Guitar Tricks Blog
Posted: July 29, 2020

Eddie Van Halen Guitar Style

eddie van halen guitar

Eddie Van Halen’s guitar style was all about using a strat-style guitar with humbucking pickups and turning that all the way up for blazing-fast riffs, licks and more. Eddie Van Halen songs are chock full of really great material for guitar learners to study, including hammer ons, pull offs, as well as more advanced techniques like using a boogie-style rhythm, two-hand tapping, hybrid picking and palm-muting triads. There is so much to dig through when learning how to play like Van Halen, so don’t forget to check out the full free lesson at the end of this, as well as the entire tutorial on the guitarist as part of Guitartricks Full Access.

We’re going to talk about what makes Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tone so special. These are three key components below.

Eddie Van Halen Guitar Gear

It’s very important for those who are trying to imitate EVH’s tone, to use a humbucker style pickup on a stratocaster style guitar. This is the basis of Van Halen’s tone. Another great piece of advice is to use a Floyd Rose tremolo system and a locking nut. 

A Marshall Plexi amp was also used but not as distorted as some of the other hard rock bands of that time. Of course, we understand that not everyone has this specific combination of gear, but if you do, you’re all set. Perhaps the most important part of getting the tone is to, again, focus on a strat-style guitar with a humbucking pickup, but this is not required as you can still learn and play the techniques with any six-stringed electric guitar. 

Eddie Van Halen Guitar Solos and Lead Playing

The guitarist’s style was most tied to his ability to tap across the fretboard and move seamlessly between positions. Tapping is when a guitar player taps on the fretboard with their picking hand while also holding notes with their fretting hand. 

Van Halen deployed a number of tapping techniques like two-handed tapping, tapping across the diatonic scale, and tap sliding. Check out this great lesson on tapping with Dave Celentano right here. 

Eddie Van Halen Boogie Rhythm 

Van Halen used a boogie rhythm, especially a fast one. A great example of this type of rhythm can be found on the song “Ice Cream Man” from the guitar player’s first album. When we say fast, we mean it. The song is actually played at 176 beats per minute! 

The boogie rhythm is a rhythm style that is usually played in rock and blues and essentially features strumming one or two chords but alternating between the two and adding a bit of a delay before the second strum. An easy boogie pattern to practice is the one below, which is taken from our Country Level 1 course

If you play the notes straight on, it will sound alright, but there’s no boogie in there. What you must do is delay the second beat and go for the “one-and-uh-two-and-uh” type of rhythm here. 

The rhythms EVH uses are not anything new however he does put a bit of flavor and flair to the typical blues rhythm. Sometimes he’ll pause for a beat to really create a sense of complexity and dissonance within the blues, or will add or remove strums. This is all part of understanding the rhythm of a song, and playing within the timing of a beat. 

I hope that these quick tips can help you understand the talents of Eddie Van Halen and appreciate not just his lead playing, but his rhythm playing as well. For a free crash course on EVH check out that lesson right here.   

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