How To Play U2 Songs On Guitar

I have found that most information on the Internet about U2 songs is inaccurate or at least not the version of the song that I like the best. I own some
U2 songbooks and have discovered that how The Edge plays a song in concert is often quite different from how he originally wrote the sheet music.
Even Rocksmith has lots of errors. So I trust no source and check every note by ear (although U2GuitarTutorials is excellent and very reliable).
For my own reference I have put a significant amount of time into creating tablature notation for the U2 songs I like to play. The Edge continually makes
changes to songs and I prefer some versions over others.

About the table below
Each title is a link to the tablature sheet for the song in the form of a Microsoft Excel workbook. Each tab is version specific. The table is grouped by
tuning (Standard or Flat), then by pickup type. Red indicates information that I have not personally verified by experimentation.
The guitar codes are: LP = Gibson Les Paul, Gr = Gretch, GE = Gibson Explorer, EC = Epiphone Casino, FS = Fender Stratocaster, FT = Fender Telecaster.

Title Guitar Pickups Enabled Album Live BPM 4tr 8th .8th delay   Last Tab rev. % done
Desire LP HH Neck Eb Eb 102 588 294 441 Dotted 8th   2015 Jun 14 50%
New Year’s Day LP HH Bridge Eb Eb 136 441 221 331 Quarter   2015 Dec 13 100%
City of Blinding Light (w piano) Gr HH Bridge Eb Eb 139 432 216 324 Dotted 8th   2015 Jun 25 99%
Sunday Bloody Sunday FT S S Bridge Eb Eb 100.5 600 300 450 Dotted 8th   2018 Mar 07 100%
All I Want Is You FS SSS B + M Eb Eb 97 619 309 464 Dotted 8th   2018 Jan 11 100%
Bad FS SSS B + M Eb Eb 102 588 294 441 4tr + .8th   2015 Jun 17 99%
The Fly FS SSS N, Bridge Eb Eb 109 550 275 413 Dotted 8th   2018 Oct 28 99%
One Tree Hill (Album) Gr HH Neck Std Eb 61.5 976 488 732 Reg 8th   2015 Sep 16 50%
One Tree Hill (Live version) Gr HH Neck Std Eb 62 968 484 726 Reg 8th   2015 Sep 19 100%
One LP HH N, B Std Eb 92 652 326 489 Reg 8th +   2015 Dec 29 100%
In A Little While GE HH Neck Std Eb 92 652 326 489 none   2016 Jan 04 99%
Walk On (album) LP HH Bridge Std Eb 100 600 300 450 Dotted 8th      
Walk On (Live) LP HH Bridge Std Eb 103 583 291 437 Dotted 8th   2016 Jan 13 100%
Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses LP HH Bridge Std Eb 132.5 453 226 340 Quarter   2016 Jan 18 40%
With or Without You FS SSiS Bridge Std Eb 111 541 270 405 Dotted 8th   2015 Oct 31 100%
The Sweetest Thing (Album & Live) FS SSS Neck Std Eb 71 845 423 634 Reg 8th   2016 Feb 21 100%
I Still Haven’t Found (Capo on 2) FS SSS B + M Std Eb 101.5 591 296 443 Dotted 8th   2015 Jul 03 100%
Pride (In the Name of Love) FS SSS B + M Std Eb 105 571 286 429 Dotted 8th   2015 Jul 16 100%
Where the Streets Have No Name FS SSS B + M Std Eb 125.5 478 239 359 Dotted 8th   2018 Nov 01 100%
Original of the Species EC HH Neck Std Std 87 690 345 517 Dotted 8th   2015 Aug 09 100%
Sometimes You Can't Make It EC HH Neck Std Std 98 612 306 459 Dotted 8th   2016 Feb 01 99%
No Line On The Horizon EC HH Bridge, N Std Std 100 600 300 450 Dotted 8th  

2016 Feb 03

Angel of Harlem LP HH B + N Std Std 102.5 585 293 439 Triplet  

2016 Feb 05

Until the End of the World (Capo @3) LP HH Bridge Std Std 104 577 288 433 Dotted 8th   2015 May 29 100%
Song for Someone GE HH Neck Std Std 105 571 286 429 Dotted 8th   2016 Jan 24 100%
Elevation SG HH N, B Std Std 114 526 263 395 none   2016 Jan 04 100%
Magnificent Gr HH Bridge Std Std 115 522 261 391 Dotted 8th+   2015 Nov 14 99%
When Love Comes To Town LP HH Bridge Std Std 115.7 519 259 389 Dotted 8th  

