Ask Eddie

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This topic has 22 voices, contains 54 replies, and was last updated by  vhrob 943 days ago.

May 1, 2014 at 3:43 pm Quote #35440


yeah I had a question for him like that too but it was more related to his older guitars and such. Kramers, EBMM, etc.


vhtrading member since 2000

May 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm Quote #36186


Ask Eddie: Reading Music vs. Playing by Ear
Posted on May 22nd, 2014 by MDuffy

Eddie Van Halen is back with a new edition of Ask Eddie.

This month, the question comes from Al Costante of Corpus Christi, Texas. Costante is wondering if the legendary guitarist reads music or plays by ear. We’ll let Constante take it from here…

Costante: Hi Ed. My question is do you read and write music or do you play by ear? How do you write a piece of music? Do you actually write the notes down, or just the placement on the fretboard, or …? Your music seems very complicated, just wondering how you actually write the music. Thanks.

Van Halen: Hi Al,

Do I read and write music or play by ear? I was lucky to have been born with a pretty good set of ears. I took piano lessons for years, starting at the age of 6 in Holland, and I realized at a very early age that I couldn’t look up at sheet music and see what my fingers were doing at the same time, so I opted to look down at what my fingers were doing. The teacher would play a piece of music for me, and I would watch his fingers and — of course — listen to what he was playing. Because of having a good memory and musical ears, I got very good at emulating or copying exactly (or close enough) what the teacher was showing me, to the point of years going by, and no one ever even suspected that I couldn’t read, at all!

So when I started playing guitar, it was pretty much the same thing. I would listen to a record and just copy it. For some reason it was very easy for me. After about three years or so, I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this. I can play along with just about anything I hear on the radio or records that I purchase.” When I started coming up with my own music, riffs etc., I simply recorded them to cassette tape.
Sometimes I wonder if Beethoven or Mozart would have bothered writing their ideas down on paper if they had access to recording equipment. It would have saved a lot of time.

Also when you’re reading music, it’s very open to interpretation. For example, if it says “vivace,” which I believe means up-tempo, lively, fast. Well, you never really know how fast, up-tempo and lively the composer meant. But if he had a recording of it, you would know exactly what he meant. The downside of not being able to read is obviously that I can’t sit around a campfire and open a guitar songbook and play songs in the book. Sometimes I wish I could read, but it’s more for learning other people’s songs. So you don’t have to know how to read and write music to create it. I hope this long-winded explanation answers your question, Al.

All the best, Eddie

May 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm Quote #36193


I always wondered if the band ‘scored’ their music?

June 24, 2014 at 9:40 am Quote #36793


Ask Eddie: Stuck on the Scales?
Posted on June 23rd, 2014 by MDuffy

The latest question for Eddie Van Halen comes all the way from Brazil, where Pedro Nucci is looking for some advice from the great guitarist about his soloing technique. Read what Van Halen has to say below.

Nucci: Hi Eddie! I’m a guitar player too, but I have a doubt about solos. How to not get stuck on the scales? When I listen to your solos, I notice that I rarely see you playing “up and down” the scales. What is the best way to get out of them? Or use them in a more creative way?

Van Halen: Hi Pedro, I will do my best to help you and answer your question but I am not a teacher so it’s an odd or somewhat difficult question for me to answer. Since I am self-taught, I really don’t know much about scales. I started out copying Eric Clapton in his Cream days, which were basically blues licks. When I started to use my pinky, on my left hand, my whole style kinda changed because it seemed to open up a whole world of notes to me.

