Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen (born January 26, 1955 in Nijmegen) is a Dutch-born American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen. He is ranked as one of the world's greatest guitarists, and one of the most influential rock guitarists of the 20th century. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Van Halen number eight in the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. In 2012, he was voted in a Guitar World magazine reader's poll as the number one of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" over Brian May of Queen (number two) and Alex Lifeson of Rush (number three).
Born January 26, 1955, in Nijmegen, Netherlands, Edward Lodewijk van Halen is the son of Dutch father, Jan van Halen, a clarinetist, saxophonist, and pianist, and Indonesian-born Eurasian mother, Eugenia van Halen (born van Beers).
Van Halen's middle name, "Lodewijk," is after composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Lodewijk is the Dutch version of Ludwig). Edward continued this naming tradition by naming his son Wolfgang Van Halen after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In February 1962, the Van Halen family moved to the United States, settling in Pasadena, California.
Van Halen and his older brother, Alex, learned to play the piano as children. The brothers commuted from Pasadena to San Pedro to study with an elderly man, Stasys (Stanley) Kalvaitis who taught them classical piano. Van Halen and brother Alex hated the commute, but continued as their mother would discipline them if they refused to go. Van Halen revealed in an interview that he never could read the music. Instead, he learned from watching and listening. During recitals of Bach or Mozart, he would simply wing it. From 1964 through to 1967, Edward won first place in the annual piano competition held at Long Beach City College. Afterward, the judges would comment that he had an interesting interpretation of the classical piece. Van Halen's view was, "What? I thought I was playing it correctly!" However, according to one interview, playing the piano did not prove to be challenging or interesting to him. Consequently, while Alex began playing the guitar, Van Halen bought a drum kit and began practicing for hours every day.
After Van Halen heard Alex's performance of the The Surfaris' drum solo in the song Wipe Out, he decided to switch instruments and began learning how to play the electric guitar. According to Van Halen, as a teen, he would often practice while walking around at home with his guitar strapped on or sitting in his room for hours with the door locked. Van Halen acknowledged the importance of supergroup Cream's I'm So Glad on Goodbye Cream to be mind-blowing. He once claimed that he had learned almost all of Eric Clapton's solos in the band Cream "...note for note." "I've always said Eric Clapton was my main influence," Van Halen said, "but Jimmy Page was actually more the way I am, in a reckless-abandon kind of way."
Van Halen and Alex formed their first band with three other boys, calling themselves The Broken Combs, performing at lunchtime at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, where Van Halen was in the fourth grade. Van Halen would later say that this was when he first felt the desire to become a professional musician.
Formation of Van Halen
The band Van Halen, originally called "Genesis" with bass player Mark Stone, became "Mammoth" when they discovered there was already a band from England with the name Genesis. Mammoth consisted of Van Halen on guitar and lead vocals, his brother Alex on drums and bassist Mark Stone. Mammoth had no P.A. system of their own, so they rented one from David Lee Roth —a service for which he charged by the night. Van Halen quickly became frustrated with singing lead vocals, and decided they could save money by letting Roth into the band. Michael Anthony soon replaced Mark Stone on bass. The group opted to change its name because Roth suggested that the last name of the two brothers "...sounded cool." Roth also revealed in an interview that he thought that changing the name would give the group staying power—"Would people think it was a name? A place?"
At one point, the group even considered naming themselves after the Black Sabbath song Rat Salad, before settling on Van Halen. The band originally began playing cover material, ranging from pop to disco, before settling on original material. In 1976, band supporter Rodney Bingenheimer invited Kiss bassist Gene Simmons to check out a Van Halen show.
Impressed, Simmons soon produced a Van Halen demo tape with recording beginning at the Village Recorder studios in Los Angeles and finishing with overdubs at the Electric Lady Studios in New York. Looking to strike a recording contract, Simmons shopped the demo tape around, but found no success. Even Kiss manager Bill Aucoin passed on it. One rainy night in May 1977 at the Starwood Club, Van Halen was spotted by record producer Ted Templeman. Like Simmons, Templeman was impressed and quickly convinced Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin to sign the band, and they accepted 24 hours later. Their self-titled debut album was recorded in mid-September to early October 1977, and was released on February 10, 1978.
David Lee Roth Era
Van Halen released a total of six albums with vocalist David Lee Roth: Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), Diver Down (1982), and 1984 (1984). However, the band had trouble working together as a cohesive unit. According to Gene Simmons' book Kiss and Make-Up, Van Halen approached Simmons in 1982 about possibly joining Kiss to replace Ace Frehley, chiefly because of his personality conflicts with Roth.
