OK friends, back by popular (?) demand, here's the Twelve Days of Christmas. Well, at least the Twelfth Day of Christmas. No need to print the other eleven, as the twelfth day repeats them all anyway. It's so easy, I'm only including the cheat sheet. Not exactly a guitar solo, but okay for accompanying the weird lyrics. You probably won't be asked to perform it more than once, anyway. It's the only Twelve Days parody I know that's even dumber than the original.
The story: (of course, there is a story)
Shortly after I joined the Mormon Church, somebody did the Twelve Days to my family, leaving a present on the porch, knocking on the door, and running. We couldn't identify them, as they used a different car every night. (We later found out it was our branch Mutual, but at the time, we were so new we didn't know there was a Mutual.) It made us feel incredibly loved, as it could have been ANYBODY.
I have never been able to remember what the other eleven were, but the first one was a cartridge in a bare tree. So I have done my best to recreate the spirit of the rest of the presents, using whatever was available and cheap. I'll try to include photos, if I can get the camera to work. (Christmastime is NOT the best time of year to drop a camera!) Yes, we are actually presenting these gifts to a local family. What goes around, comes around.
- Complete with all the "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-rias!"
This song is definitely in the public domain. Like most Christmas carols, it has been published many, many times. I have tried to stick with the form as printed in the green, LDS hymnal, where it is #203. There are many other, equally pretty guitar versions, though I don’t know of any that have been published in tablature as free downloads.
The study guide is completely my own creation, as it only applies to my version of the song. There are a few typographical errors in the study notes, but no serious ones. My apologies. Technical difficulties prevent me from easily correcting them in time for you to learn the song for Christmas. It generally takes me at least a week or two of practice before I am willing to perform a song for any audience, even my family. I assume my readers also need time to practice. You may be more talented. Nevertheless, I may not post many more Christmas carols this season.
Since writing this tab four years ago, I have decided I prefer to begin the first measure of each of the first two lines with a quick strum of the full C chord: x32010, in place of the pinch shown in the tab, and end the song by substituting for the final measure:
“ O Holy Night” was composed in 1847 by French musician Adolphe Adam (pronounced with the stress on the last syllable of each word, in the French manner: ah-DOLPH a-DAHM). It was intended as a musical score to the French poem, “Minuit, chrétiens,” by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877). The resulting Christmas carol is usually called “Cantique de Noël” (Christmas Hymn) in French.
English lyrics to the song were first written in 1855, by Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music. He re-named the song, “O Holy Night.” The original French lyrics have a strong Catholic flavor, and are quite different from Dwight’s loose English interpretation.
On December 24,1906, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden made the first AM radio broadcast, in which he played “O Holy Night” on the violin. The carol therefore appears to be the first piece of music ever broadcast. It later appeared in an edition of carols by Josiah Armes, published by Oxford Press in 1936, subsequently increasing its popularity in the English-speaking world.
I prefer the original French poem, for several reasons. French is a lyrical language, while English is a gutteral one; almost anything sounds better in French than in English. The ideas of Christ humbling the mighty while exalting the slave, and exchanging chains of bondage for the union of love, resonate with my spirit. There are parallelisms in the French poem, on several levels. The French version scans better, too. Dwight may have been a man of God, but he was not the poet Capeau was.
French lyrics of “Cantique de Noël”
Minuit, chrétiens, c’est l’heure solennelle,
Où l’Homme-Dieu descendit jusqu’aux nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le coeur-roux.
Le monde entier tressaille d’espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur!
De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l’Enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l’Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche:
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur,
A votre orgueil, c’est de là qu'un Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave,
L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer.
Qui Lui dira notre reconnaissance ?
C’est pour nous tous qu’Il naît, qu’Il souffre et meurt.
Peuple debout ! Chante ta délivrance,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur !
English translation by Don Falllick:
Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour
When God-In-Man descended unto us
To erase the Original Sin
And end the wrath of his Father.
The entire world trembles with hope
On this night that gives us a Savior.
People, to your knees! Await your deliverance.
Noel, Noel, behold the Redeemer,
Noel, Noel, behold the Redeemer!
May the brilliant light of our faith
Guide us all to the manger of the Child,
As, in the past, a star shone
And guided the Kings of the East.
The King of Kings, born in a humble manger:
Powerful ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is against your pride that God is preaching.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has broken every shackle;
The earth is free, and the heavens are open.
He sees a brother where once was only a slave;
Love now unites those whom iron chains once joined.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude?
It is for us all that he was born, that he suffered and died.
