DOB: January 26, 1955
From: Pasadena, California
Bands: Mammoth, Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen is one of the most technically flawless guitarists to ever handle a pick. His band had a large impact on the world of rock music but arguably the biggest impact Eddie made was on future guitarists who would imitate his innovative style. To many people Eddie Van Halen is the face of 80s rock. He forever changed the way electric guitarists will play their instruments and is now recognized as living, breathing rock royalty.
In 1977 Van Halen got their big break when Gene Simmons of KISS saw a show at a club in Hollywood. He financed the creation of their first demo tape. Shortly after, Warner Bros. signed the band to a record deal. By 1978 they released their first self-titled debut album which met with immediate success, soaring as high as #19 on Billboard’s chart of pop albums in 1978. The first single released by the band, a cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me”, reached the top 40 on Billboard’s chart.
The band released four more albums in the four years that followed: Van Halen 2 (1979), Woman and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), and Diver Down (1982). While these albums were successful by the standards of most bands they failed to match their original album in both sales and impact. Then in 1984 the band released the album MCMLXXXIV, usually shorthanded as 1984, which proved to be arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.
Eddie’s approach to the guitar involves several distinctive components. His innovative use of two-hand tapping (in “Eruption”), natural and artificial harmonics, and tremolo picking combining with his rhythmic sensibility and melodic approach is what makes him a guitar legend. Eddie’s tapping technique, in which he uses both hands on the guitar neck, is his most well known attribute as a guitarist.
A crucial part of Van Halen’s sound is his use of the Floyd Rose fulcrum vibrato for electric guitars. Developed in the mid-20th century, early versions of this device allowed the guitarist to impart a vibrato to a chord or single string via movement of the bar with the picking hand.
Another unique aspect of Eddie’s playing is the tone his licks generate. Van Halen’s unique sound is generated by using a stock 100-watt Marshall amp, a Variac, and a “Frankenstrat” guitar. The “Frankenstrat” is Eddie’s name for the guitar that he constructed from a Charvel factory body and neck, a vintage Gibson P.A.F. humbucker pickup sealed in surfboard wax (to reduce microphone feedback), a pre-CBS Fender tremolo bridge, and a single volume control. The “Frankenstrat” has become one of the most famous guitars in rock history.
Learn to shred like Eddie Van Halen.