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||600||300||450||Dotted 8th||2015 Dec 07||100%|
|All I Want Is You||FS||SSS||B + M||Eb||Eb||97||619||309||464||Dotted 8th||2015 May 20||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||2016 Jan 04||95%|
|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||2015 Jul 13||99%|
|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||2015 Aug 27||99%|
|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.||138||435||217||326||Quarter||2016 Jan 20||99%|
|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 a heavy delay effect its important that the guitar has matching single coil pickups in the bridge and middle 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
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.
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 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.
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