Eddie Van Halen, one of the most iconic guitarists in music history, was known for his incredible intensity and innovative techniques that revolutionized rock guitar playing. Throughout his career, Edward Van Halen experimented with various types of guitar strings to achieve his unique sound.
An essential aspect of his playing style was the specific choice of strings he used for his guitars, contributing to the fierce tones that made him a guitar god.
In the early days of his career, Eddie used a mix of Fender strings, with a heavier gauge on top and lighter on the bottom. However, this combination proved less than ideal, so he switched to Fender Heavy Strings and eventually settled on Fender 150XL gauge strings.
As his career progressed, Eddie Van Halen established partnerships and collaborated with companies like Ernie Ball and Fender, producing custom sets of strings to accommodate his legendary playing style.
Key Takeaways on What Strings Did Eddie Van Halen Use?
- Eddie Van Halen’s choice of strings evolved throughout his career, starting with mixed Fender gauges, and later switching to Fender 150XL strings.
- Partnerships with companies like Ernie Ball and Fender led to the production of custom-designed guitar strings tailored to his specific sound.
- The iconic musician’s distinct playing techniques and string choices heavily influenced the sound and playing styles of future rock guitarists.
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The String Choices of Eddie Van Halen
When it comes to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar setup, his choice of strings played a significant role in his iconic tone. He favored a custom combination of light and heavy gauge strings, using Ernie Ball strings (known as “Slinky”) for several years.
This unique combination allowed him to achieve his signature “brown sound” and facilitated the expressive playing style for which he became famous.
Eddie’s preference for string gauges often varied depending on factors such as the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system, utilized on his Charvel, and Kramer Baretta guitars. The usage of light top strings (.009-.011) helped him seamlessly perform his innovative techniques, including harmonics, tapping, and whammy bar dives.
In contrast, the heavier bottom strings (.046-.052) provided stability for aggressive palm-muting and hard picking that characterized his rhythm playing.
Over the years, Van Halen experimented with various guitars, amplifiers, and effects to hone his unique sound. His main guitar in the early days was a Frankenstrat, a custom-built guitar featuring a mix of Fender Stratocaster and Gibson parts (including PAF pickups), which played a crucial role in shaping his tone.
Some of the essential components of Eddie’s gear setup included a Marshall Plexi amplifier, modified to increase its gain and produce his trademark distorted sound.
In addition, he employed several effects pedals to sculpt his tone further, such as the MXR Phaser, used prominently on the 1984 album, and a Wah pedal, which added an extra layer of expressiveness to his playing.
Throughout Van Halen’s illustrious career, he collaborated with a variety of musicians, such as Michael Jackson in the song “Beat It,” lending his distinct sound to the track’s epic guitar solo. He also drew inspiration from guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend.
The legacy of Eddie Van Halen’s tone and achievements can still be seen in a multitude of guitars, amplifiers, and effects available today.
Brands such as Peavey, Gibson, and Ibanez, among others, have all released signature models and gear honoring the late guitar hero. His impact on the world of guitar playing and the quest for the perfect string choices will forever be remembered.
Eddie Van Halen’s string choices played a vital role in defining his unmistakable sound, with the unique combination of light and heavy gauge strings allowing him to perform his groundbreaking techniques. His wide range of influences and experimentation with various gear setups further contributed to the tones that continue to inspire generations of guitarists.
Eddie’s Guitar Models Over the Years
Eddie Van Halen has played and designed a wide variety of guitars throughout his career. He started off with the Frankenstrat, which he built himself using a Charvel Strat-style body, a maple neck, and various elements from Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls.
The Frankenstrat became one of his most iconic models, featuring a unique red, black, and white striped pattern.
Another notable guitar Eddie used was the Ibanez Destroyer, also known as the ‘Shark.’ He modified this guitar by cutting a V-shaped chunk out of the body and painting it white, later over-spraying it with red and silver. This modification became a hallmark of Van Halen’s sound, especially during their early years.