Then of course, adding my right hand on the fingerboard opened up that world even more, but only in the aspect of how I was able to access notes. ‘Cause the bottom line is, you only have 12 notes. The 13th is the octave. So none of these techniques added any notes to my playing, again, ’cause you only have 12 notes. What you do with those 12 notes is totally up to you. There are no rules. I think the first thing you should do or try is, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fall on your face. My whole approach has always been (but not necessarily, consciously) “Falling down the stairs and hoping to land on my feet,” and I don’t always land on my feet. Now this might sound really stupid, but if you are stuck on scales or if you are simply doing something you don’t like, do something different. If I don’t like what I’m doing, I try something else until I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t tell you how to be more creative because that is such a deep personal thing and an extension of who you are. That’s why no two seasoned players ever sound alike. Everyone is an individual. And music is such a beautiful and wonderful way to express yourself, that the best advice I can give you is, try to not think so much and let go! Try “falling down the stairs.” Even if you don’t land on your feet, something interesting is bound to happen. And the more you do it, the more likely you are to land on your feet. Whatever that means to you! I hope this helps you get out of your “scales mode” Pedro.

All the best, Eddie VH.

June 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm Quote #36816


Great Q & A this time! Eddie’s answer about not being afraid to make mistakes is great advice. You have to let it go. I read Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. Helped me out a lot with this exact thing. I really enjoy these ask Eddie topics :)

July 29, 2014 at 6:52 pm Quote #37487


Ask Eddie: Capturing a Percussive Sound
Posted on July 28th, 2014 by MDuffy

The latest question for Eddie Van Halen’s Ask Eddie series comes all the way from Denmark, where Jeppe Gissel is curious about how the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer developed a “percussive” sound.

Read more below.

Gissel: Hi Edward! You have a very percussive way of playing, so I was wondering if your brother Alex had an influence on your style of playing guitar? And, did other drummers/percussionists have an influence on you?

Best regards, Jeppe

Van Halen: Hi Jeppe, Eddie here and thanks for your question.

My playing (I guess) is percussive. I tend to pick very hard and do a lot of palm muting. But yes, Alex is a huge part of my playing, and that’s why I don’t play with anyone else. I’m not me without him. I have played with a few other drummers over the years, and it just didn’t feel right. Alex and I have played together all of our lives so we are like one. There are a few other reasons why I tend to have a percussive sound. I have been playing piano since I was 6 years old, and piano is a very percussive instrument, along with the fact that I played drums before guitar. I believe all of these things factor into why I play and sound the way I do, but Alex is definitely the biggest reason.

I hope that answers your question Jeppe.

All the best,
Eddie VH

July 30, 2014 at 7:23 pm Quote #37507


great question..! as well as the answer..!

boldly going nowhere

July 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm Quote #37510


I know there was some speculation early on about this just being another gimic that Janie runs in the background. But there’s no way Janie could cook up answers like this. Now I doubt Ed actually sits down at a keyboard and types out his answers – they are probably recorded and someone else types them out in an easy to read written response. But I have no doubt that Ed is the one answering these questions.

December 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm Quote #41114


For this installment of our Ask Eddie feature, Eddie Van Halen fields a question from Justin Ross in Glen, N.H.

Ross tries to discern what type of cabinets the Van Halen guitarist prefers. We’ll let him ask the question himself.

Ross: Hey Ed, what’s your stance on closed vs. open cabs? A buddy of mine is building a cab and we could use some insight. Thanks!

Van Halen: Hi Justin, Eddie here.

So your buddy is building a speaker cabinet, and you want my opinion/preference on open back as opposed to closed back cabinet? Hands down – CLOSED BACK!

Closed back cabinets, of any size, whether it’s a 4×12 cabinet or even as small as a 1×12 cabinet, have a much “tighter” bottom end. They “thump” and hit you in the gut in a way no open back cabinet can because all of the sound pressure is being forced forward. With an open back cabinet, half your sound pressure comes out the back, and that’s not what I like. I am not saying that open back amps/cabinets are bad or serve no purpose, but definitely not for rock n roll (in my book, anyway). For the last time, a closed back cabinet has the ability to push all the sound forward and make your body vibrate and make your arm hairs move. And to me, that is what rock n roll is all about, not just hearing it, but feeling it. That’s why I prefer closed back cabinets.

Hope that answers your questions and helps you with your cabinet project.

