David Lee Roth Breaks Down the Secret Weapon That Was Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar Solos

by Josh Lanier

David Lee Roth said Eddie Van Halen had a secret way of creating the perfect guitar solo. Effectively, he built it backward, the rock legend said.

Roth explained to Joe Rogan in 2019 that Eddie Van Halen embraced new technology. In the early 1970s, bands had to come into the studio with a plan. They needed to work on a song until they had it just the want they wanted it. Then they could record it.

But by the late 1970s, when Van Halen arrived, multi-track recording allowed bands to play around in the studio. They had more room to try different things and edit those pieces together into a single song.

“Once there were many tracks, guys would come in and just wing it. ‘Okay, let’s try one,’ and then, ‘Okay, that’s fine, let’s do it again – track 2’, and then just make it up as they go,” Roth said. “Then when it’s time to mix, they’ll pull a little of track 2 and a little of track 6 and start moving those channels in a way that you’d never think.”

This Frankenstein approach gave Eddie Van Halen more freedom to try new things. But there was a major drawback. He’d have to learn the song after he’d created it in the edit. This is one reason why his solos are all over the fretboard.

David Lee Roth laughed as he remembered watching Eddie Van Halen race up and down the guitar neck as he tried to keep up with himself on the track.

“It became a gymnastic effort, more elbow-and-shoulder to get his hand from the far end of the fretboard all the way up to the pickup and back to duplicate that approach to making solos.”

Family Members Eddie Van Halen on Anniversary of His Death

It’s been a year since Eddie Van Halen died, but his family is still struggling to cope with the loss. Doctors diagnosed the guitar god with stage four lung cancer in 2017. They told him he only had six weeks to live, his son Wolfgang Van Halen told Howard Stern. But he lived another three years after going to Germany for treatment. It eventually metastasized and moved into his brain.

His death still came as a shock, Wolfgang said. It felt like he’d continue on, at least his son hoped so. A year later, Wolfgang said he still can’t believe his dad is gone.

“I’m not OK,” he wrote. “I don’t think I’ll ever be OK. There’s so much I wish I could show you. So many things I wish I could share with you. I wish I could laugh with you again, wish I could hug you again. I miss you so much it hurts.”

Eddie’s wife Janie posted a poem to Instagram mourning her “peep.”

“I think about you every single day. Your smile, your laugh, your kindness – in every single way. I miss this, I miss us, I miss you, and I try my best to carry on the way you would want me to. But my Peep, some days, that’s really hard to do. This will never get easier because there really is no getting over you. The only solace that I can seem to find is knowing you are with God and truly free.”