The Shape of Water (and the Academy Awards)

I’ve had a ton of requests to arrange music from The Shape of Water: a 2017 American fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The music must really be resonating with people. Composer, Alexandre Desplat, is also nominated for an Academy Award this year.

Speaking of the Academy awards (and as a person who listens to an inordinate amount of film scores) my vote for ‘best original score’ is for either Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood) or Alexandre Desplat’s, The Shape of Water. Here’s the nominees:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Though I love all of these composer’s — I’d be looking for stark originality. Hans Zimmer created soundscapes for Dunkirk, but Benjamin Wallfisch crafted Variation 15, the melodic closing piece of Dunkirk — which is only 10% of the score. Dunkirk: Variation 15 for guitar + TAB

The score for Phantom Thread is hands down the most original. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood thinks about music differently than just about everyone. The music is a blend of classical, experimental, and avant-garde. Phantom Thread: theme for guitar + TAB.

The Shape of Water, which may win best picture, is the most original film. That originality is matched by Alexandre Desplat’s pitch perfect score. The title theme (that I’m playing in the video above) is about as close to musically underwater as you can get. Truly amazing stuff.

Though composer John Williams Star Wars music is an all time classic — the music has been previously used. According to the Academy’s own rules, it’s disqualified. Jonny Greenwood was disqualified for this technicality in 2007 (There Will Be Blood). Again, this music is an all time classical, but the Academy Awards are for new and fresh material. Han and Leia for guitar + TAB.

Carter Burwell’s minimalist Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of my favorite scores of this year, but does it rise to the level of an Academy Award? Even with the delicate guitar themes, I still believe Phantom Thread and Shape of Water have it beat on originality. Three Billboards: The Deer for guitar + TAB.

*A massive overlook (among many) was IT, scored by Benjamin Wallfisch. His music was just as good as the movie. IT score + TABS.

*Wind River was snubbed in its entirety. The minimalist music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis was, in my estimation, there best work to date. Wind River music + TABS.

Gear Used

For The Shape of Water, I used my Cordoba GK Studio guitar. You can find a list of all of my gear here.

How to play The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

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I would characterize The Shape of Water as best for intermediate guitar players and up. Beginners might have a rough time with this. While I try to make everything as easy as possible, your left arm will be stuff in a low, underneath position. Heavy use of the pinky (4th) finger as well.

The guitar tab for The Shape of Water is beautifully written across two pages. My order of play, in accordance with the guitar tab, goes like this: Intro 2x, Verse, Chorus — Intro 2x, Verse, Chorus, End.

Enjoy, the guitar tab is available below:

The Shape of Water is played in a simple trick tuning. You’ll tune the 1st (high E) string down one 1/2 step. That’s it. Your tuning will look like this, from low to high: E A D G B Eb or (depending on your tuner) E A D G B D#. You will then *place a capo on the 3rd fret.

[You might notice my capo is on the 4th fret. My entire guitar happened to be tuned down a 1/2 step when I transcribed the song and I didn’t realize it. You’ll be good if you follow the tuning and capo instructions above. Very simple.]

Alexandre Desplat: The Shape of Water for guitar

Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, film composer - Broken Noons, creator of modern content for guitar.