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Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful

Finally, after weeks of arranging, I’ve got this song right.  I wanted to get it posted well before Christmas, but it just needed more work.  Merry Christmas, anyway.

Don’t feel bad if you have trouble with the semi-pattern picking.  Most (but not all) of the melody notes are fretted with the little finger of the left hand.  Like most fingerstyle guitar, the LEFT index finger frets in the first space, the middle in the second space, and the ring finger in the third space.  Hence, the little finger is left free for fretting other notes, but sometimes this is not handy, and you have to release the chord, so you can use one of the other fingers for melody notes, hammer-ons, or slides.

I have not included all the chords that would be needed to strum the song as an accompaniment to singers.  The chords called out in the tablature are only for finger position.  Quite often, the following chord is only represented by a single melody note, or can easily be “faked” without changing the basic position of the chord being held.  In these cases, I have left out the chord symbol.  If you want to know all the chords used in this song, I recommend doing an Internet search for oh come all ye faithful/chords.  The chords shown in the chord chart at the end of the tab really only show the chord shapes used in this arrangement.

There are three verses to this song, and they are all different, with two key changes.  I’ll be playing it, as written, for my ward’s Christmas party this week.  But you need not learn all three verses.  If you can find one of the three that you like, you can simply repeat that one twice.  The first verse is almost all chords, and would go well as an accompaniment to singers, though the key of C is a bit low for most vocalists.  Verse two is in D, and may be easier for a singer, but the verse is tabbed for fingerstyle guitar.  Verse Three is in C again, AND is mostly fingerstyle.

The chords in the first two lines are all strummed, and the other notes can be played easily with the thumb, giving this verse a distinctive, soft sound. It’s also really easy to play that way.  The third line and the chorus contain a lot of pattern picks that are better done as finger-picking, (using “free strokes” for you classical guitarists).  I like to play this section and the second verse near the bridge, for a twangy, “classical” sound.  It wouldn’t hurt to use your fingernails, if you’ve got ’em.

To make finger-picking easier, remember to use your right ring finger to pluck the notes on the #1 string (high e).  Use your RIGHT middle finger to pluck notes on the #2 (B) string, and the RIGHT index finger for notes on the #3 (G) string.  The RIGHT thumb plucks the bass strings.  In the last measure before the Chorus, you’ll have to strum the two bass strings to play them both with the thumb.

The first measure of the chorus introduces a riff that sounds like it is repeated throughout the song. Though there are many similar measures throughout the song, there are no actual repetitions.  Fortunately, they are not at all hard to do, and they all sound great.

In the second line of the chorus, watch out for the glissando (slide) on the third (G) string.  Use the LEFT middle finger to make the slide.  Timing is critical, and to sound good, you must hit the tenth fret exactly, without overshooting or undershooting.  Hold that note (F) with a bit of vibrato if necessary.

In the second and third lines of the second verse, pay special attention to the tab.  The notes aren’t always what you would expect.  Sometimes they change slightly, for example from a D to a C# and back, in order to conform to the melody, even though the chord names do not change.  If something sounds wrong to you, you may be missing a slight change in the notes shown in the tab.

There’s another glissando in the second line of the second chorus.  Again, accuracy is super important.  Hold the final G of the slide with vibrato if needed. 

The third verse contains chords designed to add a “full” sound to the music: six-string chords such as the barre chords GIII and FI and the non-barre chord C/G.  If you’ve come this far, please don’t skip them.  They are there to prepare the audience for the finale, and paradoxically, they may also make the music easier to play on the guitar.  Remember, chords with the strum marking are to be strummed.  All others are to be pinched.

Slow almost to half-speed for the final line.  The glissando in the second measure is exactly like the one in the first verse.  Hold the final C/G chord as long as you can, preferably for the full eight counts.  This is hard to do if you are playing an acoustic guitar, but do your best.  It’ll sound wonderful, a real crowd pleaser.

About the song:

This song was originally written in Latin, under the title Adeste Fideles, which could be translated as, “Approach, faithful ones.”  The author and composer are uncertain, but the earliest extant copies from the 1700s were all signed by John Francis Wade, an English Catholic hymnist, and it is most commonly attributed to him.

Latin puns and other internal evidence in the lyrics have led many to conclude that the hymn was originally composed in celebration of the birth of Charles Edward Stuart, the Jacobite pretender to the crown of England, known to history as Bonny Prince Charlie.  His cause was defeated when the Jacobite rising of 1745 was crushed, but the song lives on.  It is a perennial favorite in most Catholic countries and virtually all English speaking ones.  (See the Wikipedia articles Adeste Fideles, John Francis Wade, and Bonny Prince Charlie for more details.)

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