Tag Archives: EVHGear

VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, Floyd Rose and Charvel

Little is actually known about this particular guitar. When Eddie Van Halen was in the process of recording the second Van Halen album, Van Halen II, he wanted something that would be different to his original Frankenstrat. Since the release of the first Van Halen album, copycats began emerging trying to emulate not just Eddie’s playing but also his original Frankenstrat.

 

In an attempt to remedy this, he created the “Bumblebee”, more or less the same sort of guitar that the Frankenstrat was, including the same type of neck on the guitar, constructed at the Charvel factory. But there was one large difference. Initially a Fender Vintage Tremolo was installed. But Eddie made rock history when he became the first ever professional rock guitarist to use a Floyd Rose tremolo system on the guitar1.

The Floyd Rose tremolo system is very vital to the Van Halen sound. Picture courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Floyd_rose_original.jpg

Floyd Rose is an interesting addition to the Van Halen story, but one that is often overlooked. Floyd Rose began by playing a Fender Jazzmaster as his first guitar with a tremolo bar, but after experiencing severe problems using the tremolo bar and arm itself, he sought out a solution. He managed to develop a couple of crucial modifications to a standard tremolo system: inserting a ¼ inch steel bar in place of the whammy bar (which he tested and did not break); and changing some of the string arrangements on the tremolo. Although these were not the only modifications that he did, it did begin exploration of a device which could be a usable tremolo system. Over the years various improvements of the tremolo system emerged but Eddie Van Halen was the first notable guitarist to use it on the VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, which made both become even more notable in rock history2. There was also the Charvel story. Eddie used to visit the Charvel guitar shop in Los Angeles to pick up parts and seek advice on building his own guitars. Wayne Charvel himself confirmed that he made the VH2 guitar for Eddie in his guitar factory. However Wayne Charvel later sold the business to Grover Jackson. A fallout ensued later between the new Charvel administration and Van Halen, with the matter being settled legally3.

Charvel and co. played an important part in the sound of early Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://imgarcade.com/1/fender-guitars-logo/

On a sadder note, when ‘Dimebag’ Darrel Abbott passed away, Eddie placed the guitar with him in his burial place, after hearing that Dimebag himself loved the guitar.

Dimebag loved the VH2 guitar, stating it was his all time favourite.

Picture courtesy http://www.dravensworld.net/2011/12/rip-dimebag-darrell-putain-7-ans.html

Nonetheless, it is still a guitar that fascinates many to this day. The materials used to create this particular guitar are more or less the same materials used to create the original Frankenstrat, with the exception of the paint job, which was yellow stripes on black respectively. It originally had a green headstock, but was later changed. Still if you are not up to building a VH2 lookalike, there is the option of picking up the EVH Gear Striped Series Bumblebee lookalike. Below are the specifications for this guitar, retailing at $1 199US4:

The EVH Striped Series is the best bet for a close copy of the VH2 guitar.

Picture courtesy http://images.evhgear.com/misc/new2013/stripe-yellow.png

Body: Body: Basswood Body

Finish: Gloss

Neck:

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Jumbo

Position Inlays: Dot

Fretboard Radius: 12” to 16”

Compound Radius: (304.8mm to 406.4mm)

Fretboard: Maple

Neck Material: Maple Neck

Finish: Hand-Rubbed Oil

Nut Width: 1.6875” (42.8 mm)

Scale Length: 25.5” (648mm)

Headstock: Standard Stratocaster®

Neck Plate: EVH®-Branded

Electronics:

Pickup Configuration: H Bridge

Pickup: Direct Mount Wolfgang

Humbucking Controls: Master Volume

Hardware:

Hardware: Chrome

Bridge: EVH®-Branded Floyd Rose® Locking Tremolo with EVH D-Tuna®

String Nut: Floyd Rose® Locking

Miscellaneous: Strings included: EVH® Branded (.009-.042 Gauges)

Unique Features: EVH® Neckplate, Bar String Retainer, Thumb Wheel Truss Rod Adjustment, Vintage Strap Buttons, 1-Ply Black Pickguard (576 Only)

Accessories: Control Knobs: One White “Tone” Knob On Volume Pot

Once again, little information exists on this particular guitar as it is not as well-known as other Eddie Van Halen guitars such as the Frankenstrat or otherwise, but is still worth exploring the sound and tone of it on the Van Halen II album. For this reason, it is still relevant exploring today.

