COPYRIGHT NOTIFICATION

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.

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                 Fm
B                   F#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 d.fallick@hotmail.com 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!

The Lord Is My Light

A good song for beginners. NO BARRE CHORDS!  No hard chords, either.  There are lots of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, and one tremolo, but no really difficult techniques. Enjoy! Some hymns take a long time and a lot of hard work to simplify for beginners, but this was not one of them.  It almost wrote itself. I love it when that happens. I did the arrangement on one day, and tabbed it the next. Took a third day to write the instructions and look up the history. Everything went smoothly. I waited a couple of days, then played it through again. I found a couple of typos, but nothing that actually needed to be re-written, which is unusual for me. Just a really easy song.

The Five-Minute Method for Learning the Guitar

                                    Cut your practice time in half--and learn faster!

Learning to play the guitar, like any physical skill, involves muscle learning, and that means lots of repetition. There are many methods for getting students to practice sufficiently, because lengthy practice sessions are boring.

They are also completely unnecessary.

Any sports coach can tell you that you’ll never develop your talents if you only practice once a week. Most insist on daily practice, and the best require practice sessions twice a day. Learning to play the guitar is more like a sport than like academic learning. Minimizing forgetting time between practices is the key to muscle learning. And muscle learning is vital to playing the guitar. You don’t have time to think about what you are doing while playing. It has to become automatic.

I have found that four or five very brief practice sessions per day is ideal for most students, even if the sessions only last five minutes. That makes twenty-five minutes of practice per day, less than half the traditional, hourlong, daily practices. By minimizing forgetting time, the five-times-a-day student learns much faster, even though their total daily practice time is less than half. The results are so obvious that anyone can see the difference.

Short, frequent practice sessions also encourage motivation. You don’t have time to become bored. You can practice longer than five minutes, if you want to. But five-minute sessions, spaced  throughout the day, will work. You come to each brief practice fresh, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. You can see daily improvement, and you look forward to practicing. And motivation is the key to success. I guarantee my students that they will see obvious improvement in any week in which they practice four or five times every day, or the next lesson is free.

In twenty years, I have never had to give a free lesson.

I have been playing guitar for more than half a century, but you can learn everything I know in a single year, if you practice four or five times a day. I have taught students of all ages, from seven years old to seventy, using this method. Even my youngest students mastered skills in one year that took me a lifetime to learn.

It’s fun, fast, and free. Try it and see the difference for yourself.

THREE Featured tabs this month!

Two of them are NEW Christmas carols: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and O Little Town of Bethlehem-- enjoy! The third is an "oldie but goodie": ¡Regocijad! which is Joy to the World in Spanish.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Every year in early December, I try to post a “new” Christmas song, to give you enough time to learn it before Christmas. I usually have a hard time deciding which to post. Christmas carols are my favorite music to play, throughout the year. I first heard this one performed by Johnny Cash, and it stuck with me forever. Even though it doesn’t mention the Savior at all by name, the constant repetition of his message, “Peace on earth, good will to men” keeps him constantly in my mind as I play the song. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. Consider it an Intermediate song, but you will find it on the Featured page too.  Merry Christmas!