Guitar Heroes

eddie van halen

Posted: 12th October 2021

A guitar pioneer who inspired a generation with his unique sound and tapping techniques, we take a brief look into the history, equipment and playing style of Eddie Van Halen.

Read time - 4 mins


Born in Amsterdam, Edward Van Halen began learning piano at age six, his father was a jazz pianist, so music was paramount early in his life. He would improvise by watching Bach and Mozart and won first place in annual piano competitions. He also listened to bands such as The Beatles and Dave Clark Five from an early age and eventually found the guitar, before learning Eric Clapton’s guitar solos fro his Cream songs note for note.

After forming a heavy rock band with his brother Alex in 1972 and playing in backyard parties and clubs in Los Angeles, they met with singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony before forming the group ‘Mammoth’. It was around this time that Eddie experimented with two-handed tapping - a style that wasn’t commonly used in metal and hard rock at the time. The band soon began performing under the name Van Halen’ and became influential in the Los Angeles music scene.

In 1977 they were signed to Warner Records. Going from strength to strength the band became one of the most successful rock acts of all time by the early eighties, when Ed introduced synthesisers and keyboards which helped create the iconic Van Halen track ‘Jump’. The track reached number one and earned the band a Grammy nomination.

Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, alongside Eddie Van Halen individually for his works as a guitarist. Eddie would also appear on other artist’s tracks, most notably (albeit uncredited) for providing the solo for Michael Jackson’s hit ‘Beat It’. Unfortunately, Eddie passed away on 6th October 2020 following a long battle with Cancer at 65 years old, but his massive impression and influence on generations of rock music and guitarists remains.

gear used

Playing Style

Eddie Van Halen’s playing style was revolutionary, bridging the gap between rock and metal in the 70s to 80s. His classical upbringing provided some influence into his playing style, in particular his aproach to tapping. Eddie would combine huge, brawny power chords alongside extreme speed and dexterity in phrases, pinched harmonics, huge signature dive-bombs and classic EVH tapping throughout tracks. He created a sound that many imitate but can never truly replicate. Eddie would also frequently use a half-step/whole-step fingering shape that is created with three notes per string used over major and minor keys. This is commonly referred to as ‘The Van Halen Scale’ seen below.