Ever dreamed of soaring across the sky like Mario? Try my new book.

FAQ / Contact

What are some of the conventions you have adopted in your transcriptions, and is there anything else we should know about your approach?

The four themes played in a continuous loop in the game (i.e. the Overworld / Main Theme, the Underworld Theme, the Underwater Theme, and the Castle Theme) have been transcribed with a repeat bar, and their respective midi files and video demos repeat only once (i.e. 2 iterations are played in total).

Fingering suggestions are only present for note patterns that have not already been encountered in that same piece. In other words, if there are no fingering suggestions, then this means you are back in familiar territory. All you really need to learn are those passages bearing fingering suggestions.

Notes have been separated between the two staffs in such a way that the bottom staff is the exclusive realm of the left hand, and the top staff is the exclusive realm of the right hand. This is true regardless of which clef (bass or treble) is used on each staff, and there should never be a need to have the left hand play any of the notes written on the top staff, nor for the right hand to play any of the notes written on the bottom staff.

Rests have been treated with the same respect as notes, and great care was taken to not transcribe a note to last any longer than it was held in the original recording. To improve readability, staccato marks (a dot above/below note heads) were sometimes used instead of rests; in these cases, for maximum fidelity, notes with staccato marks should be held for exactly half of their value, e.g. a staccato quarter note should be played as an eighth note followed by an eighth rest.

The decision to mostly use the 2/2 time signature instead of 4/4 was a difficult one, fraught with tradeoffs. It is true that 4/4 would indeed have been more compact on the page, and some more advanced sight-readers contend that it is easier to parse, though this is likely because they have been exposed to 4/4 much more frequently than 2/2 in their musical past. To most readers, the sheet music in 2/2 actually improves readability considerably. That said, the two time signatures are not entirely interchangeable and there is an actual musical difference that goes beyond the question of readability: in 4/4, beats 1 and 3 of each measure are both considered strong beats, but beat 1 is also considered to be slightly stronger than beat 3. On the other hand, when these measures are split in half in 2/2, the beats formerly known as beats 1 and 3 of one 4/4 measure are now both first beats of two 2/2 measures, and are now therefore of equal strength. Having these beats of equal strength is what we need when representing a musical piece that feels like a march (with the left-right-left-right feel of a brisk walk), and the Main Theme and several others appear to be marches. Now, because the NES treated every beat the same way, no one can really be wrong in a debate over which of these two time signature most faithfully embodies the original recording.

One piece of trivia: have you noticed that no more than 3 notes are ever player or held at any one time? This reflects the hardware constraints of the sound module used in the NES, and within which music composers had to operate at the time.

I will confess to having taken one minor editorial liberty which, though probably very close to the composer's original intent as he was essentially writing a fast waltz, has no basis in the original recording: I am talking about the slur marks hovering all over the Underwater Theme - some of them very dramatically shaped, I might add. Obviously notes were not this expressively linked in the original recording, but since these slurs can easily be ignored by the reader, I simply could not resist including them, if only for aesthetic reasons. However, feel free to pretend that they are merely trails left behind by Mario or Luigi swimming across the page!

Have you really transcribed every single sound effect from the 1985 game? What about the jump sound, the swim stroke sound, the brick smashing sound, the head banging sound, the fireball sound, the enemy flattening sound, the shell kick sound, the cannonball sound, the flame sound, and the sound of Bowser falling off the vanishing bridge?

These sound effects were all delightful coming out of the NES, but when it comes to playing them on the piano (which is the exclusive scope of this website), it turns out that each of these sounds is either unplayable and/or unrecognizable.

Those sound effects that are unplayable are unplayable because they contain a portamento, which is a slide from one pitch to another where the pitch changes continuously through an infinite number of intermediary pitches, and which is an effect that the piano instrument is simply incapable of producing. An electronic keyboard with a pitch bend wheel can achieve this effect, but not a traditional piano; indeed the closest thing to a portamento that a piano can do is a glissando, which is a scale from one pitch to another where the pitch changes in discrete steps through a finite number of intermediary pitches; on the piano, a glissando is achieved by quickly sliding one's hand across the keys, just like at the start of the Flagpole Fanfare.

