The Led Zeppelin song that showed Eddie Van Halen how to tap

Eddie Van Halen‘s enduring legacy in the realm of guitar techniques is undeniably anchored in his mastery of tapping. While tapping had made sporadic appearances before Eddie’s time, most notably in Genesis’ Steve Hackett’s rendition of ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,’ it was Van Halen who not only revolutionized but also popularized this technique, leaving an indelible mark on a new generation of hard rock and heavy metal enthusiasts.

The genesis of Eddie Van Halen’s tapping technique remains a subject of debate, with differing accounts about its origin. In a 2009 interview, George Lynch, guitarist for Dokken, asserted that both he and Van Halen witnessed Harvey Mandel employing tapping at a West Hollywood show in the 1970s, hosted at the Starwood Club. On the other hand, Steve Hackett, who himself utilized tapping, claimed some influence on Van Halen. However, Eddie has countered this, stating that he never saw Genesis perform live, let alone witnessed Hackett’s version of the technique.

Contrary to popular speculation, Eddie Van Halen attributes his inspiration for tapping to another guitar virtuoso: Jimmy Page. Specifically, Van Halen points to a Led Zeppelin performance at the Forum in the 1970s as the pivotal moment that sparked his interest in tapping.

“I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his ‘Heartbreaker’ solo back in 1971,” Eddie Van Halen shared with Guitar World in 2008. “He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, open string … pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around?’ I just kind of took it and ran with it.”

In Van Halen’s narrative, it wasn’t about Page being the originator of tapping; instead, he observed Page experimenting with a similar technique and subsequently incorporated it into his distinctive style. This version of events positions Eddie Van Halen as the architect of his unique tapping approach.

While tapping did exist before Eddie, his innovation lay in the way he executed it something unparalleled at the time. Given Van Halen’s penchant for crafting his guitars and learning music by ear, it aligns with his self-driven approach to teaching himself tapping rather than adopting it from someone else.

To grasp the evolution of Eddie Van Halen’s tapping technique, one can explore a 1973 performance of ‘Heartbreaker’ at Los Angeles’ The Forum and discern the connection between Page’s solo and Van Halen’s eventual epiphany.

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