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"Away in a Manger" Chords & More (Easy Guitar Christmas Songs)

With 40 years of teaching professionally, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.


The Rhythm

I recently visited another internet site, and someone asked the question "What is the rhythm pattern for this song?" With this format, the rhythm pattern is clearly defined. There is no need to rely on lyrics to see where the chords fall. Simply play the notated pattern and count the measures. Two bars of G Major, followed by one bar of C Major, then one bar of G Major, etc. This is so easy to work with!

I created the strumming pattern from the time signature. Beat one is a quarter note rhythm slash, beats two and three, two eighth note rhythm slashes each. Eighth notes simply split the quarter notes into two equal pieces and are played twice as fast as the quarter note.

The strum direction is down down-up down-up. Once again, keep your strum hand moving in a strict eighth note pattern, but miss the upstroke on beat one.


The Melody

Based entirely in the key of G Major, the melody contains one sharp: F. In this song, the F♯ is always in the same place: fourth fret, fourth string, even though the sharp in the key signature is an octave higher (on the F line in the treble clef). Sometimes this is a hard concept for students to grasp: the fact that, no matter what octave the F is in, it is always sharp (unless it is canceled out by a natural sign). Your ear would come into play here. The F natural would sound wrong.

As in any melody, try to play this in time. Count correctly, do not rush. Give all notes their full value. As in all the other arrangements (and for that matter, anything you play), each part should sound great as a stand-alone part, rhythm and melody. Enjoy!!!


Play Along Track

The play along backing track has a five beat count-in on the kick (bass) drum. Count: 1 2 3 1 2, then begin playing the melody from the lead-in note in measure one. The track goes around three times. The second time the drums enter and on the third time the strings come in.

Guitar Duet

Once again, in order to keep everything as simple as possible, I have followed the same format: rhythm guitar on the first staff, melody guitar on the second and third staves. The song, like many other Christmas songs is in three four time. Three beats to a measure and the quarter note gets one beat. I drill my students on this all the time. Treble clef, key signature, time signature, always in that order. All guitar music is written in the treble clef. The key signature, in this case, is G Major-Em, a very popular key for guitarists. The first staff, the rhythm slashes, (see In The Style Of Runaway Train, for a complete analysis of rhythm slashes), is non-pitched notation. The slashes do not move up and down on the staff, therefore, there is no need for a key signature. The melody staff is standard notation (the pitches move up and down with the melody). The third staff is the tablature that corresponds to the standard notation. Again, there is no key signature for the tab staff.



Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky.
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Sweet bells they ring, they ring out the news today,
That Christ was born, was born on Christmas day,
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me for ever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.
Sweet bells they ring, they ring out the news
That Christ was born, was born on Christmas Day,
That Christ was born, was born on Christmas day.

© 2014 Lorne Hemmerling