Another favorite from the pen of pioneer apostle Parley P. Pratt, who also wrote the lyrics to “The Morning Breaks”, “An Angel from On High”, and “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth”, as well as several other popular LDS hymns, Most were written as poems while traveling to England for one of his many missions. The date and specific provenance of “Come, O Thou King of Kings” are unknown, but Elder Pratt wrote all of these hymns as poems, and is not responsible for the tunes of any of the above, just the lyrics.
This is an easy song to play on the guitar. I include two versions: one for beginning to intermediate guitarists, and another, even simpler, for absolute beginners. The simplified version contains only four chords: C, G, G7, and a three-string version of F with no notes on the 1st string, thus avoiding any need to barre. It does contain hammer-ons and pull-offs, but they are easy ones, making this arrangement a good one for learning those techniques.
As simple as this version is, it contains the full melody, in both parts, as well as a few strummed chords for rhythm. There is no finger-picking or pattern-picking. It could also be flat-picked.
The more difficult version contains barre chords and a few alternate voicings. It also contains slightly more complex riffs, a bent note, and a final verse featuring a pattern-picked fill. The chord changes are a bit harder, but any intermediate guitarist should have no trouble with this tab. Only the final measure on the first page is at all unusual; it includes a slow-strummed FI chord that takes up two beats. Both versions are so easy that no specific instructions should be needed by any but a true beginner.
For true beginners
1. Please use the Simplified version until you can play it well, then advance to the more complex version. It will be much easier to learn that way.
2. Reading the tab: each line of the tab represents one string of the guitar; the numbers show which fret needs to be fretted with the left hand. Right hand fingering is not shown. Generally, the two bass strings (E and A) are played with the thumb; the D-string is played with the index finger, the G-string with the middle finger, the B-string with the ring finger, and the e-string with the pinkie. Chords are shown by placing two or more notes in line vertically. A wiggly vertical line to the left of the chord means to strum it with the right thumb. For convenience, I have placed the name of the chord above the place where you need to change your left hand position, even if you don’t actually strum the chord until later. Hold the hand position until a different chord is called for.
3. Ligados: underscores between two notes indicate you are to hammer-on or pull-off from the first note to play the second. For example, in the second measure, you twice have to pull-off a note that is fretted in the first fret. Play the first note in the first fret normally, then pluck the string with the fretting finger of the left hand, producing two notes in succession that sound like they are tied together. (Ligado is the Spanish word for tied.) This is called a pull-off, and produces a falling tone sequence. In the fourth measure, you have to produce two rising ligado notes. Play the note on the open string, then hammer down the tip of the index finger in the first space. This is called a hammer-on. These techniques are very common in fingerstyle guitar.
4. Melody notes: Occasionally, you will need to add a note that is not in the chord you are playing, in order to play the melody. The final two notes of the second line are such. In general, you will fret melody notes in the first space with the index finger, in the second space with the middle finger, and in the third space with the ring finger. Such “finger dancing” may feel uncomfortable. After a bit of practice, it will begin to feel natural, and will keep your fingers from colliding.
5. Combining techniques: In the last line you need to combine techniques. Play the G chord normally, lift the ring finger of the left hand to play the e-string open, replace it to play the G note in the third space on the e-string, then pull it off to sound the string open. The first time you do this, it will feel weird to pull-off with your ring finger. Do it that way anyway-- it will strengthen that finger. In more advanced music, you will often use that finger for advanced techniques.
6. Counting tempo: This hymn was written in 4/4 time, but most of the notes are actually eighth-notes, not quarter-notes, so I have arranged it in 8/8 time. This simplifies counting, but remember, if you use a metronome, each tick equals two counts, or the music will drag terribly. Unlike sheet music, tablature has no way to indicate how long to hold each note. Using the counting numbers below the tab will help. The physical distance between successive notes has no meaning; it is determined by the length of the words in the lyrics. I have included the words of the first verse as a reference, so you will know where you are in the song. The repeat signs at the beginning of the first measure and the end of the last measure show that you can repeat the piece, for several verses. This is a guitar solo, not a vocal accompaniment, so only the first verse is included.
7. Chord charts are found at the end of the tab, and show the exact fingering of each chord used in the tab. Note that F is a three-note chord. The Xs indicate that you are not to play the 1st, 5th, and 6th strings, eliminating the need to barre the first two strings, which causes many beginners difficulty. If you can play the F normally, you are, of course, welcome to do so.
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