COPYRIGHTS & PERMISSIONS: All arrangements and tabs in this blog are the original work of the blog owner, unless otherwise noted. They may be downloaded and copied at no charge, only for non-commercial church or home use. All other rights reserved. Ask for permissions-- I intend to be generous. Copyright information for each song is listed in its commentary. Arrangements and tabs of public domain songs are still covered by these copyright restrictions. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Amazing Grace

 After a nearly-fatal auto accident last July 5, I was unable to play the guitar for many months. I still cannot close my left hand into a fist all the way, but continue to improve slowly. Meanwhile, I discovered that I CAN play in Open D tuning. When I learned that this is the preferred tuning for slide guitar, I did some experimenting. The result is this beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace. I learned to play with a slide, but I still prefer finger picking and finger-style guitar. My right hand was not damaged, so I invented a compromise style. Let me know what you think!

Redeemer of Israel

A very easy tune to play, for all that it sounds great. No hard techniques or chord transitions, but it does require a few easy barre chords (all barred E-shapes). It's hard to believe I waited this long to arrange such a popular hymn.

Carol of the Bells

I wanted to work out Carol of the Bells for you for Christmas, but I couldn’t figure out what key to play it in. There are a zillion guitar versions on YouTube, in every key imaginable. Nearly all suffer from one of the following faults:
--Some are so simple that they don’t sound good.
--Some sound fantastic, but are impossible for normal human beings to play.
--Some, believe it or not, don’t sound good AND are impossible to play.

I had about given up, when I stumbled across this guitar lesson and tab HERE (at  It not only sounds awesome, but it’s so easy to learn, and the lesson and tab are so easy to follow, that several beginning guitarists have commented that it only took them a few days to learn. A printable version of the tab is available from for $1.49 HERE: (

I wish I knew the name of the guitarist, but he has not chosen to include it. Anyway, Merry Christmas!

Choose the Right

When they sang this song in Sacrament Meeting, I suddenly realized that I had never arranged it for guitar, and it's a natural! It's even easy to play, as there are no barre chords, except for the very last chord, it's an easy one, and you can easily substitute a single note for it. Also, there are no hard techniques or difficult chord changes. In fact, there are only four or five chords, depending on whether or not you use the final barre chord. And the other chords are all easy ones: A, E, E7, and D.

But the best part is, this song sounds super when played on the guitar.  So far, I've only played it on my classical guitar, but I'm sure it would sound just as good on steel strings, or even on an electric guitar, or even as a duet with a violin or flute. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow

Definitely an easy hymn to play. Maybe not for rank beginners, but certainly easy enough for anyone else. There are no barre chords, no hard techniques or difficult chord changes, and only one verse. Not too bad for the world's most popular hymn.

This song is so easy, I anticipate that many actual beginners will choose to learn it, so I have included exhaustive, measure by measure instructions, all for free. Enjoy!

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

Went to a grand-daughter's baptism where this hymn was played. I couldn't believe I hadn't yet arranged it for guitar, as it's one of my favorites, and very different from all others, musically. I guess it was the right time.  When I sat down to play it, an amazing thing happened. After a few attempts to play it in the key of D, I tried all other keys. None were possible to play on the guitar as written. Then I got the idea to play it in C, but starting with a CVIII chord, which is a barred-E shape, and the whole song just fell into place. In a couple of hours, it was done. Fastest arrangement I've ever done, and I think, one of the best. I hope you agree.

I've listed this hymn as "Intermediate," because it's almost all barre chords, but they're very standard ones. If you don't mind barre chords, you will likely find this hymn easy to learn.

True to the Faith (Shall the Youth of Zion Prosper)

This has long been one of my favorites, and I can't imagine why I haven't arranged it for guitar previously. It always reminds me of July Fourth and Flag Day celebrations, perhaps because of the quick, march tempo, as well as the subject matter.

Anyway, it's fun to play, and not very hard. Classification: Easy. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I've enjoyed arranging it.

I do apologize for not doing more hymns, now that I'm officially retired. "Retired" is a relative term. I'm camping out in a camping trailer while building a cabin for us to live in in the mountains of Utah. Mostly by myself. So even though I'm not working for wages, I'm working harder than ever. See my building blog, "The Gold Street Cabin in Mammoth, Utah" for details, pictures, etc.

Decoding Key Signatures

There’s an old joke that goes, “How do you get your guitarist to turn down his amp? Answer: Put sheet music in front of him.” Too often, guitarists never become fluent in reading sheet music.

It’s confusing. You look at a piece of sheet music, thinking about maybe trying to play it, and the first thing you see is a bunch of sharps or flats, most of the time. If there aren’t any, you know it’s in the key of C. If there’s just one sharp, you know it’s in G. If there’s just one flat, you know it’s in F, which for most of us isn’t very helpful. That’s about as far as most guitarists get in learning to decode key signatures. You could memorize all twelve, but there’s a much easier way.

