This is not my tribute to MJ. My real tribute will to be to realize one of my lifelong ambitions which is to learn how to do a proper Moonwalk.
I did feel suddenly inspired though, to learn how to play Beat It, which does of course feature one Mr Edward Van Halen playing the solo on it. The equally iconic rhythm parts I believe were laid down by Steve Lukather, so all cool in the guitar pedigree department: now to get to the licks. I had a copy of Guitar World which had the transcription in it and had no problem locating a video on YouTube to play along to.
I say ‘play along to’ but what I actually mean is to ‘fumble, flub and stumble along to’ – particularly the solo. The rhythm part, while interesting and catchy is quite straightforward. There are some coolio overdubs which might challenge the right hand a bit, but it’s reproducing VH’s feel in the lead which is hardest. Sure I could probably get the actual notes down after a couple of days, but man – listening to EVH’s squealing ‘wanky’ (and I mean that in a good way) feel, his grip of the strings, vibrato, use of the bar, his sense of pitch and ‘falling down the stairs’ is one thing that might take me a lifetime to replicate.
Which then of course begs the question – is it worth copying an artist note-for-note and banging out a replica? I think there’s some kudos in being able to do this and then YouTubing it, but it also depends how much time you have to devote to your instrument and what ‘musical tasks’ you must spread over that time (I have a long, backed-up list of stuff I want to learn). I’d love to be able to play the Beat It solo as per the record but in reality this will take too much of an investment in time (I guess it means I’m not that good) for the sake of a party piece (I won’t be playing this song live any time soon either). Better then, IMHO to learn the spirit of the solo and some key licks to get a feel for it and take away something that can be integrated back as an influence. I spent about half an hour doing this. Some great tapping licks in there, and a nice stretchy (12-15-19) lick.