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.

White Christmas-- a stocking stuffer

I AM dreaming of a white Christmas this year. There's not a speck of snow on the ground. In case you're also dreaming of a white Christmas, here it is: the most popular single song of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was listed as such in the very first edition of Guiness, and again each year for the last fifty years.

The Tab:

The tablature is simplicity itself. I only included the melody line, except for the final C chord. For those who are not familiar with the upper end of the fret board, I have included notations above each staff, in lightface italics, showing which finger of the left hand to use for each note. The fingers are numbered thus:
1 = index
2 = middle
3 = ring
4 - pinkie

This is standard notation for classical guitar (or lead). In general, you will be playing in "seventh position", so all the notes in the seventh fret will be fretted with the index finger, all the notes in the eighth fret will be fretted with the middle finger, etc. The only changes are near the end.

In the next-to-last line, right after the word, "write," the left hand changes to fifth position. If you like you can barre the fifth fret, but you may find it easier to play the third string normally, then just sort of smash the side of your finger down on the second string and first string, as needed. Do the same with the third finger at the eighth fret. Stay in fifth position until it's time to play the last three notes of the next-to-last measure on the open second string, then change to first position for the C chord. With a bit of practice, it will seem quite natural to you.

I hope to do a full guitar arrangement in 2012, and post it before next Christmas, so you will have time to practice. But it sounds pretty good this way, and even better on an acoustic guitar, with lots of vibrato.

Cool stuff about the song:

Irving Berlin wrote over 1500 songs in his long lifetime (he died in his sleep at 101, in the 1980s.) Legend has it that he stayed up all night writing White Christmas, then called up a friend the next day and said, "I've just written the best song I ever wrote-- maybe the best song anybody ever wrote!" If so, many famous song writers, including George Gershwin and Aaron Copeland, would agree. So would millions of fans. Recordings of White Christmas have sold over a hundred million copies, more than any other song in history, and it has reached #1 on the Hit Parade chart of best-selling records three separate times-- the only song ever to do so.

Not bad, for an American Christmas carol written by a Jewish immigrant from Russia!

I Saw Three Ships

Well, it's a Christmas carol, even if it's not in the hymnal, or even specifically Christian, and it has always bothered me that it would be impossible to see ANY ships from the region near Bethlehem. Oh, well! It's a pretty song to play on the guitar, and quite easy. There are no barre chords at all. Basically, it's C, G, and G7, with just one variation of each. I've tagged the variations with asterisks, as the real names of the chords take up a lot of room, and are quite unnecessary. For you purists, I've included the real names on the chord charts. If you just wanted to strum along with some carolers, you wouldn't even need to play the variations, just the three basic chords.

Good thing, too, at least in Salt Lake City where I live-- it gets DARN COLD of a winter evening, cold enough to make any but the simplest playing impossible, and I've never figured out how to play with gloves on. Enjoy! Of course, it's in the public domain.

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Merry Christmas!

Here's another one of my favorite Christmas Carols. Enjoy!

The music:

This is not a difficult song, but it needs a bit of explanation. As published in Hymns, it is written in the key of F, which is nearly impossible for most guitarists. I have transposed it up two frets, to the key of G. Other than that, the first verse is taken exactly from the soprano and alto lines in Hymns. The song is in the public domain, so that’s okay. For those who just want to accompany singers, I have included the rhythm guitar chords, in lightface type. They won’t help you with the tab, though. So if you’re trying to play the tab as written, just ignore the lightface chords in the first verse. (The second verse is different. More on that later.)

The first verse does not need chord symbols, as there are NO CHORDS in this verse, just two-finger pinches. For those who are not classically trained, I have included notations about which left-hand finger to use to fret the notes. Normally, in classical guitar notation, such abbreviations are given in Spanish: p - i - m - a, for the Spanish words, pulgar, indicio, medio, & anulario. Since the song is written in English, and few of my followers are classically trained, I decided to use the English abbreviations: t - i - m - r (for thumb, index, middle, & ring) instead. If you are a classical guitarist, please just deal with it.

There are a couple of places where it’s easier to just slide the left hand up or down the neck, rather than switching fingers. You’ll find them as you play through the song. I tried to specify the fingering that I think will be easiest for a beginner. If you think a different fingering would be better, please yourself. This is just my arrangement; it wasn’t handed down by Mendelssohn!

The second verse is a different story.

First, the lyrics: I couldn’t keep the song on three pages and use the real lyrics for the second verse. They just take up more room, and are not as easy to follow. Since I only include lyrics to aid in following the rhythm, I re-used the lyrics from the first verse. This is supposed to be a guitar solo, anyway.

Second, the arrangement: This is one of my easier guitar arrangements. Half the notes are played on open strings! All the chords are easy to play, and most are well-known to every guitarist. The only exceptions are GaddD and CaddD, which are both slight variations of the basic G-shape. There are no difficult chord changes, and NO BARRE CHORDS!

I have included chord symbols where they would be helpful in knowing where to place the fingers of the left hand. I have left them out, where they are not needed. For example, where all the strings are played open, it is not necessary to hold a G chord, even though that is what you would do if you were playing accompaniment or rhythm guitar. In other places, only a single note of a chord is called for. In such places, I have left out the unnecessary chord changes, for clarity. If you wish to play rhythm, use the chords from the first verse.


This is one of eight thousand hymn lyrics written by Charles Wesley, younger brother of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. During his life, Charles published over six thousand of his hymns, many of which are found in the LDS hymnal.

The tune he had in mind is not the one usually associated with this carol. Wesley envisioned it being sung to the tune of Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, which he also wrote. The tune we now use was part of a secular cantata, written a hundred years later by Felix Mendelssohn, to commemorate the invention of the printing press. Fifteen years after that, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s tune to Wesley’s lyrics, creating the sprightly Christmas carol we now know.

There have been many other tweaks since Wesley’s day. Even the first line (and hence, the title) of the song has changed. Originally, it began, “Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”. Wesley’s co-worker, George Whitefield, persuaded him to change it. Thank you, George!

Ding-Dong, Merrily on High (easier)

It's HARD to play this song at the proper speed. Doing so requires paying strict attention to correct fingering of both the left and right hands. What works best for me may not work best for you, so don't hesitate to change these instructions if your fingers like a different pattern better! The chords called out in the chord charts require some odd fingerings to allow for fast chord changes, so I have specified which finger to use in the charts. The number 1 = the index finger, 2 = the middle finger, etc. You may find some of these fingerings counter-intuitive, but they are the ones I have found work the best in this particular song.

Meanwhile, back at the first verse:

Strum the initial C chord with the thumb, then play the second note with the ring finger of the right hand. This leaves the stronger middle finger to initiate the pull-off series on the second string. You'll probably have to release the C chord-shape with the left hand to play that series. Play the last note, on the third string, with the right index finger.

In the second measure, play all the third string notes with the right middle finger, and the bass string with the right thumb. This sets you up to play the F chord in the third measure as a thumb strum. The next three notes, all on the second string, can be played rapidly by using a different right hand finger for each one: ring-middle-index. If you know classical guitar terminology, use alternating rest-strokes. In the final measure, use a thumb strum, and pluck the final note with the middle finger (that's a free-stroke in classical guitar).

The Chorus

The Chorus is the fastest part of the song, and thus the hardest to play. Practice each measure until you can do it without thinking about it, then go on to the next. All three Choruses are the same, except for the last line of the final Chorus.

Pluck the first note of the first measure with the right ring finger, then strum the next two notes. Release the chord shape with the left hand, and play the fourth note with the ring finger. Then pluck the next-to-last note with the right middle finger, pulling-off the last note with the left hand. All the notes are eighth-notes, and should have equal length and emphasis.

The second measure of the Chorus has a slightly different pattern. All the notes on the first string are plucked with the right middle finger, the bass note with the thumb, and all the rest with the right index finger. Releasing the chord-shape after the first two notes will make this measure much easier on your left hand. The third measure has the same pattern.

The pattern for the fourth and fifth measures is actually the same, except shifted down one string. The second string notes are all plucked with the right middle finger, bass notes with the thumb, and all others with the index finger. There are no notes on the first string.

The sixth measure is different. Keep the chord shape with the left hand throughout the measure. All second string notes are plucked with the right ring finger, all third string notes with the middle finger, all fourth string notes with the index finger, and the bass with the thumb. The same pattern holds for the final two measures of the Chorus, except for the strummed chord at the beginning of the seventh measure. I like to repeat the Chorus, but it's not required except after the last verse.

The Second Verse

This same pattern is continued into the second verse, except for the second measure, where it shifts down another string, so the chord is strummed by the thumb, then the third string is plucked by the right ring finger, the fourth by the middle finger, the fifth by the index, and the bass by the thumb. At the end of this measure, shift back to the previous pattern, and keep it up until the end of the verse. Repeat the verse, then go right into the Chorus.

