If you were to sum up U2 guitarist The Edge with one word, innovator comes to mind. Not a traditional guitar hero by his own admission, The Edge is constantly looking for new sounds, and new ways to approach the guitar. During the band's Pop phase it was all about various filters, and on more recent albums, various types of pitch-shifting effects have been at the forefront. But effects aren’t everything, and The Edge certainly knows a good guitar when he sees one. He brings along a large selection of guitars every time U2 go on tour.
His First Electric Guitar
The first guitar that The Edge (or Dave Evans as he was known back then) owned was an old acoustic that he put Spanish nylon strings on. But the first electric guitar that he got his hands on was a homemade affair. The Edge’s brother Dick built the guitar from instructions in an electronics magazine. The brothers would take turns playing the instrument in the early days of U2, when they were both part of the band. In U2’s autobiography U2 By U2 The Edge describe the guitar as a yellow Flying V; noting that, “it made noise and that was the main thing.”
The Edge bought a 1976 Gibson Explorer Limited Edition while on vacation with his family in New York City in 1978. The Edge paid $248.40 for the Explorer (there's a picture of the receipt in U2 By U2), which was most likely a substantial amount of money for the young guitarist in those days. But today it's safe to say that it is a priceless instrument, considering its significance in creating U2's sound and it's use on countless recordings. During a gig in New York in the mid eighties, The Edge threw the guitar on the stage floor when he ran to intervene in a scuffle between audience members and security. Unfortunately the impact with the stage was too much for the Explorer, and its head actually snapped off. Luckily, The Edge and his guitar tech were able to have the guitar repaired, and it was brought out on tour for years. Now however, the guitar is only used in the studio.
1975 Gibson Les Paul
When The Edge put up his 1975 cream-colored Gibson Les Paul for auction in 2007 at the Icons of Music Sale, it brought in a staggering $240,000. The Edge bought the guitar in New York City back in 1982, and had been using the guitar both live and in studio ever since. The Edge has said that the guitar was used when recording the U2 classic “New Years Day,” as well as during the recording of the Achtung Baby album. Parting from the guitar, which had been one of his main instruments for a couple of decades, was tough for The Edge. But Gibson made a replica for him that sounds and feels the same, according to Edge’s guitar tech Dallas Schoo.
1983 Les Paul Goldtop
When U2 play the Achtung Baby tune “Until The End of The World” The Edge always use his 1983 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. The guitar used to take quite a beating night after night during the Elevation tour. The Edge and Bono would perform a battle of sorts during the outro, where Bono would be on the ground fiercely trying to kick the poor guitar (the fight was supposed to symbolize that of Jesus and Judas, to go with the song's subject matter). In recent tours however the routine has been changed, with the pair standing on opposite catwalks during the U2360 tour. One can only assume that Edge's guitar tech got tired of having to fix the guitar's electronics night after night.
The Guitar Picks
Ever wondered how The Edge gets that “chingy” tone to his clean sound? Part of the reason is because he uses a guitar pick that is covered with little dimples for better grip. Instead of holding the picks the normal way, The Edge holds them upside-down, so that the dimples grab on to the strings when he strums them. It’s a great example of the U2 guitarist’s innovative approach to music and guitar playing.
Gibson SG - “Elevation” effect
Did you know that the cool riff that The Edge plays in the song "Elevation" is only two notes? Mr. Evans is a master of making simple riffs sound complex. For "Elevation" he is using a modded fuzz pedal that has been retrofitted in the case of a wah-wah pedal. The pedal controls the fuzz effect’s tone knob. So while The Edge is playing the two notes over and over, he keeps rocking the pedal back and forth for that swooping effect. Simple in theory, but it certainly takes a great deal of ingenuity to come up with that kind of idea. The Edge's choice of guitar for Elevation is also quite interesting - a Gibson SG. Throwing all preconceived notions aside, Edge demonstrated that this beautiful instrument can be used for more than just tearing through heavy metal riffs.
Dotted 8th Delay
Early in U2‘s career, The Edge got himself an Electro Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe, a delay pedal that allows you to modulate the original tone with a chorus or vibrato effect. Edge experimented with different delay intervals, and changing the modulation of the original tone. The one most closely associated with the U2 sound is perhaps the dotted eight-note delay heard in “Pride (In The Name of Love)” and “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, The Edge co-founded Music Rising, a charity whose initial goal was to get new instruments to professional New Orleans musicians who had lost theirs in the disaster. But eventually their efforts grew to help out schools and churches as well. Gibson developed a limited edition Music Rising Les Paul. The 300 guitars were sold through Guitar Center stores. During live shows with U2, The Edge was often seen wearing a t-shirt with the Music Rising logo, and playing the Music Rising Les Paul.
When it comes to acoustic guitars, The Edge tends to go for his trusted Gibson J-200. The guitar is frequently used during U2's live shows, but in the studio as well. For example, the solo to "Love and Peace or Else" from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is the J-200 with distortion and various effects.
It Might Get Loud
Most of you probably know about this already, but just in case you don’t, it’s worth mentioning again. The Edge, along with Jack White and Jimmy Page, was one of the subjects of Davis Guggenheim’s guitar documentary It Might Get Loud. Davis gives the viewer an in-depth look in to the three guitarist’s approach to playing the guitar. The Edge brings out his cassette demo of what was to become “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and teaches Page and White to play the U2 classic “I Will Follow.”