Tag Archives: Floyd Rose

EVH/Fender Wolfgang

Now that Eddie Van Halen was working together with Fender on various products, it was time for him to work hard with Fender on creating a brand new guitar to sell and market under the EVH Brand.

To begin with, discussions were made with Fender about making a new guitar for Eddie. Once the 2007-2008 reunion tour was underway, Eddie Van Halen took at least two prototypes of the new collaborative guitar that he was working on with Fender. He gave Fender feedback and information about the sound and performance of this new project that he had been working on with them along the way after each night of performance onstage. This project was almost top secret, until the release of the EVH Wolfgang in January 2009.

The clever thing about the new prototypes from Fender? Similar look to the previous Peavey Wolfgang line of guitars.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2008/06/06/van-halen-2007-2008-tour-highest-grossing-in-bands-history/

To make things clear, this guitar, although sharing the name of the previous guitar line that Eddie Van Halen had promoted and used for some time, in actual reality the guitar itself is completely different in many aspects.

In a video recorded around the time of the release of the guitar, Eddie Van Halen had a discussion where he stated, “Everything that I have built, destroyed, stumbled onto, learned and experienced is in this guitar”. Indeed, the guitar itself is a one-of-a-kind and is basically impossible to copy. Indeed, if Eddie himself had desired to create a monster, he indeed, has.

The guitar line itself has been one that Eddie Van Halen himself has stuck by for a long time now. Although initially there was only one type of EVH Wolfgang, other models were introduced at a later date. For historical purposes, the main Wolfgang model will be observed here.

The EVH/Fender Wolfgang is here to stay.

Picture courtesy http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/EVH_Wolfgang_Special_Electric_Guitar_Review

Some of the features are very unique to the Wolfgang, such as the custom wound double potted EVH licensed humbuckers, stainless steel frets and the hand rubbed urethane oil finish. Eddie’s own EVH Wolfgang has a custom made “kill switch” on it, to cut out the sound manually, useful for tremolo sounds. The specifications for the main EVH Wolfgang are listed below, courtesy of www.evhgear.com:

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

General:

Model Name: EVH® Wolfgang® USA, Ebony Fingerboard

Series: Wolfgang® USA

Body:

Body Shape: Wolfgang®

Body Binding: 5-Ply

Body Material: Basswood

Body Finish: Gloss Urethane

Neck:

Neck Material: Quartersawn Maple

Neck Shape: Wolfgang Backshape

Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)

Fingerboard Radius: 12” to 16” Compound Radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Vintage Stainless

String Nut: Floyd Rose® Original Locking

Nut Width: 1.625” (41.3 mm)

Neck Plate: N/A

Neck Finish: Oiled

Fingerboard: Ebony

Position Inlays: Block

Electronics:

Bridge Pickup: Custom Designed EVH® Humbucking

Neck Pickup: Custom Designed EVH® Humbucking

Controls: Master Tone, Master Volume

Pickup Switching: EVH Reverse-Style 3-Position Switching

Pickup Configuration: HH

Hardware:

Bridge: EVH®-Branded Floyd Rose® Locking Tremolo

Tuning Machines: EVH®-Branded Gotoh® Chrome with Pearloid Buttons

Orientation: Right-Hand

Pickguard: None

Control Knobs: Black “Speed” Knobs

Miscellaneous:

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

Unique Features: Hard mount pickups; Magna Coatings Paint, 2 Graphite Neck Reinforcement Rods, Scaller®; Chrome String Retainer, EVH®; D-Tuna, Square Jack Plate

 

In short, if you are looking for the main go-to guitar that Eddie Van Halen himself has used in the most recent times, look no further than the main Wolfgang USA that is on sale for around $4,000 US from EVH Gear, depending on the colour. This is the main guitar that Eddie himself uses to this day.

Eddie Van Halen loves the good job that Fender did for his latest line of guitars, and the easygoing relations commercially shows in both of their own outlook with each other.

