Eddie Van Halen with EVH Striped Guitar
Credit: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/live-reviews/eddie-van-halen-shares-life-story-van-halen-update-at-smithsonian-20150213

The great Eddie Van Halen is now in his 60s. We're lucky to still have him, he's beat cancer four times. Truth is, he looks better now than he has in years.

Thought by many of the people who would know to be the greatest guitarist of all time, Edward is unquestionably an awe inspiring musician. Such things don't happen by accident. His father was a musician who could play many complicated instruments. From a young age Edward and his older brother Alex were trained in classical piano. Music was a discipline from childhood. It carried over through adolescence and into adulthood.

True story, and if you wish to be a great musician you shouldn't try this at home, but Eddie Van Halen can't read music. I can't either, but I'm nobody. Eddie faked being able to read music while training to play classical piano. He learned it by watching closely, by ear, and memorization. While I believe any sighted person who's not learning disabled could learn to read music were they dedicated to it, I also believe that not so many persons with fine hearing could ever learn music so well by ear as persons such as Edward Van Halen.

The Van Halen family were not originally Americans. They are immigrants to this place. They are the kind of immigrants who worked hard, and made what will be a very long lasting impression. Of all the honors Eddie has received for his prowess with the six strings, the one he has said matters the most to him is his being honored by the Smithsonian for his contributions to American music. Truth be told, his innovative guitar style has contributed to the music of many nations.

When Eddie's amazing guitar abilities hit the FM radio airwaves it changed people's lives. Folks who'd spent years and years trying to be as good as Clapton or Hendrix, or even Jazzier guys who were admirers of Jeff Beck and John McLaughlin, they all got put on notice when Eddie's 'Eruption' hit their ears. There was a new king of guitar technique, and he was radically different from anyone who'd come before him.

The two handed tapping Eddie was doing wasn't anything new, but it was a technique which simply hadn't been exploited or explored much or often. Ed took it, ran with it, and used it constantly. It's the tapping technique which most blew the minds of the masses. With Ed's highly technical, fast fingered work with it, he sounded like at least three guitarists playing at one time. Then, he utilized harmonics, natural and artificial, as often as he wanted, which was often. Folks weren't doing that at the time either. When you add those things, his dive bomb use of whammy bars (and the Floyd Rose device was brand new too), his unique approaches to rhythm and melody; all these things combined are what makes Edward Van Halen the single most influential and respected guitarist in the popular music world.

Eddie Van Halen with Kramer guitar
Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7I_kbmmU6s

Everything about Eddie Van Halen was original, including his guitars. Eddie tinkers. He takes things apart, and re-engineers them to his own design and desire. His guitar in hand at any given instant used to be forever a 'Frankenstein,' meaning it was the parts he liked best from several different guitars assembled into one.

When the first Van Halen albums were recorded, when that Eruption was created, and stunning the best guitarists in the entire world, he was playing a Fender Stratocaster which was excessively modified. The thing became regularly known and referred to as Frankenstein, or the frankenstrat. Ed still owns and loves that guitar today, but he's got it locked away somewhere, and only he can get to it, and then only on occasion. He didn't want it to become useless for the abuse. One can understand sentimentality.

When you are a guy like Ed you have any guitar you want, and usually more than you can name at one time. Touring the world and playing for hours on end in front of audiences can take a toll on an instrument, you need several which can do the exact same job. When I was young and one would rent a VCR tape to see a Van Halen show on the television, Ed was playing his striped Kramer guitar which looked much the same in stripes and colors as did his Frankenstein. The Kramer instruments were sometimes referred to as 'hokey sticks' guitars for their head-stock shape.

Besides all of his pioneering in guitar technique, his guitars were also pioneers. Ed had created what would come to be known as a super Strat. For the bodies of the guitars were those of Fender Stratocasters, but Ed used a humbucking pickup almost exclusively, and located at the bridge. He'd had to have removed the Fender single coils, and cut a larger slot to install the humbucker. He added the brand new Floyd Rose tremolo whammy bar device, removed most of the controls.

Whether Eddie or Steve Vai created the first super Strat is something for other folks to debate over. The essential elements were the Stratocaster body, the double action Floyd rose style tremolo whammy bar, and a humbucker pickup in the bridge position. That's it. You could have more features. You could have 24 frets, you could have more pickups, and any arrangement of pickups, but every guitar thought to be a super Strat had a humbucker in the bridge position, and they always had a double action, locking nut whammy bar or one make or another. The EVH Striped guitars are all simple super Strats modeled after the first one Eddie played, the one known as Frankenstein. Again, Eddie had many such guitars, and any internet search of photos of the man combined with careful examination would show it.

EVH Striped guitar
Credit: http://www.evhgear.com/gear/guitars/striped-series/evh-striped-series-red-with-black-stripes/

I want the reader to be sure to understand there have been quite a lot of copies of the Van Halen striped super Strat, Frankenstein. There have been so many editions and manufacturers of such guitars it would be quite a lot of work to attempt to catalogue it all. Fender did one, which makes perfect sense, the original Frankenstrat was a Fender Stratocaster. Kramer produced lots and lots of copies, which makes perfect sense, as Eddie went to use Kramer guitars for many years, and he endorsed them.

But our Ed is a guy who loves to tinker with guitars and amps as much as he loves to play music with them. It was just good business sense on his part to start a company selling products with his name attached. We are here specifically talking about the EVH brand striped guitars. They come in colors other than the red, black, and white striped one. You can get yellow and black striped ones, or white and black striped ones. These are selling for just under one thousand dollars. There is also the exact same guitar with circles and stripes.

The bodies of these guitars are of basswood. Basswood is an inexpensive wood to use when compared to other woods used in electric guitar building, but this in no way means basswood is cheap in the sense of not being great for the purpose. Basswood is inexpensive because it is plentiful. These are minimalist superstrats, there is just one pickups, 22 frets, and a single volume control.

The lack of a tone control is maybe misleading, for this guitar has an EVH brand double action, locking nut tremolo system. Lets be frank, it's a copy of a Floyd Rose; but also the unit features what is called a 'D-Tuna.' What is a D-Tuna? It's a device which allows you with very little effort, to near instantly drop the pitch of the large E string from standard E tuning down to a drop D tuning. If you're into metal music this is something which can prove very useful for some chugging and crunching sorts of tones you can produce. There's no reason such a great guitar as this must, however, be used for any one particular style of music.

Ed has long had his preferred humbucking pickups in production, and so it is little wonder his EVH brand superstrat striped guitars feature them. What is found here is the Wolfgang humbucker. Wolfgang, of course, is the name of Ed's son, also a fabulous guitarist and bass guitarist.

For more information on superstrat guitars, I would recommend 5 of the best superstrats available today. This one by EVH at under a thousand bucks represents a fabulous value for the dollars you would spend to get one, and it would offer a lifetime's worth of creativity and musical expression.