The Third Verse

The Third Verse does not follow the melody-- it just sounds really neat! If you want to follow the melody, just repeat the First Verse. But if you want to play the Third Verse the way I've arranged it, here's how.

After the initial strum, release the chord-shape with the left hand. The rest of the measure consists essentially of scales, descending from treble to bass, then ascending again. If you have trouble performing two pull-offs or hammer-ons in a row, you'll have trouble with this verse, but if you can do them, it makes the verse extremely easy, as it's the same pattern, just on different strings.

The only “odd” note comes in the third measure, where you have to fret the fifth string in the fourth space with your left pinkie. If your pinkie is not up to this, you can move your hand around and hit the note in the same place with your ring finger, but it's a lot of finger-dancing for one note. I use my pinkie, and figure if it doesn't sound too good, nobody is likely to notice, as it's a “grace note.”

Repeat the verse, going immediately into the beginning of the repetition without a pause. Even though you are doing exactly the same thing, most of your audience will think you somehow have shifted the guitar down an octave, and will wonder how you did it!

Final Chorus:

The last Chorus is played exactly like all the others, except for the last two measures. You can slow down for this “finale”, but it's way more impressive if you don't. The next-to-last measure is actually easier than in the previous Choruses, to allow a bit more time for you to move your hand up the neck to the eighth fret, for the full-barre C chord.

Just strum the two bass strings quickly, so they sound more or less together, then “slow strum” the other four strings, so each one can be heard independently. (But don't slow down!) Hold the final note as long as you can. If you don't break the rhythm, and you play it as fast as it's written (or even close), your applause will be thunderous!

Ding Dong Merrily on High

Yes, it really is supposed to be played that fast! Here’s what it’s supposed to sound like, if you don’t know the song, or copy and paste this: into your browser, if the link doesn't work. The original was a French dance tune without words, called “le branle de l'Official”. It was first published in the late 1580s by French cleric and dance historian Jehan Tabourot, under the pen name Thoinot Arbeau, which is an anagram of his real name. No one now knows if he composed the tune, or merely collected it. I have not been able to locate any French lyrics, either ancient or even a modern translation from the English. Such a translation would have to be decidedly modern, as the English lyrics were not written until 1924!

The lyrics were written by George Ratliffe Woodward, who adapted the somewhat worldly dance tune for use as a Christmas carol. Their archaic flavor stems from the author’s delight in archaic verse and language, and references to his hobby of church-bell ringing. His deliberate archaisms include the words sungen, swungen, matins, evetime and Io, io, io, as well as his deliberate use of the Latin chorus: gloria, hosanna in excelsis. This is a quotation from the Latin Bible, and means, “Glory and praise in the highest,” the phrase which the people shouted to Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in recognition of his Messiahship. It is often mispronounced hose Anna in excel sis. In reality, it has nothing to do with spraying Anna with water or exceeding your sister, and should be pronounced hoe sauna e’en ex shell cease (e’en though it has nothing to do with gardening in a sauna or stopping an artillery barrage!)
Io, io, io is pronounced, "ee-oh, ee-oh, ee-oh," NOT "eye-oh, eye-oh, eye-oh,." At speed, it sounds rather like a piglet squealing. Oh well!

I first encountered this delightful tune in the movie, "Little Women," and was devastated to learn that Jo and the girls could not really have sung it, as the lyrics would not be written for more than sixty years! It’s still my favorite version of the song. The harmonies (also from 1924) were composed by Charles Wood. In any event, the tune is in the public domain, so there’s no problem with publishing it.

This is really not a hard song to play-- slowly. The difficulty comes when you try to play it at speed. Don’t try this until you have the song completely memorized! Even then, start at half speed or slower and work up gradually, or you’ll never get it right. This may take some time, so start working on it early. Remember, it’s much better to play it too slowly than to mess up the rhythm. If you play too slow, the audience may think you’re doing it on purpose, if they even notice. After all, this is a guitar solo; there’s no one singing or dancing! If you lose the rhythm, though, it’ll show.

Let Us All Press On -- 2nd Tali update

Well, she's had her second lesson. Even though she is not really up to speed on the "rank beginner" version, I've started her on a modification of the regular version. She's learning the chords and ligadoes, but I'm not insisting that she play hammer-ons from a pinch, as her little finger isn't really strong enough yet. But she picked up the hammer-ons and pull-offs right away, and is learning the chords. She'll have a much easier time playing chords when she buys her own guitar. She has extremely short fingers, not the best with my old flamenco guitar. The soft tension is great for a beginner, and the tone is not bad, but it has the widest neck of any guitar I've ever owned! I'm letting her use it, because I don't want her to go out and buy a guitar until she can play well enough to know when a guitar feels "right" for her. Today, she asked to borrow my Cervantes, to see if she likes it better--and she does, of course! Small wonder-- it cost about ten times as much!

Let Us All Press On-- for absolute beginners

“Easy” doesn’t even begin to describe this song. It’s the easiest hymn I’ve ever arranged. As I was working on this hymn, and noticing how easy it is to play, my daughter Tali called to ask if I would teach her to play the guitar. She mentioned that she is particularly interested in “eventually” learning to play the hymns. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Since Tali has never played the guitar at all, or any other stringed instrument, I decided to see just how simple I could make it. With very little effort, I was able to eliminate not only all the barre chords, but all chords entirely! There are a couple of pinches, and that’s it. So, this will be Tali’s very first song to learn on the guitar. How’s that for easy?

To make the song playable by a brand-new guitarist, I also left out all advanced techniques, such as hammer-ons and pull-offs. This does make the song sound a bit choppy, so I am including my original version, with chords and ligadoes. The melody is the same for either version. There are a few “extra” bass notes in both versions, but they are included in the original arrangement, as found in Hymns.

The original is already in the key of C, so I didn’t even have to transpose it. I left out some of the harmony notes, and recast the tempo as 8/8, to simplify counting. It almost seems like it was written for guitar on purpose. This hymn was in the public domain, so copyright was not a problem. I’m including links for both versions, but the Study guide is only for the beginner’s version. The other is easy enough for most beginners, without special instructions.

Study guide (beginner’s version)

This guide is meant to be read one measure at a time, while playing the notes on the guitar. Trying to just read through it, without playing the guitar, will likely confuse you if you are a beginner. If you are not a beginner, why are you playing this simplified version?

The song begins with a partial-measure lead-in. A hammer-on sounds really good here. Get someone to show you how to do one, if you are not an absolute beginner. The metronome setting of 100 will show you how fast to play the song, once you have it memorized. Don’t try to play it that fast initially! Start slow, then build up speed later. Each metronome tick equals two counts.

The first three notes in measure [1] take two counts each, but the last two notes take only one each. Notes that take two counts are called quarter-notes, while those that take only one count are called eighth-notes. The two eighth-notes at the end of the measure lead into measure [2], which is nearly all eighth-notes. When finger-picking successive notes on the same string, as in measure [2], it is useful to play them with alternating fingers of the right hand, for speed. If you are playing them with a pick, alternate down-strokes and up-strokes of the pick.

Measures [3] and [4] repeat this pattern of one measure of nearly all quarter-notes, followed by a measure of nearly all eighth-notes. Measures [5] and [6] repeat it again, as do [7] and [8]. Measure [6] contains a pinch. Fret the third space on the 2nd string (the B string) with the index finger, and the third space on the 4th string (the D string), with the ring finger. Play the pinch in measure [8] similarly, but notice that the ring finger will be fretting the third space on the 5th string (the A string).

The first measure of the chorus is a bit tricky. It begins with a pinch. Fret the third space on the 2nd string (the B string) with the ring finger, and the third space on the 6th string (the E string), with the middle finger. This pinch, and the next note, are quarter-notes, but the rest are eighth-notes. Those “extra” notes on the D string are not part of the melody as sung, but they are called out in the hymnal, for the instrument to play. I recommend that you count this measure out loud, until you can play it fluently.

Measure [10] is much easier, but you will have to alternate the right-hand fingers (or up-down pick strokes) as you did in measure [2]. Measure [11] contains no surprises, and [12] is all eighth-notes. Measure [13] and [14] repeat this pattern, and [15] is all eighth-notes, too. Again, the two bass notes on the 5th string (the A string) in measure [15] may seem like they don’t belong, as they are not part of the melody, but they do appear in Hymns.

