Ready to learn one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time? In this guitar lesson we will be looking at the Beat It TAB. I’ll be showing you how to play this Michael Jackson classic on guitar one step at a time. We’ll learn that incredible guitar riff as well as all the rhythm parts and yes, we’ll be learning that epic guitar solo too.
Beat It is a track from Jackson’s Thriller album. It was written by Michael Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones. It was Jones who encouraged Jackson to include a rock song on the album and what a rock song it is. It reached number one on the Billboard 100 charts and went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide. It also received multiple awards and lots of critical acclaim. It aint no disco AOR track.
Beat It is also very fondly thought of in the world of guitar, thanks to a killer riff and an appearance from guitar legend Eddie Van Halen who performed the guitar solo for the track. It’s reported that Eddie thought that the initial phone call from Jones who was asking him to perform the solo was a prank. After he established that the call was genuine, Van Halen recorded the solo free of charge as a favour
By the end of this lesson, you’ll know exactly how to play that guitar solo, as well as the rest of this epic guitar track. Let’s get started.
Beat It TAB and Guitar Lesson
We’ll attack things chronologically to keep things nice and logical. We will therefore start with what happens prior to the riff kicking in which as you’ll be aware, is nothing. Well, not on guitar at least. I’ll show you what you can do there in a moment but first, there’s something we need to address, and that’s the tuning.
If you want to play Beat It in a way that reflects what happens in the record, you’ll need to tune your guitar to E flat. To do that, simply tune each string down half a step. There are reference pitches for that on the guitar tuner page if you need them..
In reality, you don’t need to go to half step down tuning. You can play this in standard if you like. The world won’t end if you’re half a step higher. Just be sure that the other performers are on the same page if you’re in a band situation. With that out of the way, let’s get to the practical stuff.
The Beat It intro has no guitar
As I’ve already mentioned, the beginning moments of Beat It don’t contain guitar. It’s all keyboard. This means that for those first few bars, you don’t have to do anything. However, if you’re not playing alongside a keyboardist, you may want to play the intro on guitar. You can do so with simple power chords like so.
It’s completely up to you whether you choose to include this or not but it’s there as an option should you decide to use it.
If you do decide to include it, make sure to keep the few bars that are just drums. Don’t go right from those power chords into the riff. You must leave that gap.
Notice that I’ve given TAB for the 2 finger power chord shape. You don’t want a huge fall sound here, so stick with the 2 finger shape rather than the bigger 3 finger alternative.
That drum-based gap is followed by the main guitar riff. We will look at that next.
Beat It TAB Guitar Riff
The Beat It main guitar riff is used at different points throughout the track which is good for us because it doesn’t change. Learning this short but incredible guitar riff will mean that you’re already able to play a huge portion of the song. Here’s the TAB.
This guitar riff is a fairly easy one to get under your fingers. If you’re used to playing rock riffs, this won’t cause you any issues at all. There are a couple of things to consider though.
Firstly, take note of the rests. This riff is very specific in its rhythm. If you want to sound like the record, you must take notice of how long each note lasts. For those who aren’t good at following the written instructions, listen closely to the record and try to emulate what you hear.
Secondly, it’s easy to find yourself “developing” or changing this riff slightly. Well, I did at least. If you do go down that route, try pinching that 4th fret D string note occasionally and maybe try adding a little bend and release to it now and then. Do remember thought, this riff does sound great just how it is, so also consider playing it straight, just like the record.
I have seen that the riff can be performed with open strings rather than how I’ve done it above. I’ve done the TAB like this because I find this way gives us more control.
Beat It TAB riff behind the riff
Behind that main guitar riff is a second guitar part and an almost equally cool guitar riff. The below TAB is that riff in question. If you’re playing as a single guitarist, consider splitting the time between the two riffs. Honestly, this one is just as fun to perform as the first thanks to those awesome percussive mutes.
This riff is nice and simple, just like the main riff. You may have to play around with those mutes but it’s honestly more fun than challenging.
Again, I’ve seen this performed differently but my way is much more efficient thanks to the fact that there’s less movement resulting in less work for you and your delicate little fingers.
Like the main riff, this one appears throughout the track but once again, it doesn’t change. Well, it does once. More on that later.
We’re done with guitar riffs now. Learning the above two parts means that you can play all of the riff sections in the song including all the chorus sections. The chorus sections are all riff based which means that you don’t have to learn anything new for them.
The verses do something different though. We’ll look at those next.
Beat it verse rhythm
The verse section takes us to power chord land. Here’s the TAB.
The chords are nice and easy. Just our standard 3 finger power chords. I’d say definitely use the 3-finger shape over the 2-finger shape here so that you get that full sound.
You’ll notice that once again, the rhythm is very specific so make sure that you follow it closely. Luckily, it’s very easy to hear the rhythm in the recording.
The verse sections are the same throughout and playing the above as you see it will sound perfectly brilliant but if you want to build on it and make it your own, try experimenting with the addition of extra muted power chords perhaps in the later verses. This is something that I’ve done, and it works well but do not remove the chords that are already there. Add muted chords around them.
