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God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray-- easy version

Sometimes, making a hard song easy also makes it worse. This is not one of those times. This simpler version sounds just as good, and in some ways even better, though many of the cool chords have been eliminated. In this version, fourteen chords have been reduced to eight, and nine barre chords have been reduced to two or three, depending on how you count. The odd one is B, which is an A-shape barred in the second space, but in this instance, the barre isn’t strictly necessary, since the first string is not played, so the “barring” finger only has to fret one string! But it’s still a barre chord, because that is the easiest way to play it. Go figure!

I’ve done my best to make this version easy to play. Aside from Ddim7, all the chords are common ones you probably already know, and there’s only one form of each chord used. There’s no need for Roman numerals to show you where to put the barre, so I’ve left them out. This doesn’t affect the playing of the song at all, but makes for a much less scary tab.

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to totally eliminate all hard chord changes, but I have been able to make most of them a lot easier. In the second measure, I changed the rising pinches into a slow strum on three open strings. This gives your left hand plenty of time to prepare for the Bm in the next measure. The tenth measure works the same way, preparing for the B chord in the eleventh. I also substituted a D7 for the Edim7 in the sixth measure. The two chords are almost alike, musically, but the D7 is easier to play quickly for those not used to barre chords or diminished sevenths. I also substituted a slide for the hammer-on in the seventh measure, to make it easier to play.

The most obvious difference to the audience comes in the second measure of the third and fourth lines, where I’ve substituted a --1__0-- pull-off on the second string (C to B) the for the --8--7-- melody line on the first string (also C to B, but an octave higher). This avoids the rather quick, long transition from the G chord to the high C note. It’s a much easier transition for the guitarist, but is quite noticeable to any listener who knows the hymn, since the melody line goes down to the C instead of up. There’s just no way to avoid this octave deficit without using some rather unusual and difficult chords. If this really bothers you, and you’re advanced enough, play the original version, which I am not taking down.

I left the high C in for the finale, but used a couple of tricks to make the transition and the return easier. Both have to be done within one measure, so you have to be quick and accurate. To simplify, only strum the three open strings of the G chord. You won’t have to fret the chord at all! You can strum with your right hand, while moving your left hand up the neck of the guitar toward the high C at the same time. It may feel a bit strange to be playing the strings with one hand while doing something completely different with the other, but the strangeness will pass with practice. Getting used to it is much easier than learning to play a long reach with speed and accuracy. Why do it the hard way?

Returning on time to the Bm in the next measure isn’t so easy, but here too, there’s a trick that can help, and it actually improves the sound. You start by sliding the C in the eighth space to the B in the seventh. Leave your finger on the string and continue your hand motion toward the head of the guitar, producing a slurring sound as your finger moves from space to space for a few frets. This gives you about a half a beat headstart on your move toward the Bm in the next measure. It’s still not exactly easy, but should help a bit. That’s why I only use it one time in the song. You can even substitute a D for the Bm, to make it easier still. Make the transition as sloppy as you like. It’s supposed to sound slurred. That’s why it’s called a slur. Slurs actually sound pretty cool, as long as you don’t overuse them.

Right at the very end of the last line, I’ve simplified the broken chord. End with a single note, the  G, and hold it with tremolo, as long as you can. There are two main ways to do this tremolo on an acoustic guitar. You can slide your finger rapidly back and forth along the string, within the space. This method usually works best for tremolos in the fourth and higher spaces. Or, you can vibrate your finger across the string, stretching it slightly each time. This often works best for the first and second spaces. For the third space, where this note falls, the preferred method depends on the guitarist, the guitar, and the strings. Try it both ways, and use the one that sounds more crisp. If you switch guitars, or even put on new strings, the best method may change. On my guitar, high tension strings seem to like the first method best (along the strings), while low tension strings do better with the second method (across the strings).

You may find that the tremolo on the third fret sounds muddy, no matter what you do. Don't despair! There's a work-around. The same, exact note is found on the second string, in the eighth space. If you can move quickly and accurately from the third fret to the eighth, you can do the tremolo there, using the first method, along the string. Because the string is thicker, the quality of the sound may be a little different, but the tremolo will be much, much crisper.

These two versions of the song need not be considered mutually exclusive. They are in the same key, so you can mix and match chords and techniques from one to the other, giving variety from verse to verse. However you play it, it’s a beautiful hymn, and well-suited to the acoustic guitar, either solo or in a duet with a singer. If accompanying a vocalist, the first four of the five instrumental measures at the end of the song make a fine introduction, minus the final, tremolo measure. I’ve indicated this with half-brackets ┌       ┐ above the score, as is done in the hymnal.

God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray

WARNING:  CONTAINS VERY EASY CHORDS  (with scary names.) And lots of barre chords. If you can play barre chords, you should have no trouble.


