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Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

Another beautiful, easy one, and one of my favorites, though it's not very popular in English-speaking congregations.  I almost published it in Spanish, where it's called, Ama el Pastor las ovejas, as it seems to be a perennial favorite in Spanish-speaking congregations.  I didn't do that, because most of my English-speaking readers probably are not fluent in Spanish, and any Spanish-speaker who reads this blog must be bilingual anyway.  Nor am I fluent with the Latin system of chord and note names.  This song is so simple and easy, assuming you can play a few barre chords, that it would be a shame to clutter it up with chords like do/sol or la menor. (C/G or Am).  I have included the Spanish lyrics,  in italics, as an apology to my Spanish-speaking friends.

I set the metronome time signature at 92 eighth-notes per minute, NOT quarter-notes, as is more usual.  If you try to play it at 46 quarter-notes per minute, you'll know why.  It's true, 46 quarter-notes should be equal to 96 eighth-notes, but there is such a long time between beats that it's impossible to follow.  I could have cut each measure in half and made quarter-notes of them, which is musically correct, but looks way too busy, and it would push the ends of the second phrase onto the next line.  You can't have everything, so I opted for ease of playing.

The chords called out in the tab are often just to position the left-hand fingers.  If you try to strum the song as a sing-along, you'll find there are chords missing, and others in the wrong place.  Only strum the chords when a strum is indicated.

There's a pattern to the song.  The first measure of each line is a strummed chord, followed by a little melody.  The second measure is two strummed chords, held for three beats each.  (Sometimes, it's easier to make the second chord a single note.)  The third measure is similar to the first, and the fourth measure is a single strum, held for all six counts.  The only exception is in the fifth line, where there are three grace notes constituting a a bass run down the strings.  I might have left it out, but it's in the original music as composed by William James Kirkpatrick, and I wanted to stick as closely to the original score as I could.  Besides, it's a nice touch.

This is one of the most straightforward tabs you’ll find on this blog.  There are practically no instructions needed.  Strum the chords where indicated.  All other notes are to be plucked or pinched.  You could play the whole piece with a flat-pick without any changes.

All notes on the second string (the B string) at or above the IV fret should be fretted with the left pinkie.  If your pinkie isn’t up to it-- practice!  You’ll be glad you did, as it’s just not convenient to play these notes any other way, and it’s easy to fret them with the pinkie, once your pinkie is strong enough.

You don’t have to play all (or any) of the pull-offs as pull-offs.  You may find it easier to pluck them with the right fingers or pick them individually, but I think the ligado effect of the pull-off adds a nice touch, and is really easy to do.

Nearly all the chords are played as full, five- or six-string chords, except where the tab calls out a “short” chord to emphasize the melody.  Even in these, “short” chords, it’s easiest to fret the full chord with the left hand, but only strum the strings indicated with the right hand or pick.  One way to accomplish this easily is to stop the strum after playing the last string, allowing the thumb or ball of the hand to rest on the strings NOT played, damping them in case of accidental contact.

Easy as this song looks, you may be tempted to substitute easy, “basic” C, G, G7, and F chords for C/G, GIII, G7III, and the full-barred F.  DON’T DO IT!  Even if you’re just accompanying a singer, the music will not follow the melody, and the song will sound way over-simplified.  That’s why this is not listed as beginner level.


This is another of those simple little tunes that are SO HARD to play!  The big problem, for most, will be the extensive use of barre chords, especially in the barred A-form and the barred C-form.  These forms often give troubles to those who are not completely comfortable with barring.  I have tried to keep this song as playable as possible, while staying true to the music.  You’ll know how well I did when you play the song.

I generally just hate to split a measure between lines, and also dislike splitting a lligado between two measures, yet I have done both simultaneously in this piece.  My only excuse is, I couldn't find a better way to write it.  I guess the editors of Hymns couldn't either, as they did the same thing in the same place.  There are several places where you have to move fast to get from one chord to the next.  All I can suggest is, practice the transitions until you can do them fluently, then worry about how they relate to the rest of the song.

The first one comes at the end of the second measure, where you have to go from the 2nd string, 1st space, to the FV chord, which is a C-shape barred in the 5th space.  To make it easier, I’ve elected to use only the first four strings of the FV chord, so you only have to barre three strings.  Still, this may be an unfamiliar shape to you, and you have to move from the 1st position to the 5th position in a heartbeat, and nail the FV chord all at once.  Practice, practice, practice!  You need to get this down pat, as there’s a far worse transition coming in the second line.

The chord change from FV to CIII is also not easy, especially if you are not comfortable with barred A-shape chords.  CIII is one of the most common variants of this shape, so you may already be familiar with it.  I use it here for two reasons:  it enhances the melody line, and, by adding an intermediate step between the FV and the following C chord, it actually makes that transition easier.

The C - FI - GIII chord progression should be easy enough for anyone using this blog, as it is basic to better than 90% of the tabs here.  But don’t get too complacent.  The second line is harder, though I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. 

The biggest jump in the song comes right at the end of the second measure, when you have to slide all the way from 1st position to eighth position to hit the FVIII, a barred A-shape in the eighth space.  In reality, it’s no worse than hitting any other A-shape barre chord, you just have to move your hand up the neck a bit faster.  Actually, it may even be easier than the CIII you played in the first line, because the frets are closer together at the high end of the fretboard.

The change from FVIII to CVIII is actually one of the easier changes in the piece.  Just leave the barre where it is, and change from an A-shape to an E-shape.  I have elected to use the E on the open 1st string, instead of the same note on the 4th string, 10th space, which is already being fretted, because it forces you to release the barre, giving you a full quarter-note beat to move back to first position. 

The pull-off in the penultimate (next-to-last) measure has a similar function, easing the transition to GaddD.  This is actually a very easy chord to play, being based on the standard, first position G chord.  In fact, it’s even easier than a standard G chord, because your fingers don’t have to stretch as far.  Just remember not to play the 1st string, as the open E will sound discordant.

The transition to the following C/G (C, with a G bass), is very nearly a standard C chord, with the addition of the G on the bass string.  This gives the chord a fuller sound, but you can play a regular C if your hand is tired.

I like to repeat the last phrase, “O Father of my soul,” as a brief coda after the last full verse.  You can also use it as an introduction, if you wish, though I think it’s a bit too much, considering the brevity of the song.  If you do use it as a coda, I recommend playing GIII, in place of the GaddD, for it’s fuller sound, and slightly different harmony.

Copyrights to this song are held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Please respect them.  There are other verses, but since this intended as a guitar solo, you can repeat as many times (or as few) as you like.  I think this song would make a dynamite duet with a bowed instrument such as a violin or cello, but have not tried it.  If you do play it as a duet, email me and let me know how it goes.  A digital recording would be even better.