The “tone is in the hands” debate will probably never be fully resolved, but if recent developments are to be believed, the side supporting the argument has been handed their best piece of high-profile anecdotal evidence in quite some time.
Not too long ago, Jared James Nichols revealed his allegiances lay firmly in the “tone is in the hands” camp, and recalled the time he played through Eddie Van Halen’s own guitar amp in support of his theory.
“Two weeks ago, we played this festival and the guy who brought the gear had worked for Eddie Van Halen,” Nichols told Total Guitar. “He brought me one of Eddie’s personal modded Marshalls from 1984. I plugged in and it was incredible, but I sounded like me.”
It’s not the first time that Jared James Nichols has crossed paths with Van Halen’s gear, nor is it even the best piece of evidence he’s contributed to the ‘tone hands’ argument.
Not only has Nichols also played Van Halen’s own ‘84 Marshall guitar amp, but he’s also played one of Van Halen’s electric guitars, footage of which helps double down on Nichols’ belief that tone truly is in the hands.
Back in 2020, Nichols took Van Halen’s hand-made 1986 Kramer Stryper – one of only five ever made in the Kramer factory – for an 11-minute spin, treating the double-cut’s fretboard to his own unique style of pick-less blues rock.
Unsurprisingly, it just sounds like Jared James Nichols playing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, and though a few two-hand tapping sequences and whammy bar wiggles are thrown into the mix, there’s no denying that the magic of Nichols’ performance is all in his fingertips.
Sure, he tries on a few Van Halen riffs for size – such as You Really Got Me – but those Chuck Berry-esque pentatonic licks and the gain-drenched tone that comes from the Seymour Duncan Forza and ‘68 Marshall guitar amp is Nichols through-and-through.
And, when Nichols starts jamming a track from his own record, Old Glory and the Wild Revival, he may as well be playing one of his Gibson Les Pauls.
If ever there was a chance for the “tone is in the hands” argument to be irrefutably rebutted, this was probably it: aside from the Frankenstein, the Kramer Stryper wielded by Van Halen is arguably the closest anyone could get to harnessing Eddie’s sound through his gear.
Featuring a custom-profile mahogany neck, 26” scale length, 22 jumbo frets and a sole DiMarzio Double-Black Hot humbucker, the Kramer Stryper was made by Zeke Clark to Van Halen’s exacting specs back in 1986.
Does this put an end to the debate? Probably not, but there’s no denying it’s yet more evidence that tone truly is in the hands. The ball is in your court, gear hounds…