Originally a Russian folk tune based around Nikolay Nekrasov’s similarly titled 1861 poem, Korobeiniki has been part of traditional Russian repertoire for well over a century.
However, it was Hirokazu Tanaka’s 1989 arrangement of this piece for the Nintendo Game Boy version of the hugely successful Tetris game that brought it to global consciousness. It’s frequently ranked among the most instantly recognisable and popular videogame tunes of all time.
So what does that mean for us guitarists? Well, it’s a great tune to learn. The chords are fairly easy if you only want to jam along. For convenience, just play E7 wherever you see E7/G# or E7/9 chord names.
The lead part isn’t too challenging though, except for our shreddy tapping section, which will need slow, careful practice.
Figure 1. Korobeiniki main theme
We’re kicking off our arrangement with a run through of the main melody. Look for a small dot above or below some of the notes. This tells you to play staccato, which simply means the note is cut short. All you have to do is lift your fretting finger slightly to bring the string away from the fret to mute out your sound.
Figure 2. Harmony melody
This harmony to the main melody isn’t phrased quite the same as the main part; it’s similar, but, in places, the two guitars weave around each other. Listen out for the programmed hi-hat (panned right) to keep you locked in. Timing is pretty important here, otherwise the two guitars will sound a little loose.
Figure 3. Middle eight
In contrast to the previous two sections, this part is played with long sustaining notes. Use an even vibrato, repeatedly bending the strings down towards the floor and back again with a turning wrist movement. Head back to the main/harmony melody when you reach the end.
Figure 4. Tapped section
After a repeat of the main/harmony melody we reach a Bumblefoot-inspired tapping section where the chord notes are played along the first string.
Tap with the first finger of your pick hand or use your second finger if you need to keep hold of your pick. Mute the idle strings by resting your pick hand on the lower strings as you tap.
Figure 5. Powerchord section
Strum confidently and slide as accurately as possible between chords wherever there’s a slide line in the tab. Keep steady momentum by strumming consistently, using downstrokes for onbeat notes and upstrokes in between. In bar 3 you switch to octave shapes – mute the fourth string by resting your first finger against it.