The Surprising Thing Eddie Van Halen Never Learned To Do

Eddie Van Halen, who was in the band that shared his last name from 1978 to his death in 2020 per Biography,  thrilled audiences with his amazing guitar playing from the start. He did things that some people could never imagine. His guitar solos were the highlight of shows and he created a sound that entranced listeners from the very second he started. Songs like "Eruption" and "Runnin' With the Devil" were just some of the things that he crafted with glee. He cut an amazing presence on stage and he seemed to be enjoying every second of his time playing. 

It wasn't just his guitar work that set him apart. He was also excellent on the keyboards, with distinctive melodies on songs like "Jump," "Dreams," and "Right Now" to name a few. The band was rightfully inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. 

But the funny thing is that for all of his virtuosity with the guitar and keyboards and his ability to create sounds on the guitar that few could even think of (seriously ... a power drill on a guitar to start "Poundcake?"), he couldn't read any sheet music for it. It was all from improvisation. The whole thing came about when he first started piano lessons at a young age. 

It was all due to a language barrier between him and his piano teacher

Eddie Van Halen was just one of many famous artists who could neither read nor write music, per Hello Music Theory. Prince was another. The Beatles couldn't, with Paul McCartney saying that trying to read music was like just looking at "dots on a page." Jimi Hendrix, another legendary guitarist, couldn't. Slash can't. Many of these artists prefer to rely on chords. Phil Collins, a legendary drummer, can't, per Song Facts

In Eddie's case, the reason (according to Metalhead Zone) was because a very young Van Halen had a piano teacher who couldn't speak English well. So Eddie just learned from watching the teacher's hands as they played the notes that he was supposed to play. Van Halen was so good at doing this that he was able to fool the teacher for the next six years. He even won piano competitions despite his inability to read sheet music. 

After that, he became enamored with rock music and the guitar. Perhaps his lack of sheet-reading ability allowed him to fully allow his creativity to be unleashed. Whatever the case, fans were the beneficiaries.