Over The Rainbow Guitar Versions- Which of the 6 would you choose?

Have you thought about playing one of the many over the rainbow guitar versions out there?
Or maybe make one of your own?

In either case, this article is for you.

I carefully selected 6 different versions of this famous song by Harold Harlen from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Each version is distinctive and different from the other and if you’re going to play this song yourself,
I’m sure you’ll be inspired by what you’re going to hear.

Pete Huttlinger- Sungha Jung


What’s interesting here is the ladder selection – Eb.

Usually, you’ll find the guitar arrangements in the keys of Am, C, G, D, E.T
This Eb Key of this version creates a difficult position on the left hand with many closed strings positions –
without open strings that would fully resonate with the guitar.

Another advantage of open strings is the creation of a time interval where the hand can get rest
and thus produce a more balanced physical activity of the guitarist.

On the other hand, the obvious advantage of closed strings is the control of the articulation/groove that
is available to you with your left hand like staccato and string bending.

This is why I also recognize the selection of the key here with a cool bass part in the intro written by Huttlinger,
who was a great fingerstyle guitarist.

The tap with the right hand and a groovy bass part paint an image of a Jazz trio consist of
the piano, double bass, and drums.

The execution of Sungha Jung is accurate and straightforward.

I would be interested in hearing him add his own touch with interesting embellishments,
other timbres like maybe dumping one time the groovy bass line.

Charles “Tuck” Andress

Tuck is for me one of the greatest and most interesting guitarists in the fingerstyle genre.

He chooses to play the introduction part of the song using artificial harmonics also called pinch harmonic to captivate a dreamlike mood of the original song in the movie which has bellow bells in the orchestration.

The Key of C  is a much more “guitar oriented”, using a lot of Glissando and Arpeggios (2:16),
which are used as a tool for the development of the piece rather than creating new lines out of the original melody.

This point marks his departure from the melody line and opens up the piece with improvisation. In the improvised section, Tuck brings groovy mood, with touches of inconsistent walking bass and also a rubato feel here and there.
The peak comes after increasing harmonic density through a series of harmonic sequence (a pattern that repeats at different heights) from F to C and the highest sound (C) which marks the climax of the whole piece.
At 5:04 he makes an interesting modulation to Fm from which he moves to the G chord that resolves to C  (05:17)- the tonic ( home key ) of the song

Tōru Takemitsu- Marcin Dylla


The key is G, Starting at Gmaj7 and A7 move.

Unlike Tuck version, the intro motif of is the two pairs of high notes( a triad interval between them)
that repeat themselves are executed on two string.

Together with the ostinato G bass that stays above the two chords, we get the atmosphere of the original song that corresponds with one of the greatest influences on the composer – the music of Claude Debussy.

This voicing choice, very typical of the classical concept of the guitar as a more harmonious instrument
than melodic one,  creating a smooth effect.

That said, the performance and approach in classical guitar world emphasize the importance of a bright and legato melodic line.

Very different from the groove we witness on the other versions here.

This version is based on the use of polyphony and jazzy harmony in block chords

Takamitsu breaks the melody line with a recurring motif that appears in in different pitches like on 0:51, 1:12,
1: 31 and planting a chromatic bass motif as a jazzy touch.

Here, too, the composer chose to combine somewhat artificial harmonics in a minimal and refined way.

Tommy Emmanuel


Tommy Emmanuel opens with an artificial harmonics motif that we heard with Tuck’s and Takemitsu’s arrangements.

The key A, and until 2:27 you are already getting rich of “guitar tricks” like glissando0:36,
half ton ornaments 0:49, and dumping chord 0:53.
The second time he repeats the verse he adds various nuances and new articulations leaving you with the impression that the performance is always advanced no matter what.

At 2:27  he starts a strumming groove broken with impressive arrpagios and harmonic effect.

Stanley Jordan

The Stanley Jordan version stands out in two aspects.

The first thing is the technique of two hands tapping.
Although it is a hammer on the string, it manages to create a subtle sound and a lot of expressiveness with the right hand.
This is the most far-reaching version of Takemitsu, the melody here is not concrete but more conceptual.
The tapping technique does not allow the maintenance of a melodic line but Stanley’s ability to improvise and the new ideas he brings into the piece balance the overall impression that you have passed through a musical and instrumental experience.

Jeff Beck


Jeff Beck with a clean effect plays the melody without harmony or chords (the keyboard player does it for him) Such a simple and minimal approach but loads with expressive, warm, different dynamics and this is one of Jeff Beck’s greatness.
With so little, compared to previous versions, he says so much.

Usually, the encore, like here, is supposed to be easy to digest, short and leaves some good feeling at the end of a concert what I get here is the intimacy Jeff creates with the audience playing the “naked” melody in his hands.


Each one of the over the rainbow guitar versions here demonstrates the importance of the “how” you play over “what” you play.

Each of the guitarists/composers here brought himself into the process and it feels like as if the song is his for a few minutes.

I hope these versions have inspired you as much as me.

It brings me to a broader and deeper thinking about life – liberalism, intellectual openness,
and the belief that you can do something in many ways, as long as it comes from an authentic place that
expresses who you are.