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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    07.24.11 @ 04:36 PM
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    Default Edward Van Halen as a Guitar Player (sorry but it's another long one from me)

    Obviously any conversation about the group Van Halen, their songs or anything else will involve Ed's playing, his contributions, ability, style, influence etc.

    But what I want to touch on doesn't have anything to do with his influence. It involves his style and ability to an extent. It also involves the reaction and interpretation of his playing by all of us.

    One of the questions I've passively and actively asked myself and others is this: What kind of guitar player is Ed Van Halen?

    It seems like a very obvious question. Phrases like "virtuoso" or "shredder" or whatever come up almost instantaneously. Others may simply say "well...he's a rock guitar player" or a "metal player" or whatever.

    Often times he's placed in the company of Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, Randy Rhodes and guys like that. Sometimes he's put into a category that includes cats like Metheny, Lukather, and Allan Holdsworth.

    None of that though really speaks to who he is as a player...at least not to me. So, what I'm going to create this thread around is simply my reactions, understandings and outlook on Ed as a player.

    So...here's what I think he's not:

    He doesn't strike me as the same sort of player as Vai and Satriani, Sareceno or Eric Johnson. First off, I think those guys seem to play faster, know more theory, and basically, play with a completely different motivation, inspiration and intention. No judgments made here. He's just not one of these guys.

    He also doesn't strike me like a lot of the jazz or prog rock guys we often talk about...cats like Holdsworth, Petrucci etc.

    He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that thinks about his music in a compartmental manner...although we often breakdown van Halen tunes into three categories: main riff, chorus and solo, I don't think he does...at least it doesn't seem that way.

    He also doesn't strike me as a pure stream of thought, one-take kind of guy either. He's somewhere in the middle. Not quite a mathematician, but not quite a romantic poet either.

    Now, this is what I think he is:

    A very ambitious player that hears something in his head, has a vision of what he wants to say and hear and simply plays and tinkers until he finds out how to make those sounds. Brian Wilson was very much this way. He'd hear something and just start doing everything he could think of in order to replicate the sound. Sometimes that meant playing an organ, an accordion and a bass altogether in a very specific way. Other times that meant using an eyedropper to let individual drops of water hit "the sweet spot" of a water jug. Ed strikes me as this kind of player.

    He strikes me as the kind of player whose unorthodox style of playing was born not of "this will knock 'em dead" but rather "YEAH! That's what I hear!" Does that make sense? I don't think he did things for the sake of doing them, in as much as all of his single and two handed tapping and percussive attacks etc.

    So in that, I see him as an "accidental virtuoso" if that makes sense.

    Insight? Reactions? Am I a complete fool for looking at it this way?

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk Viking's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 03:26 PM
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    I think you've put it very well. Ed could care less about what key it's in or the theory behind the music. If it sounds good, it is good.
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  3. #3
    Baluchitherium steve mcqueen's Avatar
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    Ed is one of those "hears voices" type of artists....there is music and sounds running though his head at all times.....he himself has said this....so much so he doesn't know what to do with all of it.....his "10 albums worth of material" is most likely swimming around in his head...this is part of his genius....and his torment....he can't contol it and maybe part of the reason he has to self -medicate, so to speak.
    also this is the reason he can't be left to his own devices as far producing his own music.....there is just too much flashing in front of his eyes (music wise) and needs someone to help him interpet it.....if there is no one to help him sift though all that he hears....well, then you get something like VH3.....which always sounds unfinished.
    I do think as well, that these are some of the reasons for his ecclectic personality and his drinking.....he is chasing little music demons his whole life....geniuses though history have shown similar behaviour.
    I have always felt that he should be considered a musical genius.....for any genre.....he gets labled as a "Heavy Metal" or "Hard Rock" guitarist simply because of the instument he choose as his means to interept what he hears.

