Pickers Circle Dec 23rd

Theme: Songs for Christmas

It’s holiday season and Thomas has generously provided us with material we can work on all year long.

Notes for Silent Night

This is a simple arrangement of “Silent Night” which is a good place to start if you have never done an instrumental before. It is at the beginner level, but is starting to get close to intermediate folk guitar. I’ll play it and answer questions on Wednesday, but in the meantime, you can start working from the tabulature. It is in the key of G, and although you might not recognize it, you will be in the G chord most of the song. Even if you have just been playing for a few months, if you are familiar with the G, C, and D chords, this arrangement might require a bit of work, but you will be able to manage it, and you could easily have it ready to go by Christmas day.

Right hand

      In this arrangement, the underlined notes are the melody notes, and should all be played with the thumb. Play it through a few times playing just the melody notes, and let your memory give you the timing, until you can hear the melody that you are playing. The other notes are played with the index and middle fingers, eg in the first measure, the thumb plays the first (melody) note which is on the 4th string, the index finger plays the note on the third string, and the middle finger plays the note on the second string. (If you have never done fingerpicking at all, the thumb strikes the string downward, and the fingers strike the string upward. Just play the first three notes over and over until it starts to feel natural, then play the first two measures until you recognize the melody coming out.) Notice that nowhere do you play two notes at a time (please ignore the smudge under the 3rd note, 2nd measure) , so in this sense, it’a easier than, say, Freight Train. Notice, also, that there are 6 notes in every measure, thus, the counting is simply “1 & 2 & 3 & “ all the way through, which gives you a nice, smooth 3/4 time. Once you start playing all of the notes, consciously play the melody notes as loud as possible , and the other notes somewhat quieter, to keep them in the background, just supplying the rhythm. You can cut back on the volume of the melody notes once you have a good separation between the melody notes and the rhythm (background) notes.

Left hand

     For the most part, the left hand is quite easy. Notice all of the 0’s. That’s where you’re playing an open string, and not using the left hand at all. Except for the C chord in the 3rd and 4th lines, the whole song can be played in the second position. This means that your first finger will be on the second fret, your second finger might be on the third fret, etc. The 5th and 6th measures are in a D chord, which you are probably used to playing with 3 fingers. In this case, it’s better to bar the first 3 strings with the first finger and use the 2nd finger on the 3rd fret 2nd string. To get from the D chord to the G chord in the 7th measure, just move your second finger over to the first string. In the 17th and 18th measures, you want to use the 3-string bar D chord again so that your 4th finger can reach the 5th fret without too much difficulty. These two measures are the most difficult, so work on them separately. In the 19th measure, which is a G chord, the only finger you are using is your 2nd finger on the first string, so for measure 20, add your first finger on the second string and your 3rd finger on the 3rd string. From here, you’re on the home stretch, which is easy.

Ps: If you haven’t read guitar tabulature before, the six lines represent the 6 strings of the guitar, and the numbers show which fret you play that string on. Eg, form a D chord, then look at the 5th measure in the tabulature. Your left hand is now ready to play the 5th measure. Read across from left to right, as you would with standard music notation or when reading a book.

Notes for “What Child is This/Greensleeves”

     This arrangement  is in 3/4 time and the key of Am. The melody notes are underlined, so you can go through it a few times playing just the melody. Note that there is only 1 note (a pick-up note) in the first measure. To preserve integrity, the last measure has only 2 beats, so that the two together add up to a full measure of 3/4 time. This arrangement was done from a folk rather than a classical approach, so think in terms of chords, and use the chords written in above the score, and it all falls together more easily.

    The verse is a steady flow of 1/8 notes, so count 1&2&3& throughout the verse, except at the end of the first phrase (measure 9), where there is one note missing in order to give a feeling of finality. Count 1 2&3& for this measure. The count in the chorus is just 123, as you are playing 3 1/4 note beats in each measure. This is done so that we can get more power at the start of the chorus by using block chords (measures 18, 19, and 20, then again at 26,27 and 28).  The 3/4 time rhythm in the chorus is carried by the bass, so use the thumb for all 3 notes. Eg in measure18, at the start of the chorus, you would use the thumb on the 5th, then the 4th and then the 3rd strings. Measures 19, 21, 23, 25, 27,29, and 32 have a melody note added between the 2nd and 3rd beats, so here you would count 1 2&3 in each of those measures.

     If you have been playing at the intermediate level for a while, and if you start learning this one today, you could be playing it by Christmas morning. I will go over it at the meeting next Wednesday Dec 23 (that is, if we have a meeting that day), and discuss any problems that have arisen. If you are new to the intermediate level (eg, you have just learned “Freight Train” as your introduction to Travis picking, you probably won’t have it ready to perform on Christmas morning. You can, however, play it all year as “Greensleeves” and have it ready for next year.

     If we are still doing Picker’s Circle next year, I’ll introduce more Christmas songs in about October or November.


Here is my arrangement of White Christmas — Enjoy Charles.

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