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Silent Night - Harmonized Melody

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

 

Yet another Silent Night lesson! I couldn't help myself for three reasons. It (to me anyway) is the quintessential Christmas carol; it's a great little 'diatonic' tune, perfect for beginner lessons and it lends itself to so many nice arrangements (expect more next year).

Here are the other Silent Night lessons I've done over the years:

Silent Night accompaniment
Silent Night simple fingerstyle
Silent Night tricky fingerstyle

These were done a while back, before I added the virtual fretboards to the movies, but they're all good lessons.

'Diatonic' means that the notes and chords of the piece all come from the major scale, in this case the A major scale... exclusively. Most tunes dip into other scales/chords in their structure, but this one is pure 'A'. Every note/chord/harmony comes from those 7 notes.

It's in 3/4 time. Here is the chord progression as Roman numerals:

| I - - | - - - | V - - | I - - | IV - - | I - - |
| IV - - | I - - | V - - | - - - | I - - | V - - | I - - |

So not only is it diatonic, but the progression consists solely of the three primary chords, the majors.

I've kept this version very simple. It's just the melody line with a harmony a 'third' below it. It's about a straight forward as it gets, like two people singing it in harmony. A 'third below' means that the harmony line uses notes that are three scale degrees away from the lead line ... lower in pitch. I know, it's not easy to understand when you're starting out, and there's no easy way to explain it in English. But, you'll be happy to know that once you grasp what chords are and where they come from, it all makes perfect sense. The fact is that all the pairs of notes you see in the movie graphics and tab are bits of chords. Not only that, they're all bits of just the major chords of the key, the I-IV-V chords, and once you can 'see' them on the frteboard, everything ties neatly together. But, that's a lesson for much later on if you're just getting started.

You'll see in the movie that when two notes line up across the fretboard, I usually use one finger to grab both at once. In this tune there's only one part where I use two fingers. The part occurs 4 times (bars 1 - 3 - 11 and 15), but, other than that, I use my index finger to create a 'mini-barre' across two strings. You don't have to do that, of course, you can use whichever fingers feel most comfortable. After 50 years of playing, this is how I do it.

Most of the action takes place on strings 2-3. I did that on purpose as I think it's easier, if you're just starting out, to stay on the same string-set rather than switch between. Guitars are neat because there are always 4 or 5 of ways of playing the same thing, but here I've kept to the same strings as much as possible. That means moving up and down the neck a lot, though, so you need to plan the move in advance, think ahead, and use those fretboard markers to find your positions quickly. Trust them, they're always the same, they will never let you down. Toward the end I move to strings 1-2 because I have no other choice.

The bass line: I've added some bass notes to the harmony line. You can leave them out if you want, it will still sound nice. The nice thing about the key of A is that the three major chords, A, D and E, all have open strings that can be used as bass notes. I recommend that you learn the harmony line first and when you're comfortable with it, add those bass notes. They'll all played with the thumb. I'm doing a sort of anticipated, staggered thing with the bass line here, but you can just grab all three strings together if you want. Don't feel you need to imitate my weird timing.

The left hand: I use the index-middle for the 2-3 string-set and you'll notice that I have my ring finger resting on the thin E string. That keeps it muted, prevents unwanted overtones from ringing out. I switch to the middle-ring fingers for the 1-2 stringset. It's all very logical. Once the hand is in the proper position (wrist slightly bent), the picking fingers fall onto the strings naturally.

I end with a bit of a strum with the back of my finger nail.

And that's it! Merry Christmas.


Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs 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.