Van Halen 2 is a remarkable exploration in sound and tone, and the VH2 guitar reflects this. It is crucial in the Van Halen back catalogue.

Picture courtesy http://www.theaceblackblog.com/2011/04/cd-review-van-halen-ii-by-van-halen.html

References:

  1. Bonta, Mark Steven. 2010. Van Bonta’s Guitar Collection. http://vanbontasguitars.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/vhii-bumble-bee.html
  2. Unknown author. Unknown date. Floyd Rose – The Man. http://www.floydrose.com/about-floyd-rose/floyd-rose-the-man
  3. Steven Rosen. 2008. Rock Chronicles. 1980s – Wayne Charvel. http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/interviews/rock_chronicles/rock_chronicles_1980s_wayne_charvel.html?no_takeover
  4. Unknown author. Unknown date. EVH Striped Series at EVH Gear. http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/gear/subpage/?partno=5107902528

The Van Halen I Frankenstrat

One of the most memorable guitars in rock is the Van Halen I Frankenstrat. Everything about the guitar, from the forward thinking vision and construction of the guitar, to the striped paint finish, represented a whole new way of thinking with the guitar itself. This guitar is crucial to the development of the Van Halen sound, as well as everything that followed in rock music after Ed first blazed the scene in southern California.

This is really, the guitar that started it all for Eddie Van Halen.

Photo courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/Baretta/franky.jpg

It came out of a genuine desire for the ultimate sound and a frustration with the limitations of guitars available in the 1970s. Back then, there were a limited amount of resources and guitars present at the time that could replicate the sound that any aspiring guitarist could create. Far from wanting to directly copy others, Eddie was out to bend the rules of the guitar itself (and possibly break a few along the way).

It was a combination of his three main guitars that he used before becoming famous: the Gibson Les Paul; Fender Stratocaster and Gibson ES-335. Indeed, Eddie is quoted in an interview as stating: “I combined the four elements (that was wanted) into the Frankenstein”1. Although Eddie had already tried placing a humbucker on his Fender Stratocaster, the guitar still did not sound to his liking.

Eddie’s first Frankenstrat came out of a combined frustration with his previous main guitars.

Photo courtesy https://projectevh.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/70719-frankensteinearlyblackandwhite.jpg

Indeed Ed made his Frankenstrat using parts famously from Wayne Charvel’s shop using spare parts that were available, namely Boogie Bodies parts. It was done on the cheap, with the total cost of the body and neck coming to $130US at the time, relatively cheaply done. The individual costs were $50 for the body, and $80 for the neck2. Strangely enough, according to some sources3, Ed purchased the guitar neck at a discount with a large knot in the wood as he believed it would perform better.

Wayne Charvel was crucial in assisting Eddie Van Halen with building his first Frankenstrat, along with other guitars.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ_trn4jCeQ

Since there were no such things as Fender Stratocaster bodies with humbucker positions carved out in the bridge position at the time, Eddie carefully measured and chiselled out a humbucker slot into the bridge position of the Stratocaster body. He then conceived his idea of his white with black stripes paint job on his guitar. To achieve this, he had on his hands masking tape in 1/8 inch and ¾ inch size. He initially painted the guitar black using Schwinn bicycle paint that he may have used on his paper route. Once it had dried, he used said masking tape in a patterned style on his guitar. He then spray painted it white to achieve the layered look, and removed the masking tape.

Once this was achieved, he then placed the bridge humbucker from his Gibson ES-335 (a PAF pickup which stands for Patent Applied For) into the body of the guitar. Although the original Frankenstrat had this pickup installed, it would change over the years, this was the original pickup used. He had a limited knowledge of electronic circuitry, so there was no tone control. Instead, he wired a single volume control to the circuitry.

Indeed, Eddie has said on numerous occasions that his first Frankenstrat was a combination of a Gibson and Fender sound.

