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Spring Awakening – Detailed Notes

In this entry I provide detailed notes on the Spring Awakening Guitar 1 book.  There’s a general review of the score, some notes on how to dispense with the few Guitar 2 parts included in the Violin book (guitar-playing violinists are not as common as you might think!), and a song by song review, reviewing the score and how I approached playing the piece.  See my earlier Spring Awakening entry for my overall thoughts on the show and the equipment I used.

Guitar 1 and Guitar 2
Spring Awakening is scored for 1 guitar, with Violin doubling as Guitar 2 on 5 songs.  The parts are mostly very similar to Guitar 1; they just thicken the sound. So, if the violinist doesn’t play guitar, it’s easy to cover the absence of a second guitar, without losing much of the texture of the song.  These are the only elements of the Guitar 2 parts which really have to be covered:

  1. Guitar 1 has to cover m.44-57 for #4 – The Bitch of Living.
  2. Piano has to cover the high arpeggios at m.3-18 and m.57-64 in #5 – My Junk.

Alternatively, if you do have a Guitar 2, the Broadway recording of the show has some nice additional Guitar 2 parts which can be transcribed and added in to justify having a dedicated second guitarist.

General Notes on the Guitar 1 Book
The Guitar 1 book is a pretty accurate transcription of what you hear on the Broadway cast recording, although there are some exceptions, as I explain below.  When preparing to play this show I read the book while listening to the cast recording a few times to help pick up the feel of the piece.  The book has a lot of fretboard diagrams throughout, which is very helpful, given the very specific chord voicings called for combined with extensive use of capos.
One notable feature of the guitar parts is that there are very few good places to put a page turn, and this is a problem, because the guitar (as the main instrument in the show) can’t stop playing to turn a page.  For the performances I added copied fold-out pages to #9 – And Then There Were None, #14 – Left Behind, and #15 – Totally Fucked, to eliminate this problem.

#1 – Mama Who Bore Me
Nylon string, capo 5th fret.  A lovely, lyrical part, which manages to feel yearning, wistful and almost elegiac– all at the same time.  Playing it on a steel string acoustic wouldn’t do it justice, although it’s one way of reducing the number of guitars used.  This is a great example of the need for accuracy by Guitar 1: it’s the very top of the show, and it’s just Guitar 1 and a solo voice (Wendla) for the first 10 measures.  The audience will hear every bum note you play!
The finger-picked part in m.1-19 as written sounds a little “mechanical” compared to the more expressive picking rhythms used on the Broadway recording.  I transcribed something very close to the recording and played that.  I believe there is an error in beats 3 and 4 of m.15, which should be G/B rather than C/E (try it and see if you agree!).

#2 – Mama Who Bore Me – Reprise
Acoustic guitar.  It seems a little odd to get straight into reprises so early in the show, but this high energy version of the song provides a great lift to the show after the subdued, emotive opening number.  The part as written has the acoustic guitar playing arpeggios for the opening verse, followed by a strummed middle section then back to arpeggios for the remainder.  This really kills the song’s momentum about half-way through.  The Broadway music director obviously thought so too, as the recorded version has a much more satisfying strummed part throughout.  I transcribed a similar part and used that.

#3 – All That’s Known
Acoustic guitar, capo 3rd fret.  A straightforward strummed part.  I was careful to keep to the steady pulsing 8th note rhythm as written for the verses; there’s a regimented feel to them which fits the verses’ lyrics, contrasting with the more off-beat rhythms of the “chorus”.

#4 – The Bitch Of Living
Electric guitar, tuned D-A-D-G-A-D, capo 3rd fret.  The first outing for the electric guitar is a real treat.  Spiky, jagged rhythms, unusual chord voicings and a great, almost staccato groove.  I didn’t let the chords ring out any longer than written, except towards the end (m.80 onwards), when you can just play out.  The Broadway recording uses doubled electric guitars to get a fuller sound.  I used a very short delay (about 30-40ms with a single repeat) to replicate this effect, with a bright, slightly “glassy” distortion.  I also used a Telecaster with bright-sounding wide range humbuckers just for this song.  The score calls for delay in the slower “Bridge” section, but I used a Harmonizer set to an octave higher, with the signal mix favoring the dry signal slightly, plus a little spacey reverb.  Guitar 2 plays acoustic throughout.  If Guitar 2 is absent, Guitar 1 should play the arpeggios from the Guitar 2 part for m.44-58, then jump back to Guitar 1.

#5 – My Junk
Acoustic guitar, capo 7th fret.  This song is scored with both Guitar 1 and 2 playing electric, which sounded messy and cluttered when I tried it.  I switched Guitar 1 to acoustic (again as per the Broadway recording), which worked much better, and given the choice between electric or acoustic I recommend acoustic.  It’s important to retune with the capo at the 7th fret, as intonation is likely to be a little off otherwise.  I used an Ibanez PDM-1 modulated delay for the “piano lesson” section to get a “warbling” sound.
The Guitar 2 (electric) part is not well transcribed.  The arpeggios in the verses are should be an octave higher and are voiced more satisfyingly on the recording.  I re-transcribed the part.  Use a Harmonizer and Delay for the verses.  Set the Harmonizer to 1 octave above the note played, with the signal balance set so that only the high (effected) note is heard.  Set delay at about 350ms, with regeneration set for about 3 repeats, and the mix so that the delayed signal is fairly quiet.  Use a light, warm distortion or overdrive for the choruses.  If there is no Guitar 2, keyboard needs to cover the Guitar 2 arpeggios in both verses (see notes on this subject above).

