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Before Thee, Lord, I Bow My Head-- for flat picking

Yes, you read that right.  This version is in the key of C, and it is specifically intended for flat picking.  If you want to get a similar effect on a classical guitar, strum all the chords with your thumb, which gives an easy, laid-back sound to the piece.  And it CAN be played without barre chords!

The tempo is unusual, but you can play it just like a 6/8 tempo, only it'll come out twice as fast in 6/4.  I strongly recommend that you learn each part of the song slowly first, before attempting to play it at speed.  You can also give the piece a more "country" sound by turning all the strummed chords into Carter licks.  A Carter lick is a quick strum down and then back up again, the whole lick counting one count.  Carter licks sound really good with an alternating bass note, either before the licks or after them.  For this song, though, to do this, you'll need to add an extra couple of notes to each measure, converting it into 8/4 or 8/8 time.  More on this later.

To play the song as written, there are only a few comments that need to be made.  The melody is carried in the bass line, which is unusual for a hymn, but not for country Gospel music.  The song is also written in Hymns as a round in two parts. This is also unusual, though not unique.  If you're going to play it as a guitar solo, or with just one singer, use the first ending, which I think sounds better.  There won't be time enough for the second singing part in the last measure, so I've included an alternative ending for accompanying duets, as published in the hymnal.  The rest of the song is as close to the hymnal as I could make it and still have it come out right for the guitar.

The hammer-ons and pull-offs called for are NOT quick.  Each note is a quarter note, just as in the picked notes.  In fact, you can pick the ligados too, if you have trouble with ligados, but the ligado notes sound better-connected.  The chord symbols appear over the spot where you need to fret them with the left hand, not necessarily where the chord is strummed.  This is done to make it easier to find the notes with the left hand; if you want to do it another way, by all means do what works best for you.

F/C is read, "F, with a C bass note" and is played like a regular F chord, adding the C note with the left pinkie.  You can just play a normal F if you like, but the bass note called for in the melody line happens to be the C, so it works better, if you can do it.

For the Chorus, the music specifies that the tempo be played "Brightly," hence the increased metronome setting.  In the Chorus, the melody is carried in the treble strings.  Play the first part of the Chorus in rapid but complete phrases: "How sweet thy word I’ve heard this day!"   should be played as a complete phrase, without pauses.  Similarly, "Be thou my guide, O Lord, I pray,"   except remember that "word", "guide" and "Lord" each have two syllables: "wor-ord", "gui-ide" and "Lo-ord" respectively. CaddG is a regular C chord, with the little finger adding the G on the first string.  It's not hard to play, but it may be difficult to do the pull-off with the little finger while holding the chord.  If you have trouble, don't play the full chord, just the G note, and do the pull-off, which carries the melody.  The second time, fret the first string in the second space with the first joint of the index finger, as if barring the strings.  This makes for a super easy transition to the GIII chord.

Don't forget, you'll have to go back to the G7 position to do the bass run in the next measure.  This is made a bit easier by the change in tempo, as the tune slows back down to the original 120 beats/minute.  The melody switches back to the bass strings, too.  " Seal thou the word upon my heart,"   is also to be played as a single phrase, for the guitar solo version.  I think that after you get it up to speed, you'll really like it. 

To play the piece in 8/8, as a country Gospel tune, you'll need to add a few notes here and there, to make the count come out even.  It's easy to add a few extra bass notes to do so, and create an alternating bass line at the same time. You'll also need to play the final chord slowly, to contrast with the Carter licks, so it sounds like the piece is definitely ended.

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