Player Profile: U2's The Edge

The Edge during the War album period of the mid '80s

Here at PAL, we like to give our audience the best possible resources to get the most out of their gear. Whether it’s through our multiple product reviews, several how-to guides or our in depth articles on some of the basics of modern music, we believe that the best way to rock out is to know as much as possible. Heck – we even like to throw in some monthly giveaways for good measure, such as our current Aerial7 headphone raffle. With that said, we also believe that few things take you farther than a bit of good old inspiration and what better way to inspire all of you future rock stars out there than by taking a closer look at life, tools and technique of some of the biggest musicians around. Today we will be taking a closer look at the secrets behind of one of the most influential and unique guitarists of all time – The Edge. While I’m sure most of you out there aren’t about to go and start your own U2 cover band anytime soon, studying the ways in which a successful musician such as The Edge approaches his craft can give invaluable insight into how to go about creating your own signature style. Alright, let’s get started!


Life On The Edge

Born David Howell Evens on August 8, 1961, The Edge is best known for being the guitarists, backing vocalist and keyboardist of the very well-known Irish rock band U2. As a founding member of the band, The Edge – along with singer and front man Bono, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. – has recorded 12 studio albums with U2 including the band’s signature album, The Joshua Tree in 1987. He has also released a solo record on his own accord in the form of the soundtrack for the 1986 British film Captive.

David was born at the Barking Maternity Hospital in London, England, to Garvin and Gwenda Evens. By the time he had reached one year of age, the family relocated to Ireland where David would eventually attend St Andrew’s National School. David showed an interest in music at a very young age and began receiving both guitar and piano lessons along with his brother Dik Evans whom he would often preform with. While attending Mount Temple Comprehensive School, they both answered an advertisement posted by Larry Mullen, Jr. who was seeking musicians to form a band and both made the cut.

Soon after, the group settled on the name "Feedback" because it was one of the few technical terms they knew.  Most of the group's initial material consisted of cover songs, which the band admitted was not their forte. Some of the earliest influences on the band were emerging punk rock acts such as The Jam, The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols. The popularity of punk rock convinced the group that musical proficiency was not a prerequisite to being successful.

In March 1977, the band changed their name to The Hype. Dik Evans, who was older and by this time at college, was becoming the odd man out. The rest of the band was leaning towards the idea of a four-piece ensemble and he was "phased out" in March 1978. During a farewell concert in the Presbyterian Church Hall in Howth, which featured The Hype playing covers, Dik ceremonially walked offstage. The remaining four band members completed the concert playing original material as "U2". Steve Averill, a punk rock musician (with The Radiators) and family friend of Clayton's, had suggested six potential names from which the band chose "U2" for its ambiguity and open-ended interpretations, and because it was the name that they disliked the least.

On Saint Patrick's Day in 1978, U2 won a talent show in Limerick. The prize consisted of £500 and studio time to record a demo which would be heard by CBS Ireland, a record label. This win was an important milestone and affirmation for the fledgling band. U2 recorded their first demo tape at Keystone Studios in Dublin in May 1978.

"We couldn't believe it. I was completely shocked. We weren't of an age to go out partying as such but I don't think anyone slept that night.... Really, it was just a great affirmation to win that competition, even though I've no idea how good we were or what the competition was really like. But to win at that point was incredibly important for morale and everyone's belief in the whole project."

 —The Edge, on winning the CBS competition

The Edge along with U2 would go on to release their first album, Boy, in October of 1980. The album received generally positive review and set the stage for more things to come and eventually marking U2 as one of the most successful bands in the history of rock and roll.



The Gear


  • Epiphone 1962 Sunburst Casino and a 1964 one with a Bigsby
  • Epiphone 1966 Sunburst Texan Acoustic/Electric
  • Epiphone Sheraton
  • Fender 1994 Arctic White Telecaster (Japan version)
  • Fender 2009 Sunburst American Vintage '52 Telecaster
  • Fender Jaguar
  • Fender Stratocasters
  • Fernandes 2003 Native Sustain Guitar
  • Fernandes 2009 Retro Rocket Sustain Guitar
  • Gibson 1965 Pelham Blue SG Les Paul Standard
  • Gibson 1966 Cherry SG Les Paul Standard
  • Gibson 1973 Cream Les Paul Custom
  • Gibson 1976 Explorer
  • Gibson 2005 and 2006 "Music Rising" Les Pauls
  • Gibson 2005 Sunburst J-45 Acoustic Electric
  • Gibson 2006 Blonde Pete Townshend model SJ-200 Acoustic/Electric
  • Gibson 2008 Blonde SJ-200 Acoustic/Electric
  • Gibson 2008 Sunburst SJ-200 Acoustic/Electric
  • Gibson Byrdland
  • Gibson ES-175
  • Gibson ES-330
  • Gibson ES-335TD (sunburst)
  • Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard (cream)
  • Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe
  • Gretsch 1959 Sunburst 6101 Country Club
  • Gretsch 1963 and 1968 Chet Atkins Walnut Country Gentleman guitars.
  • Gretsch 2009 Black G6136 Falcon
  • Gretsch White Falcon
  • Line 6 2005 Variax 700 Modelling Guitar 
  • Line 6 Variax Acoustic
  • Martin 1972 and 2009 model Natural D12-28 Acoustic/Electric
  • MOOG 2009 MG-001 Tobacco Sunburst Sustain Guitar
  • Rickenbacker 1966 Fireglo 330-12
  • Rickenbacker 1967 Maple Rickenbacker 330-12 
  • Rickenbacker 1968 Black 325
  • Several '60s and '70s model Fender Stratocasters
  • Several '60s and '70s model Fender Telecasters
  • Vintage '50s Fender Telecaster
  • Washburn/Taylor Acoustics
  • Yamaha CP70 (Keyboard)/Piano