Picture courtesy https://hardrockhideout.com/2008/12/17/eddie-van-halen-launches-the-all-new-evh-wolfgang-guitar-available-jan-2009/

 

References:

  1. Wolfgang USA. 2016. EVH Gearhttp://www.evhgear.com/gear/guitars/wolfgang-usa/wolfgang-usa-ebony-fingerboard-5a-flame-top-3-tone-burst/
  2. EVH Wolfgang Guitar. 2011. YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCePMSJ_0-E
  3. Eddie Van Halen Guitars and Gear. 2016. Ground Guitarhttp://www.groundguitar.com/eddie-van-halen-guitars-and-gear/

EVH/Fender Striped Series

Shortly after Eddie Van Halen signed up with Fender, Fender took over Charvel’s striped series and made it into their own through the EVH Gear company.

The interesting thing about these guitars is that Charvel only offered three different versions for the time that Eddie was licensing Charvel to sell these guitars, based on the previous guitars that Ed had used, namely the Frankenstrat Mark I and II, and also the Bumblebee guitar. Yet in recent times (around 2015) the EVH Striped Series Star and Striped Series Circles were released as well. The latter two guitars were based on guitars that Eddie Van Halen had built himself many years ago, and are relatively affordable collector’s items today.

The EVH/Fender Striped Series guitars go way back into the history of Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2015/01/18/evh-stripe-series-star-guitar-coming-soon/

Each guitar is rather cheap for a unique piece of kit. The guitars go up to the max of around $1,500.00 US each and all are beautiful and simple, with a powerful pickup in the bridge position.

Listed below are the specifications of each different model of the EVH Striped Series:

There is a good variety of different EVH/Fender Striped Series models to choose from, depending on your taste.

Picture courtesy http://iheartguitarblog.com/2013/04/get-yer-evh-striped-series.html

SPECIFICATIONS:

Body:

Body Shape: Other

Body Material: Basswood

Body Finish: Gloss Urethane

Neck:

Neck Material: 1-Piece Bolt-On Quartersawn Maple with Graphite Reinforcement and Scarf Joint

Neck Shape: Wolfgang Backshape

Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)

Fingerboard Radius: 12” to 16” Compound Radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Jumbo

String Nut: Floyd Rose® Locking

Nut Width: 1.6875” (42.8 mm)

Headstock: Standard Stratocaster®

Neck Plate: EVH® Branded

Neck Finish: Hand Rubbed Urethane Gel

Fingerboard: Maple

Position Inlays: Dot

Electronics:

Bridge Pickup: Direct Mount Wolfgang Humbucking

Controls: Master Volume

Pickup Switching: None

Pickup Configuration: H

Hardware:

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

Tuning Machines: EVH® Branded

Orientation: Right-Hand

Pickguard: None

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

Miscellaneous:

Strings: EVH® Branded (0.009-0.042 Gauges)

Unique Features: EVH® Neckplate, Bar String Retainer, Thumb Wheel Truss Rod Adjustment, Vintage Strap Buttons, 1-Ply Black Pickguard on Black and White Model Only.

 

The EVH Striped Series Circles has some slightly different characteristics to it as a guitar:

The EVH/Fender Striped Series Circles guitar was based on the original “Unchained” guitar that Eddie Van Halen specifically built and recorded that song with.

Picture courtesy http://www.evhgear.com/gear/guitars/striped-series/evh-striped-series-circles-maple-fingerboard-black-and-white-crop-circles-graphic/

SPECIFICATIONS:

General:

Model Name: EVH® Striped Series Circles, Maple Fingerboard, Black and White Crop Circles Graphic

Model Number: 5107902586

Series: Striped Series

MSRP: $1199.99

Colour: Black and White Crop Circles Graphic

Body:

Body Shape: Other

Body Material: Basswood

Body Finish: Gloss Urethane

Neck:

Neck Material: 1-Piece Bolt-On Quartersawn Maple with Graphite Reinforcement and Scarf Joint

Neck Shape: Wolfgang Backshape

Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)

Fingerboard Radius: 12” to 16” Compound Radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Jumbo

String Nut: Floyd Rose® R2 Locking

Nut Width: 1.6875” (42.86 mm)

Truss Rod Nut: Heel-Mounted Spoke Wheel Adjustment

Neck Plate: EVH® Branded

Neck Finish: Oiled

Fingerboard: Maple

Position Inlays: Black Dot

Electronics:

Bridge Pickup: EVH® Wolfgang Humbucking

Controls: Master Volume

Pickup Switching: None

Pickup Configuration: H

Hardware:

