The First Noel - A fingerstyle guitar lesson
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: 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.
The First Noel - The Lesson explained
Yet another centuries old Christmas carol, this one apparently from the 1700's. Once again, G proved to be the best key: no barre chords, no great leaps up the fretboard. If you learn a bunch of these and you find that playing them all in the key of G starts sounding a little boring, remember that you simply clamp a capo anywhere up the neck, play the chords as indicated in the tab but be in a whole new key. If you need some help finding out how to do that and which keys you will be transposing to, click here.
This one is pretty straight forward. Because it's a bit repetitive, I've made the second verse a bit more complex than the first, and the beginning of the chorus -- which is the same as the beginning of the verses -- slightly different again. If you find the second verse to tricky, just repeat the first verse. It's in 3/4 time again.
From the top: In bar 1 you'll see a little figure that kick-starts the tune. I play a G chord then a little double stop which, if you were to extend it, would become a D7 chord. It's basically doing what the lyric would be doing if you were singing it. The first verse I've kept pretty much a series of double stops, melody line on top of a bass line, but you'll hear that I've thrown in a little timing detail that you can either play or ignore. If you find it too much to think about, just bring those three melody notes at the end of bars 4, 6 and 8 forward so that they sit above the bass notes of bars 5, 7 and 9. I played them that way by accident while I was arranging this and thought it sounded kind of neat to have them anticipate the beat like that. It's a good little thing to practice too, if you're feeling up to it. You need to keep the bass line nice and steady -- on the beat -- and let those three notes roll off the fingertips just ahead of the beat.
Verse 2 starts at bar 10, you'll hear that I played a little double bass note intro to it in bar 9 ... no need to do it if you don't like it. I kept it in only because the rest of the take was pretty good and I didn't want to lose the spontaneity by playing it too many times through. You can hear that in this verse I thicken things up a bit and use some chords to flesh it out. The first is that nice arpeggiated Gmaj7/B in bar 11. A little tricky to grab in the short time you get but well worth practicing. That particular voicing of the chord, with the F# and G on adjacent strings, has a wonderful effect when picked through like this. That Csus2 seemed to fit nicely.
(Csus2 means that the 3rd of the chord has been replaced with a 2. In this case, a C chord, that means replacing the E note with a D note. I'm playing a G note on the E string, thereby removing the 3rd, and I'm playing a D note on the second string.) I should have named the Em in bar 16 'Em7' since there's a D note in there. Oversight!
Last time through is a chorus, although it starts off like another verse. To make it a bit different, I added a bass line a 'tenth' below the melody line. You've no doubt heard of harmony lines played in thirds and fifths, this one is a 'tenth'. There's nothing too unusual about it: it's simply a third, but played in the next octave down. So 3 (the third) plus an octave (8) equals 11, minus 1 (because the first and last note are counted twice) equals 10. It's called a 'Compound Interval', because it surpasses the octave. That all takes place in bar 18 and there are a couple more 10ths end of bar 20 and the whole of bar 21.
Those last few bars are another series of compound intervals, looks like there might be a 12th in there as well as a bunch of 10ths. Who cares? It sounds like Christmas and that's all that matters. I gave each a chord name because, once again, if you were to extend those double stops -- add more notes to make them chords -- these would be the chords I heard in my head when arranging this. You can play them to see what I mean, one per beat. I dimmed them down in the movie because it's not really important to know what they are. But, if you wanted someone to play along with you and just strum chords, get them to play these.
For this lesson, I will now be charging a small fee of US $3.95 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.