HIT SONG FORMULA #1: The Mighty Van Halen | Guitargate

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HIT SONG FORMULA #1: The Mighty Van Halen

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In this brand new series, I examine Van Halen's top 10 Billboard Chart Hits in an attempt to learn the formula for their hit song success. And you know what?  There is one. 

Download the PDF and my handwritten song notes in the link next to the video. 

If you're brave, feel free to upload an original song following this formula!  Cheers :)


1. The Riff Is King

  • It's the hook. Set's up the whole song.
  • Usually the chorus, or both chorus & verse
  • It's Major
  • All triads and sus chords (know your inversions)
  • Same approach on guitar and keys (visual pattern based) 

2.  Driving 1/4, 1/8, or 1/16 Note Bass 

  • Pedal Tones (playing one note over whole riff / progression) 
  • Root Notes (no inversions or walking bass lines) 

3.  Minor Element Sets Up Major Chorus 

  • Verse or pre-chorus is minor
  • Relative Minor (VImi)
  • IImi (Dmi in key of C)
  • Parallel Minor In Key Of D (Dmi verse, Dma Chorus) 
  • Chorus and Minor element almost always travel together

4.  2X Choruses With Harmonies

  • Virtually every chorus features 2-3 part harmonies 
  • Super singable and memorable 
  • Always in a set of at least 2

5.  Solo Section / Interlude = A Departure To Groove

  • Unless soloing over the chorus / verse 
  • Groove On The Black Keys 
  • Usually 2 sections
  • Pushes back to Intro / Chorus

6.  End With Intro / Chorus W Harmonies

  • Keep them singing until the end
  • Same riff as the intro
  • Full harmonies
  • Loudest Part Of the Song


RIP The Might EVH. 


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