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  Moon River  

Ted’s Arrangement, with compilation pages by Paul Vachon

Ted's Original Lesson sheet
Moon River - download PDF

My compilation pages, changes and comparisons

Moon River is an old standard, written by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer in 1961 and which won that year’s Academy Award for the Best Original Song.  It is most well-known for being sung in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Audrey Hepburn.  It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded the song in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962.  The success of the song was responsible for re-launching Mercer's career as a songwriter, which had stalled in the mid-1950s because rock ‘n roll replaced jazz standards as the popular music of the time. An inlet near Savannah , Georgia , Johnny Mercer's hometown, was named Moon River in honor of him and this song.

(Ted loved to know the history of a song, so I thought I’d throw that in.)

This arrangement isn’t too difficult to play, and has a nice modulation at the end, which requires you to work out the details for the new key.  It’s relatively easy to use the same chord moves from the first key in the modulated key.  You may wish to write it out for yourself.

Check out the fingering for the D9#11 chord on the bottom of page 1:  Ted provides the fingering of 1,3,2,2,1.  I’m assuming that the top D note on the 1st string is to be played with the 4th finger, and then the following C note with the 1st finger.  I believe that Ted intended that the side edge of the rolled 1st finger play the C melody while holding the 5th string.  However, if necessary the finger could be lifted from the 5th string – both ways work.

The lead sheet from which I worked has 2 measures of the I chord played before the melody begins.  I added these two pickup measures even though Ted’s arrangement doesn’t include them.  In addition, Ted didn’t have a “1st ending”, but went directly into a modulation up a minor 3rd.  If you wish you can play the optional 1st ending (which might sound better with a V7 chord played in the measure just before the repeat). 

In the modulation turnaround, Ted jumped to the new key and played a IV-iii-ii-V progression before starting the new verse.  The only thing I changed from Ted’s chord boxes was his rhythmic “slash marks” on the boxes.  He had indicated two beats for each chord, so he must have been thinking 4/4 time.  But since the song is in 3/4, I removed one slash on the Gm7 chord, and I added a fermata on the Bb13 chord.  (Actually, it sounds good to retard slightly and pause on the Bb13 before jumping into the new verse.)  Experiment and see what you like here.

Be sure to listen to Ted playing Moon River on the “Live at the Seashell” DVD.  He starts it at about 25:20 and ends around 28 minutes.  He plays many of the same moves, but he adds a LOT !  When he modulates he plays the new key in 4/4 with a slow groove and some extra bass lines.  Very nice!  If you first learn his written arrangement, you’ll have a good starting point for adding other things you can pick up from watching/listening to the DVD. 


-- Paul

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