Posted by: worshipguitarguy | July 31, 2006

Guitar Playing on The Edge

edge_1.jpgI’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan of The Edge, U2’s lead guitarist…  Everywhere I go lately, I meet worship guitarists who are trying to copy his sound… (a la the Joshua Tree album of 1987.  Check out tracks like Where the Streets Have No Name, With or Without You, Still Haven’t Found, or Red Hill Town.)  Since I’ve spent way to much productive time listening to and studying U2’s music, hopefully the next few paragraphs can shed a little light on how to recreate his sound in your own playing. 

1.  It begins with the amp – A Vox AC-30 Top Boost:  The foundation of the Edge’s trademark sound comes from a (64 and 67???) Vox AC-30 Top Boost amp.  These amps are called Class A amps because of the way they handle the power going through the tubes.  Incidentally, Class A amps are very popular among worship bands.  I’ve seen everyone from Delirious, to the David Crowder Band, Mercy Me, and Todd Agnew using Class A amps live.  Other amps that sound similar to the AC-30 include it’s little brother, the Vox AC-15 (which is my primary amp BTW), and amps from Matchless, BadCat, and Orange (The AD series).  

Below is a pic of the panel on my AC-15 in a typical configuration I run in.  Note that I have to send a good amount of volume through the power amp (The Master Volume dial) to get that “full and warm sound”.  Also I run the preamp volume dial, between 10-11 o’clock.  I’ve found that on my amp, that’s where I get the best sound before it starts overdriving.

 If you’re using a modeling amp, (like a Line 6 Flextone or Vetta) look for a setting like AC30 or Brit Class A. 

2.  The Edge’s Guitars:  The Edge uses a little bit of everything, from Fenders and Gibsons, to a Fernandez Infinite Sustain guitar.  But much of his trademark “chimey” sound comes from Fender guitars, particularly a Stratocaster.  For instance, that famous riff on “Where the Streets Have No Name” comes from a Strat with the pickup selector switch set between the bridge and middle pickups.  Although their tone is slightly different, a Tele can also give you that chime sound while warming up more than most Strats when overdriven.  (In the past year, I’ve made a Tele my primary guitar.)

3.  Delay… lay… lay…:  If trapped on a deserted island with only one thing, there’s no doubt the Edge would choose a delay pedal.  Back in the early U2 days, the Edge used the Electro Harmonix Memory Man, which is an analog delay pedal with a slight bit of modulation/chorus.  Now he runs rackmount delays (A Korg SDD 3000 to be exact) but you can get close to his sound with a pedalboard delay.  The three most popular (and useful) right now are the Line 6 DL4 (approx $250), Echo Park ($150), and the Boss DD20 ($180).

Finding that sound though can be a little tricky… 

>>> Warning, History Lesson Ahead:  The Edge is called the scientist of U2 for a very good reason.  In the 1980’s, he would record by running his guitar to a box that split his signal to two different EH Memory Man pedals.  Then the signal went to two different mic’ed amps, positioned about 5 ft. apart.  Often he’d set the delay times on the MM’s differently to add texture to the overall sound.  By positioning the amps 5 feet apart, you’d have residual sound from one amp bleeding over to the mic on the other, with a delay time of about 5ms.  This type of setup is referred to as a stereo delay setup, and it explains why he could create sounds that were so dynamically rich.  End Lesson <<<

Even thought it was simple, most of us don’t have the time, energy, or budget to create a stereo delay setup.  So here’s how you can create an acceptable sounding copy of your own. 

First, determine the feel your going for. 

Fast straight rhythms: (Like Streets)  If you’re playing 8th or 16th note straight rhythms, you’ll want to minimize the sustain on your amp, and play with a little palm muting to keep your sound from becoming muddy.  Use a digital delay here with a slight bit of modulation.  Set the first repeat to be fairly strong, but have it trail off after 2-3 repeats.  Here, the Edge likes to use a dotted eighth delay (3/16) because of it’s complexity.  (Note: the DL4 does not have a dotted eighth setting, but the DD20 and Echo Park do.  Just set to dotted eighth and tap quarter notes.)