Simmons and Alex persuaded Van Halen to remain in Van Halen, while Kiss replaced Frehley with Vinnie Vincent. Shortly afterwards, Van Halen released the album 1984, which yielded the band's first #1 hit Jump. Other singles released from the album performed well, particularly Hot for Teacher, the video for which featured a skimpily dressed model playing the part of a female elementary school teacher and school-age boys portraying younger versions of the band members. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts, behind Thriller by Michael Jackson, on which Van Halen also played.
Jimmy Page said at the time, "For my money, Van Halen was the first significant new kid on the block. Very dazzling." In 1982, Van Halen was invited by producer Quincy Jones to contribute the guitar solo for Michael Jackson's recording for Thriller's Beat It. Van Halen improvised and integrated the familiar Van Halen-style guitar solo bridge in the new song. Part of rock lore was that credit for his work on the noteworthy track was sufficient and Van Halen declined the payment he was offered for his performance.
Sammy Hagar Era
With the arrival of former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar in July 1985, the band's sound changed somewhat to adapt to the strengths of the new vocalist, as Van Halen's keyboard playing became a permanent fixture, heard in songs such as Dreams and Love Walks In.
Hagar appeared on four studio albums with the band, 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), and Balance (1995), as well as one live album, Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993). During Hagar's time with the band, some fans informally referred to the band as "Van Hagar" to distinguish it from the David Lee Roth lineup. Even though some fans of the original lineup were upset over both the separation of Roth and the hiring of Hagar, the band achieved something never attained by the original line-up: a #1 record. With Hagar, all four studio releases reached #1 on the Billboard charts. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. Their live album Live: Right Here, Right Now peaked at #5.
Gary Cherone Era
Following Hagar's departure, the group briefly reunited with original singer David Lee Roth and released Best Of – Volume I, a greatest hits package, in October 1996. Two new songs were recorded for the album, Me Wise Magic—which reached #1 on the mainstream rock chart as a single—and Can't Get This Stuff No More. However, previous disagreements resurfaced and the reunion did not last. Roth left in September 1996 after the MTV Video Music Awards.
The band auditioned many prospective replacements for Hagar, finally settling on Gary Cherone, former front man for Extreme, a band also represented by Van Halen's manager. Cherone predicted that the new lineup would last "10 years," however the Van Halen III (1998) album was poorly received. The band completed a world tour with their new single Without You and returned to the studio to start on a second album. However, Cherone soon had departed amicably and, without a lead singer, Van Halen went on hiatus.
Reunion with Hagar and Roth
In 2004, Van Halen returned with Hagar as their lead singer. A greatest hits package, The Best of Both Worlds, was released to coincide with the band's reunion tour. The album included three new tracks recorded with Hagar, Up For Breakfast, It's About Time, and Learning to See. The band toured the U.S., covering 80 cities. On February 2, 2007, it was officially announced on the band's website that David Lee Roth would rejoin Van Halen for their summer tour. The excitement regarding the tour waned when, on February 20, 2007, reports surfaced that the tour was indefinitely postponed. A previously planned compilation of Roth-era Van Halen hits was shelved.
After six months and a stint in rehabilitation for Van Halen, the band confirmed on August 13, 2007, at a press conference in Los Angeles, they would do a tour with the new lineup from late 2007–2008 across North America, with worldwide touring and a new album to follow. Persistent rumors had long indicated the Van Halen brothers were in talks with Roth to rejoin the band for a tour and/or new material. Van Halen's then 15-year-old son Wolfgang was to play bass in Van Halen in the fall, replacing Michael Anthony. Van Halen claimed his son's presence would have a positive effect on the band.
Suffering from lingering injuries from past high-risk acrobatic stage antics and crashes, Van Halen underwent hip replacement surgery in November 1999, after his chronic avascular necrosis, with which he was diagnosed in 1995, became unbearable. In April 2001, Van Halen confirmed he had been undergoing treatment for tongue cancer since May 2000. The subsequent surgery removed roughly a third of his tongue. He was declared cancer-free in May 2002.
