11 Hacks To Play Like Eddie Van Halen – Part 2
Hey everyone, welcome to part 2 of 11 Hacks To Play Like Eddie Van Halen! In this video I will go through several more techniques to get you up to speed on how to play like Eddie.
6. Stretch Licks
If you have tried to play some of the Van Halen material, especially the stuff up to 1984, you will notice a lot of these wide stretch licks that Eddie would incorporate to go “…beyond the blues box.” as he would say. Eddie’s ability to throw these licks in was something he had to work at, but “…eventually (I) got pretty used to these stretches after a while.” The best way to tackle these wide stretches if you are standing is to raise up your guitar. That doesn’t always “look cool” though, so another trick is to tilt the guitar so it is vertical when standing. I have seen Eddie do this live, as well as Zakk Wylde and George Lynch when going for the devilishly wide stretches. If you are sitting and playing, grab a footrest and put your guitar in the middle of your body (rather than on your pick hand lap) as this will enable a better angle for your fret hand to reach these notes. As always, warm up before attempting these kinds of licks as they are stressful to the tendons in the hands and arms.
7. Symmetrical Patterns
This is a technique that involves taking a pattern on one string and moving it subsequently through some or all the rest of the strings. Its harmonic value is to build tension and Eddie would play off of this, building the tension and then ending on a note that belonged to the chord or key of the moment. I think he called this his “falling down the stairs and landing on your feet” technique. So yes, take any pattern (keeping the pattern of notes the same) and just move it across the neck and voila, you have created a symmetrical pattern!
8. Blues Scales
Eddie was very fond of Eric Clapton in his youth and as such, models much of his playing around the blues scale. He took the patterns he was learning off the old Cream records and basically “turned them up to 45” to quote Yngwie Malmsteen. These scales are ubiquitious in all kinds of music and as such should be learned in 5 positions on the guitar in all 12 keys from each root.
9. Open String Riffs
The rapid pull offs to open strings at the top of the guitar solo “Eruption” from Van Halen I served notice that a new sheriff with dragster fuel in his fingers was in town. This technique is an easy way to create very fast flurries without too much effort. Muting of course is a very important aspect of this technique. and so you should try to minimize string ring by concentrating on keeping any strings dampened with your pick hand palm when not being used. Eddie loves the Am and Bm pentatonic/blues scales for this as the open strings are sympathetic to those scales.
10. Whammy Dips & Dives
When Eddie arrived on the scene in the mid 70s, guitars going out of tune after tremolo use ala Hendrix were still the norm, but just like Eddie figured out ways around deficits in specific styles/techniques/sounds (such as his faux flamenco technique we will discuss in a minute, variac with his amp, humbucker in a Strat. style guitar, etc.), he devised creative ways to keep his stock Fender tremolo in tune. A lot of his rhythm guitar style was actually developed because of the notoriously finicky tuning on Fender tremolos saying, “The G and B would go out of tune so after a big dive I would just play ‘5’ chords (power chords) when I went back to my rhythm so I would have time to get the other strings back into tune.” Of course, this was before Floyd Rose came up with his locking nut design with an able assist from Eddie (mini tuners on the bridge are Eddie’s idea). Eddie’s use of the whammy modulates from rhythmic device (Everybody Wants Some) to dive bombs (Eruption) to articulation device (dips in the solo to I’m The One). Used properly like EVH, the whammy can be used for musique concrete, feel and articulation, or for pure (and fun) effect.
11. Unorthodox Techniques
Finally, Eddie’s use of unorthodox techniques runs the gamut from funk slap bass style guitar playing on “Mean Street,” to the faux flamenco tremolos on “Little Guitars (Intro),” to the ‘overtone technique’ as I call it found on “Good Enough” and “Eruption: Live Without A Net.” Just like Eddie redefined the sound of guitar by being the first to plug a humbucking pickup into a Fender style guitar, he was a trailblazer when it came to coming up with techniques to get sounds he heard in his head that had never been tried before. One anecdote Eddie recalled was playing the recording of “Little Guitars (Intro)” to Steve Lukather of Toto for the first time. Lukather was flabbergasted and asked Eddie when he had learned how to play that style and Eddie responded that he had not learned. Eddie then picked up the guitar to demonstrate to the awed Lukather how said piece was actually performed leaving Lukather speechless.
To sum this up, Eddie was not afraid to take risks in his playing nor in getting his sound, nor should you be. Try to push the envelope, come up with your own techniques and sound to be different than Eddie or anyone else, that is what Eddie would say and I agree. First learn the rock guitar rules via EVH, then break them like EVH. Good luck and have fun with these videos!
Tabulature & video below:
6. Stretch Licks