Deadly Premonition ‘Whistle Theme’ Guitar Chords

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.

Notes

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:

022100

…and D major would look like this:

xx0232

Simple, right Zach? Let’s begin.

Part 1:

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:

x54xxx      3x443x

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:

x54xxx

…and pluck these barre chords, all four notes at once, making a little joiner that echoes the earlier octaves:

3554xx      5775xx      7997xx      3554xx

Part 2:

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.

Part 3:

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

(X2)

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:

3x443x      3x443x

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.

16 Replies to “Deadly Premonition ‘Whistle Theme’ Guitar Chords”

  1. hey i just wanted to say thanks for the chords to this catchy tune!! its great that someone was able to post this up 🙂 very good job!!

    1. Hi Jessica, you are very welcome. Your message lets me know people are finding this and using it! Do let me know if you end up recording your own version on YouTube. 🙂

  2. General Failure says: Reply

    Hey, love the tabs man, awesome job.

    Just wanted to leave a quick comment about the first chord though. If you are struggling with it like I was (stupid fingers, go where I want you to Arrrrgh) I find it much easier to play 354433 in place of 3x443x. Hope this helps!

  3. Nice tab man! Really stunning work! It’s obvious that you really know your stuff and took some time to lay down what the song really is made up of. I appreciate it!

    1. Appreciate the shoutout, Dylan. I was helpless to do anything else! This one gets in your head and won’t leave.

  4. As a piano player that can’t read tab, I do wish you’d written all the chords as well, because this is unintelligible to me 🙁

    1. Now I feel guilty, piano person, guilty. 🙁

      There was footage of someone playing it on piano on YouTube, but it’s been removed. Dagnabbit. I bet a nice guitary friend could show you the notes?

  5. The instructions refer to the Gmaj7 chord a lot as G7, just to let you know

    1. Good call. My lazy shorthand while working through the piece was to just write “G7” because I knew what flavor of seventh I meant! The chord windows are right, so hopefully no one’s gone astray trying to force in a dominant 7th.

  6. I wish there was some picking pattern to go off of, I had to slow the song down a bit and listen carefully to get those notes exactly @_@

  7. Nice work!
    Arrangement seems easier with the 3rd fret capoed.

  8. The voicings all sound pretty accurate, but you seem to have confused major 7ths and dominant 7ths.

    The very first chord is G major 7 (G B D F#), not G7. You have the right notes, wrong name. Same goes for what you’re calling Dmaj7. It’s just D7.

    There is also a quick Dm7b5 to G7 that happens when the B section comes around to repeat that you missed, but that’s negligible. The misnomers for those other two chords is not though.

  9. in between all the main chords theres a little bit e=where you pluck 3 strings seperately. just wondering what they were because i love this and wish i could play it but my brain is new to guitar and cant do much with one. the in between strings would be much appreciated. nice work too man, really love it.

  10. Great job! Much appreciated!

  11. Thanks so much for this! Finding this blog and it all laid so nicely is a great start to the day. Looks like I know what we’ll be learning this weekend, right Zach?

  12. […] My joy doubled beyond measure in finding that some kind soul has taken the time to work out the chords and post a video of how to play it. […]

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