By now no one’s exactly sure what Edward Van Halen really said or didn’t say about his tone and technique over the years. Even though lots of folks on this-here Internet thingy act like they know fo’ sho’, they either don’t or are misremembering. You really have to go back to what the man said and evaluate it in light of what has trickled out since he said it.
Because there ain’t no Rosetta Stone for EVH tone, people!
So the only way to maybe get a solid clue is to read the old interviews.
Admittedly, however, everyone doesn’t have copies of old Guitar Player magazines hanging around. I don’t either (okay…I have some). But some of that stuff has ended up on the web – like the recent transcription of EVH’s first Guitar Player interview, in November 1978. That had Roy Clark on the cover, not Ed. The Ed cover was the second time he was interviewed for the magazine.
You can read the whole 1978 interview here at vhnd.com, but following are the tone-related parts, annotated by yours truly.
“For the first record,” Eddie recalls, “we went in to the studio one day and played live and laid down 40 songs. Out of these 40 we picked nine and wrote one in the studio–’Jamie’s Cryin.’ The album is very live–there are few overdubs, which is the magic of Ted Templeman. I would say that out of the 10 songs on the record, I overdubbed the solo on only ‘Runnin’ with the Devil,’ ‘Ice Cream Man,’ and ‘Jamie’s Cryin” – the rest are live. I used the same equipment that I use onstage….”
> 40 tunes?! I assume most of the other 30 made it onto further albums (even 1984 had some VH I-era material), but maybe not all.
> “The same equipment” – only thing we can take from that is that he played at the same volume.
Eddie assembled his main guitar with parts he bought from Charvel. “It is a copy of a Fender Stratocaster,” he says. “I bought the body for $50 and the neck for $80, and put in an old Gibson PAF pickup that was rewound to my specifications.”
> “Was rewound to” means he didn’t do it himself. If, as some contend, Seymour Duncan did it, then it might’ve been rewound a little hot, something which EVH seemed to favor then and since. If so, then a low-output humbucker was not used on VH1! Also, it’s interesting to note that the Seymour Duncan custom shop pickup formerly known as the EVH is now called the “’78.” Hmmmm. According to the Duncan website, the “’78 Model” is slightly hotter than vintage PAF range.
“I like the one-pickup sound, and I’ve experimented with it a lot. If you put the pickup really close to the bridge, it sounds trebly. If you put it too far forward, you get a sound that isn’t good for rhythm. I like it towards the back – it gives the sound a little sharper edge and bite.”
> Moving the bridge pickup around definitely alters the tone from that pickup a lot. he found where he liked it and screwed it in place. Many guys – me included – still try to get VH tone out of a bridge pickup with standard spacing. Probably not wise….
“I also put my own frets in, using large Gibsons. There is only one volume knob – that’s all there is to it. I don’t use any fancy tone knobs. I see so many people who have these space-age guitars with a lot of switches and equalizers and treble boosters – give me one knob, that’s it. It’s simple and it sounds cool. I also painted this guitar with stripes. It has almost the same weight as a Les Paul.”
> Bang! “Almost the same weight as a Les Paul.” That means Frankie was northern ash, end of story. Swamp ash and alder don’t weigh that much and, to my ears, don’t sound the same.
> Supposedly the $25K EVH Frankie replica guitars have lightweight bodies. Some have speculated that this is because Eddie’s guitar aged over the years, dried out and got lighter. Others think it must mean that the Frankie was not northern ash. Well, it was northern ash.
Eddie’s other guitars include an Ibanez copy of a Gibson Explorer [an Ibanez Destroyer which was NOT korina], which, he says, “I slightly rearranged. I cut a piece out of it with a chainsaw so that it’s now a cross between a [Gibson Flying] V and an Explorer, and I put in different electronics and gave it a paint job. I’ve also recently bought a Charvel Explorer-shaped body and put a Danelectro neck on it and an old Gibson PAF pickup. And I also found a 1952 gold top Les Paul. It’s not completely original – it’s got a regular stud tailpiece in it, and a Tune-o-matic bridge. I have rewound Gibson PAF pickups in it, too. I use a Les Paul for the end of the set because my Charvel is usually out of tune, and the Les Paul’s sound is a little fatter.”
> “Different electronics” in the Shark. Does that just mean different pickups? Tone control not hooked up?
> “Rewound Gibson pickups” again probably mean hotter-than-normal. Remember that all of Eddie’s signature pickups, including on his signature axes, have been hot.
– End of part 1 of 2 –
Sites That Link to this Post
- WoodyTone! - A Look at EVH’s 1st Interview, Part 2 | June 28, 2010
- EVH Frankie Wood Mystery Deepens… | November 19, 2010