The last measure is a little bit different. It begins with a pinch, and the tempo slows down, so you have to hold the pinched notes a bit longer than usual, even though they are eighth-notes. Then play the final four notes of the measure on the 4th (D) string, and hold the final quarter-note as long as you can. The last two counts of the measure are in parentheses, because you do not count them if you are going to play a second verse. Instead, substitute the first two notes of the lead-in at the beginning of the song. That’s why the notes of the lead-in are counted “7, 8” instead of “1, 2”. Only the last time around do you continue the count to the end of measure [15].

Joseph Smith's First Prayer (Oh How Lovely Was the Morning)

An EASY and BEAUTIFUL arrangement. EASY and BEAUTIFUL don’t often coincide, but this time, they do. Of the six chords in the charts, three are C, A, and G7. The others are easier than normal, because no notes are found on the #1 string when these chords are played. There are NO BARRE CHORDS at all, not even the F/C.

Because it’s so easy, you may be tempted to play it faster than specified. Trust me; it sounds better slow. Remember, that’s 80 quarter-notes per minute, so each beat of the metronome equals two of the eighth-notes shown in the tab. In the hymnal, this song is listed as 4/4 tempo, but I have recast it as 8/8, to simplify the counting. As tabbed, all notes are eighth-notes.

You may wish to add other verses, with chords, key changes, and reprises, as in Dennis Crocket’s lovely piano arrangement. You can do what you like; the hymn’s in public domain.

Complete, line-by-line instructions:

Begin with a partial measure lead-in. If you’re counting measures, begin with the first complete measure. The lead-in consists of a hammer-on on the fourth string. Position your fingers for the C chord, then perform the hammer-on with the pinkie. This sets up your hand perfectly for the following measure. You can play the lead-in as two separate notes, if the hammer-on is hard for you. In fact, you can treat all of the hammer-ons in the song as separate notes if you wish, but they’ll sound better as hammer-ons.

Continue to hold this chord shape with the left hand until it is time to change to G7 in measure [2]. You’ll have plenty of time to make the chord change, as the last note in C and the first note in G7 are both played on open (un-fretted) strings. Release the G7 while playing the open notes on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings, setting up the hammer-on that ends the measure. This eases the transition to the GaddD chord in measure [3]. The change back to G7 is a bit fast, but it’s not difficult, and the switch back to C is easy, as you are playing on open strings during the change.

The end of this measure and all of measure [5] duplicate the lead-in and measure [1], and measure [6] is almost the same as measure [2]. The bass strings are played in order (6-5-4), and it’s easy to play all three with the thumb, in a slow strum, rather than playing just the 6th string with the thumb and plucking the others with the fingers, as would normally be done.

All this repetition makes the first two lines really easy to play, and you’ll notice that many other riffs, and even entire measures, are repeated throughout the song. Measures [7] and [8], are the almost the only unique ones in the song. I strongly recommend that you play the hammer-on in [7] as a hammer-on, even if you avoid all the others in the song.

In measures [9] and [11], you don’t actually have to play an A-shape to play the A chord. Just flatten the middle finger across the 3rd and 4th strings, briefly, then lift the finger off the strings and play them again, open, giving plenty of time to switch to the following C. The rhythm of measure [12] is very similar to that of [5], even though the actual notes are different.

Measure [13] is a new form, with a five-string run from the 1st string to the 5th. If you try to pluck the strings with your fingers, you will run out of fingers before you run out of strings, as the right hand pinky is not used. If you strum the strings UP, your hand will be out of place for the last two notes of the measure. The solution is to strum UP the first three strings with the middle finger, reserving the index and thumb for the 4th and 5th strings respectively. Then you can play the whole measure without a break.

Measure [14] is one of only two “difficult” measures in the song, as there’s a quick chord change from G7 to F/C. The good news is that the 1st string is not played for either of these chords, and the 2nd string is played open until the last note, which is a hammer-on. Since you are only actually fretting three strings, a bit of practice should get this transition smooth.

Measure [15] is very similar to [13]. Since only four strings are involved, simply pluck each string separately: ring finger - middle finger - index finger - thumb. You don’t have to play the G7-shape, as there are only two notes, and one of them is on a open string. I just fret the 6th string with my pinkie, then slow-strum the five-string run in the last measure.

There’s a quick movement of the left hand required between the third and fourth notes of the final measure, which may take a bit of practice. I barre the 1st and 2nd strings with my left pinkie. It’s a bit of a quick reach to the eighth fret, but the 3rd string is played open, which gives a bit more time for the movement. It’s not really a chord change, as the notes are included in the C chord, just one octave higher.

There are only six notes in this measure, but the 8/8 time signature remains unchanged. The two-note lead-in will be the last two notes of the final measure, if you play a second verse. That’s why the time in the lead-in measure is counted, “7, 8” even though it begins the song.

These instructions are rather detailed, but the playing goes quickly. I recommend that you play several verses, altering the tempo for emphasis, and reprise the last five measures.

Why the new look?

I didn't want it, but Blogger changed everything, for some reason, and this is the closest I could get to the old blog. The functionality, as far as the user is concerned, remains the same, but there's a new learning curve for me. I don't like companies that pull the rug out from under you with no warning, explanation, or apology, and am investigating other options. For now tho, I'll try to keep everything as close to the same as I can. Don

Love Me Tender

No, it’s not a hymn, nor even a religious song. But it is about eternal love, and that is also Gospel-friendly. It’s been a long time since I’ve included a love song. My excuse for this one is that it was first performed 55 years ago this week.

Let’s get this straight: I am an Elvis fan, but I must tell the truth. Despite his name in the credits, Elvis Presley did not write this song. The tune was first published in 1861, as a Civil War ballad called Aura Lea, by George R. Poulton, with lyrics by W. W. Fosdick. Over the next hundred years, it generated several popular versions with different lyrics. In 1956, songwriter Ken Darby created yet another set of lyrics to the old tune, for the 20th Century Fox movie, The Reno Brothers, in which the young Elvis Presley played a part. Elvis first performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, on September 9, 1956, as a plug for his upcoming movie. He was not yet known for singing ballads, and neither the movie trailer nor the advance copies of the record had yet been released. So popular was his crooning, however, that one day later the record had sold a million reserved copies, earning a gold record in a single day's sales, before even one copy was released! 20th Century Fox changed the title of the movie to Love Me Tender, to take advantage of this astounding publicity, but still killed off Elvis’ character in the last act.

Although Elvis had no part in writing the lyrics, and the music was in the public domain, he was given equal credit as co-writer, because his contract required it. (Elvis did not actually write any of the songs he recorded.) In a fit of pique, Darby transferred his part of the credit to his wife, Vera Matson, “because she didn’t write it either.” Elvis was well-known as a tyrant in the recording studio, too. Ironically, he made so many last-minute changes to the arrangement and the lyrics of this song, that his credits as songwriter may have been partially justified after all.


The metronome setting is for quarter-notes, but I have recast the piece in 8/8 time, instead of 4/4, to make the counting easier. So remember, each tick of the metronome represents two counts.

Nearly all the chords in this song are variants of D, E, and A. If you wish, you can just play those three chords, and it’ll sound okay, but you’ll miss all the cool harmonies. If even “The King,” with his gorgeous voice, needed to add bass and harmony, the rest of us will need to also. Unlike 99 percent of the songs on this blog, this one is intended to accompany a singer. If you don’t have the voice for it, find someone who does.

Strum all the chords with your thumb, or with a soft flat-pick, for the mellowest sound you can get. If you have looked up the chords to this song on other Internet sites, you will notice I have included several additional chords. If you listen to any of Elvis’ actual recordings, you will note that HE always included the “extra” chords too. You can dumb it down if you want to, but it will show. Elvis used the barre chords, which you’ll see if you watch him play this piece on any You-Tubes of his early TV appearances. Or, listen to the chords played by his backup musicians. Like many other really beautiful songs, this one sounds a lot simpler than it really is.

The song is played in a hesitation rhythm: / one-and-two-(and)-three-and-four-(and)- /. The second and fourth notes of each measure are accented, and the intermediate notes following them are not played at all. True, it would be simpler to play this in straight 4/4 time, with an alternating bass note, and that’s how most guitarists do it, but it’s NOT how Elvis or his sidemen played it! I tried writing out the count as / 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & / but it got too confusing, so I recast it as 8/8 instead. Purists may grumble, but it’s lots easier to figure out that way.

All the chords are quite ordinary for any intermediate guitarist who is used to playing barre chords, with the possible exception of the DII in the second finale. You may find this chord difficult, though it’s just a barred C-shape. If you like, just play the normal D in Finale 1, then repeat and fade. That’s how Elvis’ sidemen did it, while he held the last note with his voice. This emphasizes the voice, at the expense of the guitar, and is great, IF, like Elvis, you have the voice for it. I don’t, so I use Finale 2 to cover.

Abide With Me!

