Hacking (and Patenting) Guitars with Eddie Van Halen

Wednesday September 12, 2018 Written by Smith

Glam metal fans like to think Eddie Van Halen invented the guitar. It turns out they're not far off. As he explains in this interview with Popular Mechanics, the virtuosic soloist has tinkered with his instruments since he was a child, cutting parts off and screwing new ones on in the pursuit of what would become his iconic sound.

"I couldn't afford a distortion pedal" he says of his first musical hack. "I had to try to squeeze those sounds out of my guitar." Soon he was inventing better whammy bars and covering his pickups in hot wax to stop them feeding back. Today he has patents on two of his inventions: one for an improved peghead, the other for a bracket that keeps the guitar flat while you’re standing up.

Musical ingenuity clearly runs in Van Halen the family. When his clarinet-playing father lost a finger in a late night garage mishap, he modified the instrument with saxophone parts so he could play it without his fingertips. Seems adversity—financial or limb—really does breed success.

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