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Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words

I tried to tab this exactly as written in Hymns, but it was too hard to play, so I transposed it into the key of C and started over. It was easier to play, but too staccatto, so I eliminated some of the chords. It sounded better, so I kept simplifying, until I had produced this version. I like the full version for organ and choir, but for the guitar, it needs to be simple. Since it was so simple already, I re-wrote it one last time to eliminate the few remaining barre chords.

Special instructions:

Very few special instructions are needed for this song. There’s a slide in the first measure on page two, immediately followed by a hammer-on. You could do both as slides, but it’s difficult to sustain the note long enough. (Hint: if you’re going to try this, fret the whole riff with the index finger.) Or, you could substitute a pull-off for the slide, but it sounds harsher. The song is all about softness and sweet tones of the heart, so use the slide if you can. You may find it necessary, as I do, to slide with the index finger, so you can hammer-on with the middle finger.

Two measures later, there’s a modified C chord, with the melody note (G) added on the 1st string, 3rd space, using the little finger. This chord could also be called CaddG,but since it only occurs once, and is a simple modification of the chord you are already holding, I’ve chosen not to mention it in the tab. If it’s too hard, just put in the melody note and leave off the rest of the chord. Fret the slide which follows with the pinkie, which positions your hand back in the C chord position for the last two pinches of the measure.

In the next measure there’s a series of three-string pinches, all fretted in the fifth fret. This is actually an alternate way of playing a C chord. It is usually played as a barre chord, with the barre in the third space (barred A shape). It is not necessary to actually play it that way here, since the only strings used are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, eliminating the need for a barre. Play it like an A chord, only fretted in the 5th space. Just be sure to only play the fretted strings!

At the end of this line, there are four notes that do not correspond to any words in the lyrics. This is a fill, put in by me, because I cannot hold a note for three beats at the slow pace of this song, without tremolo. Tremolos below the fourth fret do not work well on the guitar, and are not easy. The fill is not part of the original hymn. Leave it out if you wish.

You will want to use tremolos where called for in the tab. Place the ring finger in the indicated space, as you would if you were fretting the note normally with that finger. Then, without actually sliding the fingertip, wiggle the finger back and forth rapidly along the string by moving the whole hand along the neck. Watch a video of any violinist playing to see what this looks like. Tremolos above the fourth fret are rather easy to do, help sustain the note, and sound really cool.


In 1939, Joseph Townsend, the author of this hymn, who was then about ninety years old, was contacted for background information about the song. “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words” was written, he said, while he was in the superintendency of a very large Sunday School.  The people seemed given to fault-finding remarks, and he thought how much finer it would be to hear kind words spoken more often. He said the song stopped the gossip and produced a kindlier feeling in the town.

Though he wrote many hymns, this one may have been his favorite, as “Kind Words are Sweet Tones of the Heart” is the only thing engraved on his headstone, besides his name and dates of birth and death.


Like so many others, this tune was composed by Ebenezer Beesley (1840-1906), a prolific writer and composer of LDS hymns, handcart pioneer, and an early director of the Tabernacle Choir. Besides this hymn, there are eleven more of his compositions in the current (green) LDS hymnal:

    5  “High on the Mountain Top”
  16  “What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold”
  32  “The Happy Day at Last Has Come”
  76  “God of Our Fathers, We Come unto Thee”
  77  “Great Is the Lord”
153 “Lord We Ask Thee Ere We Part”
156  “Sing We Now at Parting”
177  “‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love”
185  “Reverently and Meekly Now”
280  “Welcome, Welcome, Sabbath Morning”
282  “We Meet Again in Sabbath School”.

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