Bridge: EVH®-Branded Floyd Rose® Locking Tremolo

Tuning Machines: EVH®-Branded

Orientation: Right-Hand

Pickguard: None

Control Knobs: Black Plastic

Miscellaneous:

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

Unique Features: “Bye See Ya Later” Graphic on Guitar Back, EVH Neckplate, Bar String Retainer, Thumb Wheel Truss Rod Adjustment Vintage-style Strap Buttons

 

Understandably, the EVH Striped Series Star model has its own features as well for a guitar:

There is just something genius-like and amazing about the various EVH/Fender Striped Series Models.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2015/01/18/evh-stripe-series-star-guitar-coming-soon/

SPECIFICATIONS:

General:

Model Name: EVH Striped Series Star, Rosewood Fingerboard, Black and White Stripe

Model Number: 5107902536

Series: Striped Series

MSRP: $1527.76

Colour: Black and White

Body:

Body Shape: Star

Body Material: Basswood

Body Finish: Gloss Urethane

Neck:

Neck Material: 1-Piece Bolt-On Quartersawn Maple with Graphite Reinforcement and Scarf Joint

Neck Shape: Wolfgang Backshape

Scale Length: 25.5” (64.8 cm)

Fingerboard Radius: 12” to 16” Compound Radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Jumbo

String Nut: Floyd Rose® R3 Locking

Nut Width: 1.6875” (43 mm)

Neck Plate: EVH® Branded

Neck Finish: Hand-Rubbed Urethane

Fingerboard: Rosewood

Position Inlays: White Dot

Electronics:

Bridge Pickup: EVH® Wolfgang Humbucking

Controls: Master Volume

Pickup Switching: None

Pickup Configuration: H

Hardware:

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

Tuning Machines: EVH® Branded

Orientation: Right-Hand

Pickguard: None

Control Knobs: Black Plastic

Miscellaneous:

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

 

From a collector’s point of view, these guitars are not just simply playable, but worth your money. If you are a fan of Eddie Van Halen and want to embrace a piece of your own artistic value, the EVH Striped Series is the way to go.

The Eddie Van Halen collaboration with Fender has been nothing but wonderful.

Picture courtesy http://eddietrunk.com/eddie-van-halen-unchains-long-awaited-stripe-series-circles-guitar/

Evolution of the Frankenstrat – Mark II

After going through the original Frankenstrat and the VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, Eddie became a little unsatisfied with both original guitars. The original Frankenstrat was continually becoming copied everywhere and Bumblebee sounded unsatisfactory to Eddie’s continual search for the perfect sound and tone for the guitar.

For Eddie Van Halen, good enough is never good enough. He always seeks out the best possible option for his sound.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMDHwYTeZd0

He went back to the drawing board inside his mind and instead realised that although the other guitars were brilliant in their own way, he needed a new one that could become potentially better than the others. So he decided to make a simple guitar so interesting that people could not copy it directly like the previous two guitars.

So he retired the VH2 guitar and set out to create a new one. He began with the same guitar the previous Frankenstrat with the Fender style guitar shape and neck.

This is the guitar that Eddie started to play around late 1979.

Picture courtesy http://forum.metroamp.com/viewtopic.php?p=203670

In any case Eddie began playing that new guitar in concerts during late 1979. It was initially only with a black and white stripe paint job, not in any way dissimilar to his original Frankenstrat paint job. This new guitar initially sported a Charvel style headstock as well which was later changed.

Charvel played a part in the Frankenstrat Mark II as the company was no longer on good terms with Eddie Van Halen.

Logo courtesy http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=1225972

Additionally, Ed whacked into the Frankenstrat one Mighty Mite single coil pickup in the neck position, initially in an attempt to use it on the guitar. However, since he had limited knowledge of hardwiring electronics he could not use this pickup. Belief is that he merely used it for decoration.

He also place a white pickguard on the guitar initially, later making various modifications to that pickguard, replacing it initially with a black piece of vinyl, then later replacing it with a torn up black pickguard, which came later.

The thing which made this particular guitar the most noticeable out of all Eddie Van Halen’s main guitars was the paint job. It was done in the same fashion as previously, yet with a red, white and black design. Needless to say, this drew attention to Eddie and his new guitar. He again used the Schwinn bicycle paint to do the paintjob on the guitar.

The paintjob on the Frankenstrat is so awesome and memorable that it is on The Best of Both Worlds compilation, proof that you can stare hours at it and not get sick of it.

