Learn Chariots of Fire
Found in: Tutorials
Every four years when the Olympics comes around, one of the tunes that always finds itself on high rotation is Vangelis’ uplifting anthem, the theme from Chariots of Fire.
It’s pretty simple to work out an accompaniment that sounds good, and the melody is even easier. Just to give you a little challenge, I won’t go into complete detail, but instead leave you a little to work out yourself. You can find the notation at any reputable legal sheet music download service. Make sure you find a version in the original key of five flats.
Let’s look at the accompaniment first. The first section is built around just two chords, and it turns out that the two are very closely related. For both, your left hand will stay on Db. You’ll recognise it as the constantly repeated synthesiser note in the introduction of the original recording (played so masterfully by Mr Bean in London).
In the right hand, the first chord is Db Major. If you’re familiar with our Accompaniment program, you’ll know it’s an upside-down triangle shape with the thumb on Db. For the second chord, all you have to do is move the upper two notes up to the next available black keys, Gb and Bb. That’s another way of playing Gb Major. Keep the left hand on Db.
I won’t tell you exactly when to play the chords, but sing the melody over them and you’ll probably figure it out, and find a simple rhythm to keep the song moving along.
The second section, where the melody goes higher, is a bit busier, but luckily the chords are again closely related.
The first group is three chords, starting with F minor. You might know it as a triangle shape, but there’s another way of playing it which turns out to be almost the same as the Db Major we played earlier – the only difference is that you play C instead of Db. Next chord is another Gb Major. From the F minor, just move all fingers up to the next black keys. Next chord is Db Major, and you stay on that a little longer. Left hand plays the notes you’d expect – F, Gb, Db.
Next is another group of three. First is F minor again. Next is Ab7. Keep the thumb on C and move the other two fingers down to the next blacks – top of the group of two and bottom of group of three. Then go back to Db major. Left hand is F, Ab, Db. The rhythm is the same as the previous group.
The next group is the same as the first, except the last beat is occupied by a new chord, Gb/Ab. Right hand is just another Gb Major, left hand plays Ab. Finish on our Db Major home base.
So you see there’s very little movement in the right, and very little more in the left. Nevertheless, make sure you repeat the sequence until you can do it comfortably. If the timing isn’t obvious right away, play along with a recording.
Now to the melody. I won’t say much beyond this one clue: the entire tune unfolds in just two positions. Position 1 has the thumb on Db, finger 2 on F, and the other three fingers on the group of three black keys. Position 2 is higher, so we have fingers 1, 2 & 3 on the three blacks, 4 on C and 5 on Db.
It will be straightforward to work it out from that, but once you have, take the time to learn how the patterns look on the keyboard. If you do, you might be able to take the melody a step or two further. A nice touch is to play the higher section as octaves. The next thing to try if you’ve also attempted the accompaniment is to play the accompaniment chords with your left hand while playing the melody with your right. This will sound very full as a duet with a partner playing the accompaniment, although you may have to reconfigure your chords a little to keep out of each other’s way.
If you want to create a solo arrangement, you could try playing both the melody and the chords with your right hand. For this, you will need to be familiar with inversions. That’s outside the scope of this article, but if you take the sheet music to your Simply Music Piano Teacher, she may be able to help you without having to give you any heavy-duty theory.