and chorus of “Elevation” all you need is tons of fuzz, and try to keep the tone fairly bright.

So, let's say you've tried out all the suggestions listed in this feature, but still feel that you're falling short of recreating The Edge's sound. Well, one final piece of the puzzle is, believe it or not, the guitar pick. Ever the creative musician, The Edge uses a guitar pick made by a German manufacturer called Herdim, the blue pick to be correct. What's special about the Herdim pick is that it has all these dimples on it in order to make it easier to hold on to if your fingers get sweaty when playing. But what The Edge does is he holds the pick upside down so that it's the dimpled side that is hitting the strings. By doing so, the dimples create a sort of raspy chiming sound when they grab hold and let go of the strings. This sound is mostly audible when The Edge is picking single notes, and playing with a fairly clean tone, like on the Joshua Tree album. But it is also a key ingredient to the picked verses of “Until The End of The World.”