Picture courtesy http://www.amazon.com/Best-Both-Worlds-Van-Halen/dp/B000286S8S

He also used a three way switch on the guitar, which was simply decorative, as well as the “Tone” knob on the volume pot, the latter a feature of  Eddie Van Halen’s guitars from the original Frankenstrat onwards.

The Frankenstrat sure is one beast.

Picture courtesy http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/220/EVH-Frankenstein-Replica/

Ed then placed truck reflectors on the back of his guitar to further confuse copycats and to create the guitar as a unique addition to his setup.

Shortly afterwards Eddie added a prototype Floyd Rose to the guitar. This was a recent addition of the time, but Ed made sure that all his main electric guitars from then on had a standard Floyd Rose tremolo, as well as a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. Despite using a number of different guitars over the years, Eddie has retained these basic principles to this day. Eddie later changed the prototype to a standard Floyd Rose when the upgrade came.

Ed and Floyd Rose changed the sound of the guitar with the unique Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Picture courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/parts6.htm

Eddie initially placed a white Gibson PAF, likely not dissimilar to the one on the original Frankenstrat which was from his Gibson ES-335. He also used the technique from his early days of dipping the pickup in hot paraffin wax using a certain dipping method and technique to prevent pickup feedback from being extreme. The bridge pickup was wired directly to the volume pot and all other electronic wiring was ignored, simply as Eddie did not know how to wire all things together. Although Eddie is arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever and a genius of sound, he found it more difficult on the technical aspects of making a guitar work.

Ed used PAFs made by Gibson for the Frankenstrat, although he did swap it out for other pickups later on.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarhq.com/paf.html

Interestingly, Eddie also added a 1971 quarter to the edge of the Floyd Rose tremolo system to prevent it from going out of whack when using it, with a hole drilled into it. There were also small dot holes all over the guitar. Additionally there were cigarette burns on the guitar after some time as Ed loves placing cigarettes in the headstock of the guitar while playing onstage. Later on one of the truck reflectors snapped, and also the pickup was changed to a black DiMarzio humbucker.

DiMarzio pickups are not to be underestimated in the creation of the Brown Sound.

Picture courtesy http://www.bestbassgear.com/bass-wiring-diagrams.htm

So by 1982, we had the Floyd Rose tremolo system updated and the Frankenstrat that everybody knew about. In fact this era of the Frankenstrat was modelled by Fender later on, but this will be followed up later in the article.

The 1982 Frankenstrat can never be truly imitated in terms of form.

Picture courtesy http://listverse.com/2011/05/06/11-iconic-guitar-combinations/

But Ed was not finished with his Frankenstrat yet. Eddie changed the tuning pegs to Schallers to differ from what he originally used. He then replaced the DiMarzio pickup with one manufactured by Seymour Duncan. He later placed a prototype Kramer Pacer neck on next, removing the original Boogie Bodies neck that he had. Still, even later he placed a Kramer Banana style neck onto the guitar, later on returning the guitar to its original 1982 era form.

From his beginnings with using a Gibson Les Paul to the constant process of tinkering around with his own guitar the Frankenstrat, Ed was an innovator, and still is.

Pictures courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/5150f

What is absolutely mind blowing about this particular guitar is that every single detail on it is carefully thought out. It is truly a unique icon, and blew everything out of the water before or since in relation to guitars. From the moment that this guitar was conceived in Ed’s mind, to the days where it was all the rage in rock circles, to the present and beyond, there is no doubt that this guitar is worth remembering.

If you are chasing this particular guitar to own, there are a few options to consider. Firstly there are a variety of very similar guitars under all various brands. As mentioned beforehand, you could easily pick out the EVH Gear Striped Series retailing at around $1,398.59 US RRP.

This particular Striped Series EVH Model by Fender is a winner.

EVH Striped Series Red with Black Stripes

Picture courtesy http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/gear/subpage/?partno=5107902503

Or, if you really are well off, and can afford this, then pay EVH Gear $25 000 US (not including shipping costs) and then a Frankenstein™ Replica Guitar is yours for that much. It is not the real thing, but is very close to being it.

