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With Wondering Awe

This lovely Christmas carol plays really well in C, but sounds better capoed up a couple of frets to D. Unfortunately, the original music is in G, so it’s a bit of a stretch to go that high with a capo. Best bet if you want to play a duet with another instrument is to use the interactive transposer on’s website. It’s currently located on each hymn’s page at the top of the page, though the church has moved it around a bit in the last few years.

There’s a lot of “expression” in this version: slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. I’m sorry if it makes this song a bit hard to play, but not everything that’s lovely can also be easy. Practice helps. I’ve worked hard to get this out in time to give you a month to practice. The chords are easy, at least! There are three barre chords listed, but they are all the same chord, really. Just a barre-E chord shape, played at different frets. The others are just variations of C, G, or Dm, and should be easy enough.

There’s a trick to make the slide/pull-off in the first measure easier. Fret the first string in the 1st  space with the index finger, and in the 3rd space with the ring finger at the same time. When you slide up to the 5th space (with the ring finger), the index finger is then automatically positioned in the 3rd space for the pull-off. Another way to do this is to position your hand for the CaddG chord as shown and play it from there, sliding the whole chord up and down the neck. This may make it  easier to pinch the C chord in the next measure.

Sometimes, instead of the pull-off, I just do a slide back down to the third space, making a mordant, instead of a complex slide/pull-off. They sound equally good to me, and I can’t decide which to put in here. Try it both ways, and use the one that’s best for you. Actually, this riff occurs in three other places in the song, so you can have it both ways!

Don’t let the name of the GaddD chord in measure [3] throw you. It’s fretted just like a normal G, only with the ring finger on the #2 string instead of the #1 string, so it’s actually easier to play. From this point on, until measure [15], all the chords are quite standard for any intermediate guitarist. Even the G7addD chord in [15] isn’t all that hard. It’s just a normal G7 with the D note added on the #2 string. You can play it like a normal G7 and add the D note with your pinkie, if you want to, but you aren’t going to be playing the #5 and #6 strings, so it’s just as easy to play it as a two-finger chord, hitting the D note with your ring finger. This sets you up for a super easy transition to the GaddD at the end of the measure.

In measure [16], you don’t have to actually fret the G7 chord, as you’re only playing the open strings. I just lift my hand off the fretboard briefly, without changing the finger positions. That sets up the C/G in the next measure really nicely. I only included the name of the G7 in the tab so you would know not to change your hand position to a normal G shape.

Verse 2 is nearly all eighth-notes, alternating between treble melody notes and bass fill notes, with very few chords, until you reach measure [25]. You do this with a rocking motion of the right wrist, interspersed with the occasional arpeggio or pattern-pick. I won’t go into the details; they should be obvious from the tab. From [25] to the end of the verse is basically a repeat of the Intro.

Verse 3 is very much like Verse 2, only with pinched chords instead of single melody notes. The real differences come at the end of the verse, starting in [37]. Hold the CaddG chord for two extra beats, as shown in the counting line: 1 2 3 (45) 6 &. You may find it a bit of a challenge to go from GIII to CVIII and stay on the beat, without over-running the 8th space. If practice doesn’t help you to nail this fast and accurately, try substituting just the C note on the #1 string for the CVIII chord. It won’t sound as good as the whole chord, but it’s way better than flubbing the climax of the song.


This song was first published in Laudis Corona, a Catholic hymnal published in Boston in 1885. The composer and lyricist are both anonymous. Anybody know anything more?

Ye Elders of Israel

This song is lots of fun to sing. The challenge was making it fun to play, without either oversimplifying or making it too complicated. I hope you’ll think I’ve succeeded.


The song begins in the key of A, because that’s the one key that is easy to play this melody in on the guitar. There’s lots of repetition. Each verse consists of a melody phrase of two lines, repeated exactly in the next two lines. Then, the same phrase is repeated once again in the chorus. The first and second verses are identical. To add a little variety to all this repetition, I have used a pattern pick in the chorus, and used mostly chords in the verses. There are only four chords used in the first two verses, and all four are dead easy to play.

At the end of the second chorus, there’s a key change to C. It’s not technically difficult to make the change, but you may find it mentally difficult to go from one key to another in the middle of a pattern pick. It’ll also blow the minds of your audience, so practice the key change until you can do it without any change in tempo. The trick is to not think of it as a key change, but as just another chord change, which, in fact, it is.

The verse part of the third verse continues the pattern pick, right on into the chorus, still in the key of C. But the third verse chorus is repeated as a bass line, leading up to the final four measures of chords. These are still easy chords. In fact, there’s not a barre chord or a difficult chord in the song anywhere. That doesn’t mean the song is easy, though. The 88 beats per minute tempo is pretty fast, considering that the pattern picks are all eighth-notes. If you’re not used to playing pattern picks, be careful! The pattern changes a lot to bring out the melody, and may not be apparent at first. You’re going to be doing a lot of left hand movements to hit the right notes, including lots of ligados (hammer-ons and pull-offs and slides), right from the beginning.

The Chords

Yeah, there are twelve of them, but that’s not as bad as you may think, as you probably already know almost all of them, by one name or another. Specifically, the first two verses just use A, E, E7, and D. If you want, you can just play the whole song in this key by repeating the verse and chorus a third time. Duck soup easy, but not terribly impressive.

