The footage from Van Halen’s 2015 Jimmy Kimmel Live performance affords an almost perfect glimpse of Eddie Van Halen’s legendarily unique approach to tremolo picking.
The incredible speed and consistency of his take on this technique has been a source of fascination for 35 years. In Van Halen’s approach, the picking hand hangs suspended in mid-air, with no anchoring or muting at all, and uses a middle-index pick grip to generate positively giant picking movements. It really seems to break all the rules.
But given Van Halen’s obviously natural gifts for mechanical efficiency, maybe that just means we should re-examine what the rules really are.
Troy Grady is the creator of Cracking the Code, a documentary series with a unique analytical approach to understanding guitar technique. Melding archival footage, in-depth interviews, painstakingly crafted animation and custom soundtrack, it’s a pop-science investigation of an age-old mystery: Why are some players seemingly super-powered?