Another option is to build your own. This, of course is very timely and a little expensive to construct, but it costs much less than a proper Frankenstein™ Replica guitar. A good place to start is this website: http://www.shredaholic.com/frankie.html

You may need your woodworking skills to create your own Frankenstrat of this era.

http://www.motorcyclesplanesandrevolution.com/?page_id=717

In any case, this is Eddie’s most famous guitar out of all of them. It is such an interesting, unique design that it is virtually inimitable. It is amazing and untouchable, but given that it is so original and unique, it still is often imitated to this day. For a long time this guitar will be forever remembered and cherished as an ultimate rock icon. Its place is well deserved for that reason in rock history.

The David Lee Roth era has a very distinctive sound, particularly in the guitar work of EVH.

Picture courtesy http://www.bellazon.com/main/uploads/monthly_07_2010/post-37737-1278950920.gif

Sources:

  1. http://www.evhgear.com/frankenstein/
  2. https://frankenstrat.wordpress.com/history-of-the-frankenstrat/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2mh7zGfFRM
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICXeYawQqFs
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9_ZDxoxhoc

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

The Fender Stratocaster

After some time, Eddie’s continuing development on the guitar itself meant that he sought out models other than the Gibson Les Paul as he was pursuing the sound that he desired. He was interested in using the tremolo system that is available on some guitars, and quickly sought out a Fender Stratocaster, notably for the tremolo arm. Eddie was interested in using the tremolo arm to change the sound of the guitar and expand it as he saw fit. Indeed, Ed’s music involves some often rather unnoticed tremolo techniques, most noticeably though the dive bomb. Indeed, Eddie referred to in a 1979 interview as “like another instrument1” which is a very accurate statement of what the tremolo arm is used for.

The Fender Stratocaster is necessary for those who wish to explore this step.

Picture courtesy http://proguitarshop.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/s/q/squire_bullettremdmb_2.jpg

Once again, Ed may have been following developments in what he was listening to at home. Many famous guitars players such as Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Eddie’s big influence Eric Clapton all played Fender Stratocasters at some point. However, although the influence of many rock guitarists of the time may have influenced Eddie, it was most likely the Eric Clapton influence once again who shaped this choice as Eric Clapton had switched to the Stratocaster. As Clapton said: “I keep coming back to the Stratocaster because it’s so practical”2. Indeed it is still his main guitar of choice today.

Eddie was probably looking up to Eric Clapton once again in his use of the Stratocaster, although not entirely as he was following his own journey as a guitarist.

Picture courtesy http://www.musiccentre.com.au/fender-eric-clapton-artist-series-startocaster

But perhaps it wasn’t the Clapton influence after all. Eddie has described himself many times as a “tone chaser”, so perhaps although he was fond of the sound of his Les Paul, he described it as “the clichéd rock and roll guitar”3.

There is little information on why Eddie actually used the Fender Stratocaster for some time in the first place, apart from the use of a tremolo arm. Indeed, it seemed almost purely that he used it for the tremolo arm. Still, he based his Frankenstrat and many other guitars on the construction of the Fender Stratocaster in later years. For now, however, we will focus on this guitar.

The Fender Stratocaster is seen as (probably) the most popular rock guitar out there, and certainly the most iconic. There are a variety of Stratocasters out there, but if you want to follow this part of the Van Halen story, you ought to start out with the American Fender Stratocaster Standard, retailing at roughly $1 300 US4, though this really depends upon which model and customisations you are using. No matter the budget, it is not impossible to find a model that suits you. But remember if you are following Eddie himself, it is best to purchase one with a tremolo arm to explore further the sound that Ed was looking for. This generally is a bit more expensive (about $200-$300 US extra) so be prepared to open your wallet/purse a bit more for that.

Nonetheless, the Fender Stratocaster is THE classic rock guitar, and a worthy addition to anybody’s collection. Below are some stats, courtesy of the Fender Official Website:

General:

Model Name: American Standard Stratocaster®, Rosewood Fingerboard, 3-Colour Sunburst

Model Number: 0113000700

Series: American Standard

Colour: 3-Colour Sunburst

Body:

Body Material: Alder

Body Finish: Urethane

Body Shape: Stratocaster®

Neck:

Neck Material: Maple

Neck Finish: Satin Urethane Finish on Back of Neck with Gloss Urethane Headstock Face

Neck Shape: Modern “C”

Scale Length: 25.5” (648mm)