Since the 2004 tour, Van Halen had largely disappeared from the public eye, with the exception of occasional appearances including the 14th annual Elton John Academy Awards party and a performance at a Kenny Chesney concert. In December 2004, Van Halen attended "Dimebag" Darrell Lance Abbott's funeral, and donated the black and yellow guitar featured on the Van Halen II album inlay, stating that it was always a favorite of Dimebag's. The guitar was put in Darrell's Kiss Kasket and was buried with it.
On December 5, 2005, Van Halen's wife, Valerie Bertinelli, filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, after four years of separation. On March 8, 2007, Van Halen announced on the official band website that Van Halen was entering rehabilitation for unspecified reasons. However, both Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony have made statements indicating that Van Halen's personality had changed due to alcohol abuse. Van Halen emerged from rehabilitation and appeared publicly as an honorary official during the April 21, 2007, NASCAR event at Phoenix International Raceway. He also unveiled a new Fender Stratocaster with a paint job made for the NASCAR races before the ceremony. In 2007, Van Halen was honored in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II.
Van Halen toured the U.S. and Canada from September 2007 through summer 2008. On October 6, 2008, it was reported that Van Halen had proposed to his girlfriend Janie Liszewski, an actress and stuntwoman who became Van Halen's publicist in 2007. The two married on June 27, 2009, at his Studio City estate, with his son Wolfgang and ex-wife Valerie in attendance. Eddie's brother, Alex Van Halen, officiated the ceremony, while his son served as best man. On January 1, 2011, Van Halen attended Valerie Bertinelli's wedding with his son, Wolfgang. In mid-January 2011, he attended the winter NAMM Show to present his new Wolfgang guitars, sharing the Fender booth with fellow guitar player Yngwie Malmsteen.
Van Halen released their twelfth studio album, A Different Kind of Truth, on February 7, 2012, their first album in 14 years and their first album with David Lee Roth since 1984.
In August 2012, Van Halen underwent an emergency surgery for a severe bout of diverticulitis. His recovery time was four to six months, causing Van Halen to postpone their Japanese tour, which was originally scheduled to begin in November 2012.
Style And Influence
Van Halen's approach to the guitar involves several distinctive components. His use of two-handed tapping, natural and artificial harmonics, vibrato, and tremolo picking, combined with his rhythmic sensibility and melodic approach, have influenced an entire generation of guitarists. The solo in Eruption was voted #2 on Guitar World magazine's readers poll of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Despite his massive success Van Halen has never learned to read music.
The instrumental "Eruption" showcased a solo technique called tapping, utilizing both left and right hands on the guitar neck. Although Van Halen popularized tapping, he did not, despite popular belief, invent the tapping technique. The tapping technique in blues and rock was picked up by various guitarists in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Duane Allman, Frank Zappa and Ace Frehley tapped with a pick in the early 1970s. Steve Hackett used tapping to play Bach-esque keyboard passages on the guitar in the early 1970s. Larry Carlton also had a tapped note at the end of his solo on the song "Kid Charlemagne."
Queen's Brian May used the tapping technique, which he picked up in America in the early 1970s, on songs such as "It's Late" from the News of the World album. In a January 1983 Guitar Player interview, May said, "I stole it from a guy who said that he stole it from Billy Gibbons in ZZ Top."
George Lynch said in an interview that he and Van Halen saw Harvey Mandel tap at the Starwood Club in the 1970s. In a March 2009 Metal Den interview Lynch said,
We both witnessed Harvey Mandel from Canned Heat do a neo classic tapping thing at a club called the Starwood in Hollywood back in the 70s. Other people were doing it to a limited extent, Brian May from Queen dabbled … George Van Eps was doing it in the 50s.
Early Van Halen stage photographs, and demo and bootleg recordings from 1976 and before, do not indicate Van Halen using any tapping techniques. Van Halen's comments about how he came across the tapping technique vary from interview to interview. In one review with Guitar World, he said,
I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his "Heartbreaker" solo back in 1971. 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.
Van Halen also employs tapping harmonics. He holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger, which leaves his index finger free for tapping, and also makes for easy transitions between picking and tapping. In support of his two-handed tapping techniques, Van Halen also holds a patent for a flip-out support device that attaches to the rear of the electric guitar. This device enables the user to play the guitar in a manner similar to the piano by orienting the face of the guitar upward instead of forward.
