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Guitarist: The Edge
Bono has a nickname for The Edge - yes, another one. He calls him The Scientist. One glimpse at the U2 guitarist’s effects collection and you can see why. “Whether it’s a Fuzz-Tone or a wah-wah pedal, if it’s really happening it becomes part of the instrument,”
Edge muses. “I don’t think about playing through an effect, I think about playing the whole thing.”
There are numerous vivid FX moments in the U2/Edge canon and, literally, hundreds of pedals at work too. The signature echo/delay riffs of early tracks such as I Will Follow and Pride (In The Name Of Love) relied on Electro-Harmonix’s Memory Man Deluxe (abandoned by the ‘90s “because you can’t program it”), but his FX- driven style bloomed with the breakthrough album The Joshua Tree.
For a typical example of his delay savvy, listen to Where The Streets Have No Name and how the intro’s circular delayed arpeggios (0:14-0:35) build into partial powerchords (0:35-1:17) then keep ﬂickering between styles until the arpeggiated coda (4:21). The licks are simple, but try playing it all in time with that many delayed/echoed notes.
On The Unforgettable Fire, alongside these delay stylings, he used an E-Bow - yet such ‘primitive FX technology was soon superseded by the mysterious Inﬁnite Guitar system (developed by Australian guitarist friend Michael Brook). Hear it on With Or Without You (0:09-1:52). To play it live these days, he’s moved on again – to a guitar with built-in effects, the Fernandes Sustainer.
Distortion sounds play a big part too. On the Boy and War albums, Edge stomped on a BOSS SD-1, or for heavier parts, an E-H Big Muff. More recently, it’s become rather less simple. The squalling solo in Until The End Of The World (2:00) is via a BOSS OD-2R; the heavily distorted fuzz/octave passage in Elevation comes from a rare Ampeg Scrambler; the song New York features a Sobbat DB-1 Drive Breaker (kicking in at 2:10, Edge: “That pedal is so extreme - you step on it and all hell breaks loose”); Discotheque employs a Lovetone Big Cheese. For his glassy clean sounds, such as Bad and slide soloing, Edge cleans up with an MXR DynaComp.
On U2’s Vertigo tour, Edge was using the Scrambler, a Big Muff, a TS9 Tube Screamer, the Sobbat Drive Breaker, a DigiTech WH-1 Whammy, a Dunlop Wah and much more, such as a (now rare) BOSS FA-1 FET to boost his Strat output without distortion.
And that’s to say nothing of his rack, which housed: an Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer, two Lexicon PCM processors, two TC 2290 Electronic delays, two Line 6 POD Pros, two AMS S-DMX digital delay/samplers, two Korg SDD3000 delays, two Line 6 DM4 distortion modellers (custom made for him) and even two Korg A3 multi-FX.
Frankly, he needs help… but we sympathise. “I get really excited whenever I ﬁnd a new effect, or a new sound, even a new chord,” Edge says. “Discovery is the fun part.”
Did you know?
If you want a more authentic Edge-like sound, use modulated delay - ie, one with subtle chorus on the delay signal.