It's Time To Start Shredding Like Eddie (R.I.P.)
This course was made to be short and sweet, but filled with killer tips on implementing parts of Eddie’s style into your own. Go through it at least once, and try using these sounds as you go. And don’t forget to download the tabs below.
If you bought my bundle in gumroad, the other products can be accessed through the buttons to the left or below if you’re on your phone…..
Intro: What Made Eddie Special
As far as rock guitar goes, there is no other guitarist who has made as big of an impact on the instrument except for Jimi Hendrix.
I’m not talking about who has the most virtuosic technique, the best grasp of harmony, or the biggest charting songs…….
Eddie was the natural successor to Jimi’s legacy in terms of taking the instrument to new possibilities.
After Eddie came on the scene, the electric guitar had new tones, an expanded harmonic vocabulary, and new techniques that fast became standard for nearly every guitarist to learn and master.
That’s what a great guitarist does. They introduce new sounds that are forever part of the genre they play within, or introduce new techniques that expand the potential of the instrument.
This short book is going to attempt to teach you all the key sounds and techniques, as well as several chord progressions, that will help you sound more like Eddie Van Halen.
It’s not just about tapping!
There are actually more than a dozen techniques I’m here to teach you, and you can apply them to any genre, any scale, and any chord progression.
Let’s dig in!
The Beat It Chord Progression
For this book, and for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to focus mostly on one chord progression……..
The backing chord progression to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” In case you don’t know, Eddie famously played the guitar solo in this song as Michael wanted a song on Thriller that would appeal to the rock audience.
Here it is now…….
Now for some theory. Don’t get intimidated as this is fairly simple.
It’s based in E Minor, which uses the following notes:
E – F# – G – A – B – C – D
E minor is the relative minor to G major, and uses the familiar formula for building minor scales of W H W W H W.
If we break down the chords the notes will come out as follows:
E5 = E – (perfect 5th) – B
D5 = D – (perfect 5th) – A
C5 = C – (perfect 5th) – G
If we analyze the harmony of E5 – D5, that corresponds to I – VII.
When the riff goes to C5, the harmony becomes VI – VII – I.
Although it’s all powerchords, we will want to stay in the habit of assigning minor or major harmony symbols and roman numerals to our harmonies.
Remember: a capital roman numeral (I) means a major harmony, while a lower cased roman numeral (vii) means a minor harmony.
Powerchords are harmonically neutral, which means they do not carry any minor or major significance in the context of this riff/song.
Otherwise, the VII and VI will be major chords in a minor key progression such as this one.
D (VII) = D – F# – A
C (VI) = C – E – G
Notice that all of these notes come from the set of notes in E minor, which again comes from our formula of W H W W H W.
Why are we starting a discussion about Eddie Van Halen’s guitar style with a breakdown of the harmony behind the Beat It riff?
Because………all of this work and all of this knowledge will help you understand what notes to choose, and ultimately what the raw material of your solo (or Eddie’s) would and should consist of.
Can you use notes outside the E minor scale? Of course you can. Each note outside the E minor scale adds some complexity and depth to the harmony played underneath.
However each of these outside note choices are more difficult to work out in this context, and will require more advanced discussions of harmony. This is all outside the realm of our discussion.
Eddie used the notes of the E minor pentatonic scale for this solo.
E Minor Pentatonic = E – G – A – B – D
Notice that the notes of both the powerchords of D5 and E5 come from this scale?
Hopefully you should better understand not only how the solo’s note choices were made, but also how the entire musical structure works.
I’m going over this because we’re about to go in a different direction than many other guitar books and lessons would go.
I’m not going to just give you the solo and a few licks of Eddie’s, and call it a day.
My goal now is to help you use the rest of this book’s techniques on not only the E minor scales notes, but also on any chord progression or riff you may come across………
Descending Pinch Harmonics
In songs like Hot For Teacher, I’m The One, and Eruption Eddie likes to use a peculiar phrase when he wants the solo to slow down or go to another chord.
The trick is pretty simple. First you need to select a notes, like our E Minor pentatonic scale we just talked about…….
Then you just add pinch harmonics to the phrase. If you don’t know how to perform this technique then go to youtube and search for “pinch harmonic lesson” or “artificial harmonic lesson.”
Of course your phrases can be ascending as well.
It’s best that you stick to quarter notes and eighth notes for the timing. If you work your way up to doing this in 16th notes or higher I’ll be very impressed!
Tremolo Note Sequences
The next technique is also very easy to apply to the fretboard.