Beat It verse second guitar
I honestly almost forgot about this completely. There is a second guitar part that you can hear in the verse sections. If you’re playing in a 2-guitarist situation, one of you play what we learned above and the other play this. It starts part way through the verse sections.
The rhythm of that first bar may feel tricky at first but you’ll get it with practice.
We now know how to play all the guitar riffs, chorus sections and verses. We’re getting there. We’re getting closer to the guitar solo but there is a kind of bridge/pre solo section that we need to learn first.
Beat It TAB pre solo section
The bulk of this section is simply muted open low E strings. It literally cannot get any easier as long as you can see or hear the rhythm. There’s also another little riff toward the end of this part which is a modification of one of the riffs we learned earlier. Here is the TAB that you require, starting with the open E part.
I genuinely hope that you didn’t need that last image. Anyway, moving on. The second guitar plays an altered version of one of the riffs toward the backend of the section. Here’s the TAB.
Nice and simple. You already learned it earlier. Next up is the guitar solo and the rhythm behind it.
Beat It TAB guitar solo rhythm part
We’ll start with the rhythm behind the solo because the explanation is quite simple. If you’re playing the rhythm while the solo is happening, simply play the same power chord section from the verses and keep looping it until the solo gets to that fast-alternate picking point at the end which you can use as a queue. After that, you’re back to the main riff.
Beat It guitar solo TAB
Just before we dive into the guitar solo, there’s something that I’d like to point out that some may find interesting. Right before the start of the solo, you can hear a knocking noise. It was reported that the knocking sound was somebody walking into Van Halen’s studio. Another story claims that the sound is the musician knocking on his own guitar. The sound, however, comes from Jackson knocking on a drum case as is credited in the album liner notes.
A nice and interesting bit of trivia there but let’s get on with learning the solo. Here’s the TAB for the first few bars.
Let’s break it down into chunks.
Bars 1 through 3. So, you’d start by pushing the whammy bar all the way down and hitting that open G string and gradually releasing the bar. You then have a note at fret 2 and slow bend and then a slide into fret 7. Easy enough so far? The next part is trickier. Those notes at the 14th fret are tap harmonics which can be rather tricky to dig out, but they are there. I’ve not included the marker for the second one because you can get away with not doing it but that first one is important to the sound. If you struggle with it, just hit a pinch harmonic at fret 7 at the time before moving up to fret 9.
I found this part tricky. Getting the rhythm correct was a pain. Also, the open E notes at the start are the end to that pre solo section.
Bars 4 and 5. So, these two bars are our first tapping experience of the Beat It solo. The tapping itself isn’t crazy difficult but like a lot of fast lead stuff, getting the timing can be hard. This is a case of slow it down and get it right before building up the speed. The signature sound of this little lick is that 12 13 12 part at the end so be sure to get that bit spot on because the listener will recognise it.
Time for the next chunk.
Beat it TAB guitar solo part 2
So, things are ramping up now. This looks crazy right? Well, that’s because it is. There’s no tapping in those first 2 bars even though it looks like there is. It’s just a big stretch and some awkward moving.
Bar 3 is a little nuts but don’t be too intimidated because it’s starting with a manageable trill but yea, it’s still off the wall. You can get it with practice but it’ll probably annoy you. There’s a return to the whammy bar there too but that part isn’t too bad.
The rest of this snippet is fairly manageable relatively speaking.
Beat It TAB guitar solo part 3 (split into 2 images)
You’ll be glad to know that the above is the end of the solo as I’m sure you can tell from the picking at the end there. After the speedy picking at the end has concluded, just hit a random slide down to feed yourself back into the main riff.
That last solo section is easier than the previous part. There’s some tapping in there, but it’s repetitive so you’ll get your hands around it with practice of course.
The Beat It guitar solo TAB that you’ve seen in this lesson won’t match exactly what you hear in the recording. It’s extremely difficult to match solos like that. What you want to do with pieces like this is get the right vibe and hit the most important parts with precision. This TAB will help you do that. You’ll need to listen closely to the track, and you’ll have to put in some serious work to get this down.
Beat It TAB alternative outro
As far as the guitar parts go, you’ve already learned Beat It from start to end. The only issue you may run into (aside from the hard solo parts) is the fact that the track fades out. So how do you end it? Well, let’s keep it simple. This guitar lesson is long enough as it is.
As you can hear, the song ends on a lopping chorus with the main riff played alongside it. What you want to do is decide when you’re going to end and then synchronise the lyric “beat it” with two open E (or E flat) notes which would follow the riff. Something like this. You may need to play with it to get a feel for what I’m suggesting.
The “outro” that I’ve created is simply the last 2 notes in that final bar. Don’t let them ring out. Keep it nice and abrupt.
That concludes the Beat It TAB and guitar lesson. You now know how to play this classic guitar track from start to end. If you’d like to learn more classic guitar tracks, you can do so here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. Take a look at some of these.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.