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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.

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