  4. #4
    Atomic Punk
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    07.24.11 @ 04:36 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve mcqueen
    Ed is one of those "hears voices" type of artists....there is music and sounds running though his head at all times.....he himself has said this....so much so he doesn't know what to do with all of it.....his "10 albums worth of material" is most likely swimming around in his head...this is part of his genius....and his torment....he can't contol it and maybe part of the reason he has to self -medicate, so to speak.
    also this is the reason he can't be left to his own devices as far producing his own music.....there is just too much flashing in front of his eyes (music wise) and needs someone to help him interpet it.....if there is no one to help him sift though all that he hears....well, then you get something like VH3.....which always sounds unfinished.
    I do think as well, that these are some of the reasons for his ecclectic personality and his drinking.....he is chasing little music demons his whole life....geniuses though history have shown similar behaviour.
    I have always felt that he should be considered a musical genius.....for any genre.....he gets labled as a "Heavy Metal" or "Hard Rock" guitarist simply because of the instument he choose as his means to interept what he hears.
    I agree, I've always considered him in the same breath as Bach, Beethoven, Brian Wilson and Van Gogh.

    As far as needing someone to oversee or help "sift" I agree to a point. The key there is finding the right person and there usually isn't. Sometimes, it's a fight. Look at Pet Sounds. Sometimes, these guys have to simply force people to shut up and "go with it." Then, after it's all said and done, let people sift through it and decide for themselves what it all means.

  5. #5
    Baluchitherium steve mcqueen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by broken9500
    I agree, I've always considered him in the same breath as Bach, Beethoven, Brian Wilson and Van Gogh.

    As far as needing someone to oversee or help "sift" I agree to a point. The key there is finding the right person and there usually isn't. Sometimes, it's a fight. Look at Pet Sounds. Sometimes, these guys have to simply force people to shut up and "go with it." Then, after it's all said and done, let people sift through it and decide for themselves what it all means.
    Although I am glad no one "sifted though" Pet Sounds....it is by no means an easy listen though....do you remember the first time you heard it?....take's a few listens.... much like VH3 for that matter.....But I believe that lead singers and producers have sifted though Eddie's music.....more often than not......probaly for the sake of keeping the music a bit more mainsteam and "pop" sounding.....I have heard in the past that Eddie often times trys to cram 4 songs worth of riffs in to one song, and Dave, Sam, Ted or whoever have to take him aside and tell him to save a few for the next song.....I can certinaly see that leading to conflict in the studio from time to time.....it would be interesting to hear the VH catalog as "heard" by Eddie....a directors cut so to speak.....might take a few listens though....

  6. #6
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    05.01.13 @ 03:09 PM
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    I know this is going to sound demeaning but I don't mean it to but I think Ed, in a way, is like an idiot servant. He's brilliant but at the same time he puts dots on his guitar neck with a Sharpie so he will know where to put his fingers. This was seen on an Entertainment Tonight interview from the 2004 tour. He even said, "people wouldn't believe it if they saw it."

    I think guitar to Ed is just intuitive. He's been given a gift that enables him to "fall down the stairs and land on his feet." People like Vai, Satriani, Holdsworth, etc. have studied music, have studied theory and have a great sense of how music works. Ed, on the other hand, has only one theory, "if it sounds good, it is good." Who can argue that, just listen to "I'm The One" and remember he came up with this when he was 19 or 20! He plays licks in this song where some of the notes aren't really in key, but who cares they sound GREAT!

    You also have to give credit to David Lee Roth and Ted Templeman as Ed being a genius guitar player doesn't make a great song or album. I remember reading where Dave came into the band and all of VH's songs were long 10 minute plus jams. It was Dave that insisted they needed to have songs that guys would like but girls could dance to as well. Of course Ted had a lot to do with making VH what they are (were) too.

    One last observation, I have the DVD called "Eddie Van Halen and Friends" that shows Ed playing with a number of artists over the years and as I'm watching this I can't help but realize he's playing the same thing over and over. He only knows one way to play guitar, albeit this one way changed rock guitar forever!