Originally, I tabbed this as all chords, but soon found that playing the chords as a modified pattern-pick was much easier. For this reason, the chords called out in the tab are for reference only. Do not strum them. Play only the individual notes as shown. There are only two strummed chords, toward the very end of the song, as shown by the wiggly line to the left of each chord.

The song is written in 4/4 time, but I have recast it as 8/8, to make counting easier.  The metronome count is still listed for quarter-notes, as is standard.  That is, each tick of the metronome counts for two of the eighth-notes shown in the tab.  If you find this confusing, practice without the metronome.  Since this is a guitar solo, it won’t matter if your timing is imperfect.

In classical guitar, the fingers of the right hand are labelled p-i-m-a, for the initials of the Spanish words, Pulgar, Indicio, Medio, and Anulario. (“Thumb, Index, Middle, and Ring”) The p-i-m-a notations below the lyrics tell you which finger of the right hand to use when you play each note. Most measures begin with the ring finger (“a”), then play the bass note with the thumb (“p”). The next two strings are played with the m and a fingers respectively.  So the pattern is not only which strings are played, but also which fingers are used: a-p-i-m-a-i-m-i in the first measure.

The pattern is modified in the next measure: a-p-i-m-a-p-i-m, and again in the third verse: a-i-m-i-m-i-m-i.  So the finger pattern and the string pattern are both constantly changing. It makes the song harder to learn (if you are not used to playing fingerstyle or classical guitar), but it actually makes the song easier to perform. I don’t normally specify the right hand fingering, figuring that each guitarist has his or her own preferences. You don’t have to use my fingering, but it’s the easiest way I have found to play the notes called out in this tab. 

In the third measure, you need only play the first three strings, which makes the Fv chord much easier to play.  You only have to barre three strings, and you can play the chord without stretching your hand. Unfortunately, the Fv in the sixth measure is not nearly so easy to play. You have to play all five strings, using all four fingers, and it’s a stretch to reach the F note on the fifth string with the little finger, especially if you have short fingers, as I do.  But the note is necessary for the melody, and the chord shape allows for a quick change to the following CIII

At the end of the second line, the “7th” note of the G7III chord is fretted with the little finger, producing a sound often found in the Blues.  You can even bend the note a bit, if you wish, by stretching the string slightly, to make it sound even more “Blues-y”.  This same chord shows up again in the third measure of the next line, where it’s even easier to play.  This second time, you only have to play the 1st, 2nd, and 6th strings.  If you have a narrow-neck guitar, you can wrap your hand around the neck and fret the 6th string with your thumb, eliminating the barre altogether.

I play a classical guitar, and my fingers are short, so I use the barre version, which makes it super simple to change to the following G7III chord.  Hold this chord with the left hand until the last two measures of the song.  You don’t actually have to change for the CIII chord, as you can just flatten your fingers briefly to fret the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings.

Play ALL the notes in the next-to-last measure with the thumb (p), as a slow strum, on just the strings indicated.  Then, strum all six strings and let it ring.  It will sound like a chord change, even though you have not moved your left hand at all!

This song is in the public domain.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Here it is, just in time for Pioneer Day!

The fanfare is really one of the easiest parts of the song to play, if the CVIII chord doesn’t bother you. It’s just a barred-E shape-- the most common barre chord and probably the easiest to play. Here’s a trick for playing the fanfare fast: for the first measure, play the fourth, third, and second strings with the index, middle, and ring fingers respectively. Then switch and for the rest of the pattern, play the third, second, and first strings with the index, middle, and ring fingers. Use the thumb to play the bass notes of each pinch, regardless of which string it’s on. Repeat the whole pattern. Practice it slowly at first, using a metronome (HERE) until you get it right, then work up to speed, or the rhythm will suffer, and it’ll never sound right at speed. Played fast and in perfect rhythm, the fanfare sounds awesome. That’s why the Tabernacle Choir uses it. If you have trouble with the timing, listen to their version a few times (HERE). You will notice that my version of the fanfare is simpler.

For the verse, I use the timing of the hymnal, not the Choir’s “hesitation” version, which doesn’t sound so good on the guitar. There’s a tempo change from 6/8 to 8/8. But I have left out the counting numbers. It’s just too confusing with all the dotted eighth notes and sixteenth notes. You know how it’s supposed to sound. For the same reason, I do NOT advise practicing the rest of this piece with a metronome-- you’ll be off rhythm half the time.

All three of the verses can be played the same, but it sounds way better if you make the following changes: for the first verse (and chorus), play as written, ignoring the light-face notes in parentheses. Exception: DO play the boldface notes in parentheses in measure [16]. For the second verse, strum some or all of the chords that you pinched in the first verse, but otherwise play it exactly the same. On the final verse, DO play the lightface notes (except in measure [16]), and follow the instructions for “last time”. The instruction to use “lots of expression” means to use lots of tremolo, changes in speed and volume, and pauses for emphasis, to express the way you are feeling when you play it.

The last time through, on the chorus, be sure to put in the notes for “truth is march-ing.” In measure [10], do NOT play the boldface note on the second string. In measure [12], DO play the boldface note on the fourth string. I know it’s confusing, but I couldn’t think of any other way to tab it without tabbing the whole third chorus separately. I could have done that, of course, but then the tab wouldn’t fit on a standard music stand. Repeat measure [12] for emphasis. It’ll remind the audience of the Tabernacle Choir version again. It’ll lose effectiveness if you do it every time, so only repeat this measure on the last chorus.

The final “A-men” is also borrowed from the Tabernacle Choir; it’s not in the hymnal. You can play it as written, but an interesting variation is to strum the chords using the tremolo strum. Strum down with the middle finger (or middle and ring fingers), then up with the thumb, rotating the wrist back and forth rapidly for speed. Done rapidly, this sounds like a continuous drum roll. It's not technically difficult, but sustaining it requires practice. Instead of playing the single note between the two syllables of "A - men," tremolo-strum the FI chord on all strings except the #1 string. Then shift the strum to include the #1 string, and omit the #6 string. Then slide the whole chord quickly to the VIII fret, for the final CVIII chord, without pausing or slowing the strum. Continue the tremolo-strum for an additional few counts, if you like. Don't miss any beats, as they will be terribly obvious to the audience, and there's no recovery.

For those who don’t like barre chords, you can play this hymn easily without them, by making a few, easy substitutions. Wherever you see a barre chord, just substitute the regular chord of the same name. Leave out the bass notes of each of the pinches in the fanfare, and play only the treble notes of the “A-men.” Play them with LOTS of left-hand tremolo, by wiggling your finger along the length of the fretboard. Stay within the fret, and wiggle rapidly. This will also help to sustain the final note, which you want to hold as long as you can.

Beautiful Savior


For such a well-beloved old hymn, there is remarkably little agreement about any part of this song.  The title, lyrics, composer(s), lyricist(s), English translator(s), even the authenticity of the score are all hotly disputed.  Legend has it The Crusaders’ Hymn was sung by German Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land.  But no one has established which of the nine Crusades (spanning three centuries) is meant, much less documented the legend.  Others attribute the original German lyrics to 17th Century German Jesuits, three or four centuries later. 

Most Protestants call it Fairest Lord Jesus, and most Catholics call it The Crusaders’ Hymn, but Lutherans and Mormons call it Beautiful Savior, and use different lyrics.  All versions refer to the Son of God and Son of Man, whose beauty and purity exceed those of all natural phenomena. But there is little or no agreement on specifics.  Due to the multiplicity of “original German sources,” it is perfectly possible that all those claiming to be the “original” translator are correct! 

The music itself is cited as an old, Silesian folksong, in a German text published in 1842, while the  Crusades lasted from 1095 to 1291.  Eight centuries is plenty of time for a hymn to give rise to a folksong, or vice-versa.  No one truly knows which came first.  To further muddy the water, the first English translation was published in 1677, almost two centuries before the “original” German text that it was translated from!  Nevertheless, we know that the English version is not the original, as it is listed as a translation in its earliest extant version.  That may be the only fact about this beautiful, old hymn that can be stated without dispute.


I arranged this song at the request of my daughter Thora.  It will stretch your hands.  If you are not up to that, you can dumb it down and sing the melody.  To facilitate this, I’ve left it in the key of D, as published in The Children’s Songbook.  If you are accompanying vocalists, substitute D, A, and G for the relevant barre chords, and it becomes a very easy song to play. You can strum the chords, or use a pattern pick.  Play all the chords listed, including those in brackets.

To include the melody and all the cool harmonies in your solo, play it as written.  Played this way, it is not a song for beginners, but it’s not as hard as it looks. True, there are seventeen chords, and some of them look rather strange, but five are common chords you already know, or very slight variations. For example, D/A is just a regular D chord, but you play the open A string, too.  Read it as, “D, A bass.”