#6 – Touch Me
12-string acoustic guitar.  This is a mostly picked acoustic 12-string part in 6/8 time.  It’s tricky, exposed and tiring on the fingers, but needs to be played accurately.  I found that it’s important not to play it too slowly or let it drag, while still keeping the heavy-ish swaying rhythm prominent throughout.  Like “Mama Who Bore Me” the written part is a little mechanical, and the recorded part is much more expressive.  I transcribed the part from the Broadway recording and used that.
No Guitar 2 part is scored for this song, but there’s a very nice electric guitar added to the Broadway recording, which gives the 2nd guitarist (if you have one) a bit more to do.  I transcribed this for future reference.  Use a subtle delay about 1/16 note long, a little tremolo and a very slight warm overdrive for this sound.

#7 – The Word Of Your Body (and #16 – Word of Your Body – Reprise 2)
Electric guitar (capo 2nd fret on #16).  An atmospheric number, led by a harpsichord keyboard pre-recorded track, so strict tempo is key.  The guitar is there for atmosphere and texture.  I used the neck pickup on my ES-335 for this, with some compression and a 500ms delay.  I played the part exactly as written, but with volume swells on every note to remove the attack of the pick throughout.  The swells were fairly rapid for the single note melodies in the verses, and slower for the chords in the choruses.

#8 – The Dark I Know Well
Electric guitar, capo 5th fret.  This is a straightforward rock number, alternating muted strumming in the verses with glassy, distorted full chords in the choruses.  In the verses the guitar and cello play together rhythmically, so this one requires good listening and attention to tempo as it’s easy to rush.  I used the bridge pickup on my ES-335 and a bright distortion (similar to “The Bitch Of Living”).
Guitar 2 (electric) plays distorted descending arpeggios in the chorus sections, but these are doubled by the piano, so if you don’t have a second guitar you don’t lose much.
This number is something of a turning point in the show, when the “teenage” themes of earlier numbers begin to give way to some real darkness.  The music is tense and uneasy, the lyrics unsettling.

#9 – And Then There Were None
12-string acoustic guitar, all strummed, with lovely, ringing open-string voicings.  Palm-muted chords are used in the section where Melchior’s mother speaks her dialogue, with open strums where Moritz and Melchior sing.  The only tricky part of this one is catching the cues from dialogue to singing, which depend on the speed at which the actor delivers the lines.  The whole band has to focus on and follow the conductor to avoid missing a cue or moving on too soon!  The 12-string is very exposed, especially in the first verse, so good tempo and accuracy are important.
Guitar 2 (if present) adds some distorted rhythm parts at various points in the song, but these shouldn’t be allowed to drown out the 12-string, which very much carries this song.

#10 – The Mirror-Blue Night
Electric guitar.  Another song led by a computer track with atmospheric guitar.  I used the same sound as “The Word Of Your Body” (neck pickup, 500ms delay, compression), and played the part with an E-Bow throughout.  The score calls for use of a slide, but I found the E-Bow much more effective.  I had to ride the volume pedal carefully, as E-Bow guitar can get pretty loud.  I took the written part as a guide, added in accidentals, bent a few notes and so on, to (hopefully) achieve an interesting, expressive part.

#11 – I Believe
12-string acoustic guitar, all strummed.  The song is led by a pre-recorded drum track, so once again attention to tempo is required (try not to get distracted by the events unfolding onstage!).  The arpeggios from m.28-48 cannot be played fluidly on a guitar as written (the descending bass notes are the problem) and of course are not what is on the Broadway recording.  I re-transcribed this song to match the recording (and make it playable).

#12 – The Guilty Ones
Electric guitar.  Such a beautiful song, possibly my favorite of the show.  Another computer track provides the pulse, and once again strict tempo is vital.  The guitar provides texture throughout, with bell-like chimes in m.26-33 and low, warm, soft arpeggios from m.50 onwards.  I used the neck pickup of my ES-335 for this song, with a 350ms delay and a very slight overdrive.  The book calls for tremolo for m.63-76, but I found it worked better to use it from m.50 and leave it on to the end of the number. I used a subtle, slowish setting on a Boss TR-2 tremolo.