Fingerboard: Rosewood

Fingerboard Radius: 9.5” (241mm)

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Medium Jumbo

String Nut: Synthetic Bone

Nut Width: 1.685” (42.8mm)

Position Inlays: Dot

Truss Rods: Bi-Flex™

Truss Rod Nut: 1/8” American Series

Electronics:

Bridge Pickup: Custom Shop Fat ‘50s Single-Coil Strat

Middle Pickup: Custom Shop Fat ‘50s Single-Coil Strat

Neck Pickup: Custom Shop Fat ‘50s Single-Coil Strat

Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. No-Load Tone Control (Middle and Bridge Pickups)

Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup

Pickup Configuration: SSS

Hardware:

Bridge: 2-Point Synchronised Tremolo with Bent Steel Saddles

Hardware Finish: Chrome

Tuning Machines: Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered

Pickguard: 3-Ply Parchment

Control Knobs: Aged White Plastic

Miscellaneous:

Unique Features: Bent Steel Saddles with Elongated String Slots, Copper Infused High Mass 100% Metal Bridge Block, Thinner Undercoat Finish for Improved Body Resonance, Tinted Neck, Aged Plastic Parts.

The reason I am adding these extensive lists is so that you can refer to them if you decide to build guitars of your own that are similar to Ed’s.

Fender is one of the most recognised and most popular brands out there internationally for musical equipment.

Picture courtesy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fender_logo_svg.png

Another thing to add is that Eddie has actually used Fender Stratocasters for various recordings, such as Cathedral on Diver Down, and most recently for some of the tracks on the A Different Kind of Truth album. Although he rarely uses the Fender Stratocaster, the design and makeup of the guitar itself has been a large influence on Eddie to this day.

If you are finding that, like Ed, the sound of the Stratocaster is too thin, there are a number of alternatives for you to explore. Below are some examples:

Gibson Les Paul Axcess Standard

The Gibson Les Paul Axcess Standard is basically a Les Paul with a Floyd Rose tremolo system. It retails at around roughly $4 000 US5 which is not very cheap, but worth checking out if you prefer the feel and style of the Les Paul, with the added Floyd Rose tremolo. The Floyd Rose wasn’t around when Eddie was first making music, only beginning operations in the late 1970s. Perhaps if Eddie were first starting out today, he would have used something like this. Worth exploring if you feel up to it.

The Gibson Les Paul Axcess is an alternative to consider.

Picture courtesy http://images.gibson.com/Lifestyle/English/aaFeaturesImages2008/body.jpg

Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS

The Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS is basically the main Fender Stratocaster with a tremolo and a humbucker pickup made by Fender in the bridge position. It is a viable alternative to both the Stratocaster and the Frankenstrat that Ed later built. If you want to pick one up, it is $1 300 US6.

The Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS is another good alternative.

Photo courtesy http://www.musik-produktiv.co.uk/pic-010061172xxl/fender-american-standard-stratocaster-hss-mn-ssb-10061172.jpg 

Fender Standard Stratocaster HSS with Locking Tremolo

This guitar is much closer to what the Frankenstrat was in terms of sound, but not 100% so. It has the classic Floyd Rose tremolo that Ed has used in the majority of his guitars, meaning that the strings are much more likely to remain in tune. This one is quite cheap, at $700US7 so definitely worth checking out if you wish.

The Standard Stratocaster HSS with Locking Tremolo is definitely a good alternative to Ed’s Frankenstrat if you are short on time and money to make your own Frankie.

Photo courtesy http://assets.fender.com/frl/093b8e341da564892dcc9b8a46d6c2d5/generated/533e7a8ef5133542fb7d2bce03ded6a8.png

I would recommend that if you find the sound of these unsatisfactory and you don’t want to blow the budget to replace the pickups with DiMarzio or Seymour Duncans if you wish, but we will come to that later. Or pick up a Fat Strat. In any case, these choices are all down to you.

That’s all for now. Hope this has been enough information for you.

\m/\m/ 🙂

Eddie is a guitar collector just as much as a guitar player. On the second from right is his Frankenstrat going through a transition phase.