Again, take your handy dandy E minor scale and choose one string, like the high E.
To pull off this technique like Eddie does, you must use alternate picking. You’ll play each note in bursts of 4 note to 6 note groupings. Once you play around with this technique you’ll get a feel for it.
If you do it right, it’ll look something like the tab up above…….
Scale sequences aren’t the only option for this technique. It can be used for chords, to sit on one note at a time per chord change, or even chromatic.
Here’s some examples of each one:
Natural Harmonics Fills
This next technique is a little tougher to use when we take the harmony in context.
In other words, using these “natural harmonics” is hard because they don’t mean you’re playing say, E on the 2nd string 5th fret. You’re actually playing a pitch much higher than E.
You may already know these notes as shown below:
You can simply use your ear and come up with your own phrases, like this one from the song “Poundcake” up above.
Another example comes from “Runnin With The Devil:”
Eddie will play phrases like these when Dave or Sammy isn’t singing. In interviews I’ve seen with Eddie, this fits with the idea of him using any sounds he could on the guitar. This was in order to make noise without pedals or other gadgets he said he couldn’t afford.
Because of the limited nature of these harmonics, they can only fit well in the keys of E Minor and A minor.
If you have a guitar with higher gain pickups, you’ll be able to play natural harmonics in more places besides the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets.
The best way to practice this technique is to practice it. Like all the techniques in this course!
Tapping By Scale
And here it is, the section you’ve probably been waiting for! Tapping………
To understand how to use tapping, you must know your fretboard and your scale patterns, as well as a little bit about the piano……
You see, I believe that Eddie latched onto this technique because he was a piano player first before picking up the guitar. Interviews with him tell how he won several piano competitions, and you probably know that later on he incorporated synths and piano into songs on 1984 and beyond.
Tapping simply helps extend your range on the fretboard by adding your picking hand to the mix.
With just your fret hand, you can only play any notes within your reach on that hand.
With the other hand, you can add notes with your picking hand that your frethand can’t reach.
For instance, look at this tab where the fret hand plays a chord, while the other plays chord tones in higher places on the neck.
This is basically how tapping works! However we’ll talk more about using chord ideas in the next section.
For this section we’re going to talk about using scales……..
So, since we’re working in E minor, let’s look at the notes of the pentatonic scale across the neck.
And finally let’s look at a real live lick from Beat It……..
Compare the notes played in this lick to the notes seen in the scales up above.
After you compared them carefully, you should see that most of the notes come from the E minor scale!
Let’s look at another lick, this time from “Hot For Teacher:”
This is a lick that’s played a little more freely and less strictly to the scale, which in this case is A Minor.
Now compare the lick to the notes in this A Minor Scale:
The lick pretty stays around the 5th fret position while adding notes from the 12th fret. However it’s using a pattern of tapping the 12th fret note, then pulling off to the 8-7-5 figure on each string.
This is a prime example of not staying closely within the confines of scales and chords!
Just remember: theory is not a rulebook but a guidebook. It only helps you interpret the music you’re hearing and playing, but it is a great tool for creating music too.
So basically, whenever you want to utilize tapping with scales, just learn your patterns and create a repeating phrase like Eddie does.
Tapping By Chord
Now we can move on to how we can tap by chord.
This section will also help you understand how he uses tapped natural harmonics and plain ole natural harmonics as well.
To understand this, you must understand some chord theory, which we’ll review again in the context of “Beat It.”
So the first chord to determine the notes of is Em or E5
Em = E – G – B
Now compare the position of these arpeggios to the E minor scale from earlier……
And now, look at D major (D5)
It’s all interrelated!
So to make arpeggios with chords and fit it into a song, just use the chord tones!
Take a look at the first few bars of the tapping section of “Eruption:”
Fret 13 = Ab (G#)
Fret 9 = Fb (E)
Fret 6 = Db (C#)
So this first arpeggio is C#m (Db).
C# (minor 3rd) – E (major 3rd) – G#
Every chord must have at least a root note (C#) and a perfect 5th (C# – G#). A major or minor 3rd adds more depth to the harmony.
That is the basis of all chord harmony.
Again, it’s beyond the scope of this book and this example to talk about 7ths, diminished 5ths, 2nds, 4ths, etc. although they are lots of fun once you become familiar with them.
However you now are familiar or at least refreshed on chord theory. Let’s take a look at the next arpeggio…….
Fret 14 = A
Fret 9 = E
Fret 6 = C#
A – C# – E
These are notes of the A major chord/arpeggio:
Do you see how this technique is now working in this context?