    Finally, I play "Eddie" in a Van Halen tribute band (www.vhtributeband.com) and have really studied Ed's guitar playing and I would say there's about five main tricks Ed has that he varies in almost all of his songs.

    The man is a genius no doubt but a very different kind of genius than the other guitar legends listed above.
    Last edited by MOJODOJO; 07.16.06 at 03:42 PM.

  7. #7
    Atomic Punk
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    07.24.11 @ 04:36 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve mcqueen
    Although I am glad no one "sifted though" Pet Sounds....it is by no means an easy listen though....do you remember the first time you heard it?....take's a few listens.... much like VH3 for that matter.....But I believe that lead singers and producers have sifted though Eddie's music.....more often than not......probaly for the sake of keeping the music a bit more mainsteam and "pop" sounding.....I have heard in the past that Eddie often times trys to cram 4 songs worth of riffs in to one song, and Dave, Sam, Ted or whoever have to take him aside and tell him to save a few for the next song.....I can certinaly see that leading to conflict in the studio from time to time.....it would be interesting to hear the VH catalog as "heard" by Eddie....a directors cut so to speak.....might take a few listens though....
    Actually...I very specifically, very vividly remember the first time I heard Pet Sounds...and the last time for that matter (about 30 minutes ago) I was a teenager, in high school. To that point, I had only heard Sloop John B and Wouldn't It Be Nice. That was it. (If you care to hear the long version of this, send me a private message, it's a very strange story) I sat down, grabbed the headphones, put the tape in and played it from beginning to end. It was the most impactful breathtaking emotional hour or so of my life to that point and perhaps ever...in fact, every time I play the record, it feels like that. Seriously.

    I do agree with you though that some artists do need a collaborater/interpreter to help focus though.
    Last edited by broken9500; 07.16.06 at 04:04 PM.

  8. #8
    Atomic Punk
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    Quote Originally Posted by MOJODOJO
    I know this is going to sound demeaning but I don't mean it to but I think Ed, in a way, is like an idiot servant. He's brilliant but at the same time he puts dots on his guitar neck with a Sharpie so he will know where to put his fingers. This was seen on an Entertainment Tonight interview from the 2004 tour. He even said, "people wouldn't believe it if they saw it."

    I think guitar to Ed is just intuitive. He's been given a gift that enables him to "fall down the stairs and land on his feet." People like Vai, Satriani, Holdsworth, etc. have studied music, have studied theory and have a great sense of how music works. Ed, on the other hand, has only one theory, "if it sounds good, it is good." Who can argue that, just listen to "I'm The One" and remember he came up with this when he was 19 or 20! He plays licks in this song where some of the notes aren't really in key, but who cares they sound GREAT!

    You also have to give credit to David Lee Roth and Ted Templeman as Ed being a genius guitar player doesn't make a great song or album. I remember reading where Dave came into the band and all of VH's songs were long 10 minute plus jams. It was Dave that insisted they needed to have songs that guys would like but girls could dance to as well. Of course Ted had a lot to do with making VH what they are (were) too.

    One last observation, I have the DVD called "Eddie Van Halen and Friends" that shows Ed playing with a number of artists over the years and as I'm watching this I can't help but realize he's playing the same thing over and over. He only knows one way to play guitar, albeit this one way changed rock guitar forever!

    Finally, I play "Eddie" in a Van Halen tribute band (www.vhtributeband.com) and have really studied Ed's guitar playing and I would say there's about five main tricks Ed has that he varies in almost all of his songs.

    The man is a genius no doubt but a very different kind of genius than the other guitar legends listed above.
    Very interesting insight...particularly what you're saying in regards to your experience "playing eddie" in a tribute band and what you said about him being a "different kind of genius" than vai and the rest.

    For me, this is THE DEFINING distinction between a "genius" and a very very talented and studied musician. It has less to do with talent and more to do with intuition, inclinations, and desires. Ed was who he was from the get go. Van Gogh was who he was from the get go. Vai was someone that was inspired to become who he was so he applied himself...much like an engineer or an architect. You have the Paul McCartney's of the world, who do what they do because that's what they do and those that adopt a profession because that's what interests themselves the most. Does that make sense?

