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"Ode to Joy" by Beethoven: Easy Classical Guitar Arrangement in Tab and Standard Notation

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Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.


Here's an easy classical guitar arrangement of the famous theme that Beethoven set to Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" for use in his choral (9th) symphony. Obviously, a 16-bar solo guitar arrangement can't to do justice to a piece of music written for full symphony orchestra plus choir, but it's a great tune that's highly familiar and relatively easy for beginners to get their fingers around.


See the standard notation and guitar tab in the video, shown line by line, or see the full 16 bars under the video. Enlarge them to see them clearly. You can enlarge the video by viewing it in full screen mode, and you can enlarge the score under the video when you click on any part of the score. The audio track is just a software-generated MIDI track converted to audio so that it can be included in the video.

Study Notes for Learners

Here are some tips to keep in mind.


This arrangement of Ode to Joy consists of just sixteen bars in two eight-bar sections. The second section is repeated. Each of the two passes of the second section takes one of the two final bars. The first ending is the repeat bar taking you back to the start of the second section at bar 9 and the second ending is the real ending.

One way to approach playing this piece if you find it difficult to play straight off is to play the melody first and then add the appropriate chords underneath. That's basically all that this arrangement is - a melody over chords, G major, D major and a brief appearance of E minor.

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I've included fretting-hand fingering (1-4) in just a few places where it might not be obvious. Picking-hand fingering is also straightforward. Your thumb p plays the bass notes and your i, m & a fingers handle the rest. (See the chart for fingering labels). Alternate your picking-hand fingers whenever playing single melody notes. Try to feel which is the most practical choice of i, m and a and avoid playing successive melody notes with the same finger.

The most difficult chord shape needed is the D major shape in bars 4, 8 and 16, which needs to be played in 2nd position with the D bass note on string 5 fret 5 (finger 4) instead of being played on the open 4th string. That's so that the '3rd' of the chord (F#) can be included on string 4 fret 4 (with finger 3). If you can't manage that shape, then you'll have to do without that important chord tone for now and play the D on the open 4th string. Try to get that shape, though, as the F# is an important harmony note in this context.

The next most difficult chord is D major again, but in first inversion, meaning F# is the lowest note and is played on string 6 fret 2. It will be a little tricky at first if you're unfamiliar with that shape of D major, but it's quite easy once you get used to it.

You can hear in the audio track some chords are rolled by playing thumb and fingers in quick succession. That's not marked in the score as it's not a necessary articulation but can be done at your discretion wherever you see fit - or you can leave it out completely.

Classical guitar finger abbreviations

Classical guitar finger abbreviations

Key and Chords

The key in this arrangement of Ode to Joy is G major. The one-sharp key signature is there to remind you that all F notes are to be played as F sharp. The harmony is very simple and alternates between the TONIC or 'home' chord, G major, and the DOMINANT or 'leading-to-home' chord, D (or D7). The brief appearance of E minor is just a way of adding some harmonic variety by using a chord that is similar to the tonic but not quite the same. As you can see in the chords chart, E minor (called the SUBMEDIANT) shares two notes (G & B) with the tonic chord, E minor.

Chord used in this arrangement of Ode to Joy

ChordsChord TonesFunction

G major



D (D7)

D F# A (C)


E minor




Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770 and died in Vienna in 1827. Unfortunately, Beethoven composed no guitar music, which is a pity as he is said to have liked the guitar and once compared it to a mini orchestra. Some of his music has been arranged as guitar pieces, but none that you'll hear on a concert stage as most of his works don't transcribe well for the guitar. Mostly, they are (like Ode to Joy) just simplified arrangements of popular Beethoven themes such as Fur Elise or the slow movement of the Moonlight Sonata.

© 2014 Chas Mac

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