Van Halen (a self-described "tone chaser") achieved his distinctive tone using the EVH "Frankenstrat" guitar, a stock 100-watt Marshall amp, a Variac (to lower the voltage of the amp to keep the same tone as an amplifier running full-blast at lower volumes), and effects such as an Echoplex, an MXR Phase 90, an MXR Flanger and EQs. Van Halen constructed his now legendary Frankenstrat guitar using a Boogie Bodies factory "2nd" body, Charvel neck, a single vintage Gibson PAF humbucker pickup sealed in molten surfboard wax done at home in a coffee can to reduce microphonic feedback (which also warped the bobbin of the pickup), a pre-CBS Fender tremolo bridge (later to be a Floyd Rose bridge) and a single volume control with a knob labeled "tone."
Van Halen has used a variety of pickups including Gibson PAF's, 1970s Mighty Mites, DiMarzios and Ibanez Super 70s. He was using Mighty Mite pickups in 1977 club photos, just prior to the recording of the first Van Halen album. Mighty Mite pickups were OEM pickups made by Seymour Duncan and were copies of DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. They can be identified by their lack of bobbin holes. Seymour Duncan started advertising pickup rewinding services in late 1977 to early 1978, and apparently rewound a Gibson PAF for Van Halen around the early 1978 period.
The now famous single pickup, single volume knob guitar configuration was Van Halen's chosen platform due to his lack of knowledge in electronic circuitry, primitive wire soldering skills, and his disappointment in not finding an adequate, durable bridge and neck pick-up combination on his own. Upon installing the humbucking pickup, he did not know how to wire it into the guitar circuit, so he wired the simplest working circuit to get it to function.
His later guitars include various Kramer models from his period of endorsement for that company (most notably the Kramer 5150, from which Kramer in its Gibson-owned days based their Kramer 1984 design, an unofficial artist signature model) and three signature models: the Ernie Ball/Music Man Edward van Halen Model (which continues as the Ernie Ball Axis), the Peavey EVH Wolfgang (which has been succeeded by a similar guitar called the HP Special), and the Charvel EVH Art Series, on which Van Halen does the striping before they are painted by Charvel.
In an interview in Guitar World magazine in July 1985, Van Halen states that his "brown sound" is "...basically a tone, a feeling that I'm always working at ... It comes from the person. If the person doesn't even know what that type of tone I'm talking about is, they can't really work towards it, can they?"
Van Halen used a volume technique in the instrumental Cathedral. He hammered notes on the fretboard with one hand while rolling the volume knob with the other. This altered the attack and decay of the notes so they mimicked the sound of keyboards. This "volume swells" sound (also known as "violining," because of the sound) was originally popularized by 1970s progressive rock bands like Genesis (Steve Hackett), Focus (Jan Akkerman), Yes (Steve Howe), and Rush (Alex Lifeson), but it was usually performed with a volume pedal at a slower pace. Cathedral also employs an electronic delay, set at 400 ms, and the delayed note set at the same amplitude as the original note. Most of the composition's notes come from hammering on the notes of a major fifth string barre chord (ascending and then descending) and replicating this pattern up and down the neck of the guitar. The end result of this technique make the composition sound as if it is being played on a church or cathedral organ.
Van Halen assembled his guitar (Black and White) by hand, using an imperfect body and a neck bought from Wayne Charvel's guitar shop. The body and neck were constructed by Lynn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies guitars, whose parts were sold by Wayne Charvel at the time. Van Halen installed a humbucker in the bridge position, essentially creating a Fat Strat. In 1979, Van Halen began to play a black, rear loaded Charvel with yellow stripes. This guitar was placed in casket of fellow guitarist Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott, who was murdered on December 8, 2004. It was later replicated by Charvel, along with the black and white striped model and the red white and black model (EVH Art Series Guitars).
Van Halen used a stock unmodified Ibanez Destroyer on several of the tracks on Van Halen's first album, including You Really Got Me and Runnin' With the Devil. This same Ibanez Destroyer was later modified, and nicknamed "The Shark" by Van Halen fans. Another mostly stock Ibanez Destroyer painted red/orange was borrowed from Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. for the recording of most of the Women and Children First album.
In 1979, Van Halen's original guitar was repainted red, with stripes left unpainted to reveal the original black and white underneath. He changed the neck, removed part of the pick guard and installed a Floyd Rose vibrato unit. The guitar is known as both a "frankenstrat" and the "Frankenstein." Fender issued a replica of the guitar in relic form at a retail price of $25,000 in 2007. A "new" (non-relicced) Frankenstrat was once available through the Charvel company for significantly less, but it was discontinued. This Fender/Charvel series was the first time Van Halen had consented to the commercial release of a guitar with his signature graphics.
