I've always loved Eddie Van Halen. When I was a little whipper snapper I remember hearing this solo and thinking it was impossible and inhuman… Now an older, wiser and more… Shall we say "weathered" musician, I've finally grasped this amazing guitar piece. You'll need a guitar with a whammy/tremolo bar, have a good grasp of pentatonics, legato and of course have an understanding of tapping, at least at a rudimentary level. There's a link at the bottom of the article to the tab and my YouTube lesson, but I also wanted to break this solo down, section by section.
Section 1 Tips
For the first section get your self acquainted with this "A" minor blues pentatonic with an extra flat 5th and a cheeky accidental major 7th.
This shape/scale is used in this solo to do some simple pentatonic wailing with some bends and legato. What I found to be most problematic was the pulloffs in the very quick 5 note lick. (see excerpt below)
After the 3 note lead in we're looking a 5 note pattern played 4 times, then a quick pulloff of 3 notes. The tricky part is getting a triplet when rolling through the 8-5-0 pull off on the second string, then following that up with a jump from the 3rd string to the 1st. I practiced it by playing a down pick on the 2nd and 3rd string and finishing on the up pick on the 1st. It's not a natural or particularly comfortable lick, so you may need to mess around with picking direction to see what suits you.
Section 2 Tips
The next section deals with some pretty "Satrianiesque" legato. (see excerpt below)
After the 3 leading triplet notes, the 4 legato groups we'll look aren't identical note for note… They do however have the same phrasing and hammer on and pulloff emphasis. All 4 groups start with an ascending hammer into 2 rolling pulloffs, then end on 7th fret of the 4th/D string. This little phrase is a fantastic exercise to improve your legato. If you are anything like me when I started learning legato, I had strong hammers and very weak/quiet descending pulloffs. I would strongly urge you to add a this lick and descending legato exercises into your practice regime if you wish to become a legato boss!
Section 3 Tips
The third section starts off with some bending and wailing in a pentatonic with a couple of Dorian moments thrown in there. The weirdest part for me to figure out was a slide into a shred run with some obscure shapes. (see excerpt below)
This isn't physically that hard to play, but I hadn't ever seen these shapes in succession in any diatonic scales before. Just be wary that it's unfamiliar and get used to the weird shift from the 2nd string to the 1st.
Section 4 Tips
This section is relatively fast tremolo/speed picking. Let's have a look at a small chunk of it. (see excerpt below)
Even though this sounds quite fast and shreddy, there's still a bit of a triplet groove to it. If you're using the tab or my video with this section, try to learn the whole melody as single notes, then add the triplet feel later. Although it's quite fast, try to maintain a relaxed picking hand and keep you alternate picking controlled and bouncing (or jolly) in triplets.
Section 5 Tips
This section nearly destroyed me. Eddie chucks some weird pulloffs and trills in here! (see excerpt below)
The initial pulloffs from 5th fret of the 3rd/G string gets quite manageable with practice. The 2nd bar deals with 3 triplets that have a legato emphasis in some unpredictable places. You'll want to pick the 1st and 3rd note of every triplet in this situation. Take it slowly as it does feel a little bit unnatural and counter intuitive.
Section 6 + 7 Tips
These are the sections we've all been waiting for but… In my honest opinion these are the most manageable. Let's take a look at one bar from these sections. (see excerpt below)
The majority of these tap sequences are basic 3 note arpeggios. Generally its a minor 1 3 5 or 1 3 6, or a major triad and in a few cases a diminished triad. The good news is it's all on one string and more often then not we're working in groups of 8 or 6 and 2. One really important thing to keep in mind is that the tap goes first, then once the tap is pulled off we reveal a pointer finger on the fretting hand. After that you can hammer on to either your ring or pinky finger in accordance with what is more comfortable/sensible for you.
This is a redonk song/solo but is a must for all electric guitar shred enthusiasts.