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What you can learn from the Guitar Style of Eddie Van Halen:
Van Halen exploded onto the scene in the early 70’s with their first full length record “Van Halen” and forever changed the way guitar players think about lead guitar, harmonics, and blues rhythm guitar. His driving blues shuffles, intense harmonics and vibrato, and his revolutionary use of two hand tapping introduced guitarists around the world to an entirely new approach to traditional blues guitar while modernizing it for the modern rock sound.
1. Complete control of his vibrato and bending
Vibrato is the expressive side of guitar playing that emulates the human voice. Van Halen’s very deliberate use of vibrato with both his fretting hand and whammy bar gave him an aggressive playing style that until that time, no other player had come close to. His vibrato is not only totally under his control in terms of how wide or thin he was using vibrato, but he also used vibrato rhythmically, often matching his bends with the groove of the song in various ways in order to help make the band swing and help his guitar sing.
2. Super tight blues rhythm
Van Halen re-invented many classic blues rhythm cliches in many of their famous songs. “I’m The One” and “Hot For Teacher” are two classic examples of driving up-tempo blues shuffles that are turbo charged for the high energy rock playing. Notice that the feel and sense of timing are always at the fore front of the band and it allows the listener to get lost in the groove.
3. Mastery of Dynamics
Another definable element of his guitar playing was his fuse of dynamics in his lead guitar phrasing. He was very intentional in how hard or how softly a string was hit, if a note was muted or played wide open. Being able to quickly change the dynamic attack of his single note playing made his lines interesting and unpredictable while helping them remain familiar and bluesy. He regular used pinch harmonics in his playing and did so in a way that he sounded like he was trying to break a string.
4. Traditional Blues Lead Guitar With A Little Bit Of Fire
Upon analyzing the Van Halen’s solos, you will find a variety of classic blues guitar licks from the blues guitar players from generations past. Eddie used his (at the time) new high gain guitar tone to add intensity to the classic lead guitar sound. He also was playing at a speed that not many guitar players had achieved at the time.
Van Halen brought the technique of two hand tapping to the rock world. According to legend, he would turn his back to the audience in the early stages of his career because he did not want other guitar players to see what he was doing in order to get that sound. By bringing this technique to the musical masses, he inspired an entirely new approach to the guitar that would change the entire next generation of guitar players. He used tapping to do traditional blues sounding turn arounds and arpeggios which allowed him to retain that old blues lead guitar sound but again, added new and exciting fire to it.
As a young practicing guitarist, Josh Beetler ,owner of Taunton Guitar Lessons was heavily influenced by guitar players like Van Halen and still works every day to continue developing his technique to higher levels.