Photo courtesy http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c8/ed/63/c8ed63e4345d4f198de3eb16ae4442c6.jpg

References:

  1. http://jasobrecht.com/eddie-van-halen-complete-1979-interview/
  2. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=za1MQ9gITagC&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=had+a+lot+of+influences+when+I+took+up+the+Strat.+First+there+was+Buddy&source=bl&ots=K3bcZMWSAr&sig=9xWXI6O9Y3kzyv7WQN_chh6k2oU&hl=en&ei=BlIcTbqJNIrRhAfvnYm3Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=had%20a%20lot%20of%20influences%20when%20I%20took%20up%20the%20Strat.%20First%20there%20was%20Buddy&f=false
  3. http://valleywebs.com/van-halen/guitars.html
  4. http://www.fender.com/series/american-standard/american-standard-stratocaster-rosewood-fingerboard-3-color-sunburst/
  5. http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Les-Paul/Gibson-Custom/Les-Paul-Axcess-Standard.aspx
  6. http://www.fender.com/guitars/stratocaster/american-standard-stratocaster-hss-rosewood-fingerboard-3-color-sunburst/
  7. http://www.fender.com/series/standard/standard-stratocaster-hss-with-locking-tremolo-rosewood-fingerboard-lake-placid-blue-no-bag/

Eddie’s first main guitar – The Gibson Les Paul

It is somewhat known that Eddie Van Halen’s first guitar that he purchased was actually a Teisco Del Ray that he purchased for $110 from Sears courtesy of his job on the paper route1. He is quoted in an interview as stating that he purchased that particular guitar as he said “I used to think the more pickups, the better!”2 which he found appealing at the time. Eddie chose to play the guitar after his brother Alex played his drum set as he was out on his paper route and eventually topped him in terms of skill. Eddie eventually picked up his brother’s guitar and began playing it after this occurred, shortly buying his first guitar afterwards.

Eddie Van Halen with his first purchased guitar from Sears in 1967Eddie Van Halen with first guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy http://www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/The-Early-Years-of-Van-Halen_.aspx

Early on in his days as a guitarist he quickly became a fan of Cream, and more specifically, guitarist Eric Clapton. It is noted that Eric Clapton favoured the classic Gibson Les Paul guitar, strangely enough out of production at the time3, being replaced by what would eventually become the modern day Gibson SG. He sought out a Les Paul that some blues artists had been using, and played it on the well-known and critically acclaimed John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album with a Marshall amplifier. He later joined Cream.

The cover of the highly influential John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton with Eric second from left.

Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bluesbreakers_John_Mayall_with_Eric_Clapton.jpg

Eddie is quoted as saying: “Clapton was it. I knew every note he played.”4 Indeed Eddie is a huge Eric Clapton fan!

So a knowledge of the sound Ed was pursuing began from day one came originally from his records that he loved. He loved the sound of Eric Clapton’s guitar playing and practiced constantly in order to achieve the sound that he wanted. But still, it wasn’t enough.

Now, before I rush into any complete history of Van Halen, I must cover the Les Paul and what it is. You can pick up a firsthand USA Gibson Les Paul for around $3 000 US for the 2014 model. Now given that, it is an excellent guitar (and no, I am not biased) and is a good way to start with following that classic Van Halen sound.

But what exactly can I do in terms of an amplifier? You may be asking that question yourself. Well in the early days of Van Halen Eddie used Marshall Amplifiers, so let’s take a look at those.

Marshall Amps are the way to go for the early Van Halen sound.

Photo courtesy http://www.rocksins.com/2012/04/founder-of-marshall-amps-jim-marshall-passes-away-14605/

Marshall Amplifiers were famously designed the way that they were because of the involvement of Pete Townshend of The Who. He was looking in the early 1960s for a brand of amplifier that was louder and heavier than the typical Fender or Vox A30 amps of the time. Discussions were held between Townshend and Jim Marshall, and the rest is history as they say. But to be clearer about the history of the amps, other guitarists were searching for the Marshall sound at the time. So although Pete’s contribution is not to be underestimated to the Marshall sound, he was not the only one in assisting the amps to become one of the largest international brands of amplifiers today. Many Marshall Amps are sold at various sizes and prices, but spending around $500US or more on a basic amp should do the trick.

Remember, this is a lot of money to invest. It is NOT for people who do not take the guitar or the music of Van Halen seriously!

