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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.

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