According to the piano music in the hymnal, this song is a long series of chords, with hardly any melody notes. That sounds good when accompanying choral or congregational singing, but  does not do so well as an instrumental solo. But it’s such a beautiful song, with such a lovely chord progression, that I could not resist it. It did require a bit of arranging for instrumental guitar, and in one case, I had to substitute an F#7 chord for Fdim7, to bring out the melody.

There are lots of “diminished seventh” chords in this song. Don’t let that throw you. They are beautiful, and easy to play. Only the names are scary. And there’s a secret to playing them that you may not know.

THE SECRET: Nearly all diminished seventh chords are played exactly the same way; only the barre position varies. Sometimes, even that does not change. The second chord in the first measure is actually an Fdm7, but it’s played exactly the same as Ddim7. The name is the only difference! That’s right-- the very same chord has two different names. Actually, it has four different names: Ddim7 = Fdim7 = G#dim7 = Bdim7. All four are exactly the same chord, played exactly the same way. All four names are equally correct.

I call them all Ddim7 for simplicity. Change the barre position, and you get other diminished seventh chords, in similar groups of four. There are technical reasons for this. I won’t go into them here, but if you are interested, see the PDF document in The Tabs at right, called “Diminished Seventh Chord Theory”. You’ll learn how, by mastering one easy, four-string chord, you can play five dozen really beautiful chords. Really.

Those dim7 chords probably all should have Roman numerals attached, to show which space the barre goes in. I didn’t do it, because their names would be ridiculously long, and would not fit in the tablature. G#dim7II, for example.

Some chords called for in the piano music have been replaced with single notes or two-note pinches, for playability. In the interest of simplicity, and to avoid confusion, I have left their chord names out of the tab entirely.

There are two different ways of playing A7 in this tab, two ways of playing Bm, and two ways to play D7. All are necessary to bring out the melody. If you just play them one way, the melody  will go down where it’s supposed to go up,. There are also two different ways of playing G. You may find it easier to fret the non-barred G as if you were playing G7, for easier chord changes. The #1 string is not played, so there is no difference between G and G7, so far as the actual notes played are concerned. Use which ever feels easiest to you.


-- At the end of the second measure, you can ease the transition from G to BmII by releasing the G chord early. It won’t matter, as the third pinch is on two open strings. Do the same at the end of the tenth measure, where the transition is from G to BII .

-- The first measure of the second line shows a ligado on the G string, from the 4th fret to the 2nd fret. Normally, this would be played as a pull-off, but if your fingers are short, like mine, you may find it easier to do a push off instead. Whichever way you do it. leave the index finger on the string in the 2nd space, where it will be perfectly positioned for the following D chord.

-- In the first measure of the last line, you will normally use your ring finger to fret the G note on the #1 string. If you leave it on the string, you can easily move it to the second space, to make the pull off, in preparation for the following GIII  chord.

-- Following this chord, there are two notes (C and B) on the #1 string, which are to be played with “strong tremolo”. This is done by rapidly vibrating the fretting finger (probably the ring finger) along the string, while continuing to hold the note. The tremolo will be strongest if performed with the finger closer to the next higher fret, rather than in the middle of the space. If you are playing more than one verse, you may choose to omit the tremolo from the earlier verses, adding it in on the last verse for emphasis.

-- The final three chords require you to go from an Em7 shape to an A7 shape to an E shape, while simultaneously sliding the barre from VII to V to III. Quickly. There is no trick for doing this easily. It’s a hard series to play well, even though the chords individually are not difficult. As in all such situations, the only strategy that works is lots of practice. Sorry, there is no royal road here. It just takes work. However, it’s worth it, as this is a lovely way to end the phrase. You may even wish to repeat the last four measures, slowly, as a finale after the last verse.

-- Since this guitar arrangement is still mostly chords, it works without alteration as a guitar accompaniment for singers, or as a duet with some other instrument. I’d love to hear it done as a duet with a violin. Any violinists out there want to jam?

Historical notes:

Text of the lyrics is by Annie Pinnock Malin, an early Utah pioneer. I have been unable to learn anything about the circumstances under which she wrote this song. Anyone have any information?

The music is from a tune called “Mercy”, by Louis M. Gottschalk, adapted by Edwin P. Parker. Gottschalk was a child prodigy of the piano, born in the USA, but classically trained in Europe, who performed throughout the United States. He left the U.S. after a scandal, and died in Brazil, leaving a large corpus of music. Several of his tunes are well-known hymns, but this is the only one included in the LDS Hymnal, which states that it was “adapted by Edwin P. Parker.

Parker is listed in hymnals of various churches as adapting works by Gottschalk (and other composers), though the names are often misspelled. To further cloud the issue, there are several historical personages of note named Edwin P. Parker, with conflicting birthdates and biographical information. I’m not going to repeat any of them, as I have no way to tell which are true, or even which refer to this-- and not some other-- Edwin P. Parker.

This song is in the public domain.