God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (easier version)
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 is the 'easy' version of this great old Christmas carol. I say 'easy', but of course if you're just staring out, you'll wonder why. Nothing is 'easy' when it comes to playing an instrument, and the guitar is notoriously difficult to master. The 'tricky' version will definitely keep you on your toes, in fact it took me quite a few hours to get it to flow like music should, and I arranged it!
It's in the key of Em, which is the relative minor of G, so we're (sort of) in our usual key. I've kept this version down to the simplest form I could. It's basically the melody line underpinned by a few bass notes. You'll see in the movie and tab that I do indicate the underlying chord structure. It's always good to know what's going on musically, and it's the chords that do that. If a friend drops around and wants to play along, he or she could give a nice big strum to each of those chords while you play this part and it sound great. It appears in a few places in the movie that I'm holding down a whole chord (the B7 in particular) even though the tab is showing just two notes. That's because I am in fact holding down the whole chord. You'll find that more often that not, melody notes are part of the chord, and it's a good idea to get into the habit of holding the whole shape down. That way, if your finger clunks into a 'wrong' string, it won't be a mistake. It will be a 'good' note since it's part of the underlying chord. Also, you won't hear any ugly harmonics coming off open strings that have nothing to do with the underlying chord.
Technically, there's nothing going here that's very difficult. As always, the thumb handles the bass notes, the other fingers handle the melody notes. You can see in the movie that I let the most logically placed fingers do that according to which string the notes are on. There's no real hard and fast rule about that. You'll find that if your wrist is bent a little and the picking hand is fairly perpendicular to the strings that your fingers naturally align themselves so that index is ready to pick those lower (thicker) strings while the middle and ring fingers hover above the thinner strings. I rarely use my pinkie when picking as it's just too short, so it's my index-middle-ring that do all the work. Some players just use the index and ring. I always suggest that you experiment and find what's best for you.
I do some little pull-offs in three places, always the same ones. You'll hear them in bars 3, 7 and 17 and see them in the tab for the first two. I forgot to add them to the tab at the end. The small number is the start note and you pull off to the bigger number, in this case the second fret to the open string. You don't need to do them, of course, but it's nice little detail that keeps the ear interested.
I end it on a E major chord, even though it's in Em. I'm not sure why, it just sounding right somehow. You may have notice that in the movie I call bar 20 E, whereas in the tab I call it Em ... it's neither really, since I'm playing two roots at that point. It can only be called major or minor with a 'third' in there. It appears (as the major third) in bar 21 ... it's that G# note on the 3rd string. If you want to extend the piece by playing it through twice or three times through, it's probably better not to play that E major, just let the Em ring out and repeat. Keep that E major for the very end.
This one should be relatively easy to master. Once you have, move on to the tricky version which will really keep you on your toes.
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.