Music Geekery 2: On The Edge


The Edge Perspective, Watercolours 2017, by me

Ok… I’ve been holding back long enough – time to go U2 fangirl supernova! With a music geekery

If you read my first Music Geekery post on The Tea Party, you might remember the joy I had in watching YouTube videos on the science of rock based on their concert with a symphony orchestra and on Jeff Martin teaching us about guitars and how to tune them to sound like different instruments… Oh yah, and the dangerous yet super fun side bar of YouTube that can eat your day up (just one more video; oh, just another one – oh look it’s 5 hours later…).

Well, the YouTube side bar strikes again with another slew of guitar geekery, this time in the form of U2’s the Edge. It turns out he is a bit of a music geek himself. Of course, if you’ve seen this band live a few times (and note these sorts of things), this comes as no surprise; Bono frequently refers to The Edge as “the scientist of the band” because of his geekery and experimentation. Watching these videos, it is quickly apparent how much The Edge loves the science of guitars, experimenting with soundscapes and just playing.

In this first series of three clips (what looks like rough footage from an episode of The Story of Guitar), The Edge takes us through his guitar stories. It starts with buying his first ‘real’ guitar, the 1976 Gibson Explorer. Apparently, he was going to get a Les Paul, but saw the Gibson, picked it up, and that was that. (“The wand chooses the wizard, Harry.”)

I love how his face just lights up when he talks about how a guitar is really ‘just a glorified piece of wood… until you take that signal from these pickups and put it through an amplifier, and then… then you are into sound processing.”

More then twenty years into his career (at the time of the clip) and the man still gets excited about what he does. They all have that passion and it comes out into their music and in moments like this one when they talk about it. Its a huge part of why I love them so much, this passion.  That and because they are just soooo damn good!  I mean The Edge, just wow…  These are my ultimate Rock Gods.

The videos also talk about how The Edge finds his sounds (both experimenting with echo and other effects to uncover the soundscape and having the sound already in his head and using the equipment to get it out) and he demonstrates by playing snippets of U2 songs.

It is fascinating to hear the difference between those glorious first notes of Where The Streets Have No Name with and without the echo… Oh those notes….. Seriously, happiness is hearing those first seconds of this song, knowing the bliss that comes immediately after… Especially when live and 20,000 people start bouncing all at once! (This is going to be epic in less than 20 days when 55,000 people start bouncing… eeee, I can not wait!) I always break into the hugest smile with those first notes…

Interesting to note that The Edge also has a self-tuning guitar (ok, so maybe this is more common than I am aware of, but I find it super cool that this has come up for two out of two of my music geekery Rock Gods – and because the guitar itself is so super geeky cool!).

The Edge’s own music geek-ness really shines in this next video. It illustrates how The Edge worked with Fender to build a custom guitar based on one of his favourites. And as with the above videos, you can just see The Edge’s eyes sparkle when he talks about this stuff, especially at the end when he says when he picks up a guitar, he just knows there are songs in there, he just needs to find them.

Anyone interested in how guitars are actually made might find this video fascinating to watch. It doesn’t go into step by step procedures of guitar making, but they are in the factory for much of the 5 minutes and you can see stacks of blocks of raw wood, the machines sculpting the body and necks out of that wood, the drilling of the holes, sanding, stringing etc. It is really beautiful and something that never really crossed my mind – how a guitar is made.

The video talks about how different wood types, placement of pickups and so on change the sound of the guitar. That’s pretty cool! I mean, I get how the pickups and stuff change the sound (though I am not entirely sure what a pickup is…), but the type of wood? That’s cool! Makes me want to hear some different woods… Hey YouTube… Yep, here’s a video of four different tonewoods (I just learned they are called tonewoods… I love the Internet, so good for the lifelong learner!) used in the same body shape and playing the same song. Well, I’m not sure I can hear a difference, maybe a little… wish I had better ears! But still, this music geekery stuff is sooo cool!

Ok, maybe Google can tell me what pickups are… Yep… musical knowledge is increasing 😀 I am such a geek!

Well, that wasn’t too supernova fangirl… just wait though, five U2 concerts in the summer coming up…

Categories: Music GeekeryTags: , , , , , ,

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