The keyboard riff from Van Halen’s Jump is a classic but the sound itself couldn’t be simpler. Although it definitely is ‘big’.
In order to find something that blended with their hard-rocking American sound, Van Halen turned to a manufacturer that, alongside Sequential Circuits, defined US polysynth design at the time - Oberheim. The Oberheim OB-Xa, alongside the rest of the ‘OB’ family, was an American classic within what was increasingly, at the time, becoming a market dominated by new, more affordable (and reliable) technology from Japan.
While not radical in analogue synth design terms, it offered a wide range of modulation options and most definitely has its own distinctive sound.
Listen: Van Halen - Jump
How to get the sound
We’re going to use Steinberg’s Prologue for this. The key to the sound is the fatness, warmth and richness so let’s turn all three oscillators to Saw and push the filter cutoff right up. They should all be detuned slightly against each other. We’ve set the third oscillator to play an octave higher (and a bit quieter). The Amp envelope should have a fast attack and swift release.
The final trick is to add some pitch and wave modulation to oscillator two, some chorus across the whole thing and a dash of reverb.