All the best,

Eddie VH

EDDIE’S fingers aren’t fingers they are muscle-powered pistons that hammer guitar strings to the fretboard with the force of a rivet gun”.

March 17, 2015 at 10:46 am Quote #43420


In the latest edition of Ask Eddie, our feature that allows fans to submit a question to Eddie Van Halen himself, Todd Fields of Georgia wrote in wondering about the amps used for the rhythm tracks on Van Halen’s 1984 single, “Top Jimmy.”

We’ll let Fields take it away…

Fields: Eddie, I would love to know what amps you used on “Top Jimmy” for the Ripley rhythm tracks? That rhythm tone is one of my favorites! Thanks much!

Todd Fields

Van Halen: Hi Todd, thank you for your question.

The amps I used for the rhythm tracks on “Top Jimmy” were two, small 1×12 Music Man Combo Amps. I don’t know the exact model number offhand, but they were about 30-watt amps. The reason I needed two amps is because the Ripley guitars are stereo guitars.

I’m glad you like the tone. I thought it was an interesting sound because it’s sort of in-between a single coil Strat-type sound and a Humbucker sound. I also modified the amps by putting a 25-watt green back Celestion in each amp.

I used the same amps – except only one – with a Strat, for the whole track of “Finish What You Started.”

I hope that answers your question Todd.

All the best,
Eddie VH

March 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm Quote #43722


Ask Eddie is back with another fan question that probed the mind of Eddie Van Halen himself.

In this edition, Darin Busby from Tomball, Texas, weighs in wondering whether he should use a processor with his new EVH 5150III 50-Watt Head.

Read the exchange below.

Busby: Like you, I have been a tone junkie for many years. I recently purchased the EVH 5150III 50w and 4×12 cab. I am using a GSP1101 w/4cable method to maintain the great tone of the amp. My question is, is it best to crank the amp and dial up the output I want from my GSP1101 or to keep the amp lower and add more output via the processor? It does sound great in either setting, but being the only guitarist in my band I want the best sound possible. Thanks so much!!

Van Halen: Hi Darin,

Thank you for your question; I will do my best to answer it.

For one, thank you for purchasing a 5150III 50-watt head and a 4×12 cabinet. That’s a pretty screamin’ setup, if I do say so myself.

As far as your question about whether to crank the amp or keep the amp lower and raise the output via your GSP1101 processor for the best-possible sound … I’m really sorry, Darin, that I am not familiar with a GSP1101 processor. From my experience though, the more you favor the output of a processor as opposed to the amp, the more “processed” your sound will be.

I’ve always been one to plug straight into the amp and crank it, as opposed to using anything in front of the amp to raise the output. That way, you are using your guitar and the amp to obtain your sound. At the same time, there is no right or wrong way to do it. It all boils down to what you like best, Darin.

I hope that answers your question.

All the best,
Eddie VH

March 27, 2015 at 2:26 am Quote #43733


Well that one was boring!

May 24, 2015 at 11:19 am Quote #45591


Our latest edition of Ask Eddie comes from John Woodward of Chandler, Ariz., and it touches on a hot topic in the music world nowadays — the effect of musical competition television shows and pop music on modern guitar masters.

So who better to answer that question than Eddie Van Halen? The legendary guitarist thinks that guitar players are alive and well and should be heading into the future. We’ll let them take it away.

Woodward: With the change in the music landscape over the last 20 years, especially with the popularity of American Idol, et al. — do you see a comeback in the strong influence of guitarists in the future, like you were in the late ’70s-’80s? Thank you.

Van Halen: Well John, let me start by saying, the musical landscape is always changing. WE had the big band era, disco, punk, new wave, grunge, rap, etc. … There are always trends and fads that shape the landscape of popular music. I think shows like American Idol focus mainly on vocalists as opposed to instrumentalists. So I do not think they are a factor.

