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Let Vinnie Explain: Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar Sound

Editor’s Note: Eddie Van Halen changed the way guitar is played. With EVH’s recent passing, we thought Vinnie DeMasi’s loving appreciation, from earlier this year, of Eddie’s unique contributions would be a fitting tribute. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


 

When Van Halen exploded onto the rock scene in the late 70s, the ground under the musical landscape shifted. Eddie Van Halen’s incendiary guitar playing sounded like nothing else.

Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, his sound continued to evolve. He played the searing solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (and the legend is, that his speaker caught on fire). The band’s 1984 hit, “Jump” included a synthesizer – a riff Eddie had come up with years earlier, based on his piano training. Singer David Lee Roth reportedly didn’t like it, thinking their fans would be turned off. Considering its massive success (#1 on the Billboard chart, a Grammy nomination), chalk it up as, Eddie: 1, Diamond Dave: 0.

Frankenstrat
Eddie’s “Frankenstrat”

That kind of experimentation has paid off over the years in Eddie’s sound. The story is, during the filming of their videos, Eddie didn’t like camera close-ups of his hands as he played the solo because he didn’t want anyone ripping off his technique.

Here’s the next best thing. Professional musician Vinnie DeMasi breaks down some of the magic behind Eddie Van Halen’s unique guitar sound.

Photo of Eddie Van Halen: Wikimedia Commons

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4 comments on “Let Vinnie Explain: Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar Sound

  1. Cliff Cherry

    Very interesting analysis and a lot of details I had never heard before – thanks!

  2. Steven Valvano

    Thanks for the summary Vinnie, well done! Explained with deep knowledge (and great technique). Eddie V.H’s legacy will be with us a long time…even Dimond Dave knew what he had when they met. He’ll always be on the top ten player list. .

  3. Do you share your remarkable knowledge and talent formally outside of CultureSonar? College course? Independent seminars/classes? These sessions are consistently fascinating.

  4. Jerome chibber

    Not that I don’t love and appreciate Van Halens sound and Eddy’s guitar playing.
    But I remember listening and seeing Steve Hackett do that guitar style in the early 70’s..guaranteed it was in a different style,but that finger picking and sweeping guitar style was definitely in play

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