“Eddie was down in the pit watching every move I made”: Ace Frehley says his early displays of tapping prowess “probably” inspired Eddie Van Halen to develop his trademark two-hand technique

Ace Frehley and Eddie Van Halen tapping on their guitars
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns / Paul Natkin/WireImage via Getty Images)

Two-hand tapping is a technique that is wholly synonymous with the name Eddie Van Halen, but as the late electric guitar great himself acknowledged on numerous occasions, it wasn’t something he invented from the ground up.

Rather, Van Halen’s own interpretation of tapping derived from various sources of inspiration, which were refined and channeled into the trademark technical weapon that he used on some of his greatest feats of fretboard majesty.

While some of these inspirations are well-accounted for – Jimmy Page and Brian May immediately spring to mind – others are seldom included in the conversation.

That pool of players apparently includes Ace Frehley, who recently theorized that his own displays of tapping prowess “probably” helped EVH on his way to making the technique as it is known today.

The former Kiss guitarist said as much in a recent appearance on Chris Shiflett’s Shred With Shifty podcast, during which the Foo Fighter asked his guest about the true origins of the two-hand tapping technique.

“Before Van Halen became famous, Gene discovered them,” Frehley recalled (as spotted by Ultimate Guitar). “But all I can tell you is, when I was doing my guitar solo at Madison Square Garden before they became famous, Eddie was down in the pit watching every fucking move I made.”

But, as Frehley was quick to note, tapping as he used it was different to how Eddie Van Halen himself ended up utilizing the skill, not least because of the physical technicalities of the technique.

“I did it with the pick, I didn’t do it with my finger,” he went on. “Eddie probably got some ideas from me, just like I got ideas from other guitar players. But he perfected it. There’s no way I could play some of the solos that he pulled off.”

As for who inspired Frehley to tap in the first place? “As far as I can remember, I think I just came up with it,” the guitarist said.

As mentioned above, some of Van Halen’s tapping influences are well-documented. Last summer, Brian May said the solo he contributed to Queen’s 1977 cut It’s Late – which arrived six months prior to Eruption – proved to be pivotal to Van Halen.

Another key force behind Van Halen’s tapping, as the late guitarist once detailed in depth, was the playing of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. In a video from 2015, Van Halen explained how witnessing Page play proved to be an equally informative experience

“I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his Heartbreaker solo back in 1971,” Van Halen explained. 

“He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, open string … pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around?’ I just kind of took it and ran with it.”

From these sources of inspiration, Van Halen developed his own two-hand tapping style, which features a notable technical quirk – a quirk he passed on to his son, Wolfgang Van Halen.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.