In 1983, Van Halen began to use a brand new Kramer guitar with artwork similar to its predecessor, with a hockey-stick or "banana" headstock, which came to be known as the "5150." This guitar was rear-loaded (no pick guard), with a Floyd Rose vibrato unit and a maple neck that was later electronically mapped in order to be copied onto the later Music Man and Peavey signature models. This guitar was last used on the track Judgment Day on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Various versions of it can be seen in the music videos for Panama, When It's Love, and the concert video Live Without a Net. The guitar itself was a variant of a Kramer Pacer, although not a model that was technically available at the time.
It was painted with Krylon paints by Van Halen and used through the OU812 Tour, after which he retired it. However, Van Halen did break out the guitar for use on the 2004 reunion tour, although the neck finally failed and was replaced. A copy of this guitar was available (without Van Halen's permission) through the manufacturer of Kramers, Music Yo, a subsidiary of the Gibson company. (Gibson ended the Music Yo business, and Kramer is known only as a Gibson Sister Company.) In 2012, the Gibson company again began producing the 1984 model Kramer. These guitars did not feature the custom graphics of the 5150 guitar, as the striped EVH graphics are trademarked by Eddie (Edward Van Halen).
Van Halen has used a Steinberger GL-2T guitar with TransTrem on several songs, including Get Up and Summer Nights (from 5150). It was custom painted with the "Frankenstein" graphics. He has also used Kramer and Peavey model guitars fitted with the Steinberger TransTrem unit.
EVH Music Man
In the early 1990s, Ernie Ball produced an EVH signature "Music Man" guitar, which Van Halen used on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance albums. This guitar is still commercially available under the Axis name, and retains all of the original features of the Edward Van Halen model. Although rumours abound of a personal falling-out between Van Halen and the Ernie Ball company's Sterling Ball, the official reason for the cessation of their commercial relationship was that Van Halen was upset that Ernie Ball could not produce enough of this guitar to meet demand.
Van Halen named his line of Peavey signature Wolfgang guitars after his son, Wolfgang. The guitar itself was similar to the previous Axis line, but with a slightly altered shape and many additional options available in Peavey's much larger custom shop. These guitars included a device called a "D-Tuna," which enabled a guitarist to tune the low E string down to D with a slight turn of a knob attached to the end of the bridge.
In 2003, at the NAMM show, the relationship between Peavey and Van Halen began to strain. Peavey constructed a glass-enclosed stage for Van Halen to play for VIPs at 2 p.m. Van Halen arrived late, shocking fans with his disheveled appearance, and he immediately went upstairs and initially refused to play. After an hour of negotiations, Van Halen came down while fans, who had lined up for hours prior to the appearance, roared with approval. Van Halen ultimately spent his short time on stage talking about Wolfgang guitar production and his promise to take a keen interest in quality control. He then left, having only played a few notes and small riffs, much to the dissatisfaction of the fans and Peavey.
The end came in 2004, when the Peavey company parted ways with Van Halen, reportedly because Van Halen launched an online sale of hand-patterned (by Eddie) Charvel guitars, sold under the name "EVH Art Series Guitars," while he was still contractually obligated to Peavey. The guitars sold for large sums on eBay, and were essentially replicas of his famous "Frankenstrat" guitars played by Van Halen primarily during the David Lee Roth era of the band. Van Halen also launched Frankenstein replicas, which are the only Van Halen guitars currently endorsed by Van Halen.
Most recently, Van Halen has collaborated with Fender guitars to produce a replica of the Frankenstrat. Van Halen and Chip Ellis of the Fender Custom Shop teamed up to produce a guitar priced at each. Van Halen has also collaborated with Fender to launch his own EVH brand of guitars, amps, and musical instrument equipment, starting with his new EVH Brand 5150 III amplifier. Van Halen now uses prototypes of his new EVH Brand Wolfgang, an updated version of Van Halen's Peavey Wolfgangs, but with new pickups, knobs, and a thinner but very elaborate quilted maple top to allow the basswood to dominate the tone, providing more tonal resonance but with a balanced high sustain. The new Wolfgang is also equipped with an original Floyd Rose and a slightly altered headstock. This was Ed and Hartley Peavey's original design for the headstock, which Van Halen had patented without the scoop on the final version of the Peavey Wolfgang. He has been seen with three new Wolfgang guitars: a sunburst, a black one, and a white one (the best sounding out of the three prototypes, according to Eddie).
