Feb 042014

What’s the deal with the drum sound in Van Halen’s “Jump”? Is it good? Does it serve the song/fit in with the production? Does anyone else feel like I do, whenever they hear “Jump” on the car radio? I always think, “That’s a weirdly unaffected drum sound! What’s the deal? Where are my drummer friends when I need them riding shotgun?”

Seriously, every time I hear this catchy VH song, not an entire verse goes by before I am reminded of how drums sound in a recording studio, at first playback, when the band has finished its take and loads in, with tremendous anticipation, to hear the engineer’s playback of the newly recorded rhythm track.

“Is that how the drums are gonna sound,” one band member immediately speaks up, not necessarily the drummer.

“They sound kinda dull,” chimes in another.

The engineer responds calmly, “Don’t worry. I’m playing it back flat. Nothing’s EQ’d yet. You’ll hear the top end and everything else you expect when we start mixing.”

It sounds to me like the engineer forgot to do anything with the EQ on the drums in “Jump,” as if they finished the other parts and left the drums flat, exactly as they were recorded to tape. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but to my ears it’s a weird thing. It sounds like Alex Van Halen is playing in an earlier decade than his bandmates on this song.

Let’s put aside the merits of Van Halen, the authenticity of David Lee Roth as a rock ‘n roll wildman, the song’s “I’ll show them I’m not some synth-playing wussy” guitar solo, and the surprisingly good cover of the song by Aztec Camera. Do you hear what I’m hearing? Drummers and would-be drummers, does Alex Van Halen’s drum sound make sense within the context of this song? Are the drums atypical of the drums in a usual VH song from this period, or are the drums the only thing typical in the mix?

Isolated, the drums make more sense:


  13 Responses to “Is There a Drummer in the House: What’s the Deal With the Drum Sound in Van Halen’s “Jump”?”

  1. misterioso

    Can’t pin this one on Trevor Horn. I don’t think.

  2. cherguevara

    Simmons drums

  3. cherguevara

    PS I think it was because the album, and the one after, were recorded at EVH’s studio, which did not have a good drum tracking space, so they went electronic. This could be BS though.

  4. These are not the same drum tracks. These were also recorded on electronic drums. If you go about 30 seconds in listen to the fill right before the first verse ……”I get up”. There is no hi-hat choke and the snare drum has no dynamics in it. The only way that these could be the same track is if they had actually gone back over the track a re-recorded all of the cymbals with real ones….which is actually done a lot more than you think.

  5. Simmons Drums. I have heard he had them mounted in shells to look like real drums. Here’s a post on some nerdy VH BBS:

    “His set-up for 1984 had two simmons bass drums, a couple of simmons floor toms and the rest were roto toms. I believe he also used a tama rosewood snare. The simmons brain was the SDS V and the Pads were from the SDS 5 series. By 5150 the whole kit had been rounded out by simmons pads. I have a simmons kit that I bought in 1987 because I loved the 5150 tour so much. After hearing those things I freaked! I am glad he plays acoustic drums now but I loved the simmons pad era.”

  6. Thanks to all of you for filling me in on the Simmons drum pads. I sniffed at those things when they first appeared just because I almost always sniff at new technology. Didn’t Bill Bruford use those things on King Crimson’s Three of a Perfect Pair? The music on that album is beyond my normal range of hearing, so it didn’t bug me. On this VH track, however, I’ve always felt the drums stick out like a sore thumb. This explains why.

  7. cherguevara

    Yup! The lineage, as I’ve read it was: Bruford started using Simmons, influencing Neil Peart, in turn influencing Alex Van Halen.

  8. Here’s a drum solo video from the 5150 tour. (Terrible solo if you ask me…has this forum talked about drums solos before?) http://youtu.be/XfH_dnPae0c

  9. Thank you for sharing that horrible mix of pointless chops and fad technology!

    We did try to determine…once and for all…rock’s best drum solo.


  10. You’re right — I’ve saw VH once, but never really liked them — and really don’t like Jump.

    I like short drum solos — like Moon’s here about 1:24 on this fragment from Live at Kilburn.


    Ran across this on TV a couple of nights ago and still get chills. I hate overplayed classic rock, but for some reason I don’t get sick of The Who.

    My 6 year-old was watching and asked “are those guys still alive?” Two of them are buddy, only two.

  11. BigSteve

    The drums sound better than that ridiculous guitar solo.

  12. trigmogigmo

    You guys really got me (ahem) on that one. I would not have guessed those are Simmons drums. Acoustic cymbal/hat overdubs aside, I think the snare and the toms sound pretty damn realistic (and very very dry). I am just not hearing the typical sizzling Simmons drum sound. I can’t hear the kick much thru Youtube on laptop speakers. But I think it’s a good solid realistic drum sound overall.

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