Swipe File Jedi Masters: Beethoven and John Williams

Yep, that’s me dressed as Yoda. I’m conducting ‘Star Wars’ music during the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra’s 2017 Halloween Concert.

Yep, that’s me dressed as Yoda. I’m conducting ‘Star Wars’ music during the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra’s 2017 Halloween Concert.

Do you swipe ad copy like a newbie padawan apprentice?

Want to see how the Jedi “Copy” Masters do it?

Star Wars Soundtrack Composed in the year 1794

Everybody knows the main theme from Star Wars. Even people who’ve never seen the films recognize the music a mile away…

Dum-dum-dum-DDAAAA—DDAAAA, dum-dum-dum-DDAAAA-dum…

The version familiar to us today was composed by the great John Williams.

But did you know that John Williams swiped the DNA of this melody from another great composer?

That’s right. He stole it from none other than Ludwig van Beethoven.

You may not know the piece by name, but Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (composed in 1808) is the most famous tune ever written. It’s always among the first people think of when asked to sing a piece of classical music.

Have a listen and hear for yourself. Here’s the Beethoven. It starts right away with the famous theme… Da-Da-Da-DDUUUUUUUM… Da-Da-Da-DDUUUUUUM. The key element in the tun is 3 short notes followed by a long note. Beethoven was so in love with this 4-note musical kernel he built the rest of the 40 minute symphony on it.

You get the gist in the first 10 seconds. Listen for 3 short notes followed by a long note. That's the principle theme.


Now, listen to the opening of Star Wars. After a few seconds of flashy intergalactic introduction, the main theme comes bursting forth. Dum-dum-dum-DDAAAA—DDAAAA, dum-dum-dum-DDAAAA-dum…

Do you hear the similarities? John Williams uses the same 3 notes followed by a long note. Actually, the opening 3 notes are followed by 2 long notes. So right away, Williams is putting his own spin on the Beethoven theme.

And that’s the key to Jedi Master swiping.

Don’t just swipe and replace.
Swipe and personalize!

What’s even more intriguing about this whole thing is, the tune was not original to Beethoven either. He borrowed the theme from Italian composer Cherubini’s Hymn to the French Revolution (composed in 1794). Almost every one of Beethoven's symphonies... though full of revolutionary originality... can be traced directly to Mozart. I could site 20+ examples, but that would take a while.

Beethoven was the MOST revolutionary composer of all time. But many of the raw materials he used were swiped from other composers.

What’s so unique about Beethoven then? It’s how he used the swiped elements. His use of rhythm... orchestral color... piling melodies on top of each other (and many other things)... all these were completely original to him.

A Modern Beethovenian Copywriter

All A-list copywriters follow the “swipe and personalize” technique. One of my favorites... considered the greatest living copywriter... is Gary Bencivenga. His ad “Do You Make These Mistakes In Job Interviews?” is a perfect example of “swipe and personalize.”

The big idea… the “do you make these mistakes” element... was not original to Bencivenga. It comes from Max Sackheim’s blockbuster ad from decades earlier... “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”

The language is more modern in Bencivenga’s ad. But the point of view... the emotional hot buttons and general structure... down to the free reports offered... all come from the original Sackheim ad.

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Like Beethoven, Bencivenga takes the principle theme from a predicesor and makes it his own. He pours his smooth logic into the sales argument. He provides his own proof elements. He develops his theme in a unique way. The ad is genuinely his, even though it was inspired by a previous master copywriter.

This is the Jedi Mind trick we’ve all been looking for. Swipe and personalize!

Do you have an ad you’re trying to adapt for your product or product launch? One that you know in your gut is the perfect model?

Would you like a hand in using your Jedi mind tricks to “swipe and personalize?”

Drop me a line. I’d love to work with you on this. Click the button below to get in touch.

May your copy ever by melodic and harmonious!

Doug