Moon River

Moon River was composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for the movie Breakfast at Tifanny’s (1961). The song was written for Audrey Hepburn to sing (real) while she accompanies herself on the guitar (not real). In this lesson, you will learn an easy chord melody arrangement of Moon River.

Moon River (Henry Mancini)

Mancini won the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement.

The movie itself won the “Best Performance By An Orchestra For Other Than Dancing and Best Sound Track Album Or Recording Of Score From Motion Picture Or Television” award.

In 1963 Mancini won the same rewards for his song Days of Wine and Roses.

“I reckon I’ll have made around $100,000 on ‘Moon River’ within the next two years or so. It took me about 30 minutes to compose. It had to be in keeping with the character of Holly Golightly, the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I had to bear in mind the limitations of Audrey Hepburn’s voice. I worked the whole song around a simple guitar basis, although the guitar isn’t heard much during the number.” – Henry Mancini (1962)

Moon River is a real river in Savannah (Georgia), where lyricist Johnny Mercer grew up.  It was originally called The Back River but was renamed Moon River in honor of Mercer and the song.

At the end of the arrangement, I use a b5 ending (bar 36), where an F#m7b5 replaces the tonic Cmaj7 and goes down chromatically while keeping the same top note throughout the chords.

This version of Moon River is arranged with the principles of our course Complete Chord Melody in mind. To learn how to create your own chord melody arrangements, check out the full course…



Moon River – Video & Guitar Tabs

Moon River - Easy Jazz Guitar Chord Melody Arrangement



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Moon River guitar tabs 1

Moon River guitar tabs 2

Moon River guitar tabs 3

Moon River guitar tabs 4


Moon River Guitar Pro FileGuitar Pro File



Chord Melody Jazz Guitar Course


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28 thoughts on “Moon River”

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks you have just made my day🎶♥️

  2. Eric

    That is gorgeously sweet Dirk! Many thanks once again.

  3. Jerome Mclaughlin

    Bar 3 F maj7#11 ??? Don’t see a e in the chord

    1. Anonymous

      Perhaps it’s its equivalent F6/9

    2. Gary M

      Tones in chords are often dropped but still appear in the name of the chord. Whoever voiced this chord wanted all three of the upper extension notes in this chord (9th, 11th, and 13th). The F, D, G, and B from low to high are 4 notes. Most good guitar players limit themselves to 3, 4, and 5-note chords. One could name this chord as G/F meaning a G triad with an F note on the bottom. In addition to no E note, the A and C notes are not played either. This is unusual. It is more common to just eliminate one or two notes from the fundamental 1-3-5-7 chord. The most common notes to leave out are the root and perfect 5th.

  4. John

    Thanks for this beautiful arrangement, very intelligent. Im waiting the next one.

  5. Martin

    Thank you Dirk for this lovely arrangement. Very much appreciated.

  6. Anonymous

    Such a beautiful arrangement. Thank you so much!

  7. Martin Sadler

    Just a query on the Fmaj7#11 chord. You show it has having a D note, which is the 6th note in F, Surely it should have an E note (9th fret on the 3rd string) to make it maj7? What you have is an F6/9/#11 or G9/F

  8. Terrie

    Thank you so much, one of my favourite songs. Beautiful arrangement.

  9. Anonymous

    Wonderful arrangement! Thank you for adding such a beautiful song to my repertoire.

  10. Maciej

    So beatiful to play, thank you so much, God bless you.

  11. Yraina

    Moon River was my Mom’s favorite song. Thank you so much for giving us this; I will learn it in memory of her.

  12. Rick

    this is lovely. i have to admit that i need to simply to three finger chords as i cant quite reach some of the fingerings. thank you.

  13. John

    Thanks Dirk. Beautiful but also accessible. Request? Over the Rainbow?

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks John, working on Over the Rainbow as we speak!

      1. Anonymous

        Do you have other classic arrangements like Moon River available?

  14. Larry

    Lovely arrangement. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Dave

    Beautiful song, nice rendition, especially the ending. Adding this to my “mellow” repertoire.

  16. Mike

    Agreed, they are ‘easy’ chords. In any big band arrangement the chords are more complex and true to the original score. Keep up the good work. Thanks

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hi Mike, the original version of Moon River has very simple chords with open strings. A big band arrangement usually has very simple voicings because there’s not enough room for big chords.

      1. JLBERSOU

        Exactly …..since it’s the whole band who adds and completes the voicings. Mike
        should refer to Freddie GREEN !!!! Beyond this, I CONGRATULATE AND THANK
        YOU a lot DIRK for your talent and the wonderful repertoire you give us, so useful
        and rich musically. That allows for great progress and pro mastery.

  17. Anonymous

    Wonderful arrangement, great ending! Thank you.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hi Kevin, you’re welcome!

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