Want to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen?
You can “jump” right into learning his signature style with the Eddie Van Halen Player Study. This course covers the finger tapping pioneer’s signature style, including harmonics, bluesy licks, and pentatonic playing.
Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch multi-instrumentalist father and a mother who was from the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. The family moved to California in 1962. Both Eddie and his brother Alex started playing the piano at age six. However, despite winning multiple piano competitions, Eddie told Esquire in 2012 that he never learned to read music. The boys were drawn to rock music and Eddie bought a drum kit when Alex bought a guitar, but after hearing Alex play the drum solo from “Wipe Out”, they swapped instruments.
The brothers formed their first band, “The Broken Combs” in elementary school. Van Halen cites a fourth-grade lunchtime performance with that band as one of the things that made him want to be a professional musician.
The brothers formed the band Mammoth in 1972, and David Lee Roth joined as lead singer two years later, when the band officially changed its name to Van Halen and started playing the Los Angeles club circuit. They opened for UFO in 1976, and KISS bassist Gene Simmons said he was backstage by the third song waiting to talk to the band. Simmons signed the band and had them record demos, including “Runnin’ With the Devil”, but KISS frontman Paul Stanley and manager Bill Aucoin didn’t want to sign the band to Aucoin’s management portfolio. Van Halen got their own record deal with Warner Records the next year.
Eddie Van Halen popularized – but didn’t invent – the two-handed tapping technique. Steve Hackett, Genesis’ lead guitarist in the 1970s, is broadly credited with inventing the technique and was cited as one of Van Halen’s influences. Van Halen also named Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page as an influence. Up until 2005, Van Halen held a patent for a support device that attaches to the back of an electric guitar, flipping it face upward and allowing the user to tap it like a keyboard. Van Halen liked to dabble in the construction of guitars, playing many custom and heavily-modified instruments throughout the years, including the “Frankenstrat”, a guitar he built out of various parts.
Van Halen died in Oct. 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Before that, he donated 75 of his own guitars to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which gives instruments to students in low-income schools. Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and Eddie is widely regarded as one of the best guitar players in rock history.
Once you master Eddie Van Halen’s playing style, try one of these Van Halen song lessons!
Eddie Van Halen wrote this song, but didn’t think it was good enough to show to his bandmates for a year! It was one of the few songs from the original David Lee Roth era that his replacement, Sammy Hagar, was willing to perform live.
“Panama” was reportedly written about a car David Lee Roth saw in Las Vegas, the “Panama Express”, after a reporter accused Roth of only writing songs about women, partying and fast cars, and Roth realized he hadn’t written any songs about fast cars.