Play guitar like The Edge

The Edge by xrayspx, licensed under (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the coolest and simplest guitar tricks you can do on an electric guitar features a tempo synced dotted eighth note delay and a little bit of overdrive. The Edge from U2 has made this sound his own over many years. He often gets maligned for ‘hiding behind his effects’ or praised with god like worship for his ‘genius’. Whichever camp you fall into, you can’t deny the sounds and textures he creates from his guitar are often pretty stunning.

Every now and then, I like to slap on a dotted 8th note delay and conjure up some of The Edge’s ideas in my own music as it sounds great and works well going into or out of a big 7 string or detuned riff. To play guitar like The Edge you will need a delay pedal of some sort. (More on what we do with it later).

The key to using this one minute guitar trick in your own arrangements and songs is to make the rest of the song very unlike U2, otherwise you may get called out for being a rip-off, but that may be what you are after. Anyway, used sparingly this sounds awesome. Don’t let the complicated sounding phrase tempo synced dotted eighth note delay put you off. All will be explained.

For these recordings, I used the digital delay built into my RP1000 as it allows me to program the delay using a tap tempo, and then turn the dial to dotted eighth notes to trigger this sound. The hardest part of playing a riff like this is getting the delay perfectly synced with the tempo of the riff. If the tempo isn’t quite right the effect doesn’t work. You’ll know it works when you hear it.

Play guitar like The Edge

If you don’t have a digital delay, you can use a delay plugin in a DAW (such as Reaper which is probably the easiest way) or even an analogue delay (which is trickier). Have a listen below to how the riff sounds below.


Below is riff solo you can hear it in isolation.


This is how the riff sounds without the delay. It sounds pretty comical without it! That’s the point of this ‘One Minute Guitar Trick’ – to show you how a simple delay pedal with the correct settings can create sounds that are impossible to play without it.


If you are not using a tap tempo the delay settings you need to fit this riff should be set to:

  • Time – 344ms.
  • Level  70-80%
  • Repeats – short 2-3

Those are by far the main settings. If your delay has other effects such as modulation or a second delay turn them off for now, and make sure the basic sound is down before you add them back.

Have a listen to this below. This is what the delay from the riff sounds like when I just hit a short sharp stab on an A minor chord (5th position). Are your settings close?


This speed of delay will only work for this riff or a riff at this same tempo (131 bpm). If you want to work out the correct delay speed for one of your own ideas, check out this delay time calculator here. Just enter the tempo for the song, and in the drop down menu, select, 1/8. – make sure you select the eighth note with the dot at the end as a straight eighth note won’t work.

Here is the tab:

The Edge style delay blog

Tips for playing the riff

  • Try it without the delay first if you struggle
  • Palm mute throughout but only lightly – you are aiming to take out the higher frequencies and tighten the sound up.
  • Add a bit of overdrive, not too much. Go with what sounds good with your ears.
  • Make sure you ‘lock in’ with the delay
  • Pick using all downstrokes if it is easier. Just keep the attack even and reasonably hard throughout.

Many guitarists want to know how play guitar like The Edge. Here’s your very brief introduction into doing so. There is plenty more that The Edge plays on guitar, but the dotted eighth note delay is the core of his sound.

Have fun with this riff and use these ideas in your own playing if you enjoy how it sounds. There is so much more you can do. Be inspired by The Edge and make your guitar playing unique just like he has done with his.

If you like this One Minute Guitar Trick, there will be more coming soon and if you want to keep updated and get a free eBook with similar ideas, you can subscribe here.

More Resources


simple chord trick
July 8, 2014 Reply

[…] One simple chord trick you can do today to improve your guitar playing and add some sophistication to your chords is the use of what is commonly called `chord anchors`. This is where you keep some of your fingers on the same fret and same string throughout a chord progression and in this is what we will be going over in this weeks One Minute Guitar Trick. […]

Slammer Sturgeon
March 27, 2015 Reply

I doubt you’ll find Joe Pass in “One Minute Tricks”. What’s the appeal of The Edge? He intentionally leaves out notes on chords. He plays through a zillion effects passing through a truck outside the stadium. Otherwise he’s your basic hootenanny guitar thrasher.

March 27, 2015 Reply

Each to their own – with The Edge, some think he`s a fool, but some worship him. Me, I can take him or leave him, although his dotted eighth note delay sound is cool, hence why it`s featured here. Apart from that though, he and U2 as a band don`t do much for me.

Stephen Goldstein
June 8, 2017 Reply

Guitar snobbery at it’s finest. What is it with jazz players anyways?

Dale Arthur
January 22, 2022 Reply

” its ” not ” it’s ”

it’s = it is

February 14, 2016 Reply

Agreed with Slammer however, there is definite skill in honing in all of those pedals in my opinion, can’t deny credit where credit is due. I am not a huge U2 fan but do respect the Edge’s ability to mess with his sound, even if he can’t compare Joe Pass!

February 16, 2016 Reply

Absolutely. If anyone has ever sat there with a bunch of effects while struggling to make it sound musical, they`ll know there is a skill needed there.

The truth is, to play with lots of effects, especially those heavy on delay takes a bit of skill in setting up. Also, you have to be careful not to play anything too complex otherwise it can clash with the delay an sound shite. That`s why both those guys are opposite ends of the spectrum.

simple chord trick
March 12, 2021 Reply

[…] One simple chord trick you can do today to improve your guitar playing and add some sophistication to your chords is the use of what is commonly called ‘chord anchors’. This is where you keep some of your fingers on the same fret and same string throughout a chord progression and in this is what we will be going over in this weeks One Minute Guitar Trick. […]

September 4, 2021 Reply

In the end, his playing is all about entertainment and what sounds good and what sounds cool. If the only people out there deciding what cool sounding music should consist of were guitarists, I’m sure the Billboards wouldve looked alot different over the years. I used to be a huge Korn fan back in my High School days. Now, not so much, and as a guitarist, I came to realize that the two guitarists in Korn were a couple guys who got paid and became famous for guitar playing that pretty much lacked any skill whatsoever. I’m not sure they even approached their guitar playing in the way most of us guitarists do. Seems to me, they just made alot of noises, but, when its mixed up with the bass and the drums, it sounded pretty cool to me back then, and I was far from the only one who thought so. The Edge may not be the most skilled guitarist in the world, but he was creative and helped to make what millions of people think is some pretty awesome music. I won’t knock a man for finding success at something just because somebody may be better than him at whatever that something happens to be, even if one of the better people happened to be me. I never understood what people get out of hating on others. Ultimately it ends up coming back to plain old jealousy that could be averted by practicing a little humility instead. I’m in the live and let live camp!

December 29, 2023 Reply

The sound that the edge produces is always something that you can feel, see and imagine with your eyes closed. It’s that shimmer which reaches you and makes you listen to the song carefully for years. and to play such melodies, his sound is the most distinct one I’ve ever heard. you will only realize the melody when you play the songs. It’s utter creativity.

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