Ask Eddie: Achieving a ‘Trebly’ Sound

Every month in the Ask Eddie series, we pick one fan question to submit to Eddie Van Halen, who offers insight that only the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer can.

This month, Peter Pertierra of Florida chimes in with a specific question about a “trebly” sound Van Halen achieved on a few of his band’s signature tunes.

Pertierra: When listening to some of your earlier recordings from 1984 and 5150, it seems as if the humbucker has a trebly/parallel wiring instead of series. Is this the case, or is it straight series? How was that trebly sound achieved (a la “Best of Both Worlds,” “Top Jimmy”)? You probably get a gazillion questions, but answering this one will help me understand how certain tones are achieved. Waiting for my striped series guitar coming to me by Christmas!!! Thanks.

Sincerely, Peter Pertierra.

Van Halen: Hi Peter,

Thanks for your question.

The answer is quite simple.  The “trebly” sound you’re hearing on “Best of Both Worlds” and “Top Jimmy” were achieved by single coil pickups (which I rarely use), but seemed right for these particular songs.  On “Best of Both Worlds,” I used a ‘58 Strat.  On “Top Jimmy,” I used a prototype custom made Steve Ripley guitar, which has three very rare custom pickups in it.  The pickups actually have six miniature pickups built into what looks like a pretty standard single coil pickup and sounds like a single coil pickup.  Since it has six miniature pickups (in one), it enables you to “pan” each string wherever you want in the stereo spectrum.

I hope that answers your question Peter.

All the best, Eddie VH

Submit your questions to Eddie Van Halen here