Here we go, more from the newly published transcript of the entire 1978 interview of Edward Van Halen that Jas Obrecht did for Guitar Player mag. Cool stuff.
Jas: What about effects?
EVH: I use two Echoplexes. I use a flanger just for little subtle touches. I don’t use it for any intros or anything [Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Ed?!], just notes here and there, like maybe I’ll hit a low note and hit the switch, just for little subtle effects.
And I use a phase shifter, a Phase 90 – MXR, I think. It doesn’t really phase – it just kind of gives you treble boost, which I like. Cuts through for solos. That’s about it.
I use a Univox echo box, and I had a different motor put in it so it will go real low and delay much slower. Like on the record, on “Eruption,” on the end of my solo, all that noise? That’s a Univox echo box, which I put in the bomb.
What we learned:
> Not a whole lot learned there except that it does not look like his Phase 90 was modded.
Your main guitar with the Charvel body and neck…why do you use just one pickup?
Well, it’s just basically the sound I like. You can get different tones out of it.
Have you experimented with putting it in different places along the body?
Yeah. And right about where it is is where I like it. I had another one just like it where I thought maybe if I routed out the body and put it really close to the bridge that it might sound good, but it sounded so trebley. And then you move it forward and you start getting the Johnny Winter tone, you know. It’s just a different tone, which doesn’t sound cool for rhythm.
It’s less sharp?
Yeah. It’s kind of like when you’re playing a Les Paul and you put the pickup switch in the middle – you’re getting the back and the front pickup, which is really kind of like the middle [laughs].
So you prefer it a little bit towards the back.
Yeah, yeah. Gives it more bite, you know. Crunches a little better.
What we learned:
> We knew that he farted around with pickup placement (and, incidentally, apparently found that the most convenient way to do this was to mount his pickup directly to the wood!). So this is just a confirmation and underlines the fact that to sound more like Ed, you’ve gotta move that pickup from the standard treble rout position.
Setting Up the Trem
Ed said – and didn’t say – more about this in the interview than anything else, partly because Jas asked about it twice. So:
[First round of Qs:]
…the vibrato setup – you gotta know how to set the thing up so it won’t go out of tune, which took me a long time to get down. I mean, no one ever told me.
I used to talk to other guitarists who half-*ss had it down, and they wouldn’t let me know how to do it. But I figured it out, and I can just twang the f*ck out of that thing now, and it won’t go out of tune.
You mentioned having trouble with your vibrato system until you learned how to set it.
How do you set it now?
Uhhh. Well, that’s one thing I really don’t tell people.
Yeah, because then, you know, you get everybody and their brother [will be] doing it too.
Well, I’ll try to tell ya. Okay. It’s a combination of a lot of things. You know the little string retainers at the top of the neck? If those clamp down, like the way Fender Strats always come from the factory, if those things are tied real down [tight?], the strings will get caught up in there and go out of tune. The amount of springs that you use in the back affects it too.
Do you change the tension of the springs themselves?
Yeah. They’re Fender springs, but they’re a little looser.
So you buy a different spring?
Yeah. Really, though, it’s got a lot to do with the way you play it. Like you can’t just bring it down and not bring it back up. Because some people hit the bar and just let it go. You kind of have to pull it back up right. And then sometimes when you stretch a note too far when you’re fingering it with your left hand, it’ll go flat. Then you have to pull the bar back up to bring it back to normal.
So it’s more a matter of technique.
Yeah. It’s not really one thing, like it’s a big secret, but a lot of things are involved. And also the type of strings that you use. But I found that a gauged set, as opposed to making up your own string gauges, works better. Just a regular pack of gauged strings that you buy.
See, what I used to do was always use heavier bottom strings and lighter top ones. But if the set’s not matched, then it won’t work very well with the vibrato either. So my Fender strings start with .009 and go to either a .040 or .042.
What we learned:
> Interesting that a standard set of strings work better. Wonder if using the trem influenced his choice of lighter strings.
> Note that he now uses heavy bottom/light top strings live.
On picks Ed said he used:
Fenders – mediums or hards, whatever I can get.
What we learned:
> Ed used Fender mediums. We all know that, but…he also used heavys. Heavy picks and 8s or 9s strings. Wow. That’s some control.
– End of part 2 of 3 –