#13 – Don’t Do Sadness / #13a – Blue Wind / #13b – Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind
#13: electric guitar.  #13a: acoustic guitar.  #13b: electric guitar.
After the dreamy and slightly furtive “Guilty Ones”, the show veers sharply into darker, harsher territory in this number, a triptych based around the same chord progression.  This is a critical, pivotal and powerful moment in the show; it’s important to get the emphasis right.
Firstly Moritz sings “Don’t Do Sadness” (aggressive, negative, bitter, pessimistic).  Ilse counters him with “Blue Wind” (optimistic, nostalgic, wistful).  The two then pit their melodies against each other, almost as if they are fighting, in the final section (furious, desperate, despairing, pleading).
These numbers are all about contrast, so I find it odd that all three sections are scored for acoustic guitar.  The cast recording uses distorted electric for #13 and #13b, with acoustic for #13a, and I think this serves the material better.  I also found the parts as written for #13 and #13b to be too regimented.
For #13 and #13b, I transcribed parts that are rhythmically closer to the recording (all those off-beat chords), and used the bridge pickup of my ES-335, overdriven.  If you have a dedicated second guitarist, acoustic guitar can be added using the original Guitar 1 parts.  Make the most of the crescendo at m.10 in #13b. It’s a powerful moment.
For #13a, I played the acoustic part almost exactly as written.  Pay close attention to the vocalist throughout; this is a flexible piece.  Accuracy is important, because the guitar is very exposed.

#14 – Left Behind
Acoustic guitar, tuned C-G-C-G-G-D.  This most somber and heartbreaking moment of the show (there is stiff competition for this distinction…) is led by the acoustic guitar with a very unusual, sonorous tuning, playing a fairly tricky part.  The guitar is very prominent throughout (again!) and accuracy is important.  It’s easy to rush, so play close attention to tempo.  I played the part very closely to the score, although I let it get a little looser after m.18, allowing the notes to ring out and overlap a little more.  This number often reduces the audience, some of the cast and even the band to tears.

#15 – Totally Fucked
Electric guitar, capo 3rd fret.  A total showstopper, and the moment everyone is waiting for.  It’s almost incongruous, providing a moment of levity spiced with anger, in the midst of what is otherwise a very dark second act.  For guitar it’s fairly straightforward.  The score is accurate.  I played a bit more freely after the first chorus.  Guitar 2 (if present) should stick more strictly to the rhythm so things don’t get messy.  It’s easy to rush this number (the cast will always push it) so focus on tempo is again important.  I used the bridge pickup of my ES-335, overdriven, built strongly at m.98-99 and added a slight boost from m.100 to the end, letting the chords ring out.

#16 – Word of Your Body – Reprise 2
Electric guitar, capo 2nd fret.  See notes on #7.

#17 – Whispering
12-string guitar.  This is an understated part, and I think the key is not to overplay it.  The picked part in m.56-63 is a bit robotic, so I used the version from the Broadway recording.  The same 8 measures can be played at m.13-20 and m.48-55 (again, as per the cast recording).  I ended up re-transcribing the whole piece to incorporate all this.  For the strummed sections, I kept it rhythmic, steady and pulsing, but tried not to be too prominent.

#18 – Those You’ve Known
Acoustic guitar, capo 3rd fret.  This song is scored for nylon string guitar.  I tried this but it sounded horrible.  The part is too rhythmic and really calls for an acoustic guitar (and indeed that is what appears on the recorded version).  Guitar is Tacet after m.56, but continues playing to m.80 on the recording using a pattern of something like Cm7(add4), Bbmaj7, Gm7(add 4), F(add 4).  I didn’t play these measures but filed the progression away for future reference.

#20 – The Song Of Purple Summer
Acoustic guitar, capo 3rd fret.  A beautiful finale,  looking forward and expressing hope.  The scored part is once again a little rigid compared to the more expressive recorded version.  I re-transcribed the part to be closer to the recorded version.  I played with fingers to m.42, and used a pick from m.47 to the end.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miles #

    I just found your page today and I want to say thank you!! Your notes about the guitar books for Rent are really helpful for me because I’m trying to review the parts for that show, and in the past when I played it, I didn’t feel like I was really able to capture the right vibe for a lot of the tunes. I have also done Spring Awakening, and was just curious as to whether you found time to switch to the CGCGGD tuning for Left Behind? I just ended up bringing one extra acoustic guitar and leaving it in that tuning. Thanks again for all you’ve posted and for being so generous with your knowledge and experience!


    September 16, 2020
    • Miles, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear you found the site useful – that’s why I started the blog.


      September 16, 2020
  2. Nick #

    Hey man! Just wanted to say thanks, this is a super helpful resource for bridging the gap between the studio recording and whats in the book. I’m gonna be playing in the pit for my first time this fall with this show so I’m super excited but also pretty nervous, so doing lots of research and found your page. Super useful stuff dude, thanks again


    June 2, 2022
    • Nick, thanks for the comment. I’m pleased the article is useful for you. Feel free to contact me through the Contact page if you have any detailed questions about the score.


      June 2, 2022
  3. Ray #

    Anthony, thank you for this amazing resource! So great to read the insights of a fellow pit guitarist. Only wish I’d discovered this sooner! But as I’m playing Spring Awakening next month (finally!) these notes are a godsend. Keep up the great work — I’ll be reading it all!


    January 29, 2023
    • Ray, I’m really pleased to hear you find the blog useful – that’s the reason I write it. Good luck with Spring Awakening – love playing that show! If your violinist is having trouble with the G2 charts (which are terrible) take a look at my article on them. I have new charts for those.


      January 29, 2023

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