U2's The Edge and his mysterious guitar sounds

The Edge goes Exploring
The Edge goes Exploring

The secrets to The Edge's unconventional but instantly recognizable guitar sounds have been guarded as closely as nuclear codes.

Chiming and chimerical, noises this unorthodox could only come from a guitarist who knew that rules had no place in the creation of exciting and groundbreaking rock 'n' roll, and his choice of guitars reflected this mindset.

In these two fascinating videos, The Edge takes us into his world of sound and vision. In this first clip, he recalls a trip he made to New York city as a young Irish musician and falling in love with a Gibson Explorer in a guitar shop.

He was nervous about introducing the radically shaped instrument to his U2 bandmates back home, but as he says, "Everyone just loved the sound of it. It became like a signature look, because no one else [in our circle] was playing Explorers at that point, and it became one of the things we were famous for."

The Edge also recalls almost losing his prized instrument during a melee that occured at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

One step beyond

In this second clip, The Edge demonstrates the wah-wah riff to Mysterious Ways on a Rickenbacker. Asked about how he stumbles upon guitar sounds and works with his effects, he says, "Most of the time it's experimentation, where you're just working with something and you figure out what it can do.

"Most effects units will be able to do something very well, even if they're designed to do hundreds of things. Oftentimes I find it's like one really great thing - so unearthing that is part of the challenge."

With longtime guitar tech Dallas Schoo clicking pedals,The Edge then breaks out The Infinite Guitar, a cross between an EBow and a Sustainiac, that allows for infinite sustain (hence the name). Only two models exist in the world - The Edge has one and producer Daniel Lanois the other - and the instrument produces the violin-like, otherworldly sounds heard on cuts such as With You Or With You.

Halfway into the video, something funny happens and Edge channels Nigel Tufnel, showing off his impressive (and no doubt priceless) array of vintage guitars. When the camera trains on an early Les Paul, The Edge jokes, "You're not allowed to look at that one. Sorry."

Even members of U2 can have Spinal Tap episodes.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.