How To Play the Main Theme to “Jump” by Van Halen: YouTube Tutorial

Accompanying Blog Post For Video: “How to play ‘JUMP’ by Van Halen on the piano



I think we can all agree that this song — and especially the main synth riff — has made its way into the hall of fame of parts to play on the piano or keyboard. It’s a classic and it’s ridiculously fun to play! And the great news is that in our intermediate level arrangement, it’s very accessible. So you can have all the piano rock glory without needing to be an advanced player. Here’s what I LOVE about this passage, and why I wanted to make a lesson video for it:


1. The Syncopations and “Hemiolas”

That may be a new term for some of you, so let me explain. “Hemiola” refers to a rhythmic device in which we see notes that on their own suggest a certain time signature or meter that is different than what the actual song is written in. In other words, the melody for this passage in rhythmically grouped most of the time in groups of three 8th notes. That alone, played out of the context of the song, might suggest that we are in a triple meter. However, we know that this song is in a strong 4/4, and that is even more apparent when we have the drums playing behind us in the backing track. So we have a syncopated part that suggests a triple meter, on top of a strong rock beat in duple meter. Let the rhythmic challenge begin! Luckily the left hand part isn’t playing 8th notes, and instead holding whole notes. However, if you want to really test your skills, check out the Advanced arrangement in the app 🙂


2. Great Use of “Sus” Chords

Even though they go by really quickly, the chords at the end of each of the phrases in this passage are crucial to this song’s identity. When I say “sus” I’m referring to a suspended resolution. This usually appears in the form of a major chord that has the 4th or 2nd scale degree instead of the 3rd. It is a little more open harmonically because the 3rd of a chord is one of the most defining notes in a chord, and when it is omitted that chord’s definition is a little more ambiguous. And we see two “sus” chords in a row here! It’s a great lesson on sus chords and getting your hand used to the odd shapes that they can sometimes have.


So dive in! Make sure to watch the video while you’re at your piano or keyboard so you can play along with me as I guide you through the lesson. And don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any other YouTube videos lessons… I’m now doing 2 new videos a week, EVERY WEEK!


If you love using your favorite songs to learn the piano, check out JUMP by Van Halen at the Playground Sessions YouTube channel. If you like what you see you can download the app to learn the rest with our interactive sheet music.


– Phil

For more blog posts by Playground Teacher Phil Anderson, click here.

Subscribe to Playground’s YouTube channel for more song lesson video.

Download the Playground Sessions APP for full interactive



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