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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Michael Jackson's "Beat It" - Isolated Drums

Today we're going to take a listen to the isolated drum track on Michael Jackson's seminal Beat It, one of the many singles off of his best selling Thriller album. Supposedly this 1982 crossover hit was Michael's answer to Quincy Jone's prodding, "Why don't you write something like My Sharona."

Listen to the isolated drum track by late great Jeff Pocaro and notice:

1) Pocaro plays to a drum machine and does so incredibly well. This was especially difficult in 1981 when the tune was cut, since many drummers had a tough time with a click during that era, let alone a full-on drum beat. Today this isn't such a big deal since everyone is brought up playing to loops and tracks, but it was no easy task back then. There are only two places, at 3:31 and 3:47, where you hear the slightest of flams.

2) The drum sound is nothing special. But then again, how could it be with the drum machine in the front of the mix. Engineer Bruce Swedien is the the master of track balances.

3) The drum track is simple and that's what's so beautiful about it. On the other hand, it couldn't be anything else and still work in the song.

Tomorrow - more Beat It.
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