ERUPTION

23 September 2010

[Picture of Eddie Van Halen playing guitar]“Eruption” started off life as a guitar solo done by Eddie Van Halen exclusively in a live context. It was recorded in 1977 and kinda changed the world (the guitar world anyway).

In the armoury of guitar techniques, tapping has always been around, but generally within classical and flamenco styles.  Some tapping did appear in rock on electric guitars, but never as comprehensively as here on “Eruption”.

Van Halen came up with the two-handed tapping technique to create a new soundscape — and in fact, most people assumed that it was played on a synthesiser or some form of electronic wizardry.  Van Halen famously played it with this back to the audience to hide the technique for a while at the beginning.

Of course, today, everyone’s familiar with this tapping sound and technique; it’s pretty standard in the curriculum, but back in the day — the mid to late 1970s — it was brand new and very exciting indeed.  That was a very creative period for the arts, and this is but one example of all the extraordinary things that came out of that very special era.

Technically, Van Halen tuned down the guitar by one fret, and begins in Ab and ends on the Eb 12th fret harmonic. The intro is based on “Let Me Swim” by “Cactus” followed by the “Etude No. 2” by Rodolphe Kreutzer. It ends with the final bars of an early baroque lute piece by John Dowland called “A Fancy”.

[embedded video clip of Eruption by Eddie Van Halen]

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULEBSxP725w]

Now, I have to admit that tapping like this has not appealed to me personally. I have done it for a laugh now and again, but it just doesn’t sit in my personal “toolkit” for when I want to express myself on the guitar.  That’s just me; it is a fabulously effective technique for sounding fast or accomplished — what would Bill and Ted films be without Vai’s tapping?

Credit where credit is due, this single piece was so talked-about, so hyped, so “up there” back in the day, it was a real buzz, and everyone was amazed and tickled by the whole thing.  In the guitar shops, this started  to take over from “Stairway to Heaven” and “Smoke on The water”. It is always high on the charts of guitarist voted bests.

Wonderful stuff!

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