The EVH Wolfgang was planned for initial sale to the public in early 2009, and is now commercially available for purchase. As of February 2012, Van Halen has released different variations of the Wolfgang guitar. An option called the "Stealth" has all-black hardware, and an ebony fretboard. Since NAMM 2011, the Wolfgang Hardtail has been introduced with either the "Stealth" style, or with the standard maple fretboard & chrome hardware option. Van Halen has released the EVH Wolfgang USA Custom, similar to the Wolfgang Hardtail, but with a bone nut (rather than a locking one) and a Les Paul-style control layout.
An EVH Wolfgang Stealth was used for most of the songs on 2012's A Different Kind of Truth. A Collings D2H appears in As Is. A solo and some overdubs on You and Your Blues were performed with a Stratocaster, following a suggestion by producer John Shanks, and a Ripley (fixed by Steve Ripley himself after years out of use) was used on Blood and Fire, which was originally called Ripley after the guitar used to record the demo.
In 2011, Van Halen donated the Frankenstein 2, a replica of the original guitar that was occasionally used on the 2007–2008 David Lee Roth reunion tour, to the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution.
Van Halen's main amplifier in the early years was a 100 watt Marshall amplifier. The amplifier had a 12301 serial number, which dated it to the 1967–1968 transitional period at Marshall, when the circuit of the 100-watt Marshall 1959 changed gradually from the "Bass" circuit to the "SuperLead" circuit. Van Halen's main Marshall's original circuit had an 820 ohm/0.68 uf resistor/capacitor pair on the cathode of valve(tube) 1 and the same on the cathode of valve(tube) 2.
For Van Halen I, a single Celestion speaker cabinet was used, and a variac set to around 90 volts was used on Van Halen's main 100 watt Marshall head, mainly to lower the amplifier's volume. The volume control and all other controls on his Marshall head were set to maximum or 10. Van Halen's Van Halen I recorded guitar tracks were re-amped by using the Sunset Sound studios live reverb room. The first Montrose album was recorded in this way by Ted Templeman and Donn Landee, who also produced and engineered the Van Halen I album. Van Halen I was recorded in Studio 1 and Van Halen II was recorded in Studio 2 at Sunset Sound.
From the mid-1980s, Van Halen has used a real-time re-amping or Master/Slave slaving amplifier setup that was originally designed by Bob Bradshaw and was published in the September 1986 issue of Guitar World Magazine. The first amplifier was a Tube Amplifier, and the second amplifier was an H&H MOSFET solid state power amplifier. Between 1993 and 2004, Van Halen was sponsored by Peavey Electronics to use their 5150 Amplifiers, which he had a role in designing.
Following the end of this relationship, Peavey renamed the amplifier "Peavey 6505," with slightly updated styling but original circuitry. Van Halen is now sponsored by Fender, and has debuted his new amp called the 5150 III. The 5150 III features three channels with their own independent controls, a four-button foot switch, and his famous striped design on the head. In 2013, a 5150 III, 50 watt, 2 speaker, combo amp and 50 watt miniature head (2012) began production.
Floyd Rose system
A crucial component of Van Halen's style is his use of the Floyd Rose locking tremolo, released in 1977. Early tremolo bars allowed the guitarist to impart a vibrato to a chord or single string via movement of the bar with the picking hand, but the slackening of the strings when the bar was heavily depressed could lead to detuning. The addition of the locking bolts at the nut and bridge kept the strings taut and allowed for drastic depression of the tremolo bar to create effects such as the dive bomb. Van Halen went on to collaborate with Floyd Rose on improvements to Rose's device.
Van Halen pioneered the mainstream use of the TransTrem system on the Steinberger line of guitars on 5150, most notably on the songs Summer Nights (locking the tremolo arm in different positions throughout the song, essentially shifting the guitar into several different tunings during the course of the song) and Get Up (where the tremolo bar on the TransTrem is pulled up and down, causing entire chords to shift up and down).
Van Halen also used the TransTrem in Pleasure Dome on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Me Wise Magic on Best Of – Volume I, and in Fire in the Hole on Van Halen III, where the songs go through several tuning changes, while retaining the same chord voicings. The TransTrem system allows for the effect of an instant "capo," increasing the pitch of all strings by up to a minor third or lowering the pitch by as much as a perfect fourth, as well as giving the player the ability to "whammy" entire chords in-tune.
