This is a beautiful song, and one of the most beautiful things about it is that it is much easier to play than it seems-- if you play it in the right key. The original is in Bb, which is really hard to play on the guitar, and not much better on the piano. I play it in C, which is much easier, and sounds better on the guitar, anyway. If you must have it in Bb, tune all six strings down two frets and play it as written, and it’ll come out in Bb.
You can really make people cry with this song if you play it as a duet with a violin. To do that, you must both be playing in the same key. Either tune the guitar down two frets, or the violinist will have to transpose into C. LDS.org has a transposer for this song, located HERE. Open the link, open the "Key" drop-down menu in the left-hand column,and type in, C. The ap will do the rest for you. A good violinist may be able to play it without the sheet music.
[FOR THE VIOLINIST: there are a few F chords in the piece, that are not called out in the guitar tab, as no actual chords are played, only single notes. F is considered a hard chord to play by some guitarists.]
Nearly the whole song is played from some variant of a C or G chord. Of the 22 strums in the song, 21 are either a variation of the basic C chord, or the G or G7. The other is a simple Dm. Don’t let the unusual names of these chords discourage you. They are all played as a normal C chord, with one additional note added with the little finger. There are a few transitions that can be tricky if you don’t play them right, but they are not hard if you know the trick.
It took me less than 24 hours to tab the whole song, including creating the guitar arrangement. There are no barre chords. There are a few ligados, but all can be played as straight notes if you have trouble with hammer-ons or pull-offs. Nevertheless, the piece does not sound over-simplified.
Strum the chords with the thumb, or with a flat pick. You can pick out the melody notes the same way. A flat pick makes a twangy sound, which gives the piece a bit of a “Country Gospel” feeling, while using the thumb gives a mellower, semi-classical sound.
In the first line, all of the 2nd fret notes are fretted by flattening the middle finger of the left hand, briefly, without releasing the chord. Since all but the last chord in the line are versions of C, this allows the other strings to continue ringing while the melody is picked out in individual notes-- a beautiful technique. That last chord is a G7, which is not much of a change from a C shape--a really easy transition.
Don’t try to hold the G7 throughout the second line. You’ll need to release the chord and just concentrate on picking out the melody. Remember, fret the notes in the first fret with the index finger, the second fret with the middle finger, and the third fret with the ring finger, and it’ll make the notes just naturally fall into place with very little practice.
The first two measures of the third line are identical to the corresponding measures of the first line, but the melody is different in the last two measures. You will need to fret the notes not found in the C chord with the little finger, again. The GaddD chord is played very much like a normal G, except that the ring finger goes on the second string instead of the first string, which is not played. If anything, it’s even easier to play than a normal G, because you don’t have to stretch as far.
Maintain the GaddD into the fourth line, then release it and fret the melody notes with the “proper” fingers, as in line 2. The only remotely difficult transition in the whole song comes at the end of this line, when you have to change from the A note (2nd fret, 3rd string) to the G7 chord in the space of an eighth-note. The trick is to co-ordinate the right and left hand so the note is damped by the left finger coming off the string, just an instant after the right hand plucks it. This technique, called, “finger-damping,” is used in a lot of blues guitar playing, as well as in classical guitar. It produces a short, staccato effect, but here, it is used more to get you out of the note and into the chord quickly and harmoniously, than for the sound.
The last two lines reprise the techniques of the first and third lines: hold the C-shape chords and allow the strings to ring while playing the following melody notes. There are no difficult transitions in these lines, but remember that most of the notes are actually eighth-notes. Counting numbers are provided if you are not completely familiar with the song.
When sung as a vocal piece, this hymn has three verses, but that doesn’t mean you have to play it through three times, if you don’t want to. Once, twice, or even four times may sound better to you. Since this is intended as an instrumental solo, you can also play around with the rhythm in the last two lines, holding some of the notes extra long for emphasis. I like to hold the Dm, especially the last time around, then play the last measure in half-time. That gives the chord progression a really cool sound.
About the song:
There does not seem to be a cool back-story to this hymn-- not surprising, considering that the songwriter and lyricist, Charles H. Gabriel, wrote 7000 or 8000 others. He was a professional hymn writer, who published his works under many pseudonyms. Not all those aliases are known with equal certainty, hence the uncertainty about the number of his creations. He also wrote the music to many other familiar songs, including, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” "I Stand All Amazed" is in the public domain.
COPYRIGHTS & PERMISSIONS: All arrangements and tabs in this blog are the original work of the blog owner, unless otherwise noted. They may be downloaded and copied at no charge, only for non-commercial church or home use. All other rights reserved. Ask for permissions-- I intend to be generous. Copyright information for each song is listed in its commentary. Arrangements and tabs of public domain songs are still covered by these copyright restrictions. Your cooperation is appreciated.