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Home for Christmas - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate


Home for Christmas - The Lesson explained

Here's my Christmas song to y'all. I thought a carol lesson would be good, but I realized I did most of them all last year. So I decided to compose a nice carolly type tune, one that would make a good finger style lesson at the same time. I hope I succeeded!
It's in the key of G, my favorite for this kind of lesson. There are no real chords played in this -- the whole thing is a melody line sitting on top of a bass line -- but you can see in the tab that I have written out the chord progression that the two lines come from. You can ask another player to accompany you using those chords.

This will be a good lesson for coordinating both hands. You will quickly see that the melody and bass lines are sometimes two strings apart, sometimes three, sometimes four and even five. Keeping the flow going while switching between the various combinations is not easy. There is, of course, only way to get there, and that is to play it over and over until your fingers remember, not your brain. I recommend also that you take the time to learn the bass line on its own, and then the melody line on its own. One of the unusual things about this tune is that many of the adjacent-string double stops occur on the bass strings. Look at measures 5, 6 and 7 and you'll see it in the tab. You can see in the movie that I use my thumb and index finger for these ... which I think is the best way to go. Other than that, the picking hand fingering is pretty logical. If your wrist is slightly bent, your fingers should fall onto the strings naturally. If you look at the movie during the count in, just before I start playing (stop the movie as I count 'Four'), you can see how my thumb and fingers all fall onto their own strings. This is what I mean by 'naturally'. There should be no effort to get your hand into this position. If it's not quite right, then the problem is with the wrist. Just bend it down a bit and you should be right. If it feels a little uncomfortable, persist. It won't for long and it really is important to get that right. You will get a much cleaner sound and stronger action if your fingers are coming down square to the strings.

You will notice in my version that I speed up here and there, and slow down here and there, that I'm not metronomic in the way I render the tune. I'm sure you can hear (I hope you can hear) that this is not because I can't keep time, but that I'm injecting a bit of 'feel' into it, I'm using the slight variations in timing to help tell my story. An even closer look and listen will reveal that, unlike the tab, I don't always pluck the double stops as a unit. Often, especially in the lower register, my thumb plucks the bass note slightly ahead of the melody note, plucked by the index. This again is a 'feel' thing, a tiny detail that adds life to the piece, emotion, vibe, nuance ... feel! I'm not suggesting you need to copy that or even worry too much about it if you're just starting out, but once you do get those fingers to meander their way through the whole thing without too much thinking, you can then turn your attention to the detail.

I just noticed a couple of pulloffs that I didn't notate in the tab: one is measure 5, I pull off from the second fret to the open string on that C. The other is in measure 16 ... same thing, I pull off from fret 2 to the open string. You don't have to -- you can just pick those tow notes -- but if you were wondering, that's what I'm doing.

I can't think of much more to add to this commentary, other than the fact that, even after 50 years of playing, I'm still enchanted by the magic of music, how two lines like these can intermingle and weave their way through time and conjure up non-existent chords, dredge up feelings, bring back memories, tell a story ...

Merry Christmas!