Of the rest, nine are slight variations of barred E, barred A, and barred Am, chord shapes you probably already know if you are used to playing barre chords.  A#dim and  A7II are less common, but are simple, two-finger chords. There is really only one difficult chord, called  DII, but also called D/F#II. Read these as D (barred at the second fret), and D, F# bass (barred at the second fret).  They are really the same chord; the only difference being whether or not you play the #6 string.  This chord is a barred C shape, which is a tough chord shape for many people to master. It is not by any means impossible, though, and its full, rich sound makes it very important in nearly all music genres.


To minimize finger dancing, I begin the Intro by barring at the tenth fret, but you don’t have to if it’s not comfortable.  Steel-string guitars have two “extra” frets on the neck, which makes this much easier. If you have large hands and a classical guitar, it may be easier to play the notes as written, or invent an intro of your own.  There is nothing “official” about introductions; you can use whatever you like. You may even wish to use the coda (the underlined measures on the last page) as an introduction. If you do, the actual coda at the end becomes a reprise of the intro, which is a cool way to end a song.

At the end of the second line, after playing A7II, lift the whole hand off the strings when you play the open E string.  This gives you time to move up the neck for the upcoming DX.  This chord makes the fingering way easy: all changes can be made by flattening and un-flattening the pinky.  There are other ways to play these notes, but this way minimizes chord changes. The last measure of the third line includes an [A] in lightface type.  If you are playing the tab, just ignore it, as the necessary notes are in the tab.  But if you are strumming accompaniment, you should play the [A],  and the following [A7], or it will sound wrong.

At the end of the line, lift the whole left hand from the strings while playing the open E string.  This gives you more time to move to the fifth fret, easing the chord change to AV.  The mordant (--5_7_5--) in the next measure sets up the transition to the following DV.  There’s no slick way to make the change to EmVII in the middle of the next measure, but the change from a barred A shape to a barred Am shape is not a difficult one.  The only tricky part is doing so while moving up the neck two frets.  Remember to lift the fingers from the fretboard slightly while changing, or the slide will be audible.

In the first line of page two, make the same changes in reverse, ending the line with a regular D.  I tried  using DV, to minimize the change from AV, but it just doesn’t sound the same.  D also eases the chord changes at the beginning of the next line.  The D probably will not sustain for the full measure, unless you are playing an electric guitar.  Use the [rest] at the end of the measure to start the change to D/F#II.  This chord is a barred C shape, played at the second fret, allowing the #6 string to sound.  Read it as, “D, F# bass”.  You can substitute a D/AV (DV, allowing the open A string to sound), which  many find easier, and sounds almost as good.  Try it both ways, and decide for yourself.  The barred C shape is a difficult one to master, but worth the effort.  This song is all about gorgeous harmonies; if you dumb it down, you cheat yourself and your audience.

At the beginning of the fourth line, hold the AV as long as possible, while fretting the G note on the 2nd string with the pinky.  That converts the chord into an A7, an interesting resolve to the preceding phrase.  Starting in the next measure, there's another one of those barred C shapes.  This time, it actually makes the transition to the following BmII easier.  I have added arpeggios between the next, strummed chords.  Playing the arpeggios with the thumb gives a soft sound.  Slow down  a bit for emphasis.

The  coda (the underlined measures) will sound faster, because you are playing eight notes to the bar, but the tempo doesn’t really change at all.  Play the chord and the first two notes at the beginning of each measure with the thumb, then pluck the treble strings with the fingers.  The slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs add even more variety.  You could play all the D chords in the coda the same way, as a regular D, but starting at the fifth fret and working down to the regular D lends a sense of closure that would otherwise be lacking.  In the next-to-last measure, you will have to release the A chord to do the hammer-ons.  Slow down for emphasis, and hold the final D chord as long as you can.  Stunning!

Secret Prayer

To play this song in the key of D, as printed in Hymns, you will need to tune DOWN two frets.  This won’t make any difference if you are not playing with another instrument, as practically no one in your audience will be able to tell the difference.

Like many beautiful songs, it is not easy to play, even though it sounds simple. There are ten chords, and you need to use all of them, or it won’t sound right. Most of them are easy, but there are a few difficult barre chords, notably CIII and FV. There are also a few fast chord changes that need to be nailed right on, or the rhythm will suffer badly. Sorry, but there’s just no way around these problems. Just practice each bit that’s difficult for you, until you can get it right. There is no substitute for practice. If I haven’t scared you off yet, the rest of the song is a piece of cake.

There’s no introduction.  Just start right in playing.  You don’t have to use the hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, but they add a lot to the song, and are not hard. If you nail the first one, you’ll be ahead of the audience throughout the song, and everyone will think you’re wonderful. Cadd5 is just a regular C chord, with the left pinkie adding the G on the 1st string. The odd chord name means you’re playing a regular C major chord, but adding the fifth note in the C scale, which is G.  (C-D-E-F-G)  The only hard part in the first line comes right at the end. Catch the C note on the 3rd string by flattening the left pinkie, then lifting it immediately, to clear the 2nd string so you can play the D.  Go right on to the next measure without pausing or emphasizing how tough this is in any way, or it’ll sound phony.

The second line has good news and bad news. The good news is that you don’t have to actually play the FI, only the #1 and #6 strings, and you’ve got plenty of time to move your hand up the neck of the guitar, as the notes are all quarter-notes.  The bad news is, you DO have to play the FV, and you have to hit the chord with all the strings at once. This can be tough, especially if you are used to laying your fingers down one at a time. If that’s the case, now is the time to start practicing getting the whole chord at once. This is a very hard one to do that way, but the reward is that you end up learning twelve new chords at once (ten if your guitar is a classical style), as you can play this chord shape on any fret. For this reason, it’s really important in many different kinds of music, including Latin, Jazz, Hawaiian, and Blues, Country, and Rock.

Play the last measure with the thumb, as a slow strum. Continue this pattern through most of the Chorus. Do the slide in the first measure with your pinkie, but use the ring finger on the second string in the third measure. You can then just flatten the ring finger to catch the G note on the 1st string, without actually changing to the GIII chord. Makes the following pull-off much easier, too. You may be tempted to use the pinkie instead of the ring finger. It seems more natural to me, too, but it makes the pull-off almost impossible.

In the next line, the C/G chord is just a C chord with a G bass. Hit the bass note with the pinkie. No sweat. Then, you’ve got another of those pesky FV chords again, strummed this time. Notice how the chord shape makes the melody line seem to rise? That’s why this shape is so important to so many kinds of music. 

The last line is relatively simple. The CVIII is just a barred E, played exactly like the FI or GIII, except that the barre is in the VIII fret. This chord shape is actually easier to play up high, where the frets are closer together. You may have trouble with the tremolo, if you try to do it with the barring index finger. The trick is to rock your hand, lifting ALL the fingers up off of the other strings, leaving ONLY the index finger touching the #1 string. Then, you should be able to do a slow tremolo by moving the whole hand back-and-forth along the length of the neck. The notes and lyrics given in light face type are in case you want to include the second verse. Leave them out when you play the Chorus for the final time.

All the chords in the second verse are strummed. They are the same chords as in the first verse, but may need to be treated differently, as you always have to play the whole chord. In some ways, the second verse is easier, as all of those strummed chords are actually quarter-notes, which makes the second verse sound slower, though the tempo does not actually change at all!

You can also vary the sound of the verses by playing the chords of the second verse as pinches, instead of strums, by repeating the first verse as a finale, or by combining strums, pinches, and the finger-picking style of the first verse. This song is in the public domain.

Heark, All Ye Nations

This song is in the public domain, which is good, as it’s a sprightly song that’s fun to play.  The tempo is fast, the chord changes are fast, and there are a few interesting chords, but none that are especially difficult for intermediate guitarists who can cope with normal barre chords.  There are a few minor challenges, though.

The first occurs right in the very first measure.  The ligado --2__0-- on the third string is nearly impossible to do well, if you do it as a normal pull-off.  But it’s easy if you treat it as a “push-off” instead. Push the string toward you and away from the fretboard, plucking the string with the back of the fingertip, instead of the front edge, as in a normal pull-off.  This is still called a pull-off, but the motion is the exact opposite to what you’re used to.  It may seem odd at first, but is much easier and faster than pulling, at least in this circumstance.  Other pull-offs and hammer-ons are done normally.

The first measure of the fourth line also has a few tricky spots.  If you leave the left hand fingers in the C chord shape, and just fret the D on the 2nd string with the pinky, you are actually forming a C9 chord, so there’s no reason to change your hand position.  For this reason, I have shown the index finger position in the chord chart for C9 in lightface type.  It’s not actually part of the chord, but there’s no reason to remove it.  Hit the A on the 3rd string by flattening the middle finger while releasing all the other fingers, preparatory to moving the hand up to the III position for the GIII chord.

