6 guitar tricks you can learn from Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Fact: Eddie Van Halen reinvented rock guitar for generations of players, and there’s no doubt the word ‘virtuoso’ applies. With a large arsenal of techniques at his disposal, he’d constantly move his pick hand around the guitar body to make adjustments to disposal, he’d constantly move his pick hand around the guitar body to make adjustments to differently when you try our EVH-inspired riffs and licks. 

Break each one down into shorter bite-sized phrases and think about joining it all together later. There’s always something to learn, even if a lick is just too damn hard to play all the way through. For now though, you might as well jump right in...

1. Pedal-tone rhythm style

(Image credit: Future)

As the only guitarist in the band in their early days, Eddie learned to switch between rhythm and lead effortlessly, often combining the two. Here we’re looking at how he’d do this, with a palm-muted, open-string bass note underpinning a handful of three-note chords and some occasional melodic phrases. 

2. Palm-muted arpeggios

(Image credit: Future)

In Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love, Eddie plays an open-chord arpeggio with palm-muting. It’s an approach he weaves throughout his riffs and rhythms but ATBL sums it up best and we’re aping the idea in bar 2 here. A slapback echo is the icing on the cake.

3. Tapping

(Image credit: Future)

Eddie is synonymous with tapping. The technique is simple enough. Just tap on a fretted note with a picking-hand finger instead of plucking the string. Tapped notes are shown in circles here in our tab. 

Watch out in bar 2 where you’ll tap on the 15th fret, but, thanks to a string bend, it should sound like the 17th. A typical EVH trick. 

4. Tremolo picking and whammy bar scoop

(Image credit: Future)

There are two distinct licks here, the idea being to showcase two of Eddie’s techniques. Tremolo picking is fast, but not too strictly timed down-up picking (bars 1 and 2).

The whammy bar scoops in bars 3 and 4 are the kind of articulation Eddie seemed to drop in almost anywhere. 

5. Low-string riffing 

(Image credit: Future)

Eddie’s trademark touch and feel are ever-present, even in simple low-string rock riffs like this. The muddy Em11 chord at the end is also a Van Halen trademark.

6. Tapped harmonics

(Image credit: Future)

This is one of Ed’s trickier trademark techniques as heard on tracks like Girl Gone Bad. The idea is to fret a note then lightly tap the string 12 frets farther up the neck to sound a harmonic one octave higher. 

Hold down a C#m chord in bars 1 and 2 and focus mainly on tapping the notes marked TH16, TH18, etc. 

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.