In 1979, Eddie acquired a Gibson Les Paul, which he painted with a Bumblebee pattern. This Bumblebee guitar eventually became synonymous with his style and even made an appearance on the cover of Van Halen II.
During the 1980s, Eddie started using Kramer 5150 guitars, after developing a relationship with the company. These guitars featured a maple neck, a single humbucker, and a Floyd Rose tremolo system, further expanding possibilities for his revolutionary playing technique.
Eddie’s journey with guitar design continued with his partnerships with Music Man and Peavey during the 1990s. He collaborated with Music Man on the development of the Music Man EVH model, which showcased his preferences for tonewoods and hardware.
After a few years, Eddie moved on to Peavey, where he helped create the Peavey Wolfgang model.
In the 2000s, Eddie established his company, EVH, with the aim of designing guitars and gear that met his exact specifications. The culmination of these efforts resulted in the EVH Wolfgang guitar, which has since become the mainstay of his live performances and studio recordings.
Throughout his career, Eddie Van Halen played and modified countless guitars, but some of his most famous models include the Frankenstrat, the Shark, the Bumblebee, the Kramer 5150, the Music Man EVH, and the EVH Wolfgang. As both a musician and a designer, Eddie’s innovations and creations have left a lasting impact on the world of guitars and gear.
The Impact of Eddie’s Technique on Guitar Sounds
Eddie Van Halen’s unique playing style and techniques revolutionized the guitar world, contributing significantly to the sound of hard rock. One of the most notable aspects of his technique was his use of tapping, also known as the two-handed tapping technique.
This involved using both hands to hammer on and pull off notes on the fretboard, resulting in lightning-fast and melodic solos. His tapping technique, while not invented by him, was certainly popularized through his shredding skills.
As an engineer and experimenter, Eddie modified his guitars and amplifiers to achieve his desired tone and intensity. His quest for the ultimate tone led him to create the “brown sound,” a heavily overdriven yet warm and clear guitar sound.
This unique tone had a significant impact on the hard rock genre and was achieved through modifications to his Marshall Super Lead amplifier, cranking the gain to its limit to produce a powerful sonic experience.
Eddie’s playing style also incorporated a mix of rhythmic elements, such as using triads and suspended chords instead of just relying on power chords. This approach added more depth and diversity to his riffing, which can be heard in many of Van Halen’s songs.
Mindful of the role of each string on his guitar, he had a particular preference for tapping on the lower strings to create a sense of intensity and claustrophobia in some of his heavier tracks, like “Mean Street” from their album Fair Warning.
Eddie was also known for experimenting with different effects pedals, such as the MXR Phase 90 and EVH117 flanger, to further shape and refine his sound. The integration of these effects contributed to his signature sound, which many aspiring guitarists attempted to emulate.
Eddie Van Halen’s innovative techniques, desire for experimentation, and relentless pursuit of the perfect tone had a profound impact on guitar sounds within the hard rock genre. His approach to tapping and utilization of effects pedals expanded the capabilities of the instrument and inspired countless guitarists around the world.
Eddie’s Partnerships and Collaborations
Eddie Van Halen was well-known for his collaborations and partnerships with various artists throughout his career. One of the most iconic alliances was with David Lee Roth, the original lead vocalist of Van Halen.
Eddie and David shared a unique chemistry that defined the band’s sound in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their repertoire included classics such as “Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot for Teacher.”
Another notable instance was when Eddie worked with legendary guitarist Eric Clapton. Although the two did not frequently collaborate, their mutual respect and admiration were apparent, and their occasional jam sessions displayed a remarkable combination of talent.
Eddie’s collaboration with Michael Jackson on the song “Beat It” is perhaps one of the most famous examples of his work with other artists. Eddie’s distinctive guitar solo added a unique flavor to the track, helping it become a global hit and earning its place as a timeless classic in pop history.
Throughout the years, Eddie also partnered with Sammy Hagar, who replaced David Lee Roth as the lead singer of Van Halen in the mid-1980s.