  • 1956 Fender Harvard
  • 1964 VOX AC30TB Grey Panel
  • 1966 4 X 12" Closed Back Cabinet w/Celestion Vintage Speakers
  • 1970's VOX AC30TB Grey Panel
  • 1972 VOX AC30TB Grey Panel
  • 1974 VOX AC30TB Red Panel
  • 2008 Marshall 50Watt 1987X Amp Head
  • Fender Blues Jr
  • Fender Deluxe Tweed
  • Roland JC120
  • Vox AC30



  • "Rab Tronix" (6) Way Selector Box
  • AMS SDMX Digit Delay
  • AMS SDMX Digital Delay
  • Boss CS-3 Compressor Sustain peda
  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
  • BOSS FBM-1 
  • Boss FET FA-1 Amplifier
  • Boss GE-7 EQ pedal
  • Boss Noise Suppressor NS-2 pedal
  • Boss OD-2
  • Boss PW-2 Power Driver
  • Boss SD-1
  • Boss Tuner pedal
  • CAE Boost/Overdrive
  • Custom Audio Amp Selector and Patch Point
  • Custom Audio Elec AMS Interface
  • Custom Audio Elec Dual Stereo Mixer
  • Custom Audio Elec Remote Wah
  • Death By Audio FUZZ GUN
  • Death By Audio HARMONIC TRANSFORMER Dist Pedal
  • Death By Audio Soundwave Breakdown
  • Digitech Synth Wah Pedal
  • Digitech WH1 Whammy Pedal
  • Drive Breaker Distortion pedal
  • Dunlop Crybaby Rack Wah Controller
  • Durham Electronics SexDrive pedal
  • Electro Harmonix Holier Grail
  • Electrix Filter Factory
  • Electro Harmonix Big Muff
  • Electro Harmonix Memory Man
  • Electro Harmonix POG pedal
  • Eventide H3000 Harmonizer
  • Furman Rack Power Pro
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer TS
  • Keeley modded Boss BD-2
  • Korg A3 Rack Multi Effects Unit 
  • Korg SDD 3000 Digital Delay
  • Lexicon PCM80 and PCM70 Digital Effects Processors
  • Line 6 DM-4 Pro Custom made rack device and DM-4 pedal
  • Line 6 Pod Pro
  • Lovetone Doppelganger phaser/vibrato
  • Lovetone Meatball envelope filter
  • MOOG Moogerfooger MF-102 and 105 
  • MXR Dyna Comp pedal 
  • Peterson V-SAM Tuner
  • Rocktron Bradshaw DVC Pedal VCA
  • Shure U4RS Dual Receivers
  • Shure UR1-J5 Beltpacks 
  • Skrydstrup Bufferooster pedal
  • Skrydstrup MR9 Loop System and Skyrdstrup System Interface
  • Skrydstrup SC1, SC1 Extensions and Extension Plus Controller 
  • TC Electronics 2290 Digital Delay 



  • D'Addario EXL 140 Light Top/Heavy Bottom .10-.52 gauge
  • D'Addario EXL 150 Light Elec 12 String .10-.46 gauge
  • D'Addario EXL110 XL Reg Lite .10-.46 gauge
  • D'Addario EXL115 XL Blues Jazz .11-.49 gauge
  • D'Addario EXL116 XL Medium Top Heavy .11-.52 gauge
  • D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Wound EJ15 Extra Light .10-.47 gauge
  • D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Wound EJ26 Custom Light .11-.52 gauge
  • D'andrea medium Nylon Picks
  • Datum Machining/Dallas Schoo Custom Machined Finger Brass Slides
  • Dunlop Brass Full Slides
  • Ebow
  • Ernie Ball 2233 12 String Electric .009-.046 gaug
  • Levy Leather Guitar Straps
  • Martin M500 Extra Light Acoustic Bronze 12 String .10-.47 gauge
  • Martin MSP 4000 Bronze .10-.47 gauge
  • Martin MSP 4050 Bronze Custom Light .11-.52 gauge



The Technique

As a guitar player, The Edge has a sound typified by a low-key playing style, a chiming, shimmering sound (thanks in part to the sound of VOX AC-30s) that he achieves with extensive use of delay effects and reverb. The feedback delay is often set to a dotted eighth note (3/16 of a measure), and the feedback gain is adjusted until a note played repeats two or three times.

