Blue Danube

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes the most fa­mous waltz of all time for you to play on clas­si­cal gui­tar.

It Is tempt­Ing to think that in their day the great ‘clas­si­cal’ com­posers only ap­pealed to the ap­pre­ci­a­tors of high art, their mu­sic lis­tened to in si­lent and still rev­er­ence in a con­cert set­ting. Well, this is cer­tainly not the case in re­gards to the Aus­trian com­poser Jo­hann strauss II, who was es­sen­tially a highly suc­cess­ful ‘pop song­writer’ in the late 19th cen­tury. Dur­ing his very busy and suc­cess­ful ca­reer, his many waltzes were cen­tral to a fash­ion that can be aptly de­scribed as a dance craze. In fact, strauss wrote so many popular waltzes that he be­came known as ‘the Waltz King’. Be­hind the en­gag­ing waltz rhythms, is a melodic and har­monic el­e­gance of a mas­ter mu­si­cian, and his mu­sic has en­dured through the ages and spread from the dance halls to the con­cert stage and count­less films and TV shows. You will doubt­less recog­nise his ever-popular Blue Danube – which I’ve ar­ranged here – in many films in­clud­ing Austin pow­ers, Fer­ris Bueller’s Day Off, the Jun­gle Book, ti­tanic, the Last em­peror and most pow­er­fully per­haps as a prin­ci­ple theme in stan­ley Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey.

the Blue Danube (An Der schö­nen Blauen Donau, Op. 314) was com­posed in 1866 to a mod­est re­cep­tion. How­ever it has since flour­ished (in a choral as well as orches­tral ver­sion) to be­come a main­stay of the orches­tral reper­toire, and of­ten thought of as the unof­fi­cial Aus­trian na­tional an­them. struc­turally, it is quite in­ter­est­ing in that it is a good ex­am­ple of a strophic form; this is es­sen­tially a med­ley of dif­fer­ent melodic themes, with only one re­ca­pit­u­la­tion of the main theme at bar 161. I’ve changed the orig­i­nal open­ing key of A ma­jor to D ma­jor (with dropped D tun­ing), and adapted the form to make it prac­ti­cal and sat­is­fy­ing for us to play as a solo gui­tar ar­range­ment.

the main tech­ni­cal chal­lenge here is to main­tain the func­tions of the melody, chords, and bass line through­out. the melody of­ten needs to be le­gato and lyri­cal whereas the chords are crisp and short. Once you can do this flu­ently (us­ing the tab cap­tions), you’ll be able to evoke the al­lur­ing waltz at­mos­phere that has en­chanted so many peo­ple for al­most one and a half cen­turies.

The chal­lenge is to main­tain the func­tions of the melody, chords and bass line; the melody is le­gato while the chords are crisp and short.

Strauss;: The Waltz King and a top pop com­poser of his gen­er­a­tion

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