Sign up now for Deals, Gear Reviews, and More

The MME Guitar Newsletter

View our privacy policy and terms

10:00am - 6:00pm ET | Mon-Sat
Eddie Van Halen Inspired Pedalboard

Eddie Van Halen Inspired Pedalboard

Wes built an EVH board! He explains the signal path and pedal selection, and he describes some of the key tones to the Van Halen sound that you can achieve with a similar setup.

Signal Path:

Guitar —> EVH Wah —> TC Electronic PolyTune Mini —> ClinchFX EP-Pre —> EVH Phase 90 —> EVH Flanger —> EVH 5150 Overdrive —> EVH 5150 Chorus —> Strymon El Capistan Tape Echo —> Strymon DIG Digital Delay —> Mad Professor 1 —> MXR Ten Band EQ —> Amp

Overdrive

The most important tones for the Eddie Van Halen sound, especially when going for the classic David Lee Roth era of albums from Van Halen 1 to 1984, come from a cranked Marshall Plexi. If you have that, you can play most parts of most songs from the first six albums. This Plexi sound is best achieved with an actual cranked Marshall amp, but you can still get pretty close with a few modern pedals.

I recommend the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive for a basic general purpose Van Halen overdrive sound. There’s plenty of gain on tap, and there’s a handy noise gate built in to help you rein in the craziness. For a more specific sound, I recommend the Mad Professor 1 pedal, which replicates the cranked Marshall tones of the first album. It also has a plate reverb after the distortion, which is accurate for the reverbs found on the first album.

Modulation

After the overdrives, the next most important pedals are the modulations. A phaser and a flanger are the two most important modulation pedals for Van Halen, and the MXR varieties are definitely the ones you want to get. A Phase 90 set to around 9-11 o’clock will get you the slow sweep that Eddie used all the time, especially for solos. Phasers like the EHX Small Stone don’t have the same sort of fatness that a Phase 90 has, so the MXR is the way to go.

The MXR Flanger will get you the classic sounds of songs like “Unchained.” Put your flanger at the bottom of your pedalboard to turn it on and off quickly for certain parts of a riff, just like Eddie did. Once again, the MXR version is the best when compared to a flanger like the EHX Electric Mistress.

These can be intense effects and are best placed before any overdrive pedals, when normally modulation pedals go after overdrives in the signal chain. This is to replicate Eddie’s real setup of putting the phaser and flanger before his cranked Marshall. (Think of the overdrives as an actual amp in your signal flow.)

Eddie used a chorus as well, notably on some songs on the Diver Down and 1984 albums. Any subtle chorus with a slow speed rate will get the job done, but the MXR EVH 5150 Chorus is the best choice. It is based off of rack choruses that Eddie used in the ‘80s, and is best placed after an overdrive to replicate more of the studio chorus sounds, though it works well before an overdrive too.

Delay

Eddie didn’t use long, high-mix delay too often, but a short echo can add the right atmosphere to some riffs and solos. On my pedalboard, I have the Strymon El Capistan replicating an Echoplex tape delay (along with the ClinchFX EP-Pre to simulate the famous warm Echoplex preamp tone). This is set usually to a short delay with only a couple of repeats, maybe even just one repeat. It is longer than a slapback, but not by much. You can manipulate the time and repeats on this pedal as well to accurately replicate the ending of “Eruption.”

For longer digital delays, I have the Strymon DIG. Eddie would sometimes use longer delays in live solos, and it’s an essential part of songs like “Cathedral.”

For both delays, I prefer them near the end of the signal chain for a cleaner response. Though I have the Mad Professor 1 after the delays for a grittier delay sound, just like on the early Van Halen albums where the Echoplex would be before the amp.

Others

To finish out the board, I have an MXR EQ pedal. On Eddie’s late ‘70s board, he had an EQ pedal and it is nice to have it at the end of the chain for a volume boost. That volume boost is particularly useful for solos, especially when you bump the mids up. Everyone will hear you shred!

Finally, I have a wah and a tuner. Any tuner will work, but be sure you’re tuning a half step down! As for a wah, the best in this case is the EVH signature wah, because it is a replica of Eddie’s favorite wah that technically had a slightly broken pot in it, giving it a unique taper. He used wahs for live solos sometimes, but that was mainly in more recent years. He also notably used wahs in riffs on the last Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth. But to be honest, the main reason I have the EVH wah on this board is because it looks cool!


Leave a comment