The Edge's signature '64 Vox AC30 amp

On 1987's The Joshua Tree, The Edge often contributes just a few simple lead lines given depth and richness by an ever-present delay. For example, the introduction to "Where the Streets Have No Name" is simply a repeated six-note arpeggio, broadened by a modulated delay effect. The Edge has said that he views musical notes as "expensive", in that he prefers to play as few notes as possible. He said in 1982 of his style:

I like a nice ringing sound on guitar, and most of my chords I find two strings and make them ring the same note, so it's almost like a 12-string sound. So for E I might play a B, E, E and B and make it ring. It works very well with the Gibson Explorer. It's funny because the bass end of the Explorer was so awful that I used to stay away from the low strings, and a lot of the chords I played were very trebly, on the first four, or even three strings. I discovered that through using this one area of the fretboard I was developing a very stylized way of doing something that someone else would play in a normal way.

Many different influences have shaped The Edge's guitar technique. His first guitar was an old acoustic guitar that his mother bought him at a local flea market for only a few pounds; he was nine at the time. He and his brother Dik Evans both experimented with this instrument. He said in 1982 of this early experimentation, "I suppose the first link in the chain was a visit to the local jumble sale where I purchased a guitar for a pound. That was my first instrument. It was an acoustic guitar and me and my elder brother Dik both played it, plonking away, all very rudimentary stuff, open chords and all that." The Edge has stated that many of his guitar parts are based around guitar effects. This is especially true from the Achtung Baby era onwards, although much of the band's 1980s material made heavy use of echos.



In His Own Words

  • “Yeah. I started using them [SDD-3000s] shortly after first working with Edge on The Unforgettable Fire. Basically, I stole his sound. It wasn’t a complicated rig: just a guitar he liked through a Korg SDD-3000 digital delay into a Vox. Three components, mono - that’s it. The great thing about the Korgs is its three-position level switch, which lets you hit the amp with about 10 extra dB. It’s more overdriven than if you just plugged the guitar straight into the amp, even when it’s on bypass. But a lot of the guitar sounds on Achtung Baby were recorded through a Korg A3 effects processor.” - Daniel Lanois, ‘Guitar Player’, 1993 
  • “I’ve found so many guitar parts from using the echo - it’s limitless. The biggest difference between me and other players is that I don’t use effects to color my parts. I create guitar parts using effects. They’re a crucial element of what I do so I don’t consider them a crutch... They’re a part of the art.” - Edge, ‘Total Guitar’, 2005
  • “I remember feeling, well, can I write? Am I a writer? Or am I just a guitarist?... When you go past a managed forest, you see a mass of treetrunks. Then at a cetain point, you look again and you realize they’re all in perfect rows. Clarity, clarity of vision. What you’ve been looking at from the wrong angle and not seeing at all. You labor, you sweat, to see what you couldn’t have seen from that other perspective. I just remember scrambling to put it down before that moment passes and fades. And picking up the guitar and that’s what I came out with [Sunday Bloody Sunday].” - Edge, reflecting on moments of self-questioning pre-War album, from the film It May Get Loud, 2008
  • GW: Onstage you use a short delay and a long delay together. What’s the story behind that combination? 
    The Edge: They work together to become a part of one delay sound. When I use two delays, I like to mess with the pitch modulation of the delay signal. It increases the depth of the sound and gives it a tremendous 3-D sensation. But straight slapback echo with no modulation isn’t very inspiring; the shape of the sound doesn’t change”
     - ‘Guitar World’, September, 2005
  • “Everybody’s going to remember your songs, it’s just that nobody’s gonna be able to play them” - Bob Dylan (in reference to Edge’s delay-ridden riffs) 
  • “... I became the timekeeper with the band for a while, and Larry would play to me, because everything had to sync with my echo- you can hear that in “Pride,” for example. Eventually we made a decision to leave out the echo on War, and the guitar became much more dry and forceful. That sound reappeared, in a sense, on Unforgettable Fire, because of the Hawaiian guitar [a 1939 Epiphone Electar lap steel, as heard on ‘Surrender’], but in any case, the guitar treatments almost always came out of things that I was doing.” - The Edge, ‘Musician’ magazine, 1986.

  • "Notes actually do mean something. They have power. I think of notes as being expensive. You don't just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that's what I use. I suppose I'm a minimalist instinctively. I don't like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of "With or Without You". My instinct was to go with something very simple. Everyone else said, "Nah, you can't do that." I won the argument and I still think it's sort of brave, because the end of "With or Without You" could have been so much bigger, so much more of a climax, but there's this power to it which I think is even more potent because it's held back... ultimately I'm interested in music. I'm a musician. I'm not a gunslinger. That's the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do." - The Edge, 1991;  Flanagan (1996), p. 43


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