Learn to Play: John Williams' Jurassic Park Theme on Piano

John Williams—the illustrious composer and conductor behind the music of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, E.T., and many more blockbuster films—has written some of the greatest scores of recent cinema history.

His music often makes the scene. Would the shark’s approach feel the same without Williams’ two-note hits? Would the Tatooine bar have the same outlaw flair without the swinging horns of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes? (You may know them better as the Cantina Band.)

With deliberate melodies and lush embellishments, Williams has helped create movie magic for decades. So, in honor of the maestro’s 86th birthday, Reverb’s Joe Shadid dives deep into another Williams classic, the main theme from Jurassic Park, in our latest lesson.

As you can see in the first video above, the soaring, indelible melody is full of fourths and fifths, which, Joe explains, bring an open, cinematic quality to the tune. The melody rests on top of a simple I-IV-V progression, until a well-placed suspended fourth chord marks a transition and, later, a flat seventh builds anticipation.

In the second video, Joe takes us through the middle and end sections of the theme. It picks up with the same half-step motif. A new suspended fourth chord widens the progression, allowing the ear to infer multiple harmonies.

Halfway through, Williams moves the familiar motif across different scale positions. “This is a great cinematic move—again, something that Williams employs in a lot of his scores,” Joe says. “And it just speaks to the way that he can tell a story and just continue to hook us into these characters and this story line via a very, very simple motif.”

Be sure to check out the full videos above to learn the “Theme from Jurassic Park” for yourself or to learn some of Williams’ tricks to use in your own song- or score-writing.

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