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

Updated on January 10, 2018

Learning Blues Guitar

With this book, my goal is to relate the scales with chords and rhythms as opposed to just learning solos or licks and having no idea how to apply them. Good rhythm playing and knowledge is crucial to good soloing and vice versa. This comes through understanding the relationship between chords and scales. This book provides that important foundation.

The book is unique in the fact that each chapter is based around a different key signature and an open (contains unfretted notes), pattern of the pentatonic scale. There are five chapters covering the key signatures of E, A, D, G and C, and the five open ‘box patterns’ (scale patterns) of the pentatonic scale. Eventually all the box patterns are covered, from the open strings to the fifteenth fret.

There is no endless scale practice or useless licks to learn. Instead, each chapter begins with a chord progression, moves into various rhythm patterns derived from the chord progression, and then culminates with solos based on the scale and key covered. These solos tie in with the chord progression and rhythm patterns to form a complete lesson for each chapter.

The book is progressive. Upon completion, the student will have a solid foundation in blues guitar, and will understand the rhythm, lead connection.

The book is best studied from beginning to end, without slighting any material. All theory is explained in the simplest terms. There are fretboard diagrams for the scales, chord grids, and photos of hand positions as well as videos posted on YouTube to aid in the learning process.

It is best, but not necessary, to have a knowledge of barre and open chord shapes before beginning this course. All the chords have fretboard grids associated with them.

Good luck and have fun. Music is a celebration. Enjoy!

Lorne K. Hemmerling

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!

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Lorne Hemmerling


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      • profile image

        Patrick De Vogel 16 months 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 image

        Lorne Hemmerling 17 months ago from Oshawa

        @ Al B. Thanks so much for the wonderful freedback

      • profile image

        Al B. 17 months 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 image

        Lorne Hemmerling 3 years ago from Oshawa

        Thanks so much, John!

      • johnp61 profile image

        John O'Neill 3 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]