Eddie is just using the technique to make the sounds of chords! And if you just use the shapes and knowledge you’ve seen so far…….
You have more than enough info to create tapping licks with E minor and D major in “Beat It.”
There’s a lot more we could talk about with chords and harmony, but that’s another long discussion.
I recommend that you take one of your favorite song’s chord progressions, and apply tapping to the chord’s tones.
Or of course, you can just noodle around with the technique and see what you come up with.
Moving Dramatically Up And Down In Pitch
This is one of the simplest, yes most overlooked, ways to sound like EVH.
Lots of guitar players do this, but……
If you add in the other techniques we’ve talked about, and will talk about, this will only help your sound that much more.
Just take at a look at this example from “Hot For Teacher:”
You just go from the higher frets past fret 12, and come back down, all while staying in key or at least following the chords.
It’s also good to plan for this type of descent too. When you’re improvising, you should plan a few phrases in the higher section, and then go for an immediate descent. It catches the ear automatically!
The thing you do want to avoid is going up and down the fretboard too much as it’ll wear out your listener’s ears.
Whammy Bar Dives and Squeals
These techniques can be summed up as follows:
—Going down in pitch when you’re within the first 3 frets of the neck
—Hitting an artifical harmonic anywhere and raising the pitch
—Using the whammy bar to go up and down strategically on a note, or series of notes
—Playing a natural harmonic and using the whammy bar
—Playing several harmonics at the same time ( like 77 on the G and B strings) and using the bar
The solos we’ve been talking about all have examples of these techniques.
It’s best to keep in mind the harmony and rhythms you’re also applying to these techniques to make them work within the context of the rest of your solos and riffs.
Ascending Legato Phrases
Allan Holdsworth was apparently a hug influence on EVH, and the licks I’m about to show you have some of that influence.
The key to legato phrases is to smoothly play each note using hammerons and pulloffs, but doing it with enough clarity and finger strength. Lots of players fail to use this technique appropriately because not all the notes sound out in their playing.
So, it’s important to play any and all of your legato phrases with the best fingerings possible, while using the tips of your fingers to sound out the notes.
Now, here’s the first example from “Spanish Fly:”
Compare the lick to this scale, A minor:
This lick is just made up of sextuplets (6 note groupings), from this scale, all on the high E and B strings.
This is great example because it stays within the key, and it fits nicely within your left hand fingers.
Now for another example from “Jump:”
This is something that doesn’t closely follow the underlying harmony of G#:
So here’s the general guideline for making phrases like this…….
Choose a scale fragment like the ones you’ve seen before:
And then, play it across the strings and up in pitch.
For instance, notice how the “jump” example starts on the D string and ends on the high E string?
That’s really all there is to it.
Of course, make sure your patterns loosely align with the chords you’re playing over. Also, you should try to avoid harsh note choices.
Typical Stock Rock Guitar Phrases
Finally, what links EVH to many other guitar players is his use of stock rock lead guitar phrases that are mostly built from the pentatonic scale.
Here’s a few examples…….
These are used by many, many great lead guitarists. However they’re stock because they’ve used over and over and over again.
I’m putting them here because it’s essential to seeing how EVH uses the scale.
Many guitarists will use pieces of these phrases to construct something using the overall scale.
Just take a look again at the phrases from the tab above this section.
That’s really it to this step. Just keep applying everything else you’ve learned within the wider context of these techniques.
Now Let's Look At The Beat It Solo.....
And now finally here’s the entire solo for beat it in a few images starting with the one above:
Take a moment to see how many of the techniques and ideas we’ve talked about are just in this one solo.
Compare this solo again to the E minor pentatonic scale:
Notice how he’s sticking fairly close to the notes in this scale?
You’ve already seen how most of this solo works!
The End: Other Progressions Of EVH To Practice Over
So you did it! You made it to the end of this course and you’ve now got plenty of ways to start sounding like Eddie Van Halen.
You may be at the end of this course wanting exercises, but I don’t believe in using them the same way others have.
Buy a Troy Stetina book if you want lots of patterns to practice……
However, if you want to practice more of the techniques I’ve been showing you, then you should do against these progressions:
Jump Progression: Bbm to Gb (1 Bar) to Ab5 to Db (1 Bar)
Light Up The Sky Progression: B5 (2 Bars) to D#5 (2 Bars)
Hot For Teacher Progression: F#m (2 Bars) to E5 (2 Bars)