The first time it plodded from Deadly Premonition’s soundtrack to my disbelieving ears, I knew this kooky, relaxed jazz number would be something I’d have to learn. And that was before playing the game for a further 40 hours, during which Life Is Beautiful (often called the ‘Whistle Theme’) occurs many more times, fastening itself ever more securely to the mind with each successive blow.
The hook comes from the sunny whistled melody, this in turn drawing you in to examine the breezy guitar chords beneath. It’s all so content and carefree. The reason you pay such attention is because its prominent, repeated inclusion in a Japanese murder mystery, replete with twisted J-horror style zombie-ghosts and elaborate ritual homicide, is as bizarre and unexpected as Cheerios on a turkey sandwich.
Here is the original tune, ripped from the soundtrack:
Any tabs I found online were not just a little off but desperately inaccurate, seemingly the work of well-intentioned green players unaware of 7th chords. All but one or two chords in the entire track are 7th chords! That’s why it sounds smooth and loungey and cheesy, that’s where all that soft, easy vibe comes from. 7th chords form the basis of the whole tune, yet tabs such as this tried to fumble through with rudimentary major and minor chords in their place, resulting in a nightmarish wonky version of the music. There would be no shortcut: I’d have to figure it out myself.
The piece is so slow and uniform in its execution that I felt chord windows would be the most economical way to lay it out versus tab; the pattern is easy to hear throughout, 90% of it alternating between thumbing the root of each chord then plucking the top three notes together with the first three fingers of the right hand. (It’s all played with the fingers — put your pick aside.) Learn the chords and you’ve learned the song.
If you’re not used to these, imagine your guitar sitting upright in its stand. The six characters in the chord window represent your six strings from left to right; the numbers the frets, a zero for an open string, an X for an un-played string.
So a standard open E major chord would be:
…and D major would look like this:
Simple, right Zach? Let’s begin.
3x443x x4535x x3545x x5453x
These are the staples of Part 1. Now repeat them, but instead of the last chord, Dmaj7, play this little octaves motif, one of the song’s biggest ear worms:
x5x7xx x7x9xx xx4x7x x5x7xx
Repeat the first four chords again, then the first three; this time the variation is to play just the first two notes of the fourth chord, Dmaj7, before coming to rest on the main G7 that features throughout, like this:
To finish Part 1 we go once more through those first four chords, then the first three, then, in place of the distinctive octaves we encountered the first time, first pick in sequence the lower two notes of that D7:
…and pluck these barre chords, all four notes at once, making a little joiner that echoes the earlier octaves:
3554xx 5775xx 7997xx 3554xx
x3545x x3554x x2423x xx2021 5x553x x5755x 3x443x x5346x x3545x x3554x x2423x xx2021 5X553x x5755x
And here the song plays a little trick on you, dropping what you naturally anticipate to be the last two bars of this section to warp abruptly to the beginning of the tune again.
Repeat Part 1.
Repeat Part 2.
This time, in the space where those last two bars were missing at the end of Part 2, we are permitted the G7 that should have been there all along:
5x553x x5755x 3x443x 3x443x
The music makes sense again, lines up according to convention, and we are shown what was previously obscured. It’s like York replaying criminal profiles in his head, gaps in the sequence of events filled in on subsequent passes. Either the soundtrack’s composers (Riyou Kinugasa, Takuya Kobayashi, and Hiromi Mizutani) were conscious of this narrative device in the game and wove it ingeniously into the music for those few who would bother to put it under the microscope, or it’s a coincidence and I’ve simply played too much Deadly Premonition.
3x443x x3233x x5453x 3x443x x2323x x3535x x5453x 3x443x
Here the song plays its second little trick on us. We repeat Part 3, but this time around where we’re expecting the last of its eight chords, G7, we get it, yes, but it’s actually the beginning of familiar old Part 1. We’ve been duped again. A bar has been dropped, like a basketball player faking left then going right; another little misdirection that seems well-placed in the soundtrack of a detective game.
So, we’re in Part 1 again, which looks like this:
3x443x x4535x x3545x x5453x
The song then concludes with the same G7 chord that’s been its home base throughout, played twice. Listen to the song for the jazzy timing:
And you’re done!
Video: Guitar Only
I recorded a video of the piece. Though familiarity with it caused me to rush the meter a bit, it’s all there. The rhythms and fingerings in particular might make for useful comparison as you learn the song. Beware that it is dangerously addictive once you’ve got it.