Looking to learn who to play guitar like The Edge? You’ve come to the right place. The U2 axeman, known as much for the hats he wears to hide his male pattern baldness as his guitar style, has a very distinct sound, which drives the band. Luckily for you, it’s not too hard to learn how to strum the six-string like Dublin’s own Dave Evans.
- Simplicity. U2 have been world-dominant cultural trendsetters for so long it’s hard to believe they started under the influence of iconoclasts The Clash, whose this-music-will-save-your-life attitude is heavily echoed throughout the bulk of the Irishmen’s work. That said, the cornerstone of the first two Clash records was simplicity, which is something The Edge heavily relies upon as a guitar player. Listen to songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Beautiful Day” and you’ll hear simple, melodic, three-to-five chord patterns repeated under Bono’s undulating vocal melodies. The Edge’s use of simplicity was also influenced by the socio-political climate of his adolescence. U2’s member came of age during the worst of the IRA violence in Ireland. What use for complex arpeggios and 7/6 time signatures does a guy have when car bombs are going off down the street? The Edge takes a blunt approach to songwriting, crafting simple, direct, anthemic riffs from nothing but the basics. You wanna know how to play guitar like The Edge? Don’t wank around; get straight to the point.
- Effects Pedals. In the film “It Might Get Loud”, Evans explains that he’s interested in guitar as a textural instrument. By playing a riff both with and without effects, the guitarist demonstrates that he’s not doing much; it’s the pedals that create the U2 sound. Using effects pedals, The Edge gets more depth out of his simplicity than the majority of three chord bands out there. If you’re looking to play like U2’s six-stringer, get yourself delay, reverb, chorus, and echo pedals, and a clear tube amp. Evans has used his original 1964 Vox AC30 amp to record every U2 record and at every concert. With your effects pedals set up, keep the distortion to a minimum and set up your delay to repeat on an eight note. Pick a few notes or a chord and let it echo into the next. Using simple tactics like this, The Edge creates a textured wave of guitar while staying true to the simplicity of the punk rock that inspired him to begin with.
- Open Chords and Treble: Two staples of the The Edge’s signature sound are the open chord and treble. You’ll have to master these to play like The Edge. The man himself says “most of my chords I find two strings and make them ring the same note, so it's almost like a twelve string sound. So for E I might play a B, E, E and B and make it ring.” Whichever chord or progression you’re working on, find an open, ringing variation on it. As for treble, Evans stumbled on this signature sound accidentally. The guitar he had in the early U2 days, a Gibson Explorer, is notorious for its awful low end. To avoid the horrible, buzzing rattle, The Edge stuck to the highest three or four strings on the instrument, discovering a world of trebly chords and distinct sounds in the process.
Provided you play guitar and have a basic idea of what this all means, you’ve on your way to learning how to play guitar like The Edge. Get some effects pedals, stick to the upper echelons of the neck, and keep it simple, and you’re good to go.
"On the Edge of Success." U2 Magazine, No. 3. May 1, 1982.