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Steve Vai explains why Eddie Van Halen’s technique was unreproducible

Steve Vai
Photos by Larry DiMarzio and Richard W. Strauss

Classic Rock

Steve Vai explains why Eddie Van Halen’s technique was unreproducible

Virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai (Frank Zappa, Whitesnake, Alcatrazz), who played in David Lee Roth’s band right after the vocalist left Van Halen explained in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock the reason why Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing was unreproducible.


Steve Vai was David Lee Roth’s band guitarist from 1985 to 1989 and had to play many Van Halen classics live.

Steve Vai explains why Eddie Van Halen’s technique was unreproducible

“As a guitar player, playing Edward’s parts, it’s a joy because they’re perfectly orchestrated. They fall on your hands beautifully. They’re just engineered so beautifully. Now, you can learn how to play them, but it’s not going to sound like Edward.”

“You know, it will always sound like you. They sounded like me playing Edward’s parts. I did my best to pay respect to them, because they’re great fun to play. It was nice. It was such an incredible opportunity and a joy to play those songs in front of 25,000 people a night.”

Most challenging guitar part to play

When asked which was the most challenging guitar part to play, Steve Vai explained the magic that existed between Eddie and his brother and drummer Alex Van Halen:

“The challenging aspect for me in playing those tracks was also the educational aspect, and that was how Edward quantified his parts. They had no sharp edges – this is hard to explain, but they’re well rounded edges.”

“His ability to sync to his brother was magical. Finding that groove [was interesting] because his brother didn’t play straight like a drum machine, but the way that they locked was remarkable. That’s something that you can’t really learn by learning where to put your fingers.”

“That’s an internal thing. You’d have to be playing with Alex [Van Halen] to understand how you would navigate those parts the way Edward did. I played them with Gregg Bissonette, who is a fabulous drummer. He’s a little more straight ahead in the groove. It’s like, Alex flows more; Gregg is locked. So I was playing to Gregg, so that was a bit different.”

Steve Vai

Born in Carle Place, New York back in 1960, Steve Vai is a three time Grammy Award winner and fifteen-time nominee. His career began at the age of 18 back in 1978 as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa, later becoming a guitarist in Zappa’s band from 1980 to 1983.

Besides having a successful solo career focused on instrumental music, Vai also was an important guitarist in bands like Alcatrazz (From 1984 to 1986), David Lee Roth (From 1985 to 1989) and Whitesnake (From 1989 to 1990).

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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