Eddie Van Halen, Guitar Hero AND Guitar Hacker

I posted a piece on Boing Boing this morning I thought was too good not to share here. It turns out that Eddie Van Halen was not only one of the most amazing guitar players to every dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight, he helped get his unique sound by altering the guitars and amps that he used.

Popular Mechanics interviewed him in 2015 and they reprinted the interview upon Van Halen’s passing last week:

My playing style really grew from the fact that I couldn’t afford a distortion pedal. I had to try to squeeze those sounds out of my guitar. The first real work I did was in my bedroom. I added pickups, because I didn’t like the sound of the originals.

Most guitar necks are too round on the back, so I took sandpaper and reshaped the neck to be very flat. I actually refretted a few guitars early on because I wanted to shave the fingerboard down and make the neck even flatter. The flatter it was, the farther I could bend a string without fretting out, or choking the sound when the string hits a fret higher on the neck.

My first real guitar was a Les Paul Goldtop. I was a total Eric Clapton freak, and I saw old pictures of him playing a Les Paul. Except his had humbucking pickups, and mine had the soapbar, P-90 single coils. The first thing I did with that guitar was chisel it out in the back and put a humbucker in. When we were playing gigs, people kept saying, “How is he getting that sound out of single—coil soapbar pickups?” Since my hand was covering the humbucker, they never realized that I’d put it in.

Read the rest here.

Dale Dougherty of Make: also wrote a piece about Van Halen’s maker story.

“What drives me to tear things apart is,” he says, “some of it is necessity, some of it is just experimenting. I’m always pushing things past where they are supposed to be.” He explained that some of what he did, he had to do because he couldn’t afford some of the equipment that others had.

He goes on to explain how he liked the vibrato bar of a Fender guitar and the humbucking pickups of a Gibson guitar, and he wanted both in the same guitar. He liked the “much fatter sound” Gibson’s pickups, which cancelled out some of the hum caused by the vibrato bar. So, he mashed them together, buying a knockoff Fender body — a second, and then ripping the pickups out of Gibson guitar. He describes using a hammer and chisel to make a hole in body for the Gibson pickup. “I screwed the pickup straight into the wood,” he said, mentioning that the Gibson Stratocaster has three pickups. “I routed out the body and crammed (in) the humbucking pickup. Mind you, everything was just lying there, unsoldered.” He struggled to figure out how to connect three pickups to two knobs. “How am I going to hook this back up? I had no clue.”


Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 27,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discord

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more https://www.instagram.com/adafruit/

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org


Maker Business — To make it through a tough business cycle, layoffs should be a last resort

Wearables — EVA foam is like fondant

Electronics — I touched my circuit, and now it glitches!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: 300 CircuitPython Libraries, Python Turns 30! #Python #Adafruit #CircuitPython @micropython @ThePSF

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Upcycling Smartphones, AI Freezer, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Arcade Turns One!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — NEW PRODUCT – Circuit Playground 200×200 Tri-Color E-Ink Gizmo – E-Ink Display + Audio Amplifier

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !



No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.