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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].