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EVH Special! Jamie Humphries The Rhythm Method Part 9: Eddie Van Halen Rhythm Guitar Style

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 10 **

Over the last few rhythm guitar lessons, we’ve been looking at various approaches to using chord arpeggios when coming up with rhythm parts. To round-up our look at the subject, we’re going to look at a slightly more Rock guitar approach. So far we’ve looked at progressive ideas and also Blues, both of which used alternate picking technique. This lesson we are going to look at using all down strokes, designed to give a more aggressive and driving feel, and also include some palm muting, derived from the great Eddie Van Halen.

Eddie Van Halen is not just a virtuoso when it comes to lead playing, but he is also one of the most revered and inventive Rock rhythm guitarists. Such classic tracks as Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love and Unchained demonstrate Eddie’s inventive use of the chord arpeggio approach. Another approach he also favours is the use of triads, that give melodic and harmonic movement to his parts, and these are also often performed as arpeggios.

Our study piece is constructed around four different sections, a verse, chorus, bridge and a middle eight. I have also included a solo in this issue’s track, as I felt we couldn’t look at Van Halen with out laying down a few tapping licks!

The track kicks-off with our chorus section, with a driving aggressive riff that makes use of two note diad chords, performed against a drive palm muted open A root note. Harmonic movement is implied by the triads of C/E, G/D, D and F/C triads that are also performed against the driving A root note. The chorus concludes with the chords of E5, Eb5, D5 and C5 that are performed with heavy accents with the drums and bass. Next is the verse, and this is our chord arpeggio section, including the chords of Am, Asus2, Gsus2 and Fsus2, all of which are performed against a solid driving A root performed by the bass. When performing these chords as arpeggios I would use strict down strokes throughout, as well has tight palm muting. Make sure you keep the picking hand relaxed and the constant eighth note rhythm tight and accurate. The progression also includes a short melodic fill that is performed in unison with the bass guitar. This section is followed by the bridge, where we see the dynamic of the track lift. This section uses the triads of D/Dsus4, F/ Fsus4 and G/Gsus4, all performed against a palm muted open D string. Really try and keep the palm muted root tight, so that the triads sound strong and accented. This section also includes the chords of G5, F5 and C5, and concludes with the same descending power chords found in the chorus.

We then head back to another chorus section before we introduce the middle eight. The middle eight features some partial chords performed with the picking hand fingers. Make sure that you back-off the gain for this section, and don’t be too aggressive when performing the partial chords. This section also includes some natural harmonics and concludes with the descending power chord. Now it’s the solo, and this is performed over our verse progression. The solo is based mainly around the A minor pentatonic, A Blues and A Dorian mode, and kicks off with a bending tapping phrase. As you bend the note up we then play a moving melodic line with tapped notes, whilst still holding the bend. This is followed by a signature EVH lick that can be heard on the classic cover of You Really Got Me from Van Halen I. We then see another tapping lick that crosses the strings and uses three notes with the fretting hand as well as the tapping note, and is similar to the tapping runs heard in Hot For Teacher. Following some whammy bar dives and bluesy bends we have an ascending tremolo picked line, with the solo concluding with some unison bends that follow the descending power chord stabs. As regards to tone I would suggest not using too much gain, as Eddie’s sound is surprisingly clean. Aim to dial in some extra mids and some top end presence, and also experiment with modulation such as phaser or a flanger. Good luck!!


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