Don’t confuse this hymn with “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” which it strongly resembles, both musically and in sentiment. I’ll tab that one next time. If you do sometimes confuse them, pat yourself on the back. They are not even in the same key, which means you are transposing one or both of them in your head, consciously or not.
This guitar arrangement is in three verses of varying difficulty.
Moore’s original lyrics for the second and third verses were somewhat different:
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope when all others die, fadeless and pure;
Here speaks the Comforter, in God’s name saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure.”
Come, ask the infidel what boon he brings us,
What charm for aching hearts he can reveal,
Sweet is that heavenly promise Hope sings us
“Earth has no sorrow that God cannot heal.”
I have transposed the song into the key of C for easier playing. You may still find the introduction difficult to play. If so, just leave it out. It’s not in the original piano music.
If you are a beginner, just play the first verse. It does include a barred F chord. If you are not comfortable with barre chords, you can substitute either a traditional four-string F or a five-string F. It won’t sound bad, but I don’t recommend it, just because this song is such a perfect vehicle for learning to play barre chords. There aren’t many of them, and the tempo is slow and deliberate, allowing plenty of time for the unfamiliar chord change. This barred-E chord shape is the most frequently-used barre chord in just about every kind of music. It provides instant access to other barred chords with the same chord shape. That’s TEN major chords just by moving the barre. Plus, you can easily convert any of these chords to a minor, a seventh, or a minor seventh, just by lifting up a finger or two. That’s ten major chords, ten minor chords, ten seventh chords, and ten minor sevenths, for a total of FORTY new chords, all for the price of learning just one! And THAT’S why serious guitarists all learn to play barre chords.
Look at the chord chart. The index finger is supposed to barre, or fret, all six strings of the guitar, in the space between the nut and the first fret. This spot is properly called “First Position”, but most guitarists call it “the first fret.” Don’t be fooled. You still have to put your finger between the frets, just as you would do if you were only fretting one string. It may be hard to fret all six strings with the side of your index finger at the same time, so that all six sound clearly. Not to worry! Here are some tricks to make it easier:
1. You only have to fret the first two strings (high e, and B) and the last string (low E) with the index finger. The other three strings will be fretted individually by the middle, ring, and little fingers, so don’t worry about those strings yet. Your barring finger will cover them, but you need not get those spots perfectly.
2. It’s easier to practice barre chords higher up on the neck, where the frets are closer together. Try practicing with the barre at the fifth fret, until you can do the chord well, then move your hand back to First Position.
3. If the barred strings don’t sound clear, pressing harder probably won’t help. There’s a “sweet spot” on your barring finger where you can fret the necessary strings without much effort. LEARN THAT SWEET SPOT, and barre chords will be easy for you.
4. Once you’ve found your sweet spot, use the other three fingers to fret the other three strings. They go in exactly the spots where you would play an E chord, if you were using a capo instead of your finger. It will feel a little strange at first, because you are used to using different fingers to fret the E chord. But that’s the only difference.
5. If it’s still hard for you, try simplifying by playing an Em instead of an E. This actually gives you an Fm chord, which won’t sound right in this song. So, once you can do it, add the middle finger back in where it belongs. As with most guitar problems, lots of practice is the real secret to success.
Intermediate to advanced guitarists:
The second and third verses contain more barre chords and rapid chord changes than the first verse. The chords should be self-explanatory for regular readers of this blog, except for F*, which is simply a normal F chord, with the C note added on the 5th string in the third space. You can certainly substitute a full-barre FI chord, if you wish. I use the five-string version to speed up the chord change.
You will probably want to include the intro, which is a slightly modified version of the last line. The only hard part is being fast and accurate in the lengthy slide from 3rd position to 12th. It may take some practice, but it’s worth it.
That’s it. Enjoy!
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