People, arise! Sing of your deliverance.
Noel, Noel, let us sing of the Redeemer,
Noel, Noel, let us sing of the Redeemer!
The arpeggios, like the one at the end of the second and sixth measures, can be slow strummed with the right thumb, or picked with the fingers, at your preference. These F chords can also be played on four strings, or you can use the full-barre F and substitute the bass string for the F note on the fourth string. All other F chords should be played full-barre.
The 3 to 1 transition on the second string in the first measure of the last line can be played as a pull-off, if you like. Sometimes I think it sounds better that way; other times I like it played straight, as I have written it.
The G chord in the next-to-last measure is played G*: 32003x, a somewhat unusual way to play G, but no harder than the traditional G: 320003. The only hard part is hitting the C note on the very last count of the measure. Just takes a bit of practice.
Sometimes, if I'm feeling like getting a bit fancy, I'll substitute a quick strum for the first note in measures 1 and/or 9. It adds variety, but I'm not sure the results justify the quick transition this requires.
This song does require you to play artificial harmonics. They are not really any harder to play than regular harmonics, but you play them with one hand, while fretting the string with the left hand. They are easy to do if you rest the right index finger lightly on the string, exactly twelve frets above the fretted note, then pluck the string with the ring finger, allowing the index finger to come off the string at the same time. With a little practice, you can achieve a gorgeous, bell-like tone, exactly one octave higher than the fretted note.
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
This song is NOT in the public domain. For this reason, I did not include the complete lyrics to even a single measure. The measures are laid out exactly as they are in Hymns (1985 edition, “the green hymnal.”) I have included the first word of each measure, to make it easier for the guitarist who is not a fluent tab reader to keep his or her place.
The rhythm is counted out in 6/8 time, just as in the hymnal, but the key has been changed to C, to make playing easier. This does not make much of a difference, if you are playing it as a guitar solo. If you are accompanying a singer, you will probably want to use a capo to raise the key to one a little easier to sing.
To reach the key of Ab, as written in Hymns, you would have to place the capo in the eighth space (capo: VIII), which would make playing impossible. A good compromise is to play in D (capo: II), which is both playable and singable.
The counting is a bit difficult, as all the notes are sixteenth-notes. This forces the musician to count the 6/8 time as, “ONE and two and three and FOUR and five and six and,” for each measure. The counting would have been simpler if I could have recast the piece in waltz time, but this would have necessitated splitting each of the measures in two. I have done exactly that for my own use, when I can use the lyrics to keep time, and it works well. For publication though, I can't use the lyrics, so I have chosen to keep the stucture of the song almost exactly as in the hymnal.
The single structural difference in this song is that the last measure is different in the final verse, where I have added a final measure consisting only of the high C. Unless you are playing an electric guitar, or a very good classical guitar, you will need to tremolo this note to sustain it for the entire count. Try not to succumb to the temptation to slide up to this note. It sounds much better without the slide, though it's a bit harder to play.
To bring out the melody, you will need to play some of the chords a little different than usual, flattening the index finger in the C chord, to pick up the F note on the first string, for example, or playing the G chord as 32003x. There are arpeggios (broken chords) in almost every measure. The best way to play them (and the easiest) is as a slow strum with the thumb for the first three notes, then pluck the higher strings with the fingers.
This song has a brilliant, 19th Century sound when played with the fingernails of the right hand, classical guitar style. In fact, it sounds a lot like a harpsichord, but I like the mellower, sweeter feeling when it's played “finger style.” Sometimes I combine styles, playing the whole song finger style, slowing for the next to last measure, then hitting the final note classical style and holding it with a strong tremolo as long as possible. Makes people cry.
Click the song link in the list at right. You will find the files for Silent Night and Silent Night study guide, as well as About the Tablature. Click on the link, then on the file name to download it. All the files are in .pdf format, so you will need Adobe Reader to view them. Adobe Reader is a free download from adobe.com. You will be able to view, download, and print the documents, but not edit them, unless you have Adobe Acrobat. It's the best I can do on short notice, while I'm building my online archive.
Both the lyrics and the music to "Silent Night" are in the public domain.
In late December, 1818, Father Joseph Mohr, pastor of the Church of St. Nicolas in Oberndorf, Austria, wanted a Christmas carol he could play on his guitar. Some romantics say the church organ was broken, and could not be fixed before Christmas. Historians tell us that Father Mohr had composed the lyrics two years earlier. What we do know is that his friend, Headmaster Franz Xavier Gruber did compose the melody we now know, and that “Silent Night” was first performed in public on Christmas Eve, 1818, in Father Mohr’s church. It has since been translated into 300 languages and dialects, making it one of the most popular songs of all time.