Together, they created a different sound for the band, which resulted in a series of successful albums such as “5150,” “OU812,” and “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” The collaboration with Sammy expanded Eddie’s musical horizons and showcased his versatility as a guitarist and songwriter.
Furthermore, Eddie’s long-time partnership with bassist Michael Anthony was an essential piece of the Van Halen puzzle. Their tight rhythm section laid the foundation for countless memorable songs and live performances, cementing their status as key figures in the world of rock music.
Eddie Van Halen’s partnerships and collaborations enriched his musical legacy and demonstrated his ability to adapt and innovate.
His work with artists such as David Lee Roth, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Sammy Hagar, and Michael Anthony contributed significantly to the remarkable body of work he left behind as a testament to his remarkable talent and impact on the music industry.
Legacy of Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen was an iconic guitarist who left an indelible mark on the world of music. As a musician, his influence can be felt across various genres, having inspired countless guitarists to push the boundaries of their craft. His technical prowess and innovation on the electric guitar continue to leave lasting impressions on both fans and musicians alike.
One of the key aspects of Eddie’s legacy is his unique sound and style. He managed to develop a distinct sonic signature through his ingenious use of various guitar techniques and effects.
Some of his signature effects include the Echoplex EP-3, MXR Phaser, and Flanger. These pedals have become synonymous with Eddie’s playing and a staple among many guitarists today.
Eddie’s iconic Frankenstein guitar serves as another testament to his dedication to innovation. The Frankenstein, or “Frankenstrat,” was created by Eddie himself, combining parts from various guitars to achieve the ultimate instrument that suited his needs.
This innovative spirit extended to his entire rig, influencing not just his guitar playing, but also his ability to shape the sound of upcoming generations of musicians.
As a result of his contributions to the world of music, Eddie Van Halen has left behind a legacy that continues to inspire and shape the careers of countless artists.
His influence extends far beyond guitarists, as musicians from various genres draw inspiration from his unique sound and unparalleled talent. Eddie’s indomitable spirit in the pursuit of creative excellence forever cements him as a true icon in the annals of music history.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of guitar strings did Eddie Van Halen prefer?
Eddie Van Halen was known for using lighter gauge strings on his guitars. He often experimented with different brands and gauges, but his preference was generally towards lighter strings for their easier playability and unique tonal characteristics.
Which string gauges were used by Eddie Van Halen?
In an interview with Dweezil Zappa, he mentioned that Eddie Van Halen used fairly light gauge strings, around 7s.
However, it is important to note that these gauges were specific to Eddie’s preferences and play style, and other guitarists may choose different gauges based on their own preferences.
Did Eddie Van Halen use Fender 150XL strings?
There isn’t a direct mention of Eddie Van Halen using Fender 150XL strings specifically. However, given his preference for lighter gauge strings and his experimentation with different brands, it is possible that he had used these strings at some point in his career.
Was Eddie a fan of Ernie Ball strings?
While it cannot be confirmed whether Eddie Van Halen was a fan of Ernie Ball strings specifically, it is known that he had a preference for lighter gauge strings and was always looking to experiment with his guitar setup.
This may have included experimenting with different brands of strings, including Ernie Ball.
How did Eddie Van Halen’s string choices compare to other guitarists?
Eddie Van Halen’s string choices were unique to his playing style and preferences. His use of lighter gauge strings set him apart from other guitarists, who may have used heavier gauges for their specific sound or playing techniques.
Each guitarist’s string choice is personal, and there is no universal gauge that is “correct” for all players.
What was Eddie’s string setup for his iconic guitar sound?
Eddie Van Halen’s iconic guitar sound was a result of not only his string choices but also other contributing factors such as his guitar pickups, amplifiers, and effects setup. His use of lighter gauge strings allowed him to achieve a distinct tonal quality that contributed to his legendary sound.
Additionally, his innovative techniques and gear experimentation helped create a unique sound that has been widely celebrated and imitated by guitarists around the world.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!