Edward Van Halen is the inventor on US 4656917 . The main claim is for a supporting member on the back of a stringed instrument, allowing the musician to play and/or fret the instrument in new ways.
He is also the lead inventor of US 7183475 , for the D-Tuner he invented to enable a non-floating Floyd Rose-equipped guitar to quickly change the tuning of the low E string by a whole step.
Another patent naming Van Halen as inventor is D388117 for the headstock design for the EVH Wolfgang guitars.
Van Halen has appeared on several projects outside of his eponymous band.
- 1978: Van Halen appeared a Ted Templeman / Donn Landee collaboration. Nicolette Larson's debut album featured Van Halen on the track Can't Get Away From You.
- 1982: Van Halen was invited by Quincy Jones to play guitar on the song Beat It from Michael Jackson's 1982 album Thriller. Steve Lukather of Toto played the main guitar riff and rhythm, while Van Halen played an improvised guitar solo.
- 1983: Van Halen collaborated with Queen guitarist Brian May on the Star Fleet Project, a three-track EP consisting of a rock-styled rendition of the theme to the popular anime children's show, a May-penned track (Let Me Out), and an improvised blues track (Blues Breaker).
- 1984: Van Halen recorded several instrumentals for a movie titled The Wild Life. Some of those recordings used ideas that showed up later in Van Halen songs such as Good Enough, A.F.U. (Naturally Wired), "Right Now," and Blood and Fire. However, only Donut City was included on the soundtrack album, which was released on vinyl and cassette, and never made it to CD format.
- 1984: Van Halen provided the score for the 1984 television film, The Seduction of Gina.
- 1987: Van Halen played bass on Sammy Hagar's 1987 solo album I Never Said Goodbye.
- 1987: On February 28, Van Halen appeared on Saturday Night Live as a guest musician with G. E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band when Valerie Bertinelli hosted the show. About 20 seconds into the performance, G. E. Smith told Van Halen, Go faster! Van Halen also appeared in one sketch with Valerie Bertinelli on that evening's show, which actually featured the Robert Cray Band as its scheduled musical guest.
- 1989: Van Halen played bass on the opening track Twist the Knife from Steve Lukather's debut album, as well as providing the guitar part, which was taken from an outtake from the 5150 album titled I Want Some Action. The main riff was later used by Van Halen on the 3 album for Dirty Water Dog.
- 1994: Van Halen co-wrote the riff of a song with Black Sabbath members, Tony Martin, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler called Evil Eye on the Cross Purposes album, but he wasn't credited due to record company restrictions.
Van Halen played guitar and bass on Rich Wyman's album "Fatherless Child" released: May 24, 1996. The songs with Edward Van Halen were recorded between February 1993 and early 1994. Van Halen was co-producer along with Rich Wyman and Andy Johns.
- 1996: Van Halen also has done soundtrack work for movies such as Over The Top (Winner Takes It All, a collaboration with Sammy Hagar), Twister (the instrumental Respect The Wind), The Wild Life (one song was reused in the movie Back to the Future), and Lethal Weapon 4 (the track Fire in the Hole from Van Halen III).
- 1998: Van Halen performed guitar solos for the Roger Waters song Lost Boys Calling from the film The Legend of 1900.
- Van Halen has recorded with Dweezil Zappa and Jeff Porcaro. After asking Thomas Dolby for his help with his studio equipment, Eddie agreed to play on two of his songs, "Eastern Blok" and "Close but no Cigar".
- July 2006: Van Halen recorded two new instrumental tracks (Rise and Catherine), which debuted in an unusual format: in a pornographic feature entitled Sacred Sin directed by a friend of the guitarist, well known adult director Michael Ninn. These tracks have since surfaced on the Internet. Van Halen also composed some minor uncredited piano interludes in the feature.
- 2009: Van Halen played on YouTube a cameo role in the seventh season premiere of Two and a Half Men, where he plays the main riff from "As Is" from A Different Kind of Truth for Charlie after he exits the men's bathroom. Van Halen explains to Charlie that one never knows when inspiration will occur—hence, he takes his guitar into the bathroom. In this instance, Van Halen admits that the inspiration was "...two burritos and a root beer float."
- 2010: Van Halen appeared on Lopez Tonight and gave George Lopez one of his Wolfgang guitars.
- 2013: Van Halen appeared on two tracks of LL Cool J's album Authentic: "Not Leaving You Tonight" and "We're The Greatest."