Another legend of “Silent Night” is that it stopped a world war, at least temporarily. The legend is that on Christmas Eve, somewhere in Flanders, a German soldier, miserable and homesick, began singing “Schtille nacht”. An English soldier in the facing trenches joined in accompaniment in his own language. Soon, soldiers on both sides of No Man’s Land were singing. Leaving their trenches, they joined in an impromptu truce that lasted all night and all Christmas day, along hundreds of miles of trenches, much to the chagrin of the generals, who wanted their soldiers to continue fighting “The Great War.”
There is as much truth in this as there is in most legends. There was an unofficial truce in World War I, exactly one hundred years after Father Mohr composed his immortal song. Troops on both sides did sing their own versions of “Silent Night” together, most likely because it was the only Christmas carol they all knew. There had been many sporadic attempts to agree on a temporary truce, all along the front, for most of the month of December, 1916, as the trench-dwelling enemies at the front had much more in common with each other than either side had with their own generals, many miles to the rear. Newspaper reports from the front speak of the enemy soldiers gifting each other with delicacies sent from home, and even joining in No Man’s Land to sing together, and help each other bury the dead. In this atmosphere, it is very likely that “Silent Night” did play a part.
Guitarists with experience in reading tablature probably will not need to use the study notes, which I originally wrote for classical guitar students who were not familiar with tab. References to the p, i, m, and a fingers means, thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand. These are common abbreviations in classical guitar music. They stand for the Spanish words pulgar, indicio, medio, and anulario. This arrangement of Silent Night is my own, and follows neither the LDS Hymnal nor Gruber's original exactly. But it's very pretty.
About the tablature
There is no recognized standard for how to write guitar tablature. I use an underscore (4_5) to indicate any ligado, either a hammer-on or a pull-off. I find it makes the tab easier to read than cluttering it up with the letters h (4h5) or p (5p4), and it's obvious which is meant. I use vertical lines for measures, and write time signatures outside the staff. Two lower case o's, placed vertically on the #3 and #4 strings, inside the staff, are a repeat sign. I use a zig-zag, vertical line at the left of a chord, to indicate a strum. All strums are down unless otherwise stated, or noted with the letters u or d above the staff. Chords tabbed without the zig-zag line are to be plucked or pinched, unless otherwise specified. If all chords in a section are to be strummed, I indicate that with a note, and leave out the zig-zag lines. Slow strums are tabbed note by note. Harmonics are indicated with an exclamation point: !12, double harmonics with two exclamation points: !!7. Double vertical lines indicate the end of the song.
Where the abundance of strummed chords makes the tab too busy for easy reading, I have employed several strategies. Sometimes, I write “All chords are strummed” at the beginning of the song. Where the same chord is strummed repeatedly, I may leave out the numbers, after the first strum, and use only the zig-zag lines. Spaces between notes do not usually indicate length of the note-- they are only added to allow the printed words to fit better. Except where the notes indicate a slow strum, I always allow at least one space (hyphen) between notes.
About the chords
Where possible, I include “standard” chord charts at the end of each song, with the chords in the order of their appearance in that song. Some tab artists write out chords like this:
C: x32010, meaning the sixth string is not played, the fifth string is fretted in the third space, etc. This takes a great deal less room than standard charts, but lacks the visual element, is confusing to beginners, and somewhat duplicates the chords as shown (vertically) in the tablature. I try to avoid such, but do use them occasionally.
I use a lot of barre chords. Selection of which voicing of a chord to use often brings out the melody. To distinguish voicings of the same chord, I use Roman numerals in smaller type after the chord name, to indicate the chord's position (where the barre goes.) For example, the C major chord is normally played without a bar, but is sometimes played as an A barred in the third space (A III), or an E barred in the eighth space (E VIII).
I currently have tabs for about 200 songs, but most are not suitable for publication without some tweaking. I'll try to get to them as fast as I can, but it's gonna take years. Please be patient. This is an adventure in technology for me; I began playing guitar when John McCain was a young man.
Sorry, I cannot include lyrics for songs not in the public domain. I didn't write 'em, I don't own 'em, and I have no wish to pay for 'em. To make up for this, I have included measure lines, so you can follow the words and printed music in the 1985 edition of Hymns, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Where I use other sources, or where I have made changes such as in time signature, I will note the source or changes in this blog. Please limit comments to technical discussion of the songs and guitar techniques. This is not a personal blog.