As long as there are guitarists, guitarists will always be needed in any form of music. They might not be featured as in the ’70s and ’80s, but they will always be needed. As a matter of fact, Van Halen came about in the midst and heights of disco and punk. The reason?? I think people wanted a change. I believe it is human nature to get tired of the same thing over and over. So when people get tired of something, it’s naturally going to change, as it always has. Whether it will ever go back to the ’70s and ’80s guitar driven music, is anyone’s guess. I do believe everything goes in cycles.

They say there is nothing new under the sun since Bach. If that’s true, it will definitely be back. For our sake, I hope so!!

I hope that answers your questions John.

All the best,

Eddie VH

July 23, 2015 at 12:55 am Quote #47412


In the latest edition of Ask Eddie, Jonathon Valenzuela wrote in from Australia to get some insight from Eddie Van Halen about the best way to hold a pick.

Valenzuela goes about it in a different manner than most other guitarists, and to no one’s surprise, Van Halen has an original way of handling the pick as well.

Valenzuela: Mr. Van Halen, how do you personally hold your pick and what are some tips to help people with pick holding? I hold it with my thumb, index finger and middle finger (like a pen). I know that it’s traditionally incorrect, but it’s what’s comfortable for me, and now I’ve had two years of guitar experience and holding the pick like this. So I just wanted to hear your thoughts.

Van Halen: Hi Jonathon, thank you for your question. I remember when I first started playing guitar, my mom bought me a beginner’s How To Play Guitar book by Mel Bay. Of course like any good mother, she wanted me to learn how to play guitar “properly,” and of course that did not work for me from page one of that book.

On that page there was an illustration of how to hold the pick. It was to be held with your thumb and index finger. Well, I couldn’t, for the life of me, hold it like that. It was very uncomfortable, and I felt like I had absolutely no control of the pick. I immediately threw the book in the trash, to my mom’s disappointment, and proceeded to hold the pick very similar to the way you do, Jonathon. I tend to hold it more with my thumb and middle finger with a little bit of my index finger, but mostly just my thumb and middle finger. The only time I hold the pick with my thumb and index finger is when I am using the vibrato bar. Bottom line is, and I say this a lot, do whatever works best for you!! There are no rules when it comes to being creative, and playing guitar certainly falls into that category. I hope that answers your question.

All the best,


August 14, 2015 at 8:09 am Quote #48425


Ask Eddie: Using a Drill on ‘Poundcake’
Posted on August 13th, 2015 by MDuffy

Eddie Van Halen has long been known for his innovation, whether it was creating his own guitars or supercharging his amps.

But who would have thought Van Halen would use a power drill to complement his fretboard ferocity during the song “Poundcake,” which came off 1991′s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?

In the latest Ask Eddie feature, Helio Nascimento chimes in from Brazil to inquire about this remarkable development. Read the exchange between Nascimento and Van Halen below.

Nascimento: Eddie, I was always amazed by your talent for music in general and the way it naturally flows from you, and for me, one of the greatest examples of this gift is with the electric drill on “Poundcake.” Therefore, I’d like to know how exactly did that idea of using a drill as a guitar riff come? Did you hear the noise from it and figure out its note, and then build a riff with it? Thank you!

Van Halen: Hi Helio,

Thank you for your question and your compliment. The drill on the “Poundcake” was a complete fluke/creative accident. We were playing, and I always like to play in the control room because I hate wearing headphones. Ken Deanne, who was my maintenance tech for my studio at the time, happened to be replacing a piece of outboard gear behind me while we were playing. He left the drill laying right in front of me as he was going to grab a replacement piece of gear. As I am sure you know, a guitar pickup is very similar to a microphone. I happened to grab the drill, and by sheer luck it was in the same key as the song. So I asked Alex to start “Poundcake” again from the beginning, and I used the drill over the pickup and scraped it on the strings for the intro. I also used it for a second or two during the song’s solo. It’s just one of those funny unplanned things that happen every so often. Since it was on the record, I ended up using the same drill every time we played the song live. I hope that answers your question, Helio.

All the best,



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