Joe Satriani Names Difficult Aspect of Learning Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar Parts, Reveals Gear He’s Using for Van Halen Tone

Reflecting on his upcoming tour with Sammy Hagar, Jason Bonham, and Michael Anthony, guitar legend Joe Satriani revealed some of the difficult aspects of learning and performing Eddie Van Halen’s music.

Dubbed “Best of All Worlds,” the announcement of this tour was a dream come true to many. It’s the closest thing we’ll get to a Van Halen show after Eddie’s tragic passing in 2020. Nonetheless, Joe still faces major challenges, and expectedly so.

Appearing on the Talking Shred podcast, Satriani spoke up on this new lineup and explained some of the issues of learning how to play this stuff properly. Discussing what it was like to get in touch with his former Chickenfoot bandmate Sammy Hagar about this whole ordeal, Satch said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I’ve got a part of that legacy, which is just fantastic — to be able to be a part of that and to have the chance to play this music for the fans. The scary part, of course, was the Van Halen part because I explained to him, I said, ‘You know from playing with me, Sam, that I’ve tried my best to avoid playing like Eddie forever. I’m a big fan, and I’ve never learned the songs on purpose so that I wouldn’t steal anything.’ [Laughs]”

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“And I said, ‘But now I have to listen to it, this is going to be torture because the sound in my head is like when I was playing with Deep Purple — all I heard was Richie Blackmore’s parts in one ear, and the other was me. And it didn’t sound like Richie.”

“And it’s a bit of a torture if you’re a big fan,” Joe explained. “If I didn’t know any Van Halen music, it’d be a lot easier in that sense because I wouldn’t be trying to live up to that, but I really want to do it right.”

“So starting once I get off the ship, that’s gonna be part of my practice day — chip away at all those little things that Eddie used to do that don’t come naturally to me, but I’ve got to make them natural.'”

Although a guitar master himself, Joe knows that Eddie’s playing was very specific and that it requires great attention to detail. And it also requires a meticulously conceived rig. He continued:

“The sound that Eddie had and the way that he played with the sound, to me, once I started to take this deep dive into the technicalities of trying to do the songs, and then talking over with Sam and what his favorite Eddie sound was, we focused on that, actually.”

“Because it was that transition where he was still kind of playing the old rig — the Roth-era rig — but he was leaning towards what was going to become the Hagar-era rig. And for those people who are more technically-minded or are interested, it’s the transition from Marshall amps and Soldano to Peavey, and then, ultimately, to the 5153s — remarkably different tools for a guitar player to plug into. Some songs don’t work with the other.”

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“So I’ve been working with this amp company, 3rd Power out of Nashville, to make the ultimate Van Halen amp from that era, from ‘86. That’s what we focused on because you’ll be able to do both of those eras of Van Halen, I think, with that setup. So that’s been the important thing for me, just getting that started — the sound part.”

Getting into more detail about this new guitar amp brand that he’s collaborating with, Satch said:

“The Dragon amp made by 3rd Power — you just could get two cabinets and turn it up really loud, it would sound great. What Eddie was doing with those things, [was that] he’d plug into a Marshall, it would go into some power soakers like a Palmer speaker emulator, then it would go into stereo power amps.”

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“And there’d be Eventides and delays — you know, S3000s, and things like that. Have you seen that there’s a great picture of the backstage — side stage of Eddie’s rig — from that tour? And it’s just insane.”

“Now you can just get a little modeler. [Laughs] It’s so tiny. But it’s very impressive to kind of look like an ENIAC computer from 1940. So, I’m not going to try to emulate that. I want to keep it simple, but there’s something about the power and — what would you call it? — the transient response about having all that wattage behind you.”

“You don’t necessarily have to turn it up that loud. The speed of the tone is really important. And fingers are crossed that once I start playing, ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love’, that will be like, ‘Okay, I’m here. I’m in the zone.'”

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“The Best of All Worlds” starts off on July 13 and wraps up on August 31.

Photos: Joe Satriani/ Eduardo Peña Dolhun, Carl Lender (Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum 2)

  • 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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.