The name of the tune used for this hymn is “Italian Hymn.” It was composed in 1869 by the Italian composer Felice de Giardini (1716–1796), who was living in England at the time. First published that same year, the tune has been included in LDS hymnals since the 1840 edition of A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe. There were originally five verses, but only three were used in the Collection of Sacred Hymns. The selection was made by Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor. The lyrics and music are now in the public domain.
The original tune was written in F, but I have transposed it to A, to make it easier to play on the guitar. I have also slowed the tempo a bit. For the first two verses, it wouldn’t matter if you played it faster, but the third verse is nearly all triplets. If you like playing that fast, so be it, but I prefer to play a bit slower. Don’t make the mistake of playing the first two verses fast, then slowing down for the triplets. There is no way to disguise the fact that you are doing just that. Instead of thinking you are awesome, the congregation will just think you are an amateur. Far better to play the whole thing at an even tempo, even if it’s a bit slow.
In the second measure, use your pinkie to make the pull-off. You may feel more comfortable doing this as a “push-off” instead. Either way, keep the tempo steady. A steady tempo allows the melody notes to stand out.
Do the mordant in the fifth measure in the same tempo, by strumming the D chord normally (except for the 1st string), then quickly sliding the whole chord up and down two frets, without striking the strings in the middle of the mordant. Play the C# on the 2nd string, 2nd space normally, then strum the E chord. If you do this all without breaking rhythm, you will have the audience eating out of your hand for the rest of the song.
The AV chord at the beginning of the second line is just an E-shape barred at the 5th fret. It sets up the descending pinches. You can use either the index and middle fingers of the right hand, or the middle and ring fingers, for all three pinches. Use the left pinkie to fret the additional notes on the 2nd string in the third measure, and again in the fifth measure.
In the second measure of the third line, the second and third notes are actually part of the strum that begins with the first count, but the strum is slowed way down, so they sound separate notes. The pull-off in the next measure is easy to do, if you lift the ring finger from the 2nd string and use it to do the pull-off.
You can, if you wish, play the third verse the same way, if you are a beginner, or if you just don’t like adding triplets to “fancy up” the sound. A simple tune can be highly effective, and very spiritual. If you would like to add some variety, use the triplets version for the final verse. This may not actually be the third verse. The original song had five, but since this is an instrumental solo, and no one is going to be singing anyway, you can play as many verses as you like.
A triplet consists of three notes, played as a quarter-note, and taking a count of ONE beat. The first note of the triplet is accented. Some musicians actually count, “ONE-and-a, TWO-and-a, THREE-and-a.” I find the extra counting more trouble than it’s worth, so I have stuck with the basic, “ONE, two, three”. To make it more obvious where the triplets end, I have left extra spaces between the last note each triplet and the first note of the following one.
Nearly all of the triplets begin with either the ring finger or the middle finger of the right hand. If you are not used to treble string leads, you may want to practice until you get the hang of it. Treble leads are not any harder than bass string leads, but if you are used to playing the bass string first, your right hand may not want to co-operate. Pay particular attention to the notes on the 2nd string. Most of the melody notes in this part of the song occur on this string. If something doesn’t sound right, check to make sure you’re playing the tab exactly as written, especially on the 2nd string. The triplets stop after the first measure of the last line, switching instead to a straight 3/4 time for just one measure. Then switch back to triplets for the 3rd measure.
Play the third measure of the last line off an AV chord, using whichever right-hand fingers you find easiest. You could play the same notes off a standard A chord, just by shifting the right hand one string towards the treble side of the neck, at the cost of an extremely fast transition to the final, strummed AV. It is much easier to make the change after the second measure, where you have an extra 1/8 note to move your left hand to the V space, while playing the open E string. You may wish to gradually slow down during the last measure of triplets, to clue the audience that the end is coming.
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