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  1. #1
    Unchained
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    12.16.17 @ 12:52 PM
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    Default Tips for learning Ed's solos?

    Hi guys,

    I'm trying to learn some of Ed's licks that I've never really practiced before. Particularly, his solos. I've always learned a lot of the main riffs of the songs, but never really focused on the solos. I've never been a very competent soloist. I mostly play easy pentatonic type solos in the key of whatever song I might be playing. I'm watching some youtube videos which dissect some of Ed's solos, and I just can't get my fingers or picking hand to do what it's supposed to be doing.

    Would any of you guys have any recommendations on how to work up to this stuff?

  2. #2
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    A 6 pack of Schlitz and a lot of free time--that's how he did it.





    Seriously though, you'll notice Ed (like most guitarists) has a fairly finite bag of tricks or old reliables that he goes to during a solo. It just so happens his bag of tricks is exceptional

    If you're used to playing in the pentatonic scales you're off to a good start--that's where Ed plays most of his stuff. I hear a lot of people talk about his crazy stretches, but I've got relatively small hands and don't really have issues hitting his stuff. The ICM solo is really the only one I can think of where I have to consciously position myself leading into the solo.

    Ed loves to hammer on and pull off to open strings all around the neck. He loves to throw squeals and dives in to fill space between the faster licks. I won't claim to know all of his stuff note for note, but I can approximate with my own when I'm too lazy to learn the exact sequence of notes that are in the middle of blazing solo.

    One shape that is really common is the 1-2-4 where he ascends up and down the fret board (like the beginning of the first solo in I'm the One). That 1-2-4 shape can then convert to a 1-3-5 shape where he is basically doing the same thing as he ascends up the scale. You'll notice this repeatable pattern in the On Fire solo, but he uses it in live solo spots all the time as well, especially on the B&E strings.

    As far as the hammer ons and pull offs, one that he does a lot is near the beginning of the Panama solo and he uses almost the exact same riff at the start of the Somebody Get Me a Doctor solo. That concept will familiarize you with what he's doing and he uses the same concept in other solos but use different shapes/notes (like the beginning of Eruption, the first fill in I'm the One, etc.)


    Honestly, the easiest way to learn this stuff is just to sit down and learn each solo one by one. Use a tab to help and keep playing it until it sounds right, then move on to the next song. If you can get through the first VH album you'll have almost everything you need to play the rest--he sprinkles in some new bits on each album, of course, but the concepts largely remain the same.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

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  4. #3
    Unchained
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    Thanks! Any other tips in general? Not specific to Ed's lick's. Like specific exercises for alternate picking, legato, speed, etc?

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    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ledvedder View Post
    Thanks! Any other tips in general? Not specific to Ed's lick's. Like specific exercises for alternate picking, legato, speed, etc?
    Those are more general guitar tips, and since I think I suck at playing guitar, I'm probably not the best person to ask

    I don't think I've ever sat down and practiced an "exercise" like you see in guitar books or videos. Most of the time I just try to learn a passage from a solo I like and integrate that technique elsewhere.

    Probably not the most efficient way to do it but I just like to screw around on the guitar--I'm not looking to gig or anything. If it sounds reasonably good to my ear I'm happy.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

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  7. #5
    Eruption CalFB's Avatar
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    Doug Steel's channel is the one stop shop for VH songs including solos

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...1263F400DD283D

    He's recently started doing George Lynch stuff too.

    Like bsb says, Ed (and everyone else) has his bag of go to licks, and once you get some of those down it starts to click a little.

    The only way I can learn individual techniques is to practice them repetitively until the fingers memorize them. Fluid legato is my Achilles heal, but i'm working hard on it. I love the way the good players make it sound like a running stream.

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  9. #6
    Good Enough
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    First of all is the news you'll find least helpful: Ed inprovises a lot and so should you. In other words, don't stress too much about gettting every single ote and nuance. And if you do, prepare for a tough time because when Ed's free-flowing, his timing isn't like clockwork as he not only plays by feel but often is in a race to cram the notes in. Good luck trying to play the 3rd solo in Source of Infection exactly as per the record - it's hideously complex. But if you just go for the feel and vibe then you'll get close enough. And to cheer you up, Ed never plays solos like that as per the record, either.

    Second, and tying in with the above point, go for the feel of the piece more than the notes. Plenty of guys play note-for-note but are lackingbecause they are so calculated and sterile. Even the brilliant Paul Gilbert can't do Eddie justice. He's got the chops but not the attack, the feel, the vibe. Curt Mitchell on the other hand....

