Eddie Van Halen Set an Unprecedented Standard for the Art of Guitar Music

October 9, 2020

Craig Jenkins, with a wonderfully written obituary and remembrance of Eddie Van Halen:

Eddie Van Halen’s impact on the guitar is more than a matter of perfect solos, influential techniques, and enterprising mixing of genres. His experimentation with synths was an endeavor he’d have to drag the band and their producer into; he’d record enticing song fragments in his home studio before fighting tooth and nail to get the rest of the band to bite. (The keyboard part that ended up on “Jump” was created during sessions for an earlier album and rejected. Resurrected for 1984, the song became the band’s first and only No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.) Frankenstrat — his signature red, white, and black guitar — took its name from the shifting rotation of Fender Stratocaster and Gibson parts he’d assembled it out of. In the ’80s, he created a patent for a contraption that propped up a guitar, freeing a musician from holding the instrument upright, an idea no doubt inspired by the tapping technique he popularized earlier in his career that allowed him to zip between notes by hitting the frets without having to strum. He continued tinkering in his later years as he did in his youth, drafting innovative solutions to the limitations of his instrument he’d encounter as he played it.