Look at the signature, the group of flats or sharps at the very beginning of the sheet music. Reading from left to right, you will see anywhere from zero to six of them, showing which notes are to be sharped or flatted. For example, suppose a piece has a signature of four sharps: E#, C#, F#, and D#. It doesn’t matter how many there are, or which notes they are on. Just look at the last one, (reading from left to right), and raise it a half tone. In this case, you get E. That’s your key. Simple!

The trick for flats is even simpler. Just look at the next-to-the-last flat. If there are four flats: Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db, the key is Ab. All key signatures with flats in them are flatted keys: Ab, Bb, Db, Eb, Gb. The only exception is F, which has one flat. But you already knew that. Few guitarists like to play in any of these keys without using a capo. So, determine the key shown by the next-to-last flat, drop it another half note (in this case to G), and play it with a capo in the first fret. Easy!

These rules are for MAJOR keys. MINOR keys are a bit more complex. Each minor key shares its signature with a major key, and is called its “relative minor.” Am shares its key signature (no sharps or flats) with CEm is the relative minor of G; Bm is the relative minor of D, etc. As a guitar student, you learned four basic chords in each key: the Dominant, Sub-Dominant, Seventh, and the Relative Minor. Now you know why it’s called the Relative minor.

Here’s are the major keys with their relative minors:

Major Key    Relative Minor
C                   Am
C#                Bbm
D                  Bm
D#                Cm
E                  C#m
F                  Dm
F#                Ebm
G                  Em
G#                Fm
A                  F#m
Bb                 Gm
    B                   G#m

See the pattern? Each Relative Minor is exactly three half-notes (frets) below it’s major key. To find a minor key, just find the major key from the key signature, drop three frets, and you’re there!

Tennis, Airplanes, and Guitars

In the deciding set of the 1993 Wimbledon finals, Jana Novotna was ahead of Steffi Graff 4-1, when she choked. She served the ball straight into the net, twice. That double fault haunted her, and she choked. She played worse and worse, each fault making it even harder for her to just let go and play like the world champion she was. By the end of the match, she was playing like a rank beginner, and managed to lose what had looked like a certain victory.

Six years later, John F. Kennedy Jr. took off on a night flight to Martha’s Vinyard, that would be his last. Somewhere over the Rhode Island Sound, he lost sight of the horizon in the misty darkness. He flew around randomly, obviously searching for the lights of his destination. While his attention was thus occupied, his plane entered a one-g spiral dive. Such a “graveyard spiral” is easily corrected by any pilot who can see the horizon, or who is regularly monitoring his flight instruments. In the dark and haze, Kennedy panicked. His attention fixated on finding those darned lights! Most likely, his perceptions narrowed until he literally could not see his instruments. Panic does that. Still focused on his destination, Kennedy flew his plane into the water at over 150 miles per hour, killing all on board.

Both Novotna and Kennedy were responding inappropriately to the same kind of pressure felt by musicians performing before an audience. But their responses were poles apart. Novotna choked and lost all her instinctive expertise, reverting to playing from her head, like a beginner who has to think about every move. Naturally, her play got worse and worse.

Kennedy did just the opposite. In his panic, he trusted his trained instincts to fly the plane, while he super-focused on searching for his destination. In the foggy dark, his instincts told him NOTHING about what his airplane was doing, but his panic would not let him see anything but what he was searching for. Had he choked and reverted to “beginner” mode, as Novotna did, he would have seen his flight instruments, and could have corrected his descent at any time, right up to the moment of impact.

What does this have to do with guitars? Everything. We all make mistakes under pressure. Repeatedly. Good performers just go on with the program. They don’t choke and revert to beginners. When it hits the fan, they just relax, disengage their brain, and let muscle memory take over. It may not be their best performance ever, but the audience probably will never know.

Yet, things do happen. A string breaks in the middle of a song. A mic gets knocked over. My daughter and I were ready for a church performance last Christmas, when she discovered that her sheet music was missing. “Oh, Holy Night”. In French. She could have panicked and delayed the performance looking for it. (She wouldn’t have found it. We never did.) She could have choked and sung it in English, without the difficult obligato we’d rehearsed so hard and so long. Instead, she just sang it, relying on her vocal muscle memory for the French words, her lovely, trained voice, and on my guitar for the timing. It was BEAUTIFUL. The audience never knew.

What made it possible? LOTS AND LOTS of practice. Good musicians don’t just rehearse until they can do it right every time. Good musicians practice until they cannot do it wrong.

O Ye Mountains High

Perhaps not sung as often as it used to be, this song is historically important, as well as beautiful, and not hard to play. This version can work well both as an instrumental piece and as a vocal accompaniment. I think it would go well with a country fiddle, but have never had the chance to try it. Maybe even with a harmonica. If you get the opportunity to do so, please send us a video! Or at least email me at and let me know how it went. Even if you decide not to play it, please read the history part of the commentary. This song may have helped prevent a war!