It’s time to listen inside another big hit from the past. This time it’s the instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It’s actually pretty amazing what you can hear once you strip the vocal off, although it shouldn’t be too surprising since it is the center of attention. Here’s what to listen for:
1. The reverb tail on the main guitar riff is very long. This makes perfect sense since it has to hang over at the end of the riff.
2. There’s not that many elements to the song. It’s actually pretty simple in that there’s usually only 3 elements playing at the same time – rhythm section, a keyboard pad, and a guitar riff.
3. There are some extra guitar parts that aren’t that apparent in the final mix. Listen to the clean guitar on the second half of the verse and the second 8 bars of the chorus. Also in the bridge there’s a 16th note guitar that plays underneath the main figure.
4. The drums are pretty plain in they just keep the beat. It sounds like a drum machine with real drums overdubbed with the high hat doubled and panned to each side, which fills up both the frequency and the aural space.
It’s always fun to listen inside of a hit, and sometimes just taking away the vocal reveals many parts that you don’t hear in the mix but are essential to the song. That’s the cool thing about production. The most important parts of the house aren’t usually the ones seen from the outside.