Weekly Song Challenge: Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil

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Van Halen

Runnin’ With the Devil

Van HalenIn 1978 a handful of guys in a slew of oceans of bands trying to get discovered out in California released an album named after the band that was named after half the members. Van Halen. At the time the band and album were met with opposition as the industry wasn’t ready just yet for such a different style of rock. As the group pushed forward people came to see the genius imbued in the music and not only has it become of of rock’s most historic albums, but also one of the pivotal points in the transition from 70s rock to 80s rock.

The album featured band defining classics like the renowned “Eruption” that introduced the world to the might of tapping, “Jamie’s Cryin”, “Feel your Love Tonight”, and of course today’s specimen “Runnin’ With the Devil”. Also there was the entire rest of the album. That part kicked ass too.

Why Learn This Song?

Apart from being the first thing we hear when we listen to Van Halen, the song demonstrates that Eddie Van Halen style rhythm. Catchy and groovy rhythms are one of the defining characteristics of Van Halen’s career, so much so that I’ve known people that get more of the rhythm guitars than they do the leads. I feel like considering how Edward has changed how people look at the lead guitar that says something in and of itself as well.

Speaking of leads. There aren’t a lot of lead guitars in this song, but what is there will make for a good exercise on the fingers. It’s melodic, but very quick lick oriented.

While you’re at it, it may do you some justice to learn to play the vocals on the guitar as well. They are very melodic and it always does a body good to understand how other instruments might be played on the guitar. Doing so forces you to think outside of the box a bit and helps colorize our styles more.

Another reason to learn this song is for ear training. I know part of the code of the weekly challenges is to not tell you how to learn the song, but if you’re at all interested in training your ears (which is an invaluable skill) and you haven’t gotten started yet this song is a great place to start.

After you listen to “Runnin With the Devil” a few times you’ll realize there aren’t too many surprises hidden away that are going to throw you off. You’re up against one drum track, one bass track, two guitar tracks which are both panned separately, and vocal melodies with a few harmonies in there.

The mix is very forgiving for this ambition as well. It’s because the mix is so clear you’ll have no problem isolating the instrument you’re transcribing. And let me tell you a thing or two about training your ear to isolate instruments. It’s easy here because you can always distinguish which instruments are which, but when you start listening to music with huge arrangements like symphonies you’re up against multiple types of string instruments with multiple types of brass, etc. etc. That’s where the payoff really comes in.

So… what’re ya waiting for?  Go learn it and show us what for it mean to be.

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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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