January 21


Over The Rainbow

By Thomas Gunther

January 21, 2023

Jazz Standards, Piano Solo

About the arrangement

Over The Rainbow is one of my favorite classic jazz standards. Most of you might know it from the classic movie The Wizard Of Oz, for which it was actually composed.

I love everything about this song, it’s melody (which is so cleverly based on a descending diatonic stepwise motion during the [A] section), the harmony, and of course the lyrics that make us hope there could actually be more to life than what we are experiencing day in and day out. Something worth dreaming about and searching for.

The sheet music of this arrangement is available for purchase online for only $4.99 as a pdf download at SheetMusicDirect. Grab your copy now, as long as this low price still stands.

The Beginning (A1)

Before I start arranging one of the classics, I always listen to the original version. This way I can be sure I know the song correctly, and that I get its emotional intentions right when arranging the music. It also assured that I am working with the correct melody and chord changes.
Once I was done doing that, I began collecting ideas for my solo piano arrangement of Over The Rainbow. After reading the lyrics it occurred to me that it might be nice to imitate a wind-up music box, which was often used to play back a Lullaby to a child going to sleep. This approach was inspired by the opening lyrics "Somewhere over the rainbow way up high, There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby". Ultimately, I decided to start the song like this. So I created a glockenspiel like 8th note repetitive line for the left hand placed in the mid-higher register of the piano. This line continues similarly throughout the first A section.

The second [A] section

The second [A] section is more like a Chopin prelude in style, featuring polyphony in both hands. The left hand continues the steady 8th note idea from the beginning, but is placed in the lower register.

The Bridge

The bridge is very calm and emotional, free of tempo, inspired by the little girl Dorothy singing about her dream of a carefree land somewhere over the rainbow.
Someday I ...  wake up where the clouds are far behind me,
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
... That's where you'll find me.

The Last 2 [A] sections and the outro

The last A section is in tempo. Here I focused on bringing out the beautiful harmony of the song.
It leads into the last section that has elements of both the A and B section,  featuring a steady tempo and 8th note triplets in the left hand, which creates the impression that the tempo has increased with the intention of creating a sense of excitement similar to the moment when Dorothy arrived at her fantasy land.

The outro calms everything down again, signaling the end of the dream.

Thomas Gunther

About the author

Thomas Gunther (alias Thommy Günther) is a versatile internationally active jazz pianist and keyboardist, music producer, and music educator. Born in Germany, Thomas moved to Chicago after receiving his masters in teaching popular music and jazz, with focus on piano and electronic keyboard performance from State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart/Germany.
In Chicago he soon become the principle pianist with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble let by Stan Kanton's music arranger and composer William Russo. Soon he formed his own bands playing piano and keyboards all over town and touring Europe regularly.
He has produced and recorded lots of music as a leader and sideman, appearing on over a dozent albums. He also offers music arranging and orchestration services. Thomas currenly serves as adjunct Professor of instruction at Columbia College Chicago where he designs and teaches courses for the Contemporary Jazz & Urban Music Program. The courses he has been (or is currently) teaching include Pop-Jazz Keyboards, Music Theory, Applied Music Production, Contemporary Arranging & Music Production.
Thomas is also the creator and owner of several educational websites such as PopJazzKeys.com and MusicTrainingOnline.com. He also teaches group and private lessons on Zoom.
Visit http://www.ThomasGunther.com for more info.

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