Tag Archives: Gibson Les Paul

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:


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

Model Number: 0113000700

Series: American Standard

Colour: 3-Colour Sunburst


Body Material: Alder

Body Finish: Urethane

Body Shape: Stratocaster®


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


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


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


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


  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:


Top: Maple

Back: Mahogany

Adhesive: Franklin Titebond 50


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

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


Neck position: Rhythm Burstbucker Pro (Alnico #5)

Bridge position:


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”


Min-ETune with Vintage Keys


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


Species: Rosewood

Frets: Cryogenically Frozen, 22

Radius: 12”

Nut/E.O.B: 1.695/2.260

Inlays: Figured Acrylic Trapezoid with 120th Banner


Type: Tune-o-Matic

Material: Chrome


Type: Stop Bar

Plating: Chrome


Material: Black TekToid™

Width: 1.695

Slots: Gibson PLEK System


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


  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