Achtung Baby: How to Play U2’s ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’ for classical guitar

Posted on 25. Apr, 2014 by in Pop Music, Premium Tabs

U2 - Achtung Baby

About the exact same time Nirvana was revolutionizing alternative/rock music — U2 was revolutionizing alternative/pop music with Achtung Baby. 1991 was an amazing year in music history.

I’m 37, and I can clearly remember when Achtung Baby was released. Synth effects, drum-loops, and distorted vocals had previously been the domain of Trent Reznor. However, U2 had just utilized it with their unabashed pop music, and nobody had ever heard anything like it before.

In addition: Bono introduced the world to “The Fly” sunglasses, Adam Clayton was dating supermodel Naomi Campbell, and The Edge switched his guitar to a white Les Paul (and his hat to a beanie).

U2 had asserted themselves as the eternal arbiters of cool. Released 23 years ago, Achtung Baby is still ahead of its time.

Beauty, and The Edge

“It’s a great torch song, with melody and emotion, but I don’t think we ever captured it again, and we have never really been able to play the song live.” – Adam Clayton

Apparently, what ended up on Achtung Baby is a glorified “demo version” of Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses. U2 eventually released their preferred version entitled: the Temple Bar Remix.

I prefer the original. The Edge’s guitar sound and playing style are just amazing. For what is initially a tender, unrequited love song — The Edge blows it up with (Neil Young level) reverb and distortion.

The best of example of this contrast is Jonny Greenwood’s guitar playing on Radiohead’s Creep. It’s actually a really boring song until Greenwood’s guitar comes in like revs from a Harley Davidson. The contrast totally makes the song.

(Note: Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses is my premium material. You might also like my version of Human League’s Human, and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. Please comment to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions.)

How to Play Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses for classical guitar

To employ contrast in my version of Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, I use space, silence, and reverb — between the abrupt verse riffs

I first got into this type of sparse guitar playing from listening to Gustavo Santaolalla. I’ve since then used it on my EP, most notably on Open Road and Prayer for the Living.

The tab for Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses is 4 pages long. My order of play is the exact same as the actual song.

It looks like this: Intro, Verse, Pre Chorus — Verse, Pre-chorus, Chorus — Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus — Bridge, Chorus. You could literally sing along with the vocal melody — straight through the entire song. 

For my money, the best bridge section ever written is in Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses. And no surprise, it’s the best part of this arrangement and tab too. The bridge starts with an A-minor position at 3:03 of the video.

This song is perfect for intermediate level guitar players (about one year experience). Although there’s a lot to the tab, most of it is just repeated, and there aren’t many difficult chord positions. Wild Horses is in

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4 Responses to “Achtung Baby: How to Play U2’s ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’ for classical guitar”

  1. Tyler

    26. Apr, 2014

    Really beautiful. Excellent choice. Can’t wait to learn this one.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mark C

    27. Apr, 2014

    That is a fabolus song well done

    anything Edge does is Tops on my list

    Reply to this comment
    • Evan Handyside

      27. Apr, 2014

      Me too Mark. Understated and totally underrated as a guitarist. I get that he’s in It Might get Loud a lauded for his creativity on guitar visa-vi effects, but The Edge’s actual riffs are unbelievable!

      Reply to this comment

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