We’re kicking off a new series: The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis.
We plan on highlighting some of the most influential synth sounds in the history of electronic music, and the hardware and software behind the sounds.
And what could be more iconic than the synth riff that kicks off Van Halen’s Jump?
The 1984 track signaled a new direction for Van Halen, with Eddie Van Halen leaving behind massive guitar riffs for a moment to make room for some equally massive synth riffs.
The iconic sound of Jump was played on an Oberheim keyboard. According to Wikipedia:
The Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer was used in the video of “Jump”, and can be seen in video footage from their follow-up tour. However, it is a common misconception that it was used on the recording itself. The recording features its predecessor Oberheim OB-X, played through a Marshall amplifier stack. Even though it features a somewhat thicker sound than the OB-Xa, due to its discrete circuitry used instead of Curtis chips, it had a bad reputation of being unstable on the road.
In a similar scenario, Jean Michel Jarre used the OB-X on the recording of “Magnetic Fields”, but replaced it with the newer, more stable OB-Xa while touring China and performing the same track live.
Unfortunately for Van Halen, Jump, hasn’t always sounded so iconic. Here’s a video of a Jump train wreck from 2007:
Because of the Jump sound’s iconic status, people have attempted to recreate the sound on all sorts of synths. If you’ve got a synth that has multiple oscillators per voice, you can start with a detuned sawtooth waves and adjust the envelopes to get close.
Here are a few examples of what others have done:
Jump On The Alesis Micron
Jump On The Korg X50, With Cheesy MIDI Sax
Jump on a Roland Jupiter 8:
Jump On A Fantom-X6:
Jump On A Nord Stage 2:
Jump On The Roland SH-201
Jump on an OB-X:
Careful programming can get you close, but the original OBX’s sound is in a league of its own.
Jump on a Roland OB-Xz:
Here’s a sound design tutorial for the Jump intro, 1984, featuring the Oberheim OB-Xz:
Here’s a couple more videos that look at how to play the Jump synthesizer parts. Now you can rock out at Guitar Center with the best of them!
How To Play Van Halen’s Jump