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EDDIE VAN HALEN - Real Guitar Hero - Guide to The World's Best Guitarists

Updated on December 6, 2011

A Complete Guide To How To Sound Like Eddie Van Halen

Fingers flyin', glam-hair whipping around, Van Halen was the prototype for the '80's rock band 2 years before the decade even started. A guitar hero emerged in Eddie Van Halen before the games console was even invented. Something like 80 million albums sold, more Top 100 hits than any other rock band in history, and more drama from their revolving door of vocalists than a Shakespeare play. And all along, there was always Eddie Van Halen, tapping and shredding away. As guitar heroes go, he's big.

Eddie Van Halen

(c) Anirudh Koul at
(c) Anirudh Koul at

Who He Stole From

Eddie Van Halen was actually born in the Netherlands, and moved to the U.S. when he was 7. Both him and his brother, Alex, were forced to take piano lessons by their musical parents, but with the onset of the '60s and the British Invasion Eddie decided he wanted to play drums. He went out and got a paper route and a drum kit, but Alex was the one that became a virtuoso on the drums. Disgusted, Eddie resolved to switch to guitar, learning every one of Eric Clapton's solos from the Cream era, as well as other guitarists like Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and Brian May from Queen.

It's been said that there's nothing new left to be invented in music, it's all been done before.  In Eddie's case, a lot of people think he invented the tapping technique, but this isn't quite true. He didn't invent it, but then Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile, either.  Who did?  Harvey Mandel maybe, or Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top…it doesn’t really matter.  What both Eddie (and Henry) did was make it possible for the common man.  Eddie's popularization and prominent use of rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs to the point that the picking hand is no longer used for picking brought the technique out of the realm of a few obscure guitar enthusiasts and into everyone's living room.

Eddie Van Halen's Eruption Guitar Solo

Sounding Like Him

Trying to play like Eddie is a little bit like trying to fly like Superman: you know it's impossible, but still, it's fun to try. Besides the tapping technique described above, he also took harmonics to a new level, using both natural and artificial harmonics (that can only be employed on an electric guitar). And that's not even saying anything about the Floyd Rose tremolo he basically pioneered, being the first one to use the system invented by Rose that would allow the whole bridge to float up and down while keeping the strings in tune with a locking nut at the top.

Van Halen Frankenstrat Replica Fender

(c) Incase Designs at
(c) Incase Designs at

"Frankenstrat," the first Van Halen guitar, was an invention of necessity. Bought for 80 bucks, he promptly excavated the three pickups and replaced them with only a single 1961 Gibson ES-335 model pickup. Next was a paint job: using masking tape, he painted the guitar black with white stripes, later changing it to red with black and white stripes. Various necks and guitar parts appeared and fell off of this model, because of the abuse Van Halen's guitar would sustain during the course of a show.

For amplifiers, the classic Van Halen sound was obtained using a Marshall '66 or '67 Super Lead 100-watt "Plexi" head. He had the tubes changed out to EL34's Sylvania tubes, and only switched to a Soldano SLO 1000 when the Marshall stopped working. The Peavey 5150 and 5150 II models were really only used starting in the late 90's to the present.


These days, Eddie has signature models of various guitar, amplifier, cables, picks, and even supposedly soon to be introduced: a line of footwear. Initially, Van Halen brokered an endorsement deal with Kramer guitars in 1983, with the "Baretta" hardware modeled after his Frankenstrat. Then in 1991, he began a new collaboration with Ernie Ball "Music Man" guitars, in the end resulting in a new EVH Signature guitar that featured 2 Custom DiMarzio humbucker pickups, 22 frets, a Floyd Rose tremolo, and a maple neck and fretboard. Supposedly upset because they couldn't meet demand for his guitar, Ed moved on, this time to Peavey.

Eddie Van Halen - Shredding guitars interview

The Wolfgang series of Signature guitars—named after Eddie's son, Wolfgang—first appeared in 1995. Sporting a couple of Humbucking pickups, a Birdseye Maple fretboard, Floyd Rose double locking tremolo, and Ed's pride and joy, the D-tuner, Ed would stick with Peavey until 2003. That's when the relationship between Van Halen and Peavey's management soured, either because he showed up drunk and disorderly at a guitar show Peavey had organized to showcase the new guitars, or because he started working with Charvel to produce an EVH model as well.

Eddie Van Halen's EVH Wolfgang Guitar

Regardless of how it came about, the Charvel EVH Art Series of guitars is certainly beautiful. According to the website at, Eddie paints, plays, and signs every single one of these guitars himself, which are based on the original color schemes he had done with Frankenstrat. With a single pickup, a Floyd Rose tremolo, and special custom wound pickup, these guitars are meant more to be shown than played, with price tags to prove it.

Most recently, Eddie Van Halen has begun working with Fender to produce the aforementioned line of guitars, amps, cables, picks and so on. The Fender guitar series continues the Wolfgang name, while the amplifier series is known as the 5150 III. The Fender EVH guitar comes in three colors, white, black, and sunburst, with all the fixings: two custom-design EVH humbucking pickups, Floyd Rose tremolo with D-tuner, and birdseye maple fretboard.

Now in Feb 09 he has announced he has created a new indestructible guitar with the help of a medical tool company. The Wolfgang, named after Van Halen's son and his band mate, features custom-made stainless steel frets and metal accessories. He tried to trash it on the last tour without success so believes it is unbreakable.

Is this real guitar hero one of the best guitarists in the world? I won't argue, but make sure you check out the others before you totally decide.

If you're interested in Music Talent, check out Got Music for the latest up and coming YouTube music stars!

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