Toggle Menu

Moon River - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

Moon River - The Lesson explained

Here's one I've been meaning to do for a long time now. Moon River. What a beautiful tune it is, written by Henry Mancini. Do yourself a favor and check out Audrey Hepburn singing this in that famous scene form the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. She does a pretty good job of faking the guitar playing too. It's on YouTube.

There have been so many versions of this and I listened to most before coming up with this arrangement. The key of F seems to be the favorite but it's not very good for guitar. I chose G, as usual, once again the most guitar-friendly.

It's in 3/4 time, a waltz.

I wrote a little intro for it, a pretty standard sounding I - vi - ii - V progression, which of course in G means G - Em - Am - D. There are some extensions added to those basic chords, just to pretty them up a bit. The Em has a 9 added to it, the Am is really Am7 with an added 11 -- which is a 4. The D7 has an E note thrown in, turning it into a D9. You'll notice that open strings are a big part of the intro, so ... fingers: beware.

The tune itself starts at bar 9. I chose to do quite a long leap up the fretboard for that high A note. I could have played it at the 5th fret of the E string, but I prefer the B string for notes like that ... accented notes, notes I might want to enhance with a bit of vibrato. I always find that doing so on the thin E string is risky as there's always that chance of the string slipping off the edge of the fingerboard. I also get a bigger, louder note from the heavier gauge B string. I also wanted that 9th extension to be in there (the F# note played on the G string) and it's within easy reach when played up there.

The next bit uses quite a few open string notes. Open strings come in very handy. First of all, they need no help from your fretboard hand ... they're open. Second, they can ring on over other notes that normally would choke them off. Third, they give your fretting hand a couple of extra nanoseconds to get to where you need to go, since it's not needed for that note. Bars 11 and 12 are where to look out for those open strings coming into play.

The next few bars are a little more compact, staying down near the nut. The trickiest bit for me was that F13 chord. My hand wasn't very familiar with that shape and needed a bit of convincing. You'll notice I curly my thumb over the fretboard for a few bass notes in this piece. I usually shy away for doing that as it gave me a lot of pain a few years ago. It doesn't seem to bother me as much any more. It does come in handy.

Bars 22 to 24 are interesting musically, the way the chords change on the third beats of the measure.

At bar 25, the main melody starts up again and is pretty much an exact copy until bar 34. That's where the build to the ending begins. Again, I chose to move well up the fretboard for that C#m7-5 (C sharp minor seventh flat 5 ... sometimes called C# half-diminished), for the same reasons. You'll see my thumb curl over again for that bass note.

I use the same I - vi - ii - V from the intro progression for the outro. End on a I chord and we're done!

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.