    Third, get your chops down. Sounds obvious, I know, but it's essential. Ed regularly hits 18.5 notes per second - putting him comfortably amongst the fastest guitarists out there. And he was hitting 20 notes per second - alternate picking - in Spanish Fly! I only wish he let loose more often.

    Fourth - and arguably the most important - be fluid. Look at solos like Beat It, Best of Both Worlds, Dream, Girl Gone Bad, Mine All Mine and Pleasure Dome - they sound less like individual notes and more like one long continuous note that dips and rises to differing pitches. Compare that to the rat-a-tat-tat machine gun like alternate picking of Zakk Wylde. Ed is oh-so fluid. Lotsd of legato, bar dips and tapping yes but all rolled together into one seamless sonic blast.

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  11. #7
    Eruption AFU's Avatar
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    Ugh. I hate giving away my secrets. Doug Steel is a great guitar player. Some of his Ed stuff is dead on. Not all. And tab can be wrong too. I agree once you learn how Ed does things it's easier to learn more songs. And that's when you recognize things like inaccurate tab. We're lucky we have YouTube. Pick a song. Look at the tab. Then find a YT clip of him playing to see if the tab is right or at least close.

    I learned to play watching LWAN and tab books. Balance tour had Toronto on PPV. Even by then I still learned watching him play the songs. The tab was wrong for part of Amsterdam.

    Ed does not always play solos note for note live. Oakland '81 Unchained is exhibit A. And Tokyo Dome I'm The One is another example. He gets in the area and plays similar licks at times. Or just goes off. And that's what I did for a very long time. Still do to be lazy sometimes. If he's playing a lick on the top three strings and the majority pattern is 12-14-15 then just play something that sounds close. Most people won't know the difference.

    Muscle memory. Learning it slowly and memorizing. Then getting it up to speed. I found for me that does not always work. HFT intro is a great example. I struggled with it. Couldn't get it up to speed. Then out of frustration I tried playing it as fast as I could. Suddenly regular speed was a lot easier. So I practiced it faster until regular speed was easy. Maybe it's just me.

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  13. #8
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    Wow, there's some really great advice in this thread! Awesome stuff. I'll offer my 2 cents in addition to the above... I have all the tab books, and quite simply, they suck--especially regarding many (not all, but many) solos. Much of them are wrong. However, referencing the tab book, and then watching YouTube demos of the songs are INCREDIBLY helpful. Watching Eddie play it live isn't always the answer either when trying to learn the album version since he typically never plays the same thing. As others have said, many of our favorite VH solos were pretty much made up as he went along. I think ATBL and Runnin' w/ the Devil are two of very few solos that were actually written.

    Maybe I'm lazy, but I very rarely try to learn and play a VH solo note for note. I get it close, then try to improvise VH-style within that scale. It doesn't always work out in my favor, though lol!! I'll also 2nd that his solos are very hard to learn note for note because some are just all over the place, and SOI as noted above is an absolute perfect example of that.

    Finally, MANY of Ed's solos are in E minor, A minor, F# minor/A Maj, and D minor. He'll often move from a minor scale to a major scale too. Ice Cream Man's a good example going from an E minor blues scale to E major for a bar or so...then back. All in all, I'd say most solos are in E or A. My point is, it doesn't hurt to (at least loosely) know a few scales. Since you're good with pentatonic that's a great start! One thing that really helped me was learning similar songs together: Don't Tell Me, Hot for Teacher, Poundcake--all F# minor. Outta Space, Without You, Good Enough--A minor, Everybody Want Some, Feelin, Aftershock, Feel Your Love Tonight--E minor. Although those songs are all very different, grouping them together like that in my head really helped me learn the solos easier since they're all in the same key and basically use the same scale.
    Last edited by Stealth5150; 06.23.15 at 06:07 PM.

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  15. #9
    Eruption CalFB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stealth5150 View Post
    Maybe I'm lazy, but I very rarely try to learn and play a VH solo note for note. I get it close, then try to improvise VH-style within that scale. It doesn't always work out in my favor, though lol!! I'll also 2nd that his solos are very hard to learn note for note because some are just all over the place, and SOI as noted above is an absolute perfect example of that..
    Exactly how I approach it.