Slower and more ambient songs:  (All I Want is You, With or Without You)  Here you can use quarter or eighth note delays, I really like using Analog Tape/Tube/Multihead models because they have more presence.  If you’re playing simple one or two note leads, you may want to increase your sustain a little, (by driving your preamp more, or adding compression.)  Usually I’ll keep the initial repeats fairly low in volume, and adjust the number or repeats enough so that it gives the song the right ambient fill.

————- 

In the future, I’ll write about the Edge’s technique, and how to find similar chords and riffs to the ones he uses.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, thoughts, comments, or corrections, fire away!

Note:
http://www.amnesta.net/edge_delay/
For a more in depth study of the Edge’s sound, check out this superb article written by Tim Darling. 
Also, there are several great forums discussing U2’s gear and sound, if you have the time, Google them.

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Responses

  1. Great article ! Thanks to share this with us. I’m a guitarist accoustic, and i’m in trouble with all electrics effects. Very Interesting. We want others like this 🙂

  2. Gerry,

    Nice post – thanks for answering my question! I’m going to highlight your page on the next podcast. Good stuff. thanks!`

  3. Great article! I’m *really* looking forward to your article on the Edge’s techniques, especially how to use them in a typical worship song (like the 1-4-5 chord progression). For example, if you could show how to play those techniques over a song that goes over a progression like G-D-Em-C (like Blessed Be Your Name”), that would be really helpful. Thanks!

  4. Hey Darrell,

    I’m going to get that post up as soon as I can! I had to figure out a way to record some examples of the stuff I’ll be talking about… I picked up a Line 6 Guitar Port, though and it’s worked out well so far.

  5. Great article, and your effects rig is awesome. I’m much more basic, running a V-amp2, but I’m also playing along with a complete orchaestra.

    How about a post regarding those little 2-string things the Edge (and most other guitarists in the worship community are playing now), plays?

    I’m a lot like you, I have to work really hard to play skillfully, but the Lord thrust me into music ministry ten years ago, and while I’m far from the best, He still chooses to use me… amazing!

  6. Working on it at the moment Ed… Having fun doing all the recording and tab notation though, so look for it in 3 weeks or so… 😉

  7. Hi Gerry.

    I am a fellow worship guitarist, and also “very” avid U2 fan. I have a lot of Edge gear, and would love to talk with you more about gear, and possibly sharing/collaborating on your web site together. I am a total gear head, so I really appreciate your contribution to worship guitarists in terms of gear, and understanding how to use it. Would love to hear from you.

    colin

  8. HELP! I have an AC-30 that only sounds killer turned up, but we play live in small places occasionally….what can I do to control the volume BUT keep from changing the tone??? Can someone recommend a petal/attenuator???? mail me thanks! voxfuzz@hotmail.com

  9. Hi, I really enjoyed your artical. It’s my first visit here but defanately not my last! I was wondering if you had any suggestions to help me improve my sound. I lead worship and find myself mostly alone all the time (lack of good/confident muscians) so I have to play alot of “filler type stuff & am trying to incorperate the drums section of my Zoom G2.1U pedal. My equipment list is below, thanks & Be Blessed!

    PRS McCarty 2 Hollowbody with piezo
    Zoom G2.1U effects pedal
    Pandora’s Box – PX4A
    Roland AC-60
    Sure SM68

  10. Hmm, tough question Daniel… Have you ever though about trying a program like Ableton Live or Reason to create tracks behind you to play over? You don’t have to do stuff that sounds fake or phony, and it’s pretty easy to lay down simple drum patterns and bass lines… Also, one of the guys I play with loves to use a Boss Loop Station to create backing loops when he plays… and the sounds he gets on his loops are extremely cool!

  11. Just a passing point but, the Vox AC amps are class AB not A, which gives them a slightly differet tonality.

  12. The DL4 Does actually have dotted eigth notes. Its on the rytmic settings at about 10′ oclock. You can then also add modulation using the tweak and tweeze knobs.

    I may be wrong bud doesnt the edge use some tcelectronic 2290s for his delayS?

  13. really enjoyed your article. It looks like its a few years old, so I hope you still respond to comments and questions. You mentioned a pic of your AC15 panel. I didn’t see the pic. Would you mind emailing it to me? I am trying to get my AC15 to sound better – After tweaking it a bunch, I’m still not real happy with it.

    Thanks!!

  14. A question: how to set my vox ac 15 H1TV panel to obtain that marvellous middy VOXISH sound both on arpeggios and rhythm patterns ??????


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