Sail the seas with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme

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The music for the 2003 Walt Disney Productions film Pirates of the Caribbean is fun, energetic, and full of catchy melodies and harmonies. The film is based off the Pirates of the Caribbean themed rides at Disney’s amusement parks and has since blossomed into a multi-film franchise following the stories of many characters including Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swan, and Captain Barbarossa. 

The original film, Curse of the Black Pearl, was a box office hit, receiving positive reviews from many critics and helping to boost the careers of several actors and actresses. Let’s dive into the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean this week.

Pirates of the Caribbean theme song overview

The score for Pirates of the Caribbean was composed in a relatively short period of time. The main theme is in the key of D minor in 3/4 time and is a great easy piano song

It is relatively easy to play on the piano keys and perfect for beginners who want to dip their fingers into the world of soundtrack music.

What is the name of the song?

The name of the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean is “He’s a Pirate.” The theme is featured prominently throughout the film, in the opening and ending credits, and during some action scenes.

The composers of the score

The main credits for the score for Pirates of the Caribbean goes to Klaus Badelt. Originally, the composer Alan Silvestri had been hired for the job, but ran into creative difficulties with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer had intended to hire Hans Zimmer to complete the project, but Zimmer was tied up composing the score for The Last Samurai.
Fortunately, Hans Zimmer was able to refer a fellow composer from his company, Remote Control Productions, Klaus Badelt. However, by this time in the production process, there was hardly any time left to complete the score. Consequently, Badelt partnered with several composers including Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi, James Dooley, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steve Jablonsky, Blake Neely, James McKee Smith, and Geoff Zanelli. 

All 9 composers collaborated on composing, orchestrating, and preparing the music for recording. The score was then recorded over 4 days by the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Talk about a tight deadline!

Playing Pirates of the Caribbean theme song on piano

Playing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song on the piano is fun and relatively easy. The song is in the key of D minor, which includes only one flat, B flat. D minor is one the best piano scales for beginners to learn. The chords are all diatonic, meaning there are no chords that fall outside of the key of D minor, and the chord progression is relatively common.

How difficult is He’s a Pirate to play on the piano?

The main theme, “He’s a Pirate”, is not too difficult. The primary challenge lies in the tied notes in the right hand overlapping the longer piano notes in the left hand. However, this should not be extremely difficult for a beginning pianist to master. 

What key signature is He’s a Pirate?

As we have learned, “He’s a Pirate” is in the key of D minor. The key of D minor includes one flat, B flat. The relative major of D minor is F major. All the piano chords in the song are inside the key of D minor. Try playing the song with Skoove!

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Curious facts

The chord progression does not include a dominant to tonic resolution. This gives the theme its modal and somewhat folk-like quality. 
The orchestration in the film is simple and sparse, with relatively few examples of counterpoint. This is due to the lack of time to prepare the music and the need to finish the arrangements quickly in order to have them recorded by the orchestra.
Some cues in the film are mixed so loud that they start to distort. No one knows why this is the case.

The theme “He’s a Pirate” was sampled for the video game Kingdom Hearts.

Overall, the score received mixed reviews, ranging from 1 to 4 stars out of 5.
This collaborative composition process is a big part of how Hans Zimmer is able to score so many high-budget Hollywood films. He literally has a stable of great composers and orchestrators working with him and can call upon any and all of them to work on projects together.

Summing up Pirates of the Caribbean

Learning to play the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean is a great way for beginners to dip their fingers into the realm of film music. Film music is full of great cues and themes that should be explored just as much as the classical works of Beethoven and Bach.

This piece is simple to play in both hands, is in the key of D minor, and in 3/4 time – all basic skills that a beginning pianist should strive to master. Dive in this week with Skoove and have a blast playing the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean!

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Author of this blog post:

Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.


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