The Edge's Delay Settings > Wire (142 bpm)

Edge plays something like this (he may play this with a slide since the notes seem to have a 'harmonic' feel to them):
 .. --12--------12--------12-/-15-------15--17--||-12---- ..  
 .. -------12--------12-----------15------------||------- ..    (standard tuning)
 .. --------------------------------------------||------- ..
 .. --------------------------------------------||------- ..
 .. --------------------------------------------||------- ..
 .. --------------------------------------------||------- ..
                                         [             ]
            main attack, from above:     [(G) A     E  ]
            delayed notes, shown below:  [(D)   G    A ]  <--- sample is from this section
                                         [             ]
                                 .. /-15-------15--17--||-12--- .. 
 (this is the echo from the      .. -----15------------||------ .. 
  above riff, approx as relative .. -------------------||------ ..
  to the above tab) :            .. -------------------||------ ..
                                 .. -------------------||------ ..
                                 .. -------------------||------ ..
Here's the sample clip I studied for this song (it's slowed down 8x maintaining the same pitch and matches the waveform in Figure 1)

Here's an mp3 of me playing the main riff from the song,
with no delay and, later, with delay.
(I turned the delay on a few seconds into the recording).

I used a Fender Telecaster (middle pickup)
into a $100 Line 6 Toneport on my PC with the setup on the right.

I had to use a Korg SDD-3000 for the delay because
the Toneport delay options don't (yet) include a digital
delay with modulation. I also used some felt over the high
B+E strings near the bridge to mute the vibrations slightly.

Figure 1: Waveform of the sample clip

  • There are 3 delays. This is the most likely signal path:
       Guitar -> 317ms (1-2 repeats)  ==  3/16 @ 142 bpm
                    with modulation, about 75% of the inital signal -> amp
             + 5ms mic bleed (see main page)  + 8ms room echo (see below)

Detailed notes:

Figure 2: Detail of one note about the short echoes (mic bleed + room echo)

The main delay is 317ms (1-2 repeats). This is 3/16 @ 142 bpm. Plus there are 2 smaller echoes visible: ~8ms and ~5ms (approx 2 repeats). Looking at the wave form of the A note (top half of Fig 2), you see the initial attack at about 3.041 secs. Then there looks like about 5-6 short delays, increasing in strength. This is the result of having 2 mics (maybe for 2 amps) in the room about 5 feet apart and recording in an echo-y room/corridor. Note the guitars for this album were mostly recorded at Slane Castle whose rooms are much more echo-y than a typical studio environment. This creates an effect of having a 5ms delay (from the mic bleeds - see the main page for more info) first, then the 8ms room echo which also has a 5ms echo added on to it from mic bleeds on the echo. So what you get is:
 initial attack  @0ms:  'X' /  X's 5ms delay #1 @5ms   /  X's 8ms delay #1 @8ms: 'Y'   /
 (X's 5ms delay #2 @10ms)   /  Y's 5ms delay #1 @13ms  / (X's 8ms delay #2 @16ms: 'Z') /
 (Y's 5ms delay #2 @18ms)   /  Z's 5ms delay #1 @21ms  / (Z's 5ms delay #2 @26ms)

The times aren't exact, but they're roughly correct. The reason it looks like the delays increase in strength is because the delays of the delays hit about the same time as the later repeats of other delays. So for instance you get 2 delays hitting around 8-10ms and 16-18ms (labeled as 'Delay #1' and 'Delay #2' in Figure 2) making them sound louder.

The in the bottom half of Figure 2, there's the 317ms repeat of the above which also repeats all of the 5 and 8ms short delays. The 317ms delay waveform is more muddled, probably due to a modulation effect on it (probably his Korg SDD-3000's modulation).

The 317ms delay is slightly quieter than the initial note which you can tell from the grey horizontal bars in Figure 2; the delay is probably about 75% of the original signal.

Side note: The Edge apparently put felt over his Telecaster's bridge while recording this to prevent the notes from ringing. So he got a very fast sounding, staccato riff, instead of what would have been an abyss-style reverb effect if the notes had rung out.

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Your Comments

Nice work for "wire" but bad news is that it's all wrong. Think "triplets" and let the delay do the work. I heard this from the "horses mouth" so tp speak when I was working in a guitar shop in Dun Laoghaire (south county Dublin where "the boys" live. I'll send you an audio file later if you want. Cheers Eugene

-- Eugene McLoughlin, Aug 20, 2006
Nice work on the delay times and speed of the song. It's definitely 142BPM (from the unforgettable fire album) and the delay is definitely 3/16 (dotted eight). Eugene points out an important distinction
- there is a definite 'triplet' feel (triplet with a center rest) to the riff. After spending a few hours dissecting the riff here's what I've come up with:
-What makes The Edge a great guitar player is not his scale work or any flying finger solo's. It's his uncanny ability to execute a rhythm in sync with his delay notes and not loose sync with the song's natural meter. IMHO, this man has exceptional brain to hand timing and communication abilities. His fingers don't move much but he know's exactly when he needs to strike that string between the delayed notes. This riff is a case in point. I believe that, in order to pull this one off, you almost have to ignore the delay and concentrate on the 4/4 timing of the song. I don't know how he does it (the triplet 'feel', in which he is actually in sync with the 16th note division, but playing three note riffs, shows up more than a few times in his stuff). My brain gets caught up in the 1-2- 3 and starts to trip over the 1-e-&-a divisions of the songs' actual meter.
-The intro riff is basically a 2 measure riff in which he is playing the following notes E,B,G,D and A as follows. The first line is the beat and sub-divisions and the second line is the note he plays. This is what he actually picks. Shown without the delayed notes.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
E B   E B   E B   E B   G D G A
I figure he's playing: the E on the high e string, 12th fret (just like you indicate) the B on the b string, 12th fret (just like you indicate) the G on the high e string, 15th fret (slides up to it) the D on the b string, 15th fret the A on the high e string, 17th fret (just like you show) When the delay kicks in, you get the triplet feel on the 16th note divisions. Delay notes are lower case.
1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a
E   B e   b E   B e   b E   B e   b E   B e   b G   D g G d A g
Have fun trying this out and let me know how close to reality it is. Eugene, I'd love to get that sound clip that you mentioned.

-- Waldy Duester, Nov 2, 2006
Good job with this site man. but the wire riff your playing is a bit off. When he plays the notes on the twelfth fret, he hits the notes fast enough so you dont hear the delay. Then when he moves to the 15h and 17th fret for the little walk up part, then he uses the echo as notes. But the first part of the main riff(twelfth fret), you cant hear the echo.

-- Alex, Nov 3, 2007
The real secret to the sound is his use of his original Electro- Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man...the original ones sound quite a bit different from the re-issue. I have an original one (purchased at a pawn shop for $35 no less!) and it is the chorus/vibrato effect on the repeats and not on the fundamental note that gives the rich sound. This effect is most clearly heard on the intro to "The Unforgettable Fire"...listen how the chorus/vibrato kicks in on the repeats. This is Edge's first echo unit and is what inspired him to create his signature sound...

-- Allen Garber, Nov 11, 2007
agree with the triplet,4/4 time with triplet dry guitar playing, th deelay does the rest.

-- mick kearns, May 1, 2012
Very, very good, man. You are the best. I m Brazil.

-- marcos de jesus, Jan 13, 2015
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All text and pictures copyright © 2004 Tim Darling.