Michael Jackson: 'Beat It' EVH Guitar Solo Lesson with Chris Zoupa

Hey guys. Check out my step by step article and tutorial on the classic solo EVH plays in "Beat It" by Michael Jackson.

Ultimate Guitar
Eb Standard tuning: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb

Difficulty: Advanced

This solo is diamond encrusted win. I remember hearing this solo as a wee tot and thinking "Hot diggity damn, that's bogus!" Keep in mind it was the early '90s and I would've been maybe 6. Now, an older gentleman, I put aside about 4 hours to nail and transcribe this solo properly and here we are.  

The majority of this solo is a bit of whammy action and some tapping EVH style and if you're familiar with Eddie's soloing style from other songs, you'll probably see some motifs and themes of his you've seen in other songs and solos. As usual we'll break the solo down into sections and look at anything that could be potentially problematic. I'll also leave a link to YouTube and the tab at the bottom of the article.

Section 1 Tips

The opening to this solo is with the rising whammy. However the tapped and artificial harmonics are a little tricky (see excerpt below).

You'll notice in the 3rd bar of this excerpt that there's 2 artificial harmonics on the 14th fret of the 3rd string. Due to the tension changing between the 7th fret and the 9th fret the pitch changes as well as the technique. I found it easy to tap the first one and do an artificial pinch harmonic by gently brushing the 14th fret with my index finger on my picking hand and then plucking the string with my thumb. This is a very Eric Johnson way of getting harmonics smooth and less squealy harmonics. I'm not 100% whether Eddie taps both of them but it's extremely difficult to get a clear tap harmonic the second time. If you listen to the John 5 cover of this song he plays a tap then the pinches like I do.

Section 2 Tips

The section deals with a pretty weird and complex legato lick that stretches from the 12th to 19th fret. Let's have a look at it as a 6 note shape (see diagram below).

I tried a 2 formations and pointer-middle-pinky finger worked the best for me. If you use the ring finger on such a massive stretch the pinky note can be especially hard to get to. Get as comfortable as you can with this shape and the fingering you with to use as the lick we have to put with it is pretty tough (see excerpt below).

Pay close attention to legato in this lick and be wary of questionably timed string changes. I dare say this little phrase nearly made me give up on the entire solo so be super patient with it guys.

Section 4 Tips

The tapping in the final section is a relatively simple idea played across 2 strings. There's a bit of a stretch on the fretting hand but the tapping itself is pretty simple (see excerpt below).

The timing on this is pretty predictable and consistent. We're basically working in semiquaver (or sixteenth note) triplets. It's not ridiculously fast on the tapping hand so you have options as to whether you want to have 2 tapping fingers (one per string), or to just let one tapping finger do all the work.

Finally, I wanted to have a look at the epic and fist raising crescendo of the solo that uses an aggressively attacked tremolo picking phrase (see excerpt below).

Once again we're ealing with semiquaver triplets. The timing on this is important. I listened to the solo countless times to nail the phrasing and to get the tremmed notes changing at the right time. If you can get your hands on a program to slow solos/songs down I would definitely recommend it for this phrase in particular.

Take care guys and happy shredding!

Download tab here.

YouTube preview picture

By Chris Zoupa

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This solo blew my freaking mind when I first heard it at the age of 14.I was still playing Apache by the Shadows at the time.Incredible to hear it decomposed and taught so nonchalantly almost like a cookery recipe. Chris Zoupa is brilliant. It's like someone describing the creation of the universe in 10 minutes and you actually completely understanding it. Like a veil has been lifted from over one the greatest mysteries of all time. I know this was the way many of us discovered the unique (at that time) talent that is EVH. Thanks Chris, not to mention Michael, one of the very few musical legends of our age.
    Glad he didn't decide to cover the hack job John Mayer did years later....
    Have you heard the Fallout Boy cover? Can't be worse than that, the solo is an insult to Van Halen and guitar music in general. It's like he plugged his guitar into an amp, threw it in a washing machine and recorded it!
    Rebel Scum
    ^ Says the guy with the Creed avatar... Good stuff. Would've been cool if there was some rhythm/fills parts included as there are a couple that are pretty boss.
    Hey Chris Zoupa, When I first heard this (at that time), I didn't even know about this tapping stuff, and tried working it out just using left hand ... didn't get too far : Years later, I got shown a way of playing it by a guy called Shaun Baxter, and the intro part was done using two r.h.taps. after the slide to D (7th fret, G string), tap on 14th fret (G stringt), then slide from 7 to 9th fret, an dtap again on 14th fret. Like that, it's fairly easy to execute.
    Chris Zoupa, Thanks a lot for this lesson! This solo is actually one of my all time favorites! It's rare that you find a great guitarist who is also a great teacher! Good job and keep up the great job!
    Careful… pretty sure I've seen this guy cover some Creed too… or at least Altered Bridges.
    Michael Jackson!? Please don't waste our time with his crap. This was 5 minutes of my life I won't get back
    Wow so ignorant. Just to let you know, Michael Jackson had one of the most talented musicians on this earth to play on his albums. Most of the band Toto were on his Thriller album and also on some other MJ albums. Steve Lukather is one of the most underrated guitar players nowadays. Playing on over 1500 albums certianly tells something about the man. Beat it is Lukather's riff, EVH played the solo and legendary Jeff Porcaro on the drums. Michael Jackson was very talented artist himself. I won't even start with your avatar...
    jfreund you're so fvcking low dude. Stay away from music please. P.S.: You saw a lesson where "Michael Jackson" were the 2 first words you read (and apparently disgust you), but you went ahead and clicked on it AND watched 5 minutes of it. Now, I want you to say "I'm jfreund and I'm so fvcking stupid." Go ahead, do it!
    Michael Jackson's been dead for over five years and the money he "makes" in a year is probably more than what everyone on this thread makes in ten years. Just putting that out there.
    Sorry for stupid question, but where do You all get those fancy band avatars? I can't find any site with such gifs
    They are standard UG forum avatars. If you want them, visit the forums. You can edit your profile by clicking "control panel".
    when eddie van halen did the beat it song with Michael Jackson I died same with walk this way aerosmith and dmc and all this rap and rock crap .
    Is there any possibility you can upload a different guitar pro file. Guitar Pro 5 doesn't read .gpx files. Guitar Pro 6 can easily convert to a different format .gp4/.gp5.