Play the G6III in the next measure by moving the pinky from the 4th string to the 2nd string.  This is really easy, because it’s still in the same fret.  Hold the other notes of the chord while doing the pull-off that converts it back to GIII.  Technically, it’s really a G7III, but since you’re not playing the F on the 4th string, but only letting it ring, the difference is academic.

Hit the C note on the 3rd string by flattening the ring finger.  Hit the A note on the same string by moving the barring index finger to the II position.  From here, it’s just about as easy to slide up the neck to the III position and play a CIII, as it is to continue down the neck and play the C/G as written.  I like the sound of the C/G better, so I have called it out in the tab, but you can play it either way, as all the notes of the two chords are identical.  Just the order is different. 

C/G = G-C-E-G-C-E

The first measure on the second page contains another one of those “push-offs” again, exactly like the first measure of the song.  The next measure shows an FI chord, though it’s actually a continuation of the C chord from the previous measure.  But the last chord of the measure is an FI.  Since only the 2nd and 5th strings are being played at the beginning of the measure, and the notes are the same in FI as in C, there’s no reason not to make the change at the beginning of the measure, where you have more time to do it.

In the next-to-last measure of the line, you may have trouble with the double hammer-on:
--0__1__3--.  If you cannot do both, just do whichever is easier for you, or sounds better to you.

Play as many or as few verses as you like, then substitute the last two measures as shown.  Each triplet takes the same time as a single count of the other measures, so practice until you can get them very fast.  Do the quick changes between the GIII and the CIII by flattening the pinky across the strings briefly, then "unflattening" it.  Then slide quickly up the neck to the VIII fret for the final riff.  Sometimes I strum the entire CVIII chord instead of playing the final note, for a fuller sound.

Amazing Grace

Unusually for this blog, this song is meant to accompany a vocalist, at least in the second and third verses.  Words are provided for the first verse, for reference only, because the pattern picks can be confusing, but DO NOT SING THEM.  For those who may not be familiar with pattern-picking, I have provided detailed, line-by-line instructions.
The first time through is just an  instrumental introduction.  Play it simply, to state the melody, without a lot of expression.  In the seventh measure, there’s a slightly tricky slide that needs to be done with the pinky. Slide very fast, from the third fret clear up to the ninth.  Don’t hold that note at all, but drop it immediately and return to the third fret, to play the Gadd5 chord, fretting the extra note with the ring finger..  If you are OK with barre chords, you can substitute a GIII  for the Gadd5, which makes for an easier chord change.  But the barre chord isn’t necessary, as Gadd5 actually sounds better here.

The hammer-on/pull-off in the tenth measure is not hard to do if you release the chord first.  The rest of the introduction is straghtforward.  Remember to count out the timing, so you know where each note starts. 

Verse 1 is NOT sung, but is pattern-picked.  The pattern refers to the pattern in which the fingers of the right hand pick the strings, not the specific strings picked, or the acutal notes played.  The verse contains the same 3-/-9 slide as the first verse, played the same way. There is also a tremolo to hold the G note in the next measure. Do this tremolo by moving the “a” finger (left hand) ACROSS the string, rather than ALONG the string, as usual. Most guitarists find this easiest to accomplish by holding the finger rigid and vibrating the whole hand.

Verse 2 is meant to accompany the first SUNG verse. Play the whole verse with the right hand THUMB, not the fingers.  Use a slow, even tempo, and don’t try to fancy it up. You want to back up the singer or singers, not distract the audience from them. There are LOTS of verses to Amazing Grace. Repeat this instrumental accompaniment through as many as you like, but switch to Verse 3 for the last sung verse.

Verse 3 is almost identical to Verse 1, but play it softly, behind the singer(s).  Then reprise the instrumental solo of the Introduction, ending with the last two measures as shown.


The chords in this song are easier to play than many of my other arrangements, as there are NO barre chords required!  Even the three “advanced” chords called out in the tab are not especially hard, being only slight variations of the basic C - F -  G

Cadd5 is just a regular C chord, with the G note added on the first string with the little finger of the left hand.  It is actually just a C chord, but the G note (the fifth note of the scale) is emphasized because it is the highest note played.

F/C is read as “F with a C bass.”  Add the “extra” note on the fifth string with the little finger. This emphasizes the C note by making it the lowest note of the chord, a position normally reserved for the note that gives the chord its name (the “tonic” note).

Gadd5 is the only one of the three “advanced” chords that requires more than merely adding a note, though that is the effect.  Play it like a regular G, but place the “a” finger (the ring finger) on the 2nd string, and the little finger on the 1st string.  It’s called the “a” finger from“anulario, the Spanish word for ring.  Most classical guitar terms come from Spanish, for example: “p” is for pulgar, Spanish for  thumb.  Also, “i” is for indicio (index or pointer), and “m” for medio (middle).  Classical guitarists do not normally use the little finger of the left hand, which is a good thing, as it is either called muňeca (for wrist, which it is closest to) or pequeňo (little).


There are two basic pattern picks in the second verse.  Pattern A is 4-1-2-3-4-3.  If you are not used to pattern-picking, the thumb of the RIGHT hand is called the #1 finger, the index finger is the #2 finger, etc.  In the last half of the first line, the pattern changes to Pattern B:  4-1-2-1-3-1, slightly modified to  3-1-2-1-3-1 in the last measure. 

The second line returns to Pattern A, but slightly modified in the second measure by the 3 - / - 9 slide.  Play the third measure as a slow strum with the thumb.  Use tremolo to hold the G note on the first string if you have to.

The third line starts with a modified version of Pattern A, then a return to Pattern B in the second measure, Pattern A in the third measure, and a modified Pattern B in the last measure, with the hammer-on at the end of the line leading into  the patterns of the fourth line.

The fourth line of this instrumental verse consists of measures of Pattern A, followed by a slow thumb strum, exactly as in the second verse.  The singer needs to start singing at the very end of the last measure of this verse, with the first syllable of the word, “A-maz-ing”,


Although many people associate this song with Scotland and the bagpipes, or think it is a Negro Spiritual, neither is true. The lyrics were written by an Englishman, and the music was composed by two Americans, who combined a couple of popular church tunes of the day.  So far as anyone knows, it was not performed on the bagpipes until the 1970s, though it is now perhaps the most-requested of bagpipe tunes.

The lyrics were originally a poem written by English clergyman John Newton, to express repentence for his former life of slave-trading, rapine, drunkenness, atheism, and profanity so constant and foul as to embarass even his sailors-- a rowdy lot, it’s true.  It was first published in England in 1779, and remained obscure there for more than 50 years. In America, though, it was well-received, and sung to more than 20 different tunes, none of them the one we know today.

In 1829, two Americans, Charles H. Spilman and Benjamin Shaw, joined a couple of folk tunes called “Gallaher” and “St. Mary” to create a tune they called “New Brittain.”  Six years later, an American Baptist song leader, William Walker, assigned the tune to Newton’s lyrics, creating a combination that is performed about ten million times every year.  It has been recorded thousands of times. Judy Collins’ hit a cappella version topped the charts for 15 weeks in 1970. Two years later, it was recorded by The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the first bagpipe arrangement ever known.

How to contact me

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How to tab your own hymns (humor?)

From time to time, readers ask me how they can tab-out a hymn themselves. Here's the answer.

How to Tab-out a Hymn Yourself

If a hymn you want to play is not on this blog, or you don’t like the way I’ve done it, and you can’t find it on another site, you can tab it out yourself. Here’s how, in ten easy steps:

1. Find the song in a hymn book or sheet music. If it’s an LDS hymn from Hymns, or from The Children’s Songbook, you can print the sheet music for free from / menu / study / music / music / hymns. Type the name or number of the desired hymn in the Search field. Click on the hymn name. If the hymn is not on the Church website, you’ll have to find it in another hymnal, or purchase sheet music. If it’s a popular hymn, the sheet music may be available for free online, but if it’s that popular, it has probably already been tabbed by someone else. Keep looking.

2. Play the melody from the sheet music or book. The melody is usually in the soprano line. (That’s the top line.) If you cannot read sheet music, take a course in Classical Guitar. If you live in the greater Salt Lake City metro area, you can take lessons from me, if I have a slot open. I charge $25 per half-hour lesson for Classical Guitar lessons, which is about average for Classical lessons. Be prepared to devote at least a year.