  16. #10
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CalFB View Post
    Exactly how I approach it.
    I think most of us get to the point where trying to hit the flurry of notes note-for-note becomes a chore so we just throw in something that sounds "good enough" and we move on. As someone else pointed out, Ed rarely plays the solo the same way live and he often won't play the solo the same way twice during a tour on some songs.

    When I see someone on YouTube play a solo note for note I give them props for their patience---I don't possess it
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  17. #11
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    I'll try to learn a lot of his stuff note for note if it's something that is so well known you need to play it that way like RWTD, HFT, or Panama for example. Others I'll work out the basics and get it close and play it more like myself than trying to cop Ed totally.

    But if you really want to do it note for note you do need to work up to speed IMO. If you just start cramming notes together as fast as you can you'll never get the subtleties of Ed's playing, nor will you be as accurate and it can sound really sloppy. Just my two cents.
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  19. #12
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    It's all about the vibe. Hitting the strings hard, the aggressive vibrato, the end-of-the-world diveombs, the trem bar dips, blues swing, and that super slippery element he has. Get this - even without the million notes an hour and harmonics - and you'll sound like Ed. Even if you play non-Ed stuff.

    If you 'get' his approach then even simple pentatonic noodling becomes Van Halen-ised. No better is this demonstrated than in Back to the Future when Marty goes for the band audition.

    Theory-wise, you'll need a solid serving of pentatonic, blues, dorian and some mixolydian. There's more to Ed's game and it's a myth he doesn't know what he's doing. Only in one interview - in a guitar mag circa 90-92 - did he actually say he knows what he's doing but even if you didn't read it, you'll know he's a classically-trained pianist and attended jazz music theory at college. His classmates would deride him for going out and playing lowbrow rock.
    Last edited by BlofeldsCat; 06.24.15 at 11:36 AM.

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  21. #13
    5150 clawedmonet's Avatar
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    This is such a great thread that I want to comment, even though I don't have much to say! Like so many others said, you have to be able to play to the groove before you can play to the notes. The I'm the One solos are great examples. The only thing I can add, and it's a little vague, is that Eddie is probably one of the best pure musicians of our lifetime. So his guitar playing is beyond the other big "guitar players." There are always melodies and motifs, even within his solos. Study the music with your ears and heart in addition to studying the notes/tab with your eyes and hands!

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    What helped me the most with any kind of complicated rhythmic stuff like EVH's:

    Get a drum machine (or use a MIDI track in a DAW if you have access) and create a custom click track that gives you metric targets... and you'll play this click track at 50%

    Here's what I mean (I know it sounds confusing):
    A standard click gives you 1/4 notes... if you half your playing speed you will have 1/8 notes... BUT that is still useless when you encounter large amounts of notes in unusual number groups of say 5 or 7...

    You need to create a custom click that is not continuously playing back those standard 1/4s or 1/8s

    Anything divisible into the 1/4s or 1/8s is easy to deal with, but you need to temporarily get rid of some of the clicks when you get strange indivisible groups... because it will throw you off... you just need to remove some of those in-between clicks to leave JUST a starting point and an ending point for the indivisible groups

    Take the sheet music and mark where all the STANDARD subdivisions are, BUT THEN.... figure out where the NON STANDARD INDIVISIBLE SUBDIVISIONS ARE... you will need to take out clicks in those areas only... and you will then have a 100% EASY target map to play into.

    If you half the time of the music this also makes it easier to deal with

    Just play into those targets one small section at a time... once you get muscle memory worked up... you'll be able to play it over the standard 1/4 or 1/8 pulse, which will then translate when you play the song with the record or with other live drummers who are playing the standard 1/4, 1/8, or 1/16's pulse patterns

    I hope you understand... I've always had trouble explaining this to people...

    Another easy cheat method:
    The new DAWs can also slow down the passages as well, and you can just follow the strange timings at that slower playback speed... partially irritating but it does work as well
    Last edited by noise next door; 06.24.15 at 02:11 PM.

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  24. #15
    Eruption AFU's Avatar
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    When Carlos Santana got popular again and did that album with different singer I started trying to learn a few songs. And this is by no means an insult to him. He's great! But it hurt my Ed style. Everything you play effects your style somehow. And the Carlos vibrato and licks was messing with my Ed mojo.

    I went through a very short period of time where I tried to learn the Clapton stuff Ed cut his teeth on. Figured it would help get me closer to Ed's style. I got bored quick.

 

 

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