O Holy Night - A Christmas Carol fingerstyle lesson
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Advanced
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.
O Holy Night - The lesson explained.
Here's a fairly tricky for you. I wasn't as familiar with this one as I was with the other carols, so I had to learn it before arranging it. I tried to keep it as straight forward as I could, but it's still quite difficult. My take is a long way from perfect and I apologize for the slightly sour tuning. I restrung my nylon and it kept drifting out of tune as the strings stretched. I was so pleased to finally get a take that was fairly competent that I decided to go with it, even if it is a little out of tune.
It's in G, our favorite, and it sticks pretty much to the related chords of the key. There's just one little deviation at bar 13 where it goes to the F#7. The F# in G is normally F#mb7 -- or half-diminished as some call it -- but here it's been 'majorized' and 'dom 7th-ed'. It's very effective too, it really makes the ears take notice.
I wrote a little intro. Every version I listened to on YouTube seemed to have an intro and mine is pretty much what the others were. The TAB and video show G throughout, but it does in move between G and a sort of D7/G.
The actual carol starts at bar 5. The first section is quite tricky. That maj7 note, the F# on string 4 is not the easiest to grab on the way to the C chord. You can leave it out if you want, but it works well. At bar 14 you'll notice in the TAB that it's a 2/4 bar. It wasn't until I started writing the tab that I realized that it was. There's another later on. Perhaps I should have written the whole thing as 2/4. Don't let it throw you, though, just play on through it. The first instance is a breather between the two 'verse' sections, and I used part of the intro. The second instance leads into the middle section, which is the easiest, but it come after the F#7sus4 to F#7 bit which takes a bit of working out, or did for me anyway. And apologies for the barre Bm chord. I always try to avoid barre chords in my lessons (I hate them too!) but there was no way around it here.
Then comes the second part of the middle section, which starts at bar 19. It's interesting to note that this section cycles through the three minor chords of the key of G: Em, Am and Bm. This part will take some practice too. I do a little twiddley bit at the end of bar 19 -- a quick hammer-on/pull-off move -- there's no need for it if you can't do it, just go from the F# note straight to the open E string. And there's that pesky barre Bm chord again at bar 20!
The last section is strictly I - IV - V, or, in this key, G, C and D7. The inversions I used were chosen because of the melody notes, so your fingers might not be used to them (unless you've learned the other carols in G that I've done lessons for). A few open string notes come into play, among the fretted notes, so watch out for them, and take the time to learn the neat little passage at bar 24. It's tricky but sounds so nice when you get it. There's a momentary Gadd9 chord in there that really fits the genre so well.
The ending is fairly easy, but it may take a bit of practice to lock those bass notes and to grab that little mini-barre C6 chord in bar 28.
Another twiddley bit at bar 29 ... leave it out if you find it too twiddley, just go straight to the open E from F#, then back to F to G.
Have fun with this, it's a challenging one. You'll have do what I did, which was to constantly remind my fingers that I'm in charge and that they must obey.
For this lesson, I will be charging a small fee of US $4.95 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.