How to play Super Mario Bros. themes on piano

After receiving a book of Super Mario music arranged for piano, I started to play the World 1-1 theme, and wanted to play faster to recreate the sunny, jazz-like sound of the Mario theme.

I am going to need more practice first though.

This post covers a bit about the composer of the piece, and a few practical steps on how to go about playing Mario piano themes.

Memorising the melodic part of the music, and the supporting bass notes of this arrangement is essential to eventually performing the piece at the intended speed. The Mario music composer, Koji Kondo, intended the music to be played like a faster, jazz-like piece.

Koji Kondo’s goal in composing Super Mario Bros. music is to create a jazz-like sound, without recruiting difficult chords. This style is one of reasons Kondo is considered a mastermind, with his music compositions remarked as milestones in game music design.

Jazz is usually played fast with improvisation, which requires talent or time spent practicing scores. Influences from other sources are also a large part of the Jazz-like sound. Kondo started learning music on the electric organ, which he pushed to produce a hard rock sound in high school. Practice, however, is just as important as talent or musical influence.

Breaking down music into sections, and rehearsing those parts individually, is a good strategy when learning a new piece for the first time.

The version of the Super Mario Bros. themes I have has broken the music down into different sections. It’s easier to learn any new piece of music after dividing the sections up, and focusing on one at a time. Later, build the piece up, adding in each new section.

Playing the Right hand part separately, and then the left hand part separately before putting the two parts together, is also a good strategy.

The melodic part of the piece, usually carried in the Treble clef part of the music stave (the five lines and four spaces the notes appear on), is played in the right hand. Since Mario’s theme is so well know, the right hand is what will create the familiar sound.

Play this part separately from left hand first. Bass clef notes usually provide support to the piece. Music with a resonant bass clef added gives a sense of combined ensemble – a choir, or an orchestra, working together. Eventually, look for the notes where the left and right hands play at the same time, and start to practice the two parts together.

For more information on Koji Kondo’s background, glitterberri.com has an interview on his life and music.

Alfred music has copies of the Super Mario Series for Piano.

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