Alexandr Misko, only 19 years old when this video was made, comes from a small town in Russia. There, he steeped himself in the music of modern American composers, including Steve Reich and Philip Glass. And he taught himself a fingerstyle technique of playing guitar, he tells the web site California Rocker, that involves “tapping,” or playing notes on the fretboard of the guitar. (It’s a technique that has a long tradition, but reached its apotheosis, if you will, with the 70s and 80s work of Eddie Van Halen.) While tapping with one hand, Misko also plays percussion with the other, using the body of the guitar to create a drum-like rhythm. And then he realized, “Hmm, and I can put a little scrunchy on 2 low strings to mute them and create that signature sound,” known to everyone who’s heard Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit, “Billie Jean.”
Misko’s “Billie Jean” arrangement took a couple of days to work out, then a week to practice playing without flaws. The result, you have above.
Visit Misko’s Youtube channel to see his take on other pop hits like George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” and A-ha’s “Take on Me,” to name a few. You can purchase his new album, Beyond the Box, on iTunes.
Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.