Hailed as the inventor of the doubletapping style, Eddie Van Halen incorporated classical scales into his solos to add epic grandeur. He made us all green with jealousy for his whirring fingers, his outlandish stage moves and the way he suddenly made Clapton, Page and the gang look like leaden rock and roll tortoises. Virtuosity was to become Ed’s calling card, and it would soon make him the world’s most influential guitarist.
Strange to think of it now, but EVH was once on a budget, which led him to carve up a few guitars to create the ax of his dreams. While there’s nothing to stop you from creating your own “Frankenstein” super Strat, as Eddie did, it’s time consuming and requires a certain level of expertise. Moreover, there are more sensible options, like the Fender Standard Series Stratocaster HSS ($527.99). Admittedly, it doesn’t have much of an Eddie vibe, nor a Floyd Rose tremolo, but its whammy bar and combination of one humbucker and two single-coil pickups will give you everything you require to cover most of Ed’s early VH tone. If later Van Halen is what floats your boat, head straight for Peavey’s HP Special guitars, which retail from $1,299 to $2,199. They sport two humbuckers, a Floyd Rose Licensed locking tremolo and an asymmetrical (for comfort) bird’s-eye maple neck. Also worth considering is a OLP MM1 with a Floyd Rose tremolo for a meager $399.
In terms of amps, Peavey recently brought out the 6505 Plus, the successor to Eddie’s 5150 II signature head. The 6505 Plus has Rhythm and Lead channels and an extra tube in the preamp, and lists for $1,299.99. Also worth your consideration is the 60-watt 6505 212 Combo, for $1349.99.
Effect pedals are a necessity to emulate Eddie’s tone. Check out MXR’s EVH Phase 90 ($189) or, for a less-expensive alternative, the DigiTech Hyper Phase ($104.95). For some “Unchained” swooshing, look at the MXR’s M117R flanger ($249.99).