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.
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