For those who are a bit more adventurous, play the third verse as tabbed, in the key of C. Here’s where the majority of the chords come in. There’s C, F, and G7, of course, plus a couple of “added fifth” chords for flavor, and a couple of alternate ways of playing C, F and G. Those last two are actually easier to play than the normal way. 

Added fifth chords (a bit of chord theory)

In playing CaddG, you are just adding the fifth note of the C scale to a normal C chord. In playing G7addD you are adding the fifth note of the G scale to a normal G7. That’s why they are called “added fifth” chords. These extra notes are actually part of the normal chord structure, but are added in again to emphasize that note. For example, a C chord contains the notes C, E, and G. That’s the definition of a “C Major” chord. But, as normally played on the guitar, it comes out: x32010, or [blank] C E G C E. If you want to emphasize the G note, or if the G on the open 3rd string is too low for the melody, you can add in a higher G by fretting the 1st string in the 3rd space: x32013, or [blank] C E G C G. Chords like this are usually called “added fifth” chords, and are usually written Cadd5 or Gadd5. Frankly, I find this more confusing than helpful, but I don’t want to just call them C or G, (which would technically be correct) as they are played differently. So I specify the added notes in the chord name: CaddG and GaddD. Please don’t just play an ordinary C or G. In this song, the added notes are needed to carry the melody or an important harmony. 

Alternate bass chords are similar-- you’re just using a different note of the chord than usual for the bass note. Such chords are written like this: C/G. Technically, this chord would be called “C with a G bass,” or something similar, but most guitarists just call it “C over G”. Pianists and other guitarists know what they mean, and who else cares? C/G is played by adding a bass G on the #6 string, 3rd space with the pinkie. If you have a very small hand and a very wide guitar neck, this might be hard for you. You can substitute a normal C chord, if you wish. G/C is even easier. You just play it like the first three strings of an F, only in the the third space (Third Position). Easiest of the lot is F/C. That’s another three-string chord, played exactly like an ordinary D chord, only in the Fifth Position (5th fret), as shown in the tab and the chord charts.

That’s IT. There are NO BARRE CHORDS and NO HARD CHORDS in this song. NONE!


In measure [2], starting from a normal A-Shape position, move the left hand DOWN the neck of the guitar (toward the nut) to fret the Ab on the 3rd string, 1st space, then slide right back to the 2nd space. You’ll have to lift the fingers off the strings going down to avoid scraping the string, but don’t change the hand shape, as you’re going to need it again immediately. Next, the ring finger gets a workout, fretting and releasing the 2nd string, still without changing the chord shape. Fret the 2nd string in the 3rd space with the pinkie, still maintaining the chord for the three-string pinch in the 4th measure. Move up to Second Position (shown by Roman numeral II) for the pull-off, going back to the A chord for the next two measures.

Continue to play as shown throughout the second line, with one exception: in measure [8], you don’t actually have to change chord shapes with your left hand. From the E7, you can just flatten the fingers across the strings to hit the A chord, then go right back to the E. In the last measure of the line, it’s best to actually change to the A-shape, as you’re going to let the notes ring. Measures [10] through [17] are played exactly like [2] through [9], except that the last three chords are strummed instead of being pinched. All the notes are identical.

Pattern picks

The chorus is a modified pattern-pick. Calling the right hand fingers Thumb, Index, Middle, and Ring, with an asterisk indicating a left hand ligado, and separating measures with slashes, the chorus pick looks like this:


The pattern doesn’t repeat exactly, but it’s not completely random, either. Play this chorus, exactly the same, after each of the first two verses. Then, change chords to the C chord that begins the third verse. Since you’re now playing in a different key, the pattern pick must change also. The pattern  for measures [26] - [33] is:

/ RTIM  RMRM /  RTIR  MTMT / RTIR          *T        RT / MTIR  M T I T / 

IMPORTANT: These patterns do not indicate which strings to play with the right hand, only which fingers to use!  They have been worked out to avoid situations where you might have to play the same string with the same finger in twice succession, which would cause you to mess up the rhythm. However, this is a personal preference. If a further modification suits you better, by all means use it.

Measures [34] - [37] are played exactly like [26] - [29], but the next line is NOT an exact duplicate of the second line, as you might expect. Measures [38] and [39] are:

/ RTIR  RT*T /  RTIR  MTMT /  but next is a measure of pinches, followed by a strum.

The chorus of the third verse (measures [42] - [49] inclusive) is exactly like [26] - [33], except for the last note, which is a bass G on the 6th string, 3rd space, to lead into the chorus reprise. This reprise, comprising measures [50] - [57], is basically just the melody line of the chorus, played on the bass strings, up until the C chord in measure [53].  The two notes on the open G string in [55] give you plenty of time to move your hand to the Fifth Position (5th fret) for the F/C chord. Slow down a bit as you change positions for the other two chords of the measure, just enough for emphasis, but not so slow that it looks like you are having trouble reaching them. I like to end on a C/G chord for a fuller sound, but if this shape is too hard to reach quickly, just play a regular C. No one but you will notice the difference.


A wonderful family history entry about Cyrus H. Wheelock, who wrote the words, can be found at this link:  The tune, called “Babylon”, was adapted from the song, “Long, Long Ago”, written in England by Thomas H. Bayly in 1833. It was a nostalgic tune that immediately became quite popular in England, and was also popular in the United States by 1844. Brother Wheelock could scarcely have helped hearing the song, as he served three missions to England, and was writing hymns in Utah during the period of its greatest popularity in the US, but we have no information about the date the poem was written, or who adapted the tune to it.