Wolfgang Van Halen says covering Van Halen made him so nervous he had to change string gauges

Wolfgang Van Halen
(Image credit: Mario Skraban/Redferns via Getty)

Of the countless highlights from last year’s mammoth Taylor Hawkins tribute shows, Wolfgang Van Halen performing – and nailing – two Van Halen classics sits high up on the list. The flawless covers of Hot For Teacher and Panama, which saw Wolfgang channel the spirit of his father Eddie Van Halen, were so good they even prompted accusations of miming.

During the effortlessly on-point performances, Wolfgang Van Halen was the epitome of cool, but despite coming across as the most confident shredder on stage, the electric guitar hero was (understandably) actually very nervous indeed.

In fact, Wolfgang says he was so nervous for the two shows that it forced him to completely change electric guitar string gauges.

Speaking to Guitar Techniques, Wolfgang Van Halen revealed how his nervousness in the build up to the two Taylor Hawkins tribute shows resulted in some unintentional bending, which he sought to control by switching to heavier strings.

“I usually use D’Addario 10-46,” the Mammoth WVH replied when asked about his favored gauge. “I find that’s the perfect balance for me.”

“I used to play 9s,” he continues. “But when I did the Taylor Hawkins tribute show, I was so nervous I was wickedly bending every string out of tune, so we needed to go up a gauge. And I’ve been at 10-46 ever since.”

Despite his nervousness, Wolfgang nailed the two Van Halen covers he performed, with the EVH signature artist even going as far as to label the Wembley show as “the single best gig he ever did”.

“It’d be tough to reach the emotional capacity and literal human capacity of the venue,” Wolfgang explained to Guitar Techniques. “For me, that moment felt like it was the only thing happening in the universe. And I was just 100% fully there.”

It’s not the first time Van Halen has discussed the emotional and personal significance of the Taylor Hawkins tribute shows. Speaking to Total Guitar recently, the Mammoth WVH leader said the gig gave him a sense of “closure” that he otherwise would have got playing tribute shows for his father.

“With Van Halen and all of the history behind it, there may be a bit too much of that to be put aside for what should happen,” he said while discussing the potential of much-discussed Van Halen tribute shows. “Personally, I feel like I got my closure when I played the Taylor Hawkins tributes, because – at least just for me – they were just as much about my dad as they were Taylor.”

Not only did the two shows present Wolfgang the opportunity to receive some closure, they also gave him the perfect chance to do something he once said he’d never do: play his father’s songs live.

“If there was ever any time to do it, it was then,” he reflected. “And I was happy that I found the strength to pull it off, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. But man… It happened and I’m very happy I did it.”

Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitar Techniques.

Earlier this week, Wolfgang Van Halen released I'm Alright, his latest single with Mammoth WVH, which not only features a monster tapping solo, but also his uncle operating his wah pedal.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

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.