3. Transpose the melody if needed. If the melody is not easy to play on the guitar, you may need to transpose the song into another key. will do this for you. Use the key selector from the menu bar at the left of the sheet music. There are twelve keys. Try them all, and select the one that sounds the best to you. If the song is not on the Church’s website, you will have to transpose the song yourself. If you do not know how to do this, take a course in music theory from the music department of a nearby college or university. College and university tuition ranges from $300 to $500 per course. You can sometimes audit the course (take the course for no academic credit) for a lower fee, especially if you are a senior citizen.

4. Play the music, using the music player at the top of the menu bar. It may sound lousy in the new key. That’s because the Church’s music is designed to be sung, and most singers’ voices do not have as great a range as the guitar (with a few, notable exceptions). About half the time, the interactive transposer will transpose down, when you want it to go up. Don’t worry too much about this; you can always raise the pitch of the guitar by clamping a capo around the neck. (Clamping a capo around the neck of a singer does not usually work. In fact, merely trying it could get you in a lot of trouble.)

5. Try playing the chords. does not show the chord names, so you will have to read the music. (See step 2). You may have to select a different key if the chords are not easy to play. (See step 3). You can probably eliminate the keys of B and F, and any key that has a # (sharp) or b (flat) in it, as they all require the use of barre chords. If you want to learn barre chords, so you can play in more than five of the twelve keys, you will need to take lessons. Normally, Beginning and Intermediate guitar lessons cost $15 per half-hour. And up. I have a few slots open. Guitar classes are usually cheaper than individual lessons, where available, but may not offer what you want to learn, and are usually charged by the month. In advance.

6. Play the hymn as written in your transposed sheet music. (See steps 2, 3, and 5.) Add pinches, strums, arpeggios, and pattern picks of various sorts. Use ligados (hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides) to bring out the melody. Use tremolos to hold a note, and harmonics to emphasize special notes. Mix and match. If you do not know how to do all of these things, take guitar lessons. (See step 5.)

7. Practice the hymn until you can play it fluently. This can take somewhere between a few hours to a few months, depending on the song. The simplest-sounding songs may not be the easiest to play. For example, I Am a Child of God is one of the hardest songs I know. Often, the most beautiful songs are extremely hard, such as Til There Was You, the love song from The Music Man, which took me a year to learn, practicing five times every day. Once you can play the hymn fluently, you are ready to actually begin writing the tab.

8. Prepare a blank tab by typing six lines of hyphens. Use an equal-spaced font like Courier, where all letters and numbers are the same size, or nothing will line up correctly. I use Courier New, 10 point, bold face, which looks like this. If you are going to include lyrics, type them beneath the tab, so you will know where to place the notes.

If the lyrics are copyrighted, YOU MUST SECURE PERMISSION TO PUBLISH THEM from the copyright owner. Internet publishing counts as "publishing" under the law. You can request permission to use lyrics owned by the Church by contacting the Church music department. Expect a reply in six to eight weeks. Other copyright owners may be harder to reach, and may demand large fees. Permission is essential to avoid HUGE COURT JUDGEMENTS for copyright violation. Appellate courts have sustained judgements against ordinary folks for as much as ten million dollars. (No joke!!! It happened to a college student blogger.) [FLASH: Last week a U.S. court ruled they do NOT have to warn you before suing you, and it doesn't matter whether you are taking money, or even if you didn't know it was copyrighted.] Court judgements cannot be released in bankruptcy. TEN MILLION DOLLARS. Think about that.

9. Fill in the tab. Type each note above the correct syllable of the appropriate word. Leave at least one hyphen between notes. Open notes on a string are shown with a zero, others by the number of the fret where they are fretted. Show hammer-ons and pull-offs by typing an h or p in front of the note, or by connecting the notes with an underscore. Show slides with an s or a slash, harmonics with an exclamation point at the left of the note. (In front of the note, if you don’t know your left from your right.) Place the notes of a chord in a vertical line. For a pinched chord, leave it at that. For a strummed chord, place a wiggly line at the left of the notes. A wiggly line can be approximated by typing a stack of alternating forward and backward slashes. Type the names of chords above the tab, where each chord change occurs. Use a vertical stack of vertical line symbols (SHIFT + \) for measure bars. Many tab writers leave out the measure bars altogether. Add counting numbers, time signatures, and instructions as desired. It’s a good idea to leave some space between lines of music, by hitting the ENTER key a couple of times, for visual separation.

10. Play the tab, reading from the computer screen. Correct any errors. Print the tab out and play it again from the printed sheet. Errors are often easier to spot on a printed sheet, for some reason. Correct the errors again and reprint, repeating this step again and again, as needed. When you can play the tab through two or three times from the printed sheet, without spotting any new errors, save the file, and forget it for a while. Don't play the hymn. Work on other projects. After a couple of months, when you can no longer remember exactly how it goes, dig out the tab and check it again for errors. If there are none, congratulations-- you’re ready to start your own tablature blog!

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

Depending on how you count, this song only has TWO CHORDS!  Well, actually, you can't really substitute a regular A chord for the Av chords, so there really are three.  Then, there's actually a couple of D chords buried in the pattern pick, but while you may hear them, you won't actually have to change your hand position to play them.  So, somewhere  between two and four chords.  Anyway, it's an EASY, but beautiful piece, if you are not bothered by the barre chord or by playing pattern picks.  I actually find pattern picks easier to play than open fingerstyle, but not everyone agrees with me on this.

The pattern starts out with a fourth finger (ring finger) lead.  In 6/8 time, the beat is:
/ ONE two three four FIVE six / ONE two three four FIVE six /. (That's two measures.)  ALL the notes are eighth-notes.  In most of the measures, each string is plucked by a different finger,  which makes the picking dead easy.  You can play the arpeggios with a flat pick, or a thumb pick if you want.  Thumb-picking the bass runs will give them a more ligado feel, which adds variety to the sounds of the notes, at the price of adding a bit of complexity to the pattern pick.  Do it whichever way works best or sounds best for you.

The only technically difficult part of the song comes in the third measure of the third line, where you have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your little finger to reach the Ab at the 9th fret on the 2nd string.  An alternative way to play this note is to quickly slide the barring finger one fret toward the nut (4th fret), hit the note, then slide back to the 5th fret.  If you don't have long fingers, and you can slide your whole left hand quickly, without making horrible string noises, this may be a better option.  I've practiced it both ways, and it's about equal for me, but then, I have really short fingers.

There are several measures where you have to hit melody notes that are not part of the normal fingering for the chord, such as in the first line, third measure.  Use the little finger of the left hand to fret these notes, leaving the rest of the hand holding the chord normally.  This will minimize the number of chord changes needed, simplifying the fingering without detracting at all from the pattern.

A word about that pesky barre chord.  Learning this song is one of the easiest ways you'll ever find to learn barre chords.  Barre chords are easier to play high up on the neck, as the frets are closer together.  In this song, there are no fast chord changes, and each chord is held for at least two measures.  And the barred E chord position is almost universally acknowledged as the easiest one to learn.  It just doesn't get any easier than that!

This hymn is in the public domain.

In Humility, Our Savior

So, why did it take so long for me to get around to tabbing a Sacrament song?  Well, if you think about it, Sacrament hymns are meant to be sung by the congregation, while the Sacrament is being prepared.  They aren’t often appropriate for an instrumental solo.  This one is just too pretty to pass up, though.  And it’s EASY.

Basically, it’s only three of the first chords any beginning guitarist learns: A, E and D, plus a couple of simple variations on the E chord.  In fact, the E5 “Power Chord” is the easiest chord possible:  only two strings are played, an they are both played OPEN.  The E7 chord is a little harder, requiring you to play the E chord and add your little finger on the 2nd string, III space.  Don’t try to “cheat” by using the easier, two-finger version of E7; the melody won’t come out right.

The only other chord is the optional, final barre chord (Av).  It’s printed in light face type, to show that it is optional.  Only the high A note on the first string is truly necessary, but if you play only the single note instead of the barre chord, it would be well to play it as a tremolo.

You will probably notice right away that the song begins in 3/4 time, but switches to 6/8 after the first line.  Actually, the whole song is in 3/4 time, but the counting gets confusing, so I wanted to re-cast it as 6/8.  But then, the counting in the first line gets confusing, hence the switch.  Since eighth notes are exactly half as long as quarter-notes, the tempo comes out the same.

The slow strums in the fourth and fifth lines can be performed in either of two ways.  You can either strum them normally with your thumb, taking two eighth-notes time to do so, or you can substitute a flamenco strum with the fingers, taking the same time.  If you do this, be careful to make the flamenco strum no louder than the rest of the measure.  The last three strums of the measure (up, down, up) can be strummed with either the thumb or the fingers, slightly accenting the down strum: 1-2-3-4-5-6.  If you opt for the slow strum instead of the flamenco strum, it’s easier to use the fingers for the up-down-up.  Otherwise, it’s usually easier to use the thumb.

