How to Play One by U2 on Guitar
by Rodrigo Sanchez, Aug 27, 2021 . 4 min read
This song quickly became a favorite among fans of the Irish band and has been used to promote many human rights and social justice causes.
Interestingly, “One” was written when the band was in turmoil and on the verge of breaking up. It all happened while recording at Hansa Studios in Berlin, when the members of U2 were fighting over the band’s sound and direction. They evidently found a way to make it work and created a pop anthem with this song. Without further ado, here is how to play One by U2 on guitar.
The chords used in the intro and verse of “One” are Am, D, Fmaj7 and G. These are all relatively simple chords that most beginners will probably already know. For the chorus we’ve got C, Am, Fmaj7, C. All of these chords take up four beats on a 4/4 time signature. In other words, each chord lasts one bar or four beats.
The only chord that may be new to some is the Fmaj7. To play this chord, place your index finger on the second string first fret. Then place your middle finger on the third string second fret and your ring finger on the fourth string third fret. You’re going to strum it from the fourth string down. Another way to think of the Fmaj7 chord is to finger a C chord, and just add the pinky on the fourth string third fret.
Now try playing the sequence of verse chorus, with just one downstroke per beat, and four beats per chord before changing to the following chord.
Once you can play the four downstrokes per beat pattern, you can move on to a more involved strum. This pattern is D D UD UD D. It is not a complicated pattern per se, but it will probably be hard if you’re just starting out. In case you cannot play it just yet, please know that the entire song can be performed with just downstrokes as mentioned above.
However, if you’ve been playing for a few weeks or want a rhythm guitar challenge, then you can try the strum pattern mentioned in this section. But let’s take it step by step. Make sure you can play it with just one chord first before attempting the entire progression.
In case you want to play just like in the recording, keep reading. Once you can play the up-down pattern mentioned above, it’s time to add a few embellishments. The first one will be the pinky at the top of the progression on that C chord. You’re going to add it for the first and second upbeats of the pattern and remove it for all the downbeats. In other words, just place it for those two upstrokes and remove it. This effectively turns the C chord into a C9 for those upbeats.
Next, we’re going to embellish the G chord with a C. But here, we’re adding the embellishment at the downbeat of beats 3 and 4. This turns it into a Csus4 for those two dowbeats.
Then we do the same for the Am, adding two C notes for those downbeats.
For the Fmaj7 we’ll do the same but adding a D, to make it a sixth chord.
The bridge of “One” is quite simple. It features the progression C, Am, C, Am, C, G, G, Fmaj7, Fmaj7. This leads back to the top of the C chord on top of the chorus. This bridge does not feature any embellishments. You can just play the aforementioned down-up pattern throughout.
Learning how to play One by U2 on guitar will help you get better as a guitarist. This song is relatively simple, and features embellishments that you can use for other songs. As always, take the time to practice this song until you can get it just right. Feel free to leave us your comments with any other song you’d like to learn.