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Storm Stenvold >> Eddie Van Halen style >>
Lesson Subject: Eddie Van Halen Style
What you learn: Part I
Storm: Storm Stenvold

Lesson Sample

Storm: In this lesson we're starting a series on the incomparable Eddie Van Halen. Here are a couple jam tracks for this first lesson.

Van Halen Lesson Jam Track

E Vamp Jam Track

Storm: Eddie came to prominence with his self-monikered group, Van Halen in the late 70's. His first album floored guitarists with an incredible combination of technique, tone and riffs and is regarded as a hard rock classic. His unaccompanied solo 'Eruption' sent every rock guitarist back to the 'woodshed' to practice their picking, legato and a new, must-know technique - 'two-handed tapping'. Van Halen had platinum albums through the '80's and 90's as Eddie continued to expand the sound of hard rock with classic songs and his innovative technique. Eddie had a few different guitars. This famous mongrel guitar was home-built, given the moniker 'Frankenstein'. Today he uses a Peavey Wolfgang.

randy_wylde: The paint job on his guitar originally started when he put masking tape all over one of his guitars, then he got them painted like that.

Storm: Eddie later endorsed Kramer guitars. This is another famous axe, his main road guitar through most of the 1980's. A few thing's would be common to all Eddie's guitars. First is a bridge, humbucking pickup for a bright, overdriven sound. And no tone, just a volume knob.

MikeCC: I assume the tone was on 10? Automatically?

Storm: Yep. Also important is to have a vibrato bridge, preferable one with a locking nut because by the end of the series we will put the whammy bar through some serious paces. Eddie set his flush with the body, no upward travel. Also the humbuckers are screwed directly to the wood on his early guitars. I don't expect anyone to go that length.

Aaron: Any suggestions on a good Van Halen amp setting?

randy_wylde: Bass 50% mid 50% and high 100%

Storm: Van Halen used a 67 or 68 Marshall for much of his career, now using Peavey 5150 heads. Go for lots of presence. Let's get to some rhythm guitar parts. They will be in the key of E. Try these to the E vamp Jam Track.

Van Halen Rhythm 1



Van Halen Rhythm 1

Storm: We'll use the jam track at the beginning of the lesson later. It has more changes for soloing over. A - E - A - C#, that first track is by the way.

MikeCC: What scale is that?

Storm: E Mixolydian scale. It has all the notes as E Major but with a D natural note instead of D#. Rocking' but still up and happy. Very common to blues. Also called the dominant scale. Like E7. We add the b3rd on the E string 3rd fret for a blues note. It just straight overdrive. Eddie would use a few effects, too. His best effects are his hands though. Notice a little vibrato on that double-stop in the middle of the phrase. That kind of thing. Some effects he uses are flanger, echo, delay, and chorus. Sometimes subtle, sometimes extreme. We will get into Eddie's effect use and his 'neat noises.' Here's a riff variation.



Van Halen Rhythm 2

Van Halen Rhythm 2 Audio

MikeCC: He uses volume swells with fast delay!!! that rocks!

Storm: Yep. The 'Cathedral' sounds. Starting strengthening your left hand for that one. And another riff variation. Before I send it, I'll mention and show the two note, or double-stop, riffs. These are a great way to imply major or minor chord with distortion. Eddie uses them allot.

Major 3rd


minor 3rd


Storm: That last part of the riff could return to E but makes a nice walkup to the A chord in the opening jam track. Here another riff.



Van Halen Rhythm 3

Van Halen Rhythm 3 Audio

Storm: This riff uses more two note chord voicings. The traditional power chord, in open position E and at the seventh position.

E5 Chord - 1 finger


E5 Chord - 2 finger


Storm: The 2 finger voicing is also moved down to 5th position to work for a D chord. D5 it is called. Also, another way to imply a major chord with two notes. This A/C#, or an A chord with a C# in the bass.

Aaron: Are we going to go over soloing techniques later?

Storm: A lot in the next lessons. I will have time for a couple licks in this lesson. We'll probably use this same jam track next time too.



Van Halen Rhythm 4

Van Halen Rhythm 4 Audio

Storm: And a riff for the A change and then a tapping lick, Eddie Van Halen's famous technique.



Storm: This one used two favorite voicings of Ed's.

A Major Chord


D Major Chord over A bass note


Storm: After strumming the chord, you tap the string 12 frets above. This is called a tap harmonic. If the notes aren't at the same fret you must outline the chord shape 12 frets higher.

MikeCC: Like in Spanish Fly!?

Storm: Exactly. I have a video at the end.



Storm: And here is a favorite tapping figure of Eddie's. The same shape then moving the left hand down chromatically.

Van Halen Tapping Riffs Audio

Storm: Alright, we will do some more solos over this track next time. Lots of tapping, left hand legato, speed picking, all that. And we will do some fun sound effect stuff that will annoy the neighbors.

Van Halen Tapping Riffs

Storm: Tap at the 17th fret. Eddie uses his index finger, hiding the pick in his middle finger most of the time.

Pick - Slight of Hand


Storm: Let's have fun, first and foremost. But practice gets you better, and it is always fun to see improvement.

Storm: I'll hope to have you all back here next time. Got to go. Thanks and keep picking!

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