2016 Feb 08

Miracle Drug (slide) GE HH M, B Std Std 125 480 240 360 Quarter   2015 Jul 19 100%
In God's Country LP HH Bridge Std Std 125.6 478 239 358 4tr + .8th   2016 Feb 11 99%
Beautiful Day GE HH N, B Std Std 136 441 221 331 Quarter   2015 Nov 27 100%
Out of Control GE HH Bridge Std Std 141 426 213 319 Quarter   2018 Oct 27 100%
Vertigo FT S S Bridge Std Std 70 857 429 643 Reg 8th   2015 Oct 16 100%
Stuck In A Moment FS SSS Neck Std Std 83 723 361 542 Dotted 8th   2017 Jan 16 100%
I'll Go Crazy  (w piano) FT S S Middle Std Std 103 583 291 437 Dotted 8th   2015 Oct 21 100%
Ultraviolet FS SSS Bridge Std Std 108 556 278 417 Dotted 8th   2015 Aug 31 100%
Heartland FS SSS B + M Std n.a. 108.3 554 277 416 Dotted 8th   2015 Nov 15 99%
God Part II FT S S Bridge Std Std 112 536 268 402 ?   2016 Feb 14 50%
Every Breaking Wave FS SSS Neck Std Std 115 522 261 391 Dotted 8th   2016 Jan 28 100%
Red Hill Mining Town FS SSS B + M Std n.a. 67.25 446 217 326 Quarter   2018 Jan 12 100%
Gloria FT S S   Std Std 72.25           2018 May 23 75%
The Unforgettable Fire FT S S N, B FADDGD   136.6 439 220 329 Quarter  

2016 Feb 11


Each songbook above includes song-specific instructions.  Below are some more general instructions on getting the right sound:

THE GUITAR: To get a similar sound the most important guitar features to match are the pickup type (single coil or humbucker), the location of the

enabled pickup(s) (neck, middle, bridge), and whether its a solid body or hollow body guitar.  Matching these will get you a close approximation of the

sound.  For songs using pickups in both middle and bridge positions its important that the guitar has matching single coil pickups in both positions.


'With Or Without You' and the backing track for 'No Line On The Horizon' both have introductions that require Infinite Sustain, an effect that is not in

the signal chain but is on the guitar. The Edge uses a custom Stratocaster with a Fernandez Infinite Sustainer installed where a neck pickup is usually

found.  An Ebow can be used as a substitute.


THE TUNING: As shown above, only a few songs were originally recorded in Eb (all strings tuned a half step down). Many songs recorded in standard tuning

are performed live in Eb.  I believe this is to make it easier for Bono to sing. Tuning to Eb moves all the notes up one fret and the nut becomes the same as

fret 11 in standard.  Only one song requires unique tuning and that song is The Unforgettable Fire (FADDGD).  Here are some brief tips on tuning your guitar.


THE STRINGS: Guitar strings are rated by gauge (thickness in inches) and come in sets described by two numbers; the smaller number is the high
(bottom) E string and the larger number is the low (top) E string.  The edge is said to use .011-.052 gauge D'Addario EXL116 XL Medium Top/Heavy
Bottom on his Stratocaster, and a variety of strings on other guitars. A heavy bottom (high) E string is important to the sound especially in Eb tuning.
This article based on information from The Edge's guitar tech Dallas Schoo, lists many of the strings used.  I do not know how reliable that article is.

THE PICK: To match the Edge's sound you need to use the side edge, not the point, of a Herdim blue 1.1 mm nylon pick because of the unique sound
made when its texture scrapes across a string. These picks are made in West Germany and can be ordered online. On other “cleaner” songs I'm pretty
sure he uses the smooth point.  This really is a great pick.  I've tired a number of materials, thicknesses, and sizes and this would be my favorite even
if I was not going for an Edgy sound.

THE TONE: The tone knobs are high pass filters. I typically keep the tone controls on the guitar at about 85-90%.  I typically keep the tone control
on all my pedals at zero or “noon” and just control the tone on the guitar.

For the majority of songs The Edge uses a
1964 Vox AC30 Top Boost grey panel amplifier
in a 2x12 cabinet with Celestion Alnico 12" speakers.

