Born in Amsterdam 1955, Eddie Van Halen (EVH) would go on to become one of the most innovative and respected guitarists of his generation.
In 1978 Eddie along with his namesake band Van Halen burst onto the global music scene with their debt self-titled album, effectively changing the sound of rock music and the role of the guitar overnight. Eddie brought a fresh style of technical virtuosity the blended the boogie swing of blues rock and the technical melodicism of classical music.
In this article I will look at Eddie’s innovations both in guitar techniques and in guitar technology.
The guitar technique most synonymous with EVH is tapping.
While he didn’t invent the technique (there are examples of Brian May and Steve Hackett doing tapping in the mid-70s) he definitely popularized it and took it to the extreme.
With this technique Eddie would use his left-hand fingers to tap notes on the fret board, allowing for some large gaps between notes that are impossible to reach with a regular guitar technique. Most famously his solo guitar piece ‘Eruption’ features an iconic tapping arpeggio passage that influenced a generation of guitarists that followed.
He also took the tapping technique to the classical guitar on the piece ‘Spanish Fly’, which incorporates tapping harmonics, a variation of the tapping technique where he would lightly tap the octave of the note, he was fretting which in turn creates a ‘chime’ like tone.
This solo piece Cathedral features a combination of a delay effect and Eddie’s quick use of the guitar volume knob, this creates a swell with each note giving the guitar a cathedral organ-like texture.
Besides his innovations in guitar techniques, EVH was very prolific with his innovations in guitar technology. Starting with his famous ‘Frankenstrat’, a home-made guitar that was Eddie’s attempt at combining the playability of the Fender Stratocaster and the thick tones of a Gibson guitar, which he did by putting in Gibson PAF pickups into his Stratocaster. The guitar was updated throughout the years and became a popular style of guitar that was copied throughout the 80s and beyond.
The D-Tuna is a unique device that attaches to the guitar bridge of the low E string, this allows a quick change from standard tuning to drop D tuning without having to touch the tuning pegs.
The Drop D-Tuna
Along with the company Peavey in 1992, EVH signature amplifier the 5150 changed the sound of hard rock and heavy metal music. With its huge sound, low end and high gain it became the standard amplifier for the genre and is still used regularly on popular records to this day almost 30 years later.
Peavey 5150 Amp
(Guitar teacher WKMT)