Billie Jean fretting tips, tricks or hacks?

Hey family. I gotta start out by acknowledging my joy to see that we do indeed have a group therapy for Billie Jean. While this is a technique question, it is a Billie Jean tech question, so I apologize in advance if it needs to be removed.

So I’m sure you’ve guessed already that BJ has claimed another victim. I have spent more time and picked up more potential bad habits with this song than any other in the short time I’ve been playing.

Aren’t we all trying to over achieve a little bit in these courses? I mean it’s impossible not to feel in league with your inner rock star when Josh points out that after you learn BJ, you’ll always have a song people know if you ever get asked to play at a party. So yes, I am a little upset that I’m stuck here, not willing to pass slow because I’m unsatisfied with what I’m putting out.

I don’t know if one is more common than the other, but I’ve got cross string 1/8th notes dialed, but even trying to use repetition and muscle memory to guide me in, the D to A switch or the switch back from A to D throws me out of rhythm and I don’t recover.

As I said, I haven’t gone past the slow workout, so I’m sorry if Josh does this at some other point in the other workouts. If you have any tips for a n00b trying his hardest to master fretting BJ at speed, please oh please advise.

Love and rot,
:skull_and_crossbones:101 :skull_and_crossbones:


Hey… damn I know I’m supposed to remember your name…

Hey 101,

You’ll find a lot of information on how to tackle and bring down Billie Jean here:

That’s where Eric Kiser consolidated a number of threads wherein Billie Jean was tackled.

On top of that, I would [ersonally avoid the abbreviation, as it has… questionable connotations. :wink:

With regards to your question: while most everyone has trouble getting her to submit, the trouble manifests itself in many ways, some of which unique. The only thing I can suggest is: if you have trouble getting the slow workout done, try it at an even lower tempo. The slow workout runs at 65 bpm if I remember correctly. I started at 50 bpm – and only when I had that down consistently, I moved on to the slow workout.


Just as peterhuppertz has said start slow and practice.
I can play it reasonably one day and then just can’t the next lol


Don’t listen to those guys @101, they got it all wrong.

What you need to do is start slow and work your way up.

And now that we straightened out what those other guys got wrong…
I tell you, that was my trip up on BJ. (Nvm what @peterhuppertz says about it) that’s actually my daughters initials, BJW. Just kidding about not minding our buddy Peter. Tho, all in fun and games right there

But yeah, I didn’t actually have trouble picking up the fingering or plucking with this song, but I understand why it trips so many up.
I did have a problem going up and back down however. I was able to play the riff in slow and medium, and I could even keep the fast pace for a short period of time, but not that long.
But I could not jump strings to go high, I would lose my fingering, I was thrown off by usually not landing my pinky properly on the G string, sometimes missing enough, the string would pop out from my finger.
By the time I caught back up to the rythem, time to cross strings again, and same $h!¥.

I ended up getting thru the slow work out and a passable version of the Med workout before moving on, with a D minus minus, just above passing.

By the time I finished B2B later that week, with constant practice of Billy J in spare noodling, I was able to go back and nail it on Fast for the quiz.

My belief is that it’s a combo of finger strength and coordination. Weather you practice it slow Med or fast tempo, you will get there before you know it.

I often tried to play it sort of subconsciously, starting slowly and then just kind of let the mind wander to tv, or someone nearby, or daydream, and I found it helped me to just get thru it without my mind twisting it up.

Lastly, something that also helped was to play it switching strings every time.

Almost as it’s a continuous measure and you are learning it as tho it’s not a change, but just the way it’s written.

After just going back and forth, slower at first, when your fingers are a little stronger, you should be able to nail it at any tempo


Don’t listen to those guys @101, they got it all wrong.
What you need to do is start really slow and work your way up.

Sorry. Almost everything was already said but I could not resist.

A thing that helped me with Billie Jean that I see a lot of people skip is: Move your thumb! Like @T_dub I had a bit of a problem especially in the string switch but once I got comfortable moving my whole hand including thumb then the coordination is exactly the same and it’s less strain on the right hand.


The thumb moving is something I still forget regularly :flushed:





If stating this five times doesn’t convince him, nothing will. :laughing:


@101 Don’t listen to any of the forum members.
They no nothing of which they speak
The answer is written on the skin of the “Banana”
If your unable to read it, I’ll transcribe it for you?
Take toenail clippings from Michael Jackson
A lock of hair fae Billie Jean
A hair of the dog (a loose one, we are a dog & Cat friendly forum)
One furball from the cat
Put it all in a blood red envelope
Write the magic symbols on it
Place under your pillow on a full moon
And before the next full moon you will be able to play Billie Jean at 12bpm
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

You could do what the others said

Slow down, Have fun and Smile
:guitar: :rofl: :guitar:


Yes! And duh! There is a difference between over achieving and shooting yourself in the foot. Thank you my dude.

And its David. Always David. 101 is kind of my own personal joke about the common nature of my name :wink:


You know what might be fun?

A thread that shows folks playing Billie for warm up and Billie to finish, kinda before and after.


I started reading this knowing your were joking around. I knew it. and then you got to Blood Red Envelope (first band name to come from B2B?) and I started chuckling.
When I got to 12bpm on a full moon, I projectile launched Mt. Dew into the screen of my laptop.

You and me and Ratso need to start a band of all bass players and write songs about other over done “occult” stuff.

Thanks so much for the laugh and the encouragement.


BTW, the first time my wife sat through a B2B practice, she refused to believe that our man Josh had tattooed a banana. I have about 14 concentric miles of ink in my skin, we are most certainly a tattoo household, but both of us just stare at the lone banana (another band name?) in absolute awe.

Then she broke the news to me, which is still extremely cool but a little less thought provoking than renegade banana, Its part of a Warhol painting I believe. Still, oh so epic.


I found that the fingering that Josh recommends makes Billie Jean a lot easier, although it felt awkward at first. Try practicing very slowly, focusing on always using the correct fingers.

The C# notes (4th fret on the A string) are tricky because sometimes they are played with the pinky and at other times they are played with the ring finger. I found it beneficial to pay extra attention to those.

You might find it a bit easier to play the riff further up the neck at first.

Josh isn’t kidding when he says that Billie Jean is a surge in difficulty. I’d definitely encourage you to carry on with the course even if you can’t do the slow workout. Come back to Billie Jean later on, once your hands are stronger and more stretchy.


You, sir, or rather your beloved, are the first one I have seen to identify it correctly.
@tamaraster came close when she mentioned Velvet Underground, but of course Warhol was the source.

edit: we are still waiting on @JoshFossgreen to give us the background story.



@peterhuppertz we just need to peal back the skin on @JoshFossgreen 's banana and see indeed if there is a naked …
:guitar: :rofl: :guitar:


I will leave that banana skin right where it is.


I swear I saw a single word in bold letters on his forearm as well, below the banana on the inside. Any clues?


This is the closest I got: So that's how the world knows Josh!
I don’t think he’ll ever reveal the story behind the tat. And if he does I’ll just keep wondering if it’s the real story :smiley:

So since I’m currently practicing billy jean on fast and had 2 basses to compare:
I still fumble sometimes in the fast speed but I got the medium speed down so this is where I’m at. I’m managing but it could be better.

(sorry for the whatsapp sound in the second video & the low volume overall)
It’s the last one on my Super BadAss checklist that I haven’t checked off. I’m not sure I would with my performance. Maybe practice it a little bit more.

Also: oh my god pinky! Where are you going? To France? Stay close! Damnit!


@juli0r brilliant man, that’s great.
:guitar: :star_struck: :guitar:

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