As for those sound effects that are unrecognizable, they are unrecognizable because their identity is primarily shaped by their timbre and hardly at all by their melody. In other words, they are produced by instruments or noise generators that sound nothing like the piano, and, in addition to that, these sound effects are hardly chromatic or rhythmic; that is, it is difficult to identify them as having any particular pitch, or they are made up of far too few pitches with hardly any rhythm, forming far too unrecognizable a melodic pattern. Therefore, even if their pseudo-melody were transcribed as accurately as possible, playing these transcriptions on the piano would not sound at all like the sound effect in question.

Which music notation software did you use to engrave these transcriptions, and where can I find it?

I used MakeMusic's Finale. Finale is available for both Windows and Mac. The latest version can usually be purchased online as either a download or a kit.

Which piano tutorial software did you use to produce the piano video demos, and are the notes and fingering hints the same as in the sheet music?

I used Synthesia, a popular piano tutorial software which can be an effective and empowering alternative for anyone having trouble reading sheet music. The notes and fingering shown in the video demos are perfectly identical to those shown in the sheet music and MIDI files. If you are an existing Synthesia user, you may wish to download the MIDI files and import them into Synthesia.

Do you have any other transcriptions? For other instruments? From other Mario games? From other video games? From anything else? Do you have plans to publish any more in the future? Do you take transcription requests?

Unfortunately, due to a lack of time and fluency with the transcription process, "no" is the answer to all of these questions. What I published on this website is the product of a one-off painstaking effort that I pursued as one of many different kinds of personal challenges I've been setting out to conquer as part of a broader humanistic quest for self-reliant/self-directed excellence. That said, there is one notable exception worth mentioning: if I ever find the time to do so, I would indeed like to create a sister site to this one, also for the piano and dedicated to the other great video game classic graced with Koji Kondo's compositions: I am of course talking about The Legend of Zelda (1986).

Do you have a mailing list I can join? How can I stay informed of any future announcements?

Announcements are likely to be extremely rare, and would likely be made via social media and/or e-mail. Feel free to connect via Facebook, Google+ and/or Twitter by using the social media buttons at the top of any page on MarioPiano.com. You can also send me an e-mail, which unless you specify otherwise will opt you into receiving announcements via e-mail (see the bottom of this page for how to e-mail me). If you are likely to switch e-mail address in the future, consider connecting via social media as well.

May I place ads on your site?

MarioPiano.com was built as a shrine for visitors to walk around in peace, alone with their memories and their musical aspirations, far away from the harassment of solicitors. Kindly take your business elsewhere.

Is MarioPiano.com for sale?

MarioPiano.com is a labor of love, and is not for sale. I am interested in maximizing its value, not its price.

Which part of the world do you live in? Would you consider teaching me or my kids how to play some of these pieces face-to-face?

I live in the city of West Hollywood in the heart of Los Angeles, California, and have several hundreds of hours of experience teaching piano one-on-one to beginner-to-intermediate students of all ages. I would certainly consider tutoring you if you live nearby and have access to your own piano. Let's talk and see if we are a good fit. My e-mail address is at the bottom of this page.

You have done quite a service to a legion of Mario fans around the world. How can we thank you?

First of all thank you for your kind words and for visiting MarioPiano.com - I appreciate it immensely and can never get enough of receiving e-mails with tales of joy from all of you; so please keep those coming, and let me know if you'd be willing to let me post your stories on the website if I ever publish a collection of testimonials. My contact e-mail is below.

If you would like to help me more personally, please visit my IMDb page to find out more about me and my new career, and let me know if you happen to know of anyone working in the Hollywood film industry whom I could help in any way.

Last but not least, as mentioned at the top of each page, if you or someone you love has ever dreamed of soaring across the sky like Mario, you might like to buy, read, and review my new book.


Thank you for visiting MarioPiano.com! Your feedback is always appreciated.

Please send your comments and questions to the following e-mail address:

[my-first-name] . [my-last-name] @MarioPiano.com

Joseph Karam