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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.

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