He leaves the settings constant throughout a concert.

It appears in photos from stage that he plugs into the Low Gain, Brilliant input (the lower right input in the photo below).

Photo of The Edge's AC30s on stage

Actual Vox AC30 control panel.

Possible settings: (unconfirmed) Speed n/a, Vib n/a, VibVol 7:00(off), Normal 12:30, Brilliant 10:30, Treble 11:00, Bass 1:00, Cut 8:00
Turning the Cut knob clockwise will decrease high frequencies. Turning it counter-clockwise will increase high frequencies.


Delay: The most important effect in a U2 song is delay. Every song uses delay to some degree.  Some songs (like ‘Bad’ or ‘I still’) are almost
unrecognizable without delay.  A delay with exact millisecond control is best. Your delay unit should include modulation. I've elaborated on the
important subject of delay here.

Reverb: Another effect in many of the less overdriven U2 songs is reverb. Reverb adds a more subtle type of echo that simulates the sound
bouncing off the walls of a room. I believe a plate reverb is used but any reverb type will do.

Compression: This boosts the overall amplitude while "squashing" the highest amplitude.  This pulls the sound together to a more consistent centered
volume.  Because the highs are transformed from peaks to flat plateaus this also creates sustain.  I recommend you begin any signal chain with this
effect no matter what kind of music you play.  Experimentation has taught me that the attack setting is very important to getting a nice
sounding repeat from the delay unit.  Minimum attack gives it a more "crisp" sound and more attack will "muddy" it.  He originally used a MXR Dyna Comp.

Preamp: This is the effect that really differentiates various U2 songs.  Remember that amp settings are usually constant so the preamp is where the
changes happen.  Some preamps that The Edge has used are the Korg SDD-3000 (delay with built-in preamp), the Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer (shown below),
Boss FET FA-1, and more.

Listed above are the effects used by most if not all U2 songs.  There are many other effects that are specific to just a few songs like Wah, Fuzz (Elevation),
Rotary (One), Shimmer and Chorus (With or Without), pitch shifting, etc.

TIP: For a lot of U2 songs you want the effects setup right on the edge of "breakup", meaning that the difference between playing softly and playing
a little harder translates to the difference between a cleaner tone and a distorted overdriven tone.  You can find the breakup line at almost any drive
setting by using the volume knob on the guitar or the output level of the first pedal in the effects chain (Boss CS-3 in my case).  For example I like
the sound of the drive setting on the TS9 at about 11:00 which is pretty dirty, but I can bring that down towards the breakup line by reducing the
level at the CS-3 or the volume at the guitar.

Order: Typically distortion and modulation effects come before the amp and time-based effects like delay, reverb, and chorus come after.  The amplifier
the Edge uses does not have an effects loop so he put all the effects before the amp.

Below is my current effects chain in order.  None of the settings in this photo are correct.  The Morningstar SDD Pre is built by James Toh in Singapore.
It sounds beautiful. I have never owned a Korg SDD 3000 so I cannot compare the two.

I keep the Liverpool at these settings (Mid 1:00, Char 11:30, Drive 10:00, Low 11:30, High 1:00).  I generally keep the SDD preamp at (Input 3:00,
output 1:30 or 3:00). I think the drive on the TS9 sounds best at 11:00 for a dirty sound but I also like it at 9:00 and 7:00 too, and I sometimes drop
the level a bit, The real tone tuning happens on the CS3 and GE-7.  There is so much to say about the nuances of the level, compression (sustain),
and attack settings that I won't even try to get into it here.  Play with them a lot.  I never wanted them above 12:00 and commonly turn them down
quite a lot, then use the  level on the GE-7 as boost which has a huge effect on the preamp. I add a NS-2 to the chain for super high gain songs.
I plan to buy a FA-1 and OD-2 at some point.

The Edge constantly changes his songs.  Likewise you may find a tone that is different from the original but arguably better.  Learn a song by copying,
then I suggest getting comfortable with differences and changes that suit you and your gear. Make it your own and I think you will be happier than trying
for a perfect match.

If you have the money and don't want to mess around just get yourself a Fractal Audio Axe FX II with a MIDI footcontroller.  That's all you will need
to play any U2 song close enough.

Please send me feedback that can help make this information more accurate or more complete.

 go to page 2