The Synth Sounds of Van Halen's "Jump"

Van Halen. Photo by: Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images.

Given the endless tone worship and shredding adulation Eddie Van Halen generates within the guitar community, it's somewhat ironic that one of the band's most recognizable sounds comes from a synth. But as a number one hit upon its release and a mainstay of sports arenas and karaoke bars in years since, "Jump" from 1984's 1984 is about as classic as it gets—and it’s exactly where we're pointing our spotlight in this week's installment in our "The Synths Sounds Of..." series.

Compared to some of the other songs we've covered in this season so far, like Tears for Fears’ "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," the synth content in "Jump" is more or less limited to one key track. There's a lot of other sonic content that makes up the fabric of the final song, but the key synth line that kicks off the entire tune and carries it throughout is undeniably the most recognizable audio component (with all due deference to Eddie's ripping solo that comes in on the bridge).

As far as the actual synth used on the record, most sources peg it as the Oberheim OB-X, while some claim it was that synth’s successor, the OB-Xa. The original music video for "Jump" clearly shows the more stable OB-Xa, which is what the band would have toured with, though when the track was recorded in 1983, it seems to have been an OB-X that was deployed in the studio.

Regardless of which Oberheim model was used originally, for our purposes, the modern OB-6 will do just fine. This synth is a collaborative model between Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith Instruments, and offers the original sounds of those '80s Oberheim instruments in a reliable, modern format. Run that classic patch through some fattening bucket brigade delay and chorus, and you land pretty close to the original record.

Now, of course, not everyone has an OB-6 or a vintage Oberheim at the ready. If you want to play around with this style of synth without the heavy machinery, fire up your favorite DAW and try out the free DiscoDSP OB-Xd plugin or use the audio files provided in the sessions for Ableton Live, Logic, and Pro Tools below. For the Soundcloud track, we employed Arturia's Jup-8 V and Prophet V. (See details on a Reverb Exclusive Arturia sale below.)

Download Reverb Exclusive Project Sessions
Use the Provided Audio Files or the DiscoDSP OB-Xd Plugin in These Sessions

Arturia Sale: Now through the end of our "The Synth Sounds Of..." series on May 15, U.S. customers can get a Reverb Exclusive discount on the Arturia software synths used in our videos. Use promo code REVERBSOUNDS at checkout for 33% off the Arturia Prophet V and 20% off the Arturia V Collection 6.

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