In any case, if you were to look at the basic very early Van Halen set up, then a reasonable Gibson Les Paul Standard and a basic (but not too basic) Marshall amplifier will do the trick. Once again however, I must stress that you will need to play like Ed as well as use the setup to complete the sound. It is noted that Eddie in the early days of Van Halen, before constructing the legendary Frankenstrat Eddie had three main guitars at his disposal: Gibson Les Paul; Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson ES-335. All three he experimented with before building the first Frankenstrat guitar.

A Gibson Les Paul and a decent sized Marshall amp should get you the ‘classic’ rock sound, much like what Eddie was looking for very early on.Gibson Les Pauls and Marshall Amps.

Photo courtesy http://www.pinterest.com/pin/348677196121529437/

The following is a list of the materials that the modern day Gibson Les Paul is made of, according to the official Gibson website:

Body:

Top: Maple

Back: Mahogany

Adhesive: Franklin Titebond 50

Headstock:

Silkscreen: Gold “Gibson” & “Les Paul Model”

Truss Rod Cover: Black Bell Hot Stamp White “ETune”

Pickups:

Neck position: Rhythm Burstbucker Pro (Alnico #5)

Bridge position:

Neck:

Species: Mahogany

Profile: ‘60s SlimTaper™

Truss Rod: Standard

Joint Angle: 5⁰ (+/- 15 seconds)

Adhesive: Franklin Titebond 50

Neck fit:

Joint: Mortise and Tenon

Adhesive: Franklin Titebond 50

Joint Angle Tolerance: +/- .005”

Tuners:

Min-ETune with Vintage Keys

Electronics:

Potentiometers: 2 Push/Pull Volume Controls, 2 Push/Pull Tone Controls

Type: 500K Non-Linear

Toggle Switch: Three-way Switchcraft with Black Plastic Tip

Output jacks: 1/4” mono

Fingerboard:

Species: Rosewood

Frets: Cryogenically Frozen, 22

Radius: 12”

Nut/E.O.B: 1.695/2.260

Inlays: Figured Acrylic Trapezoid with 120th Banner

Bridge:

Type: Tune-o-Matic

Material: Chrome

Tailpiece:

Type: Stop Bar

Plating: Chrome

Nut:

Material: Black TekToid™

Width: 1.695

Slots: Gibson PLEK System

Hardware:

Knobs: Black Supreme Grip Speed Knob

Control Plate: Black

Trim Rings: Black

Strap buttons: Aluminium

An alternative is the Gibson Les Paul Axcess, which has a Floyd Rose tremolo built into it. But it is a little pricier, around $4000US. But still worth your while if you feel up to purchasing one. Eddie has always been a fan of the Floyd Rose tremolo, and is worth seeking if you are on a budget.

The Gibson Les Paul Axcess is another modern day alternative to consider.

Photo courtesy http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Les-Paul/Gibson-Custom/Les-Paul-Axcess-Standard/Features.aspx

Another thing to add is that the Gibson Les Paul has gone through some significant changes over the years, and if you are really going after the classic rock sound, you may need to seek out an early 1970s model of Gibson Les Paul, which is much more difficult to find and may cost a lot more. Eddie stated in a more recent interview that he used a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, just like what Eric Clapton used. Just remember that it is highly unlikely that Eddie used it ever on any recording. But it is essential to explore this wonderful guitar to gain a deeper understanding of what Eddie was exploring at the time.

In any case, I hope that I have provided enough information for you to get started.

Enjoy! 🙂 \m/\m/

Remember, you will still need to play like Ed as well as use the equipment that he used in order to sound like him.

Picture courtesy http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/gibson-les-pauls/78822-eddie-van-halen-les-paul.html

References:

  1. EVH Gear Official Website. 2014. http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/media/timeline/
  2. McCulley, Jerry. 2008. The Early Years of Van Halen: A Paper Route, a High School Essay and a Couple of Lucky Breaks. http://www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/The-Early-Years-of-Van-Halen_.aspx
  3. Cross, Dan. Gibson Les Paul Standard Profile – History of the Les Paul Standard. http://guitar.about.com/od/gibson/ss/Gibson-Les-Paul-Standard-Profile_2.htm
  4. Van Halen News Desk. 2012. Van Halen on Clapton. http://www.vhnd.com/2010/02/12/van-halen-on-clapton/
  5. Gibson Official Website. http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/2014/Les-Paul-Standard.aspx