Deck the Halls - A Christmas Guitar Lesson
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Beginner-Intermediate
Note: The Printable PDF for the TAB/Notation for this arrangement is available as part of my Christmas Fingerstyle Guitar Collection along with 21 other Christmas Carol guitar arrangements. Click here to order it.
Here's a well known one -- Deck the Halls. I thought I'd done them all last year but I was wrong. There are a couple more too, which I'll get stuck into asap.
For once, G was not the best key. This one is in C. I've done two versions as separate videos, this is the 'easy' one. I say easy, but no finger style guitar pieces are easy. They all require a fairly high degree of finger coordination and delicate touch. I have done a more advanced version of this, which you can find here.
Like all carols, the chords stick pretty much to the related chords of the key, and like all, the main structure is built around the I-IV-V chords, in this case C, F and G7. There's just one 'majorized minor' -- that D7 at bar 12 -- the rest are all chords form the key of C.
(If you're still wondering about chords and related chords, make sure you check out my lesson Chords - What they are and where they come from.)
You'll see in the video and tab some complicated looking G chords, 11ths and 13ths ... don't take too much notice. Technically, that's what they are, but you can consider them all plain old G7ths. The extensions are mostly the result of the melody line notes being added to the G7 chord, and I like to be precise for those who do care about the finer points of theory. You'll also see some 'slash chords'. Again, don't be too concerned. The letter after the slash is simply the bass note I chose to use.
I open with a C chord with a high G note added, which is the first note of the melody line. I then play that melody with a harmony line added below (in pitch) the melody line ... in 6ths. What does that mean? Well, the most common way of harmonizing a melody line is to play the harmony 'a 3rd above', meaning that the harmony line is always 3 scale degrees above the melody. However, you can play that same harmony line one octave lower -- same notes -- which puts those notes 'a 6th below' the melody line. So now the harmony line is lower in pitch and the notes are always 6 scale degrees lower than the melody line. 6ths are inverted 3rds.
You'll see that I play the whole section using my index and ring fingers to pluck those pairs of notes. They're always 2 strings apart and those two fingers have just the right spread to make it easy ... with a bit of practice, of course.
The next section starts at bar 9. I mostly play the melody with a simple bass line below here. I play a couple of fairly full C chords (the I chord) just to thicken it all up a bit and remind the listener's ear where the center of tonality is. The melody line climbs up the finger board at bar 11 and, as luck and the key of C would have it, the roots of the next three chords are all open strings, making it easy to keep the bass line going.
At bar 13 we come back to the opening melody but this time I play a descending bass line instead of the sixths. It just seemed to be a better way to finish it off. Bar 15 needs a bit of attention, watch you don't hit any of those in-between strings or you'll muddy it up. Those last three chords at bar 16 also need a bit of concentration to get right. I've been playing for over 50 years and I can't remember ever playing that G13/F before so I had to really convinced my hand and fingers that it was OK to do so.
Take your time, work it out slowly and precisely, practice it slowly. Once you get the moves down, once the muscles have remembered the moves, you can start to inject that magic element we call 'feel', which is in fact the music part. You can hear that I speed up and slow down, play certain bits louder and quieter, play the bass note a nanosecond earlier than the melody note, roll my fingers through the chords rather than pluck all the notes at once ... that's what I mean by 'feel'. You don't need to copy my dynamics, either, there are a million ways to express yourself at the 'feel' level. Play it your way.
When you've mastered it, move on to the 'harder' version.
For this lesson, I will be charging a small fee of US $2.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
As well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.