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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.