This Guitarist Wasn’t Allowed to Do Tapping When He Opened for Van Halen: ’I Confronted Eddie About It’

Guitar maestro Steve Lynch, who’s the founder and leader of glam metal legends Autograph, revealed that he was ordered not to do any tapping when his band supported Van Halen.

By now, it’s clear that Eddie Van Halen wasn’t the one who actually came up with the two-hand tapping technique. However, he’s closely associated with it. And we can safely say that he’s the one who improved it significantly and is rightfully praised for that particular aspect.

But as Steve Lynch also claims, he’s one of the early innovators as well, with one manual on the technique published back in 1982. However, he revealed during a recent chat with Guitar World that, back in 1984, he was told not to use the technique while his band Autograph opened for Eddie and his band. As he offered:

“When our tour with Van Halen started, I was asked by their management, ‘Are you Steve Lynch, the one who wrote ‘The Right Touch’? I said, ‘Yes, I am.'”

Steve Lynch from Autograph - Hammerhead - Guitar Solo

To those who may not know, “The Right Touch” that he’s referring to is the manual that he wrote. With the full title “The Right Touch: The Art of Hammering Notes with the Right Hand,” this one was published in 1982. Recalling the situation, Lynch then added:

“I was then aggressively informed, ‘That’s Eddie’s technique; you’re not allowed to play it on the tour – or else.’ I was pissed that I couldn’t play something I had created.”

Whether he created it or not is something that could be up for discussion and best left for some other time. At the same time, he was also somewhat known for it and often played stuff that included tapping.

As Lynch then added, he wasn’t happy about it and was willing to come up to Eddie and figure out what the deal was. Interestingly enough, the answer he got was a little unexpected.

“So, later on, I confronted Eddie about it,” the guitarist recalled, “to which he replied, ‘I had no idea they put those restrictions on you. I’ll call the dogs off.'”

“I graciously thanked him and played whatever I wanted for the rest of the tour. I’ll never know if he was telling the truth, but I don’t care; we hit it off well after that.”

And for the rest of the tour, he was allowed to do his thing. But going back to his origins of the technique, Steve looked back on how he started on tapping.

“I first saw Harvey Mandel playing around with it at a soundcheck at a club in downtown Seattle in the early Seventies,” he replied when asked on the matter. “That’s what first inspired me.”

Steve Lynch Solo - Turn Up The Radio

Harvey Mandel is an underrated guitar legend who was also an on-and-off member of Canned Heat. But apart from Harvey, there were other guitarists that inspired Lynch. He continued:  

“Then I saw a local guy named Steve Buffington experimenting with it, which made me pursue it more. But Emmett Chapman, the inventor of the Stick [the Chapman Stick], made me immerse myself in it.”

“He did a clinic at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now the Musicians Institute], and I was awestruck by the sounds he created. I immediately began to train my hand and began writing the two-hand theory, including arpeggios, triads, chord inversions, scales, intervals, and double-stops.”

Steve Lynch of Autograph at Replay Guitar Exchange

When there’s talks about tapping before Van Halen, one of the names that most often pops up is Steve Hackett. Well-known for his work in the prog-era Genesis, Steve did the technique to some capacity back in the 1970s.

“I was so young when I discovered that, and I just thought it sounded brilliant at the time,” said Hackett in an interview last year. He also added that he “never could have imagined it” that this practice would go on to become so huge.

“I was just messing around, and one day, I realized then when you’re hammering on and off with your right hand – which became an important technique because it enables you to play incredibly fast – I remember thinking about it and coming to the idea that I could do something on one string without necessarily having to move to another.”

Steve Lynch from Autograph - Loud and Clear - Guitar Solo

“And then, when I applied that to the whole of the fretboard, I found that I could do some incredible things.”

“It’s an extraordinary technique, becoming the mainstay of many heavy metal players. I suppose I’m thrilled to have been the granddaddy of that.”

He also pointed out:

“I can’t recall the exact moment, but I remember how it made me feel. It’s probably the guitar-playing equivalent of splitting the atom. Just to feel that it’s possible to be able to do something that, at one time, only keyboard players could do, was exhilarating. And now, for over 50 years, it’s been a part of the rock ‘n’ roll vocabulary.”

Autograph - Loud And Clear

Photo: Carl Lender (Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum 2)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.