As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.
I have transcribed two versions of the chord progression. The first pattern is obviously, much easier than the second. Many songs can be simplified in this manner. This pattern is also much easier to strum. If you are at the beginner level, I would recommend mastering the first pattern before attempting the second. In measure two of the first pattern, I have notated the down and up strokes. As with all of these strumming patterns, keep your hand moving in a strict down up eighth note pattern and miss some of the stokes. In this pattern, strum 'air' on the and of one and the and of three (both upstrokes).
The hardest open chord for beginners is the B7 shape. When moving from the Em to B7 and back to the Em, hold the second finger. This will only work if you use the second and third finger for Em. Note that in measure eleven, I have fingered the Em with the first and second finger. This will make the transition to the D Major chord a bit easier. When moving from the the Am to Em, hold the second finger. This technique is called 'common fingering'. Learning and working with alternate fingerings for chords is very beneficial when it comes to changing chords. Pay close attention to the notated fingerings for the Em throughout both versions.
In the more elaborate chord progression below, I have once again utilized the alternate fingering for the Em chord. In measure one, hold the second finger when moving to the B7 (common fingering). In measure two, move the second and third fingers at the same time to the next set of strings (common form). In measure three, hold the second finger and pivot on that finger to move into the C Major shape. Moving from the C Major to B7, there is no common form or fingering and this may prove to be the hardest manoeuvre in this line. The Bm in measure ten is the only barre chord in this transcription. Barre chords are difficult for the beginner. they are hard to move into and out of, and it is very hard to get a clean sound from them (all strings are ringing, non are muted).
When learning this version, start with a single stroke on each chord and hold them for the notated duration. After you have mastered this, try all downstrokes, four quarter notes per measure (as notated), then move into the strumming pattern from version one.
Like a lot of other traditional Christmas carols, this song is in the key of G Major-Em. Because of the chord progression and the inherent sad tone of the tune, it would be more correct to say the key of Em, but both G Major and Em are the same notes.
Scale spelling for G Major
G A B C D E F♯G
Scale spelling for Em:
E F♯G A B C D E
The same notes, but the different starting note changes the the intervallic structure and lends a totally different sound to the scale.
Down this low on the fretboard, use the same fingering for the fret hand as the frets. For example, on the fist fret use the first finger, on the fourth fret use the fourth finger. The F♯ on the fourth fret on the fourth string will be the hardest to finger, because of the stretch and the fact that the pinky is always weaker than the rest of the fingers.
Rhythm And Melody
I have notated the rhythm guitar on the fist staff and the melody is on staves two and three. This is the same structure I have followed for the other guitar duet arrangements. Since the first measure of the melody guitar is a pickup bar, the melody starts before the rhythm. Simply count one, two, three, and play the first note (E on the fourth string) on the fourth beat. The rhythm then begins strumming on the first beat of the second measure. Try to continue counting as you play. This will prove to be difficult at first, but with practice gets easier. The phrasing is fairly straight forward. Most of the notes are quarter notes. Play one on each beat.
Solo Guitar Chord Melody
This version is single notes combined with triads. All of the triads are voiced on the bottom three strings. They are all major, minor and 7th shapes. Voicing the chords on these strings, lends a very melancholy sound to the song. The song has been transposed to Dm for this version. There is one flat in this key signature, B♭. The relative Major of D minor is F Major. They share the same key signature, but this song has an inherent sad sound, EVEN though these are the same notes as the F Major scale. This is the theory behind the modes of the Major scale. Playing the Major scale from a note other than the root lends a different sound to it. D to D an octave higher in the F Major scale is the natural minor scale, also called the Aeolian mode.
Fingerstyle would be the preferred way to perform this piece. Use your thumb, index and middle finger for the entire song. This is a challenge and will have you moving around the fretboard. Practice slowly until the piece is memorized (I have found it best to do this in small sections, rather than huge blocks at a time), then attempt to put the whole song together. Also, try working the chords out on other string sets. This will mean less movement around the frets.
© 2014 Lorne Hemmerling