The only difficult part of the song is the run of ligados (hammer-ons and pull-offs) at the end of the next-to-last line.  If you use the E5 chord, you can pluck the two open strings while repositioning the left hand for the hammer-ons.  In this way, you can use the strongest fingers of the left hand for the ligados.  It may still  take some practice to get it right.

One way to make the song easier is to minimize the “finger dancing” needed to hit the A notes (third string, II space) while playing an E chord.  Briefly flattening the middle finger of the left hand, so it frets the A will do it.  You can even use this trick to quickly switch between E and A chords-- sometimes.  It’s hard to do if you need the open 1st string to ring, as the flattened middle finger can damp the 1st string, producing unpleasant sounds, or no sound at all.  It works a lot better if you can bend the left fingers backwards, a little.  I can’t, so I’ve had to learn to change chords fast.  Fortunately, the E - A - E changes are among the easiest there are.

The Spirit of God

This song sounds good on just about any kind of guitar, but face it: you're not going to sound like the Tabernacle Choir, no matter how big your amp is.  They have 330 voices, and you only have six strings-- maybe twelve.  But you can still play it so it sounds really good, even "spirited." (Pun intentional).

There are only six chords in this song, but if that's too many, you can easily substitute a regular C chord for the C/G at the end, and no one but you will know.  I just think the sound of the G bass on the final chord resolves better, but it's really just a matter of preference.  Don't substitute a regualr G for the Gadd5 chords, though.  They are necessary to carry the melody, and besides, they are even easier to play than a regular G.  Just play like a regular G, but with the ring finger on the second string instead of the first string, and mute (or avoid) the first string.  Easy, huh?

Sorry, but you're going to have to play those pesky barre chords for this one.  I tried to avoid them, but the melody just doesn't sound right without them.  And they do make the song easier to play.

The tempo is a bit difficult to count, but if you know the song, you'll know the right tempo anyway.  I've included counting numbers, for those few who may not be familiar, or who just aren't sure of themselves.  If it seems wrong to you, go with the tempo you feel is right.  That's musicianship.

God Be With You Til We Meet Again

The first part of the song can be strummed with the thumb, or even flat-picked, if you like.  Most of the chords are easy, but you're going to have to play the full barre G7III anyway, so you might as well play the F with a full barre too.  If you try to substitute a regular G7, the melody will seem to go down when it's supposed to go up.  If you're only strumming accompaniment, that may be OK, but it's no good for a solo.

The second part of the song is the chorus, and is played very differently, with lots of single notes, and a few ligados, but I've tried to keep it pretty simple.  There are a few "extra" notes, which are mostly inserted to help with the timing, and for emphasis.

This tab is pretty basic, to give you an idea how the melody and supporting chord structure go.  You can easily fancy it up yourself, adding pinches, hammer-ons, etc. wherever it sounds good to you.  I never play it the same way twice.

Of it's composition history, the lyricist, Jeremiah E. Rankin wrote:
Written…as a Christian good-bye, it was called forth by no per­son or oc­ca­sion, but was de­lib­er­ate­ly com­posed as a Christ­ian hymn on the ba­sis of the ety­mol­o­gy of “good-bye,” which is “God be with you.” The first stan­za was writ­ten and sent to two com­pos­ers—one of un­u­su­al note, the other whol­ly un­known and not tho­rough­ly ed­u­cat­ed in mu­sic. I se­lect­ed the com­po­si­tion of the lat­ter, sub­mit­ted it to J. W. Bischoff—the mu­sic­al di­rect­or of a lit­tle book we were pre­par­ing—who ap­proved of it, but made some cri­ti­cisms, which were adopt­ed. It was sung for the first time one ev­en­ing in the First Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church in Wash­ing­ton, of which I was then the pas­tor and Mr. Bis­choff the org­an­ist. I at­trib­ut­ed its pop­u­lar­i­ty in no lit­tle part to the mu­sic to which it was set. It was a wed­ding of words and mu­sic, at which it was my func­tion to pre­side; but Mr. To­mer [William G. Tomer, the composer] should have his full share of the fam­i­ly hon­or.

This song was first published in 1880, and has since been translated into just about any language you could wish, including Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic.  It's the only religious song I know of that's sung by Christians, Muslims and Jews, making it one of a handful of songs with universal appeal.

New blog name

As Elder Boyd K. Packer pointed out in General Conference, "Mormons" is what others call us, referring to our belief in The Book of Mormon.  But that is incorrect. Our correct name is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and church members are correctly addressed as Latter-Day Saints.  If we don't get it right, we certainly can't expect others to.  So, in the spirit of emphasizing the central role of the Savior in my life, I have retitled this blog.  I hope this doesn't confuse anyone.

A wonderful tribute -- "I Get Lifted Up"

An old college friend, Carolyn Wing Greenlee, has posted a wonderful tribute to her deceased friend Jim. Carolyn is a blind musician, songwriter, author, publisher and producer.  Her friend Jim was a great guitarist and Christian songwriter.  Carolyn has posted a touching and sensitive post about his death and how it taught her the meaning of the Redemption of Christ, together with one of her favorite tracks of Jim's music, "I Get Lifted Up."  I hadn't heard it before, but it's worth listening to.  I told Carolyn I would post a link on my blog HERE.  The track is at the end of her blog post, so you'll have to scroll to the end to find it, but it's worth it.  Not LDS, but definitely Christian.

I don't often post links to other people's blogs, especially if they are not related to LDS music.  This one is exceptional.  I hope you like it.

Just As I Am

This traditional Protestant hymn is in the public domain.  Sorry, but it needs to be in the key of F to make the melody come out right on the guitar.  You can transpose it to another key, if a vocalist or another instrument is going to carry the melody.  A violin works very well for this. 

The song itself is rather simple, except for the fact that you need to play the full barre F and the full barre Bb.  You could play a regular F, but there's just no way to play Bb without barring.  For this reason, and because it contains slides and pull-offs, I classify it as "Intermediate", though it's simpler than a lot of beginner songs in other ways.

Played very slowly, with lots of feeling, it's a lovely song, and I especially like the lyrics. For a truly moving version by vocalist Brian Doerksen, over a guitar/organ duet, accmpanying an Easter video, click HERE.

There are at least two versions of how the lyrics came to be written.  Both agree they were written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835.  One version has her writing the song immediately after a conversion experience, the other as a sort of journal entry recording her thoughts in a time of trouble. 

Billy Graham claimed he was converted to Christ after hearing this song.  He used it so extensively in his campaigns that many Christians think he wrote it!  Many other evangelical ministries of various Protestant churches have also found it apt.  I associate it with the Baptists, because I first encountered it in an independent Baptist church.

An Angel from on High, easier and better

There are a few transitions in this version that may require a bit of practice for smoothness, but not as many as you might think. That’s one reason I tabbed it in C, instead of the key of G, as it’s written in Hymns. The other reason is that I have tendinitis, which makes my left hand lock up when I play in G. I got it from years of twisting my left wrist so I could see what my left hand was doing. If your guitar teacher tells you not to look at your left hand, there’s a reason!
The (slightly) hard transitions are in the fourth measure of the first line and the third measure of the last line, where you have to go rapidly from a barred GIII chord to an F note on the first string. All you really have to do is slide the left hand down to the F, but you’ll want to lift your fingers from all the strings during the slide, to avoid sliding noises. You may also find the pull-off in the third measure of the second line difficult. The trick is to leave all the fingers in place except the barring finger, then use that finger to do the pull-off.  This is actually the easiest way to make the change, at least for me.

The second and fourth measures of the third line require you to play the CIII as a barred-A, a barre chord that gives lots of people problems.  This could be done in other ways, but none lends itself to the quick series of rapid chord changes required so well as the barred C, F, and G progression. If you have trouble with barred-A chords, you may be exerting more pressure with the left hand than the chord really needs. Done properly, this type of chord is not really hard to play at all, but the finger placement has to be exact, using good technique, with the fingers arched, and only the tips contacting the strings. Many beginners try to muscle this chord instead of learning it right, then wonder why it seems so hard.

A word about the tempo.  Switching from 6/8 to 4/4 does more than change the count. The speed of the music also increases dramatically. If you are playing more than one verse, you can play the second part in 8/8 instead of 4/4, which will make the last two lines slow and lyrical instead of quick and bright. You might also consider strumming more of the chords instead of pinching them, as shown in the tab.  The bright sound of the pinches sounds really good played near the bridge, giving the piece a real “guitar” sound, especially when played a bit faster than is normal when accompanying singers.

This song is intermediate level, and is in the public domain.