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Workshops - Christmas Songs

It's Christmas time! (XII.2003). I know many people are looking for TABs to popular Christmas carols to play to their families on Christmas Eve. I do the same at home, although I use my accordion because the sound carries better than on guitar and the accordion has more of an organ sound. However, using the two-handed tapping method you can perform most Christmas carols - for the following examples I have chosen "Silent Night" and "Today in Bethlehem". You are welcome to try your hand at others. These two carols are a continuation of the previous lesson ("The cat on the fence"), where the accompaniment consisted of a major seventh root chord (Cmaj7) and a dominant seventh chord (G7). This was the jazz version.

I will be using the intonation method outlined in my Portato lesson, thus I will abandon the T,P and H symbols from now on (unless a particular passage requires the use of legato).

Both of these carols are in C major, much like "The cat on the fence", but I encourage you to transcribe them to other keys. You will see this does not always amount to moving your hands up or down a few frets, in many cases you will run out of room and will be forced to consider different fingerings or substitute chords (a great exercise in and of itself).

The .ptb files are not good to listen to since I have not figured out a good way to record these things in Power Tab Editor, so I recommend the mp3's.

Silent Night

As I already mentioned the harmony in this piece is a little more involved than in "The cat on the fence". The verse has two chords (Cmaj7 and G7) but the chorus features some extended harmony reminiscent of jazz - i.e. 6-5-2-1 (chords based on the 6th, 5th, 2nd and tonic, e.g. in C major: Am7, d half dim, G7, Cmaj7).

You may have some trouble with the d half dim chord (D,F,G#,C) because it contains G# which is not part of the C major scale. If you find this too dissonant you may use Dm7 instead (D,F,A,C as indicated on the chord chart). I prefer to use d half dim as it is more interesting to my ears...

Pay attention to your left hand during the chorus - the tonic in the bass line does not "follow along" with the rest of the chord. The tonic falls on the first beat, then comes the rest of the chord, then you repeat the tonic and then onto the next chord in exactly the same fashion. I'm not sure if I was able to capture this sufficiently well with TAB (not everything can be notated well in Power Tab), which is why I recommend you listen to the mp3.

*.ptb file  *.mp3 file

Today in Bethlehem

This carol is a little simpler. The harmony is not as difficult here, there are once again the Cmaj7 and G7 chords as well as Fmaj7 (note these three chords contain all the notes of the C major scale). Using just these three chords you can harmonize many simple melodies in C major (including many carols).

One thing I would like to draw attention to: much like in "The cat on the fence", the right hand gets in the way of the left hand accompaniment. You can see this in TAB, where both hands play on the A string at the same time (mind you, it is physically impossible to have both notes ring out). Don't worry about this though, the right hand has priority and you will learn to use these "reduced chords". Just remember to keep the harmony intact - in decreasing order of importance, try to keep the third, the seventh, the fifth and finally the tonic in.

he tempo is pretty upbeat and the melody line is excellent for practicing portato. For a different effect you can try playing the melody line an octave higher.

*.ptb file  *.mp3 file

The next lesson will probably feature a Beatles hit - stay tuned.

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