Ah, YouTubers. While the rest of us pontificate endlessly, the unfairly-maligned YouTube community painstakingly assembles evidence to prove their point. Lonely girls need outing? YouTube is there. Can’t tell what’s wildly out of tune in a botched Van Halen “Jump” performance? Let’s just listen, shall we? (Too bad, as I had just worked out a really great theory about sun spots, Greensboro’s atmospheric pressure and relative humidity, and a freak wormhole.)

Thanks, Wilfred Fumbly. (video’s gone now … more in a moment)

So, the original theory holds: most likely a sample rate issue. Well, unless Van Halen is really old school, run their backing tracks on reel-to-reels, and had that set to the wrong speed. Sample rates it is.

More importantly, we’ve definitively proven Eddie is a “great guitar player,” which I know is what was really bothering everybody about this clip. He demonstrates this greatness with true vigor, by playing as loudly as possible for five minutes completely out of tune with the backing track and the vocals (which were matching the backing track) as if he’s completely deaf. If you had any doubts about what a true Guitar Hero is, now you know. (And yeah, unfortunately, I do think that really was his only choice. Guess the techs couldn’t get the clock rate set back to normality.)

Speaking of Guitar Hero / Rock Band: Activision / Harmonix, if you’re listening, I think you know what my request for an Easter Egg in your game would be.

Updated: The video is gone. So now we can not only speculate about what happened to Van Halen, but what happened to the video. Perhaps WilfredFumbly noticed that, while the keyboard part in Greensboro was pitched higher than the original album recording, so were other gigs on the tour. That means the guitar is far from absolved. And it lends new credence to my “Wormhole Theory.” Maybe Eddie’s guitar was temporarily replaced with one from the past, in which the song was in a different key, or even an alternate universe where this is in tune.

Okay. I got nothing.

  • cdmr

    Transposing his guitar part on the fly would have been easy but the backing tracks weren't an even number of semi tones off, so there was nothing he could do to play in tune.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Right, exactly, you'd at best have to either stop playing (which would make things worse) or try to bend the pitch (which I actually think he may have been trying to do a couple of times). Pretty hellish situation, in fact. Well, best we can hope to do is do something more embarassing that gets us on YouTube. Hmmm…

  • _object.session

    i'm sure someone already did this, but just to make sure, i recorded the keyboard parts that were in the video and sped up the original by the ratio of 44.1kHz to 48 kHz and it matches perfectly. tempo and pitch.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Okay, who will be the first person to write a plug-in to do this? The Jumpifier?

  • http://www.keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    And as I said on the original post (and just like to repeat for the sake of showing off my math skills), the ratio for those two common sample rates would be about 1.09 (it's 1.08-something) which would be a semitone plus a quarter tone (semitone is about 1.06), so if it's normally in C and you hear it a little higher than C#, bingo.

  • dead_red_eyes

    "Okay, who will be the first person to write a plug-in to do this? The Jumpifier?"

    Peter, you crack me up.

  • http://www.daveahl.com dave ahl

    i've actually intentionally done this to speed up tracks (set an external clock to a different speed). the only problem is then the thing won't bounce at the higher speed! so i end up having to record the playback on my second computer…

    that's where the jumpfier comes in :)

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    I would help write the Jumpifier, but im going to take an Elton John instead.

  • http://www.melodiefabriek.nl Marco Raaphorst

    I didn't understand it. Why didn't they stop the song and start over again, or maybe start another song? This is as wrong as it can get. Or didn't they notice it?

  • http://deep-structure.blogspot.com deepstructure

    hey, don't i get some credit for that find? :)

    i think he definitely could have dropped out of most of the song without being noticed much – but he still would have had a problem during the lead, tho there's less obvious keyboard accompaniment to clash with during that.

    i did think some of the comments about eddie continuing to play out of tune on other occasions were interesting. you get all kinds of random information popping up when stuff like this happens!

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    I guess after a career like they have had, the show must go on. They probably assumed most of the "fans" in the crowd didnt care, or they didnt. Its an old band doing their old hits. They are expected to sound crap arent they? Trundle through "that hit" and count the cash. If not for the internet no one would care and they would be counting the cash anyway.

  • http://debsinha.com deb

    no, not the Jumpifier.

    the VanHalenator! or the BurninVanHalenator!

    or the VanHaleBurninator!

    obviously i have to get back to work….

  • foo

    I am actually kind of surprised that he didn't just realize what was going on, bend the pitch to the right note and play all his taps and solos perfectly. I don't even LIKE Van Halen. Eddie was one of the most amazing guitarists alive 27 years ago, and he's been playing all these songs ever since then. The man is god.

  • Mibrilane

    I like "Greensborofier" for a 44.1 to 48 pitch effector name. Less damning of the group's name and more about the singular incident.

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  • JD

    If Eddie didn't have a locking nut on his guitar, he could have tuned to the backing track, then played normally. The first verse would've been kind of weird, but the rest of the song would've been fine.

  • flip

    JD: There are tuners in the bridge on that kind of setup, and they are capable of going more than a whole tone. The problem is that they are meant for fine tuning in cents…so when you crank on them (especially the heavy gauge ones) it shifts the pitch of all the strings, and not equally. Too bad he didn't have one of those pedals that can pitch shift all over the place.

  • Ivan Smirnov

    "We're sorry, the video is no longer available."

  • http://www.soundclick.com/benhodgson poorsod

    I like that the first tag on this post was 'avant garde'. I don't see Van Halen purposefully Going All Arty on us any time soon.

  • Iain

    First there was the big dramatic and long synth intro, during which no one would have suspected the pitch/tempo change. Then the live playing came in and everything was off. What were the performers to do, wave their arms at the sound crew yelling "STOP" in front of a packed arena? No one knew what was happening. Was it a tuning problem, was it broken hardware? By the time they realized there was a problem it was too late and they had to forge ahead.

    It couldn't have happened to a better song. I consider "Jump" the song that ruined Van Halen's street cred.

  • http://www.keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    I think the thing to do when you realize your guitar is not in agreement with the music, is to stop playing long sustained notes like that, and just start making spastic rhythmic noises. Or find a slide and do the "blues version". If the crowd didn't have a problem with everything being massively out of tune, I doubt they'd have a problem with a reinterpretation of the guitar part.

  • Iain

    @Keith Handy

    Good idea, but that's assuming Eddie carries a slide in those clingy rocker pants.

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