  9. #9
    Atomic Punk Van Squalen's Avatar
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    Ed invented the internet.

    Ed cries the tears of a clown.

    Ed likes bologna and cheese sandwiches.

    Ed hunts wild boar.

    Ed fired missiles into the Sea of Japan.

    Ed and Dave are saving the inevitable for 2012's End of Days Lake of Fire tour.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Squalen
    Ed invented the internet.

    Ed cries the tears of a clown.

    Ed likes bologna and cheese sandwiches.

    Ed hunts wild boar.

    Ed fired missiles into the Sea of Japan.

    Ed and Dave are saving the inevitable for 2012's End of Days Lake of Fire tour.
    I smell sarcasm....

  11. #11
    Atomic Punk
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    I've said this before:

    There are two keys to understanding Ed and his approach to guitar.

    The first is that when he solos he's hearing a Clarinet. His father was a Clarinet player and Ed heard this in the house all the time while he was growing up. If you've ever listened to Benny Goodman then you know what Ed is hearing in his head.

    The second is that Ed plays piano on the guitar. His chord voicings come from the piano, often directly in the cases of "Unchained" and "Hear About It Later".

    Most rock players evolve out of the I-IV-V-I 12-bar blues. Where ever they go from there that base is the foundation for their approach to music and guitar playing. Ed and Alex were trained to be concert pianists, their music was a direct rebellion against that training (which was abusive BTW). "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love" is a perfect example, it's two chords, it just screams fuck you to music theory. They had music theory at Pasadena City college from the same guy who taught Frank Zappa. He's the one who Ed quotes when he says "If it sounds good, it is good.".

    Ed is a stand alone in the guitar universe. A complete original.
    Last edited by Axxman300; 07.16.06 at 05:44 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Default Off the cuff.

    Simply off the cuff. All of our great musicians hear specific music in their heads and follow it to an extent or more. Mozartwas able to calculate 11 instruments, 3 to 4 or as his last work, the Requiem demanded 14 movements all in his head, without the use of any instrument at all. Eddie does that but on a much more simplified scale, no pun intended.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Axxman300
    I've said this before:

    There are two keys to understanding Ed and his approach to guitar.

    The first is that when he solos he's hearing a Clarinet. His father was a Clarinet player and Ed heard this in the house all the time while he was growing up. If you've ever listened to Benny Goodman then you know what Ed is hearing in his head.

    The second is that Ed plays piano on the guitar. His chord voicings come from the piano, often directly in the cases of "Unchained" and "Hear About It Later".

    Most rock players evolve out of the I-IV-V-I 12-bar blues. Where ever they go from there that base is the foundation for their approach to music and guitar playing. Ed and Alex were trained to be concert pianists, their music was a direct rebellion against that training (which was abusive BTW). "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love" is a perfect example, it's two chords, it just screams fuck you to music theory. They had music theory at Pasadena City college from the same guy who taught Frank Zappa. He's the one who Ed quotes when he says "If it sounds good, it is good.".

    Ed is a stand alone in the guitar universe. A complete original.
    You said it perfectly. Best, not the best, it doesn't matter. He IS AN ORIGINAL, and should be appreciated as such. Whatever Ed's done I don't think he'll ever be called a rip off.
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  14. #14
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    Ed's approach to the guitar is VERY different than most rock players. That's what makes his playing so original and interesting, is that he doesn't follow any conventional theory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Squalen
    Ed invented the internet.

    Ed cries the tears of a clown.

    Ed likes bologna and cheese sandwiches.

    Ed hunts wild boar.

    Ed fired missiles into the Sea of Japan.

    Ed and Dave are saving the inevitable for 2012's End of Days Lake of Fire tour.
    and last but not least, ed enjoys his ice cream on top of his beef stew .
    Last edited by lal5150; 07.17.06 at 12:46 AM.

 

 

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