Photo courtesy http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3045/2867744812_4bb2269a04_z.jpg?zz=1

The body was a basic Fender Stratocaster (with CBS style headstock) maple neck and fingerboard, with Schaller tuning pegs and Gibson Jumbo frets. Once he had compiled the main elements of the guitar together, he added a Fender vintage tremolo system from his 1957 Fender Stratocaster4. This was due to his belief that the newer Stratocaster tremolo systems did not work as efficiently as the vintage tremolo systems. To cover up the work that Ed did on his guitar, he placed a black pickguard over the pickups, leaving a place open for the humbucker.

The result was, as Eddie put it, “It was neat. I really felt that I was on to something when I built that guitar, because you couldn’t buy anything like it at the time.” Indeed, his guitar, along with his guitar playing, completely changed the way the music industry was working with the sound of the electric guitar.

The cover of the Zero demo tape, produced by Kiss’s Gene Simmons, where Ed first used his original Frankenstrat on recording.

Photo courtesy http://www.shredaholic.com/images/vanhalen.jpg

I will provide a link for you on all you need to know about how to assemble a Van Halen I Frankenstrat. This website has the rundown on the physical stats of the Frankenstrat as well, similar to what I have placed for other guitars. You can find it here: http://www.shredaholic.com/frankie.html. Although admittedly I have pinched the components of the Van Halen I Frankenstrat from that site, I will list them here anyway:

Body: Stratocaster

Body Wood: Hard (northern) Ash

Body Finish: Unfinished

Body Routing: Top Routed

Pickup Routing: Single, Single, Humbucker (chiselled from single rout)

Bridge Routing: Fender vintage tremolo

Neck: Standard

Headstock: CBS

Neck Wood: Birdseye Maple

Finger Board Wood: Birdseye Maple

Neck Finish: Satin (his was unfinished but finishing is recommended)

Fret Size: Gibson Jumbo Frets 6150

Key Holes: Schaller

Inlay: Black Dots

String Nut: Fender vintage tremolo

Bridge Type: Fender vintage tremolo

Pickguard: Stratocaster

Pickguard Configuration: x , x, Humbucker

Pickguard Bridge Routing: Fender vintage tremolo

Pickguard Color: Black Solid Matte (.060)

Pickguard Control Setup: x, Volume, Volume

No Pickup selector

Tuners: Schaller Mini Locking Tuners (Left, Chrome)

Pickups: Seymour Duncan EVH (’78 model) Humbucker

Copper Shielding: 2 feet

Output Jack: Switchcraft Brand Mono Jack

Jack Plate: Stratocaster (Chrome)

Knobs: 1 Vintage Stratocaster Tone Knob (White)

Neck Plate: Chrome

Potentiometers: 1 CTS Brand 500K pot

String Retainer: Brass nut

Tape Type: 3/4 Inch (Big Black Stripes) 1/8 Inch (Smaller Stripes

Before I wrap this up, I must stress that there are alternatives to building your own Van Halen I Frankenstrat. Indeed, for the closest thing, you can check out The Striped Series on www.evhgear.com for a close alternative, although these do come equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo, something that Ed did not have on his Van Halen I Frankenstrat (although he did install a prototype Floyd Rose later before he repainted it). These start at $1199US, not very cheap, but worth it if you are keen on one.

The Van Halen striped series is well worth checking out if you cannot find the time or money to build your own Frankenstrat.

Photo courtesy http://www.guitar-planet.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Striped-Series-900c.jpg

Another couple of options exist, such as the Fender Standard HSS with Locking Tremolo or the Gibson Les Paul Axcess, both of which I have mentioned already in earlier posts. The HSS retails for around $1500AUS and the Axcess for $3999US, but either way, if you cannot be bothered building your own Frankenstrat or you feel that the Striped Series are not worth your while, these are two other perfectly reasonable options.

References:

  1. Vivascene. 2011. Interview : Eddie Van Halen. http://vivascene.com/interviews/interview-eddie-van-halen/
  2. Unknown. 2009. My Frankenstrat Build. http://frankenstrat.wordpress.com/history-of-the-frankenstrat/
  3. Askmen. Unknown publishing date. Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat”. http://au.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/top-10-legendary-guitars_3.html
  4. Unknown author. Unknown publishing date. Ed’s Axes. http://valleywebs.com/van-halen/guitars.html