THE BROWN SOUND | The Secret of the VAN HALEN Guitar Tone!

Eddie Van Halen famous guitar sound.  How it was achieved.


The “brown sound” is a term often associated with the guitar tone of Eddie Van Halen, the legendary guitarist of the band Van Halen. It refers to the rich, warm, and distinctive tone that he achieved, particularly in the early days of the band. Here’s a breakdown of the elements contributing to the brown sound:

1. **Guitar and Gear**: Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tone was heavily influenced by his choice of gear. He famously used a homemade guitar, often referred to as the “Frankenstein” guitar, which he assembled from various parts. He also used high-gain amplifiers, particularly the early Marshall Plexi and later his signature 5150 amplifier. The combination of his guitar and amplifier settings played a crucial role in shaping his tone.

2. **Pickups**: Van Halen’s guitar tone was further enhanced by his use of high-output humbucker pickups, such as the DiMarzio Super Distortion or Seymour Duncan JB pickup. These pickups provided increased output and sustain, contributing to the aggressive and powerful sound associated with the brown sound.

3. **Technique**: Eddie Van Halen’s unique playing style and techniques, including his use of two-handed tapping, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and whammy bar tricks, also contributed to his distinctive tone. His innovative approach to playing the guitar allowed him to produce a wide range of expressive sounds and textures.

4. **Effects**: While Eddie Van Halen was known for his minimal use of effects compared to other guitarists of his era, he occasionally used effects pedals to enhance his tone. He was particularly fond of using a MXR Phase 90 phaser pedal, which added a swirling modulation effect to his guitar sound, as heard in iconic songs like “Eruption.”

5. **Fingerstyle Technique**: Van Halen’s fingerstyle technique, characterized by his aggressive picking and use of harmonics, contributed to the clarity and articulation of his guitar tone. His precise and dynamic playing style allowed him to achieve a wide range of tonal variations and expressive nuances.

Overall, the brown sound is a combination of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, gear, technique, and playing style, which collectively created a signature tone that has influenced generations of guitarists and remains highly revered in the world of rock music.

Leave a Comment