Super Mario Bros. theme
The "Super Mario Bros. theme", officially known as the "Ground Theme" (地上BGM Chijō BGM?, lit. "Aboveground BGM") or Overworld Theme, is a musical theme originally heard in the first stage of the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System video game, Super Mario Bros. It was one of six themes composed for Super Mario Bros. by Mario and The Legend of Zelda series composer Koji Kondo, who found it to be the game's most difficult track to compose. The theme has a calypso rhythm and usually receives a corresponding orchestration in games whose sound synthesizers can imitate steel drums.
Since being included in Super Mario Bros., it went on to become the theme of the series, and has been a fixture in most of its titles. It has been reused and remixed in other Nintendo-published games, including Tetris DS, Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!, and every entry in the Super Smash Bros. series.
The above three bars of the theme in its original appearance from Super Mario Bros.
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This theme took the longest of the six tracks of Super Mario Bros. to compose, according to its composer Koji Kondo. He stated that he would write one piece, and the team would put it in the game. If it did not accentuate the action, did not time up with Mario running and jumping, or did not harmonize with the sound effects well enough, he would scrap it. He used only a small keyboard to compose the music. The first theme he made for Super Mario Bros. was based on an early prototype of the game, which simply showed Mario running around a big empty area. Kondo described this early theme as a bit lazier, slower tempo, and more laid back. As the game underwent changes, he realized that his theme no longer fit, so he increased the pace and changed it around to fit better. In an interview, Kondo explained that when coming up with music compositions, they come to him during everyday activities.
Kondo was given complete creative freedom over the soundtrack of Super Mario Bros., and would collaborate with Shigeru Miyamoto, the game's director, through their daily interactions. Miyamoto would share his records and music scores of the type of themes he liked with Kondo, but did not tell him exactly what he wanted. It was composed with a Latin rhythm. When the player allows the stage's clock to run down to less than 100 seconds, the tempo will accelerate. At the Game Developers Conference in 2007, Kondo commented that the theme features rhythm, balance, and interactivity. He demonstrated this with a short clip of Super Mario Bros., showing the character's movements and players' button presses syncing with the beat of the music. He also added that the theme reflects the action-oriented gameplay of the series. Kondo states that he doesn't know if he could make a theme that is catchier than this one, but he would like to try.
Use in other media
The theme was reused in multiple other media, including an anime film and a cartoon called The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. For the latter version, called "Do the Mario," lyrics were added, and the song was performed by Lou Albano, who also portrayed the character in the show. The song can be heard briefly at the very beginning of the Super Mario Bros. movie. The theme was also used as a dance number on the US television series Dancing with the Stars.
Concerts and performances
The theme has been featured in many concerts, including "PLAY! Chicago", the Columbus Symphony, the Mario & Zelda Big Band Live, Play! A Video Game Symphony, and others. The Video Games Live concert featured the theme performed by Koji Kondo.
The theme has also been popular amongst fans, with many fan performances of it. GamePro did an article of the seven weirdest Super Mario Bros. theme performances, which included a theremin, two guitars, an RC car, Tesla coils and stepper motors.
In 2011, Alfred Music published three officially licensed music folios of the music from Super Mario Bros. - one for easy piano, one for intermediate/advanced piano, and one for guitar.  These were followed in 2013 by three more Super Mario folios - an easy piano and an intermediate/advanced piano version of the music from Super Mario Bros. Wii, and a folio of jazz styled arrangements of many of the key Super Mario Bros. themes. All six folios contain sheet music arrangements approved by Nintendo of the Super Mario Bros. Theme. Prior to this, Nintendo had not published official sheet music for Koji Kondo's compositions, but high demand for Mario sheet music led a number of fans to release their own arrangements online, often simplifying or interpreting the original version rather than accurately transcribing it.
Reception and legacy
In an article about Koji Kondo, Wired.com editor Chris Kohler described the theme as one of the most famous in the world, and that it gets into your head quickly and won't leave. Jeremy Parish of 1UP.com called it one of the most memorable tracks in video game history. Netjak editor Rick Healey commented that though MTV tried to make the quintessential song of the '80s, Nintendo beat them to the punch with the Super Mario Bros. theme. Editors Jeff Dickerson and Luke Smith of The Michigan Daily newspaper commented that if you were to ask a random student to hum the theme, they would likely know every note. Sam Kennedy, also an editor for 1UP.com, stated that anyone who lived through the 80's can hum the theme, and that most people remember it to this day.
Video game music composer Tommy Tallarico cited Koji Kondo as his inspiration for why he got into music, commenting that when he first heard this theme, it was the first time he thought music in video games really existed. Mario voice actor Charles Martinet commented that "The first time I ever played a Mario game, I started at about 4 in the evening and played until daylight. I laid down on the bed, closed my eyes, and I could hear that music -- ba dum bum ba dum DUM!" Acclaimed Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu, called Koji Kondo one of the best video game composers in the industry. He also commented that he was sure everyone in the world who has come across the Super Mario Bros. theme, regardless of borderlines or age, will never forget it. He also added that it changed Japanese culture, and that it should become the Japanese national anthem. In an interview with Koji Kondo, 1UP.com editor Sam Kennedy stated that Paul and Linda McCartney visited Kondo and enjoyed the theme.
The ringtone version of the theme has proven very popular in the United States, having been on the top ten most downloaded ringtones for 112 straight weeks as of November 2004. It sold approximately 747,900 in the United States in 2006.
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- YouTube - Twin Musical Tesla Coils playing Mario Bros
- YouTube - Mario Theme played on Stepper Motors with an Arduino
- "MarHIio Piano Sheet Music". MarioPiano.com. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
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- "Mario ringtone marks over two years on charts. Who knew?". Joystiq. 2006-12-07. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
- "Top selling ring tones in the US for 2006". Moco News. 2007-01-04. Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2014-05-22.