The Third Man Theme" 1949

Music written and performed by Anton Karas, based on a melody Karas found in a book of zither etudes.

Director Carol Reed was looking for a sound that would evoke the atmosphere of Vienna but wasn't waltz music. He heard Anton Karas, a zither player, performing in a beer garden as Reed was scouting out locations for the film. He asked Karas to score and perform for the film's sountdrack, and Karas agreed, though he had no experience beyond playing in beer and wine gardens. The zither was a new, catchy yet odd sound for English and American audiences and provided a perfect atmosphere for the film, which was very much the story of a stranger in a strange land. And the melody stayed with audiences, quickly becoming a popular request. Karas released the tune as a single, but Guy Lombardo's version, with a guitar playing the lead, was the best-selling. The Faber guide estimates over 40 million recordings of different covers of the song have been sold. "The Third Man Theme" may also take credit for winning an audience for film music on its own. Following its success, it became standard practice to seek out catchy tunes for movie themes and to release them as singles. And virtually every soundtrack compilation through the mid-50s included a version of "The Third Man Theme." One source claims that, collectively, over 40 million copies of different renditions of the tune have been sold. Check with your neighbor if you don't own one.

The fact that Anton Karas took his melody from a practice book may hold the secret to the popularity of this song. It's one of the few standards that, as far as I know, no one ever attempted to put words to--which means it was material solely for instrumentalists. But what do instrumentalists have to offer the listener? Either fairly faithful renditions of popular melodies (for those for whom "the words get in the way") or demonstrations of technical proficiency in performance or arrangement. "The Third Man Theme" offers both.

For more information about "The Third Man Theme," particularly its fascination for guitar bands, check out the following site (in dutch):

                                For Brian -   Go here page 1 and 2  for the Sheet Music in "C" in 2/2 time.

                                Notes:  When a note is sharped or flatted, it is that way for the rest of the measure.

                               Remember your enharmonics:   G#/Ab   C#/Db   D#/Eb   F#/Gb  

                               Go here for the Chromatic tab layout (bottom of page:  Lessons/Help

                               email me at when you tab the balance of the song.

                               Have fun - and let me know how you progress on this song.

                               Play just your part.  Download the Midi - MP3 (C75)*  and burn to CD for practicing.

Play Midi 1(C120)   Midi 2(G120)   Midi 3(G140)
Midi 4(C156)   Midi 5(C129)   Midi 6(C75)*
Tabbed by Mark Purintun 4-05  Midi - MP3 (C75)*



    7 7P -7 7P    -7   7P     7        7   7P -7 7P  -7 7P    7
| When a zither starts to | play, | you'll remember yester | day. |
   7  7P   -7 -7P    -8  -7P  -8 -7P  -8 -7P  -8
| In its haunting strain Vi | enn a lives a  gain. |
   -7   7P   -7    7P    -7     7  7P   -7 7P  -7 7P    -7
| Free and bright and | gay, | in your mind a sudden | gleam. |
   7 7P -7   7P -7 7P     -7
| Of a half forgotten | dream. |
    7   7P  -7 -7P  -8  -7P    -8  -7P   -8   10     9
| Seems to glimmer when you | hear The Third Man | Theme. |

Once again there comes to mind
Someone that you left behind
Love that somehow didn't last
In that happy city of the past
Does she still recall the dream
That rapture so supreme
When first she heard the haunting Third Man Theme?

Carnivals and carousels and ferris wheels and parasols
The Danube nights, the dancing lights again will shine
The zither's sweet refrain
Keeps swirling in your brain
Like new May wine
Strauss waltzes, candle-glow
And the laughter of long ago
Fill the magic chords and make it seem like today

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From June 30, 2006