Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song": Guitar Chords, Melody, Tab, Video Lessons

Updated on March 22, 2020

The Christmas Song

This is an intermediate arrangement of one the most played holiday songs ever. Seems you can't go anywhere this time of year, without hearing this at least once. And rightly so, it is an extremely well written song. Great lyrics, melody, arrangement and chord progression, just a beautiful piece of writing. Nat King Cole's version stands as the measuring stick for all the others.

This is the original chord-melody arrangement that I put together for our Christmas production, 'A Life Of Christmas'. The first year my recording, composing partner, Elizabeth Storms provided the vocals. I turned this chord-melody version into more of a comping chart for her vocals, only taking a solo in the second bridge.

The Chart

This is quite challenging at the intermediate level. A good knowledge of jazz chord shapes is necessary (see: Jazz Guitar Lessons • Chord Substitution Chart, Jazz Guitar Lessons • Misty, Jazz Guitar Lessons • When Sunny Gets Blue). See the Comping Chart for the proper chord voicings. Many of these chord shapes come from the Mickey Baker Method Book 1. I was voicing these chords to match the vocal line closely.

The Chord Chart

The Comping Chart

This was meant to be played in free time. There must be interaction between the musicians to make this work. It's almost as if you are reading each other's mind. As a rule, the accompanist follows the vocalist…..where they lead, you must follow. Not really as hard as it seems, and gets easier the more you work together.

The first transcription is a simplified comping chart with no solo, perfect for vocal accompaniment.

The second transcription is closer to what you see on the video In the video, Noah follows Kasia's unique vocals and the chart, until he gets to the second bridge, where he improvises a very cool free-time solo, nothing like the one I notated here. Excellent playing! The vocal comping bridge starts at measure nineteen and the solo starts at measure thirty five.

Simplified Comping Chart

Comping Chart

The Chord-Melody

I tried to keep this fairly simple. There are no real difficult timing passages, most measures are straight forward. I strongly recommend using just the fingers or the pick-fingers method (hybrid picking). Some of the chord voicings would be difficult with a pick, because of the strings that are muted or missed. The melody line is voiced for the most part on the top notes of the chords. The combination of single notes and chords is the standard for this type of playing. Quite often, a bassline would weave its way through the lower intervals of the chords, while maintaining the melody line in the upper partials. This is a more advanced way of playing chord-melody arrangements.

Remember, it is free time. Try to incorporate dynamics (points where the music gets louder or quieter).


The Original Recording, Great Video!

© 2012 Lorne Hemmerling


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    • profile image

      Patrick De Vogel 

      3 years ago

      Great lesson, just what I looked for!

      I kinda like playing a Fdim7 (9th fret) instead of a Edim7 at the end or is that just plain wrong?

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      3 years ago from Oshawa

      @ Al B. Thanks so much for the wonderful freedback

    • profile image

      Al B. 

      3 years ago

      Another great lesson. Really like the way you break out the piece into sections. Your lessons really work for me and have made it a lot easier to pick up on chord melody. Always looking forward to see what you will have next. That said, this lesson and those associated will keep me busy right thru till Christmas.

      Thank you for your efforts, very much appreciated.

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      5 years ago from Oshawa

      Thanks so much, John!

    • johnp61 profile image

      John O'Neill 

      5 years ago from Bristol, UK

      Hi Lorne.

      Another excellent lesson. Thank you very much for this beautiful festive offering.

      Kind regards

      John O'Neill

      [Bristol, UK]


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