A Silent Night For Every Player

December 19, 2023 3 min read

A Silent Night For Every Player

A lot of ground was covered on this blog this year, from streaming services to several different artist profiles to lessons to my ramblings. I’m grateful that the team at Thalia Capos has allowed me to write how I would like for their blog and for being a terrific collaborator in this process!

For this blog post just before the holidays. Instead of the usual comings and goings, let’s give you, our dear readers, a small gift of music, with something for the beginner and intermediate/advanced player.

With that, here are two versions of Silent Night that will go well with your holiday cheer!

A brief history to start

One of the most popular, if not the most popular, songs of the holiday season, Silent Night, originated in 1818 in the Austrian village of Oberndorf. Joseph Mohr, the local parish priest, approached Franz Xaver Gruber, a school teacher and organist, with a poem he had written. On Christmas Eve, faced with a malfunctioning organ, Gruber composed a simple melody to accompany Mohr's verses (with a guitar, no less! How fitting for this blog!). The song was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 at the St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf (later destroyed by flooding and rebuilt as the Silent Night Chapel). 

Today, the song’s popularity is immense, with a record-setting 137,315 different recorded versions of it as of 2017. It is known worldwide, and now you can bring a performance to your living room with one of these two arrangements.

Arrangement 1 - The Simple Version

This version is aimed at beginners getting used to playing single-note lines. The melody is kept in the open position, making it easy to play without too much movement on the fretting hand. The arrangement’s key of C major means no sharps or flats, making it an easy chart to read for those not used to using tablature.

The chords above offer direction for accompaniment. Given the song’s time signature (3/4), a more waltz-y feel might be appropriate for whoever is strumming along.

For those who prefer to accompany a singer, just strum the chords, and you’ll have a Christmas sing-along in no time!

You can also download this arrangement as a PDF here.

Arrangement 2 - A Chord Melody Version

For those new to the concept, a chord melody is what it implies. The guitarist plays the melody with chordal accompaniment on top. This arranging type is a staple in jazz music and instrumental fingerstyle guitar, where players construct pieces that sound like a band.

This version is a simple chord melody arrangement best-played fingerstyle. The melody can be found in the higher notes, allowing it to be front and center. From there, you have simple chords based on triads and their inversions. Finally, you have the bass part played on the lowest three strings. The arrangement’s key of A major means that the A, D and E chords have bass notes on open strings, freeing the left hand to focus on chords and melody.

It is suggested that all of the bass notes (the ones with the stems pointing down in the sheet music) be played with the thumb, while the rest are played with your index, middle, and ring fingers on the right hand.

Pay special attention to the bars with the “let ring” instruction. They will sound their best if you let the chord sustain as long as possible while playing the higher melody notes. The last chord also has an arpeggio marking (the squiggly line - yes, that’s a technical term). To execute this, simply quickly play the notes from lowest to highest while letting them all ring out.

If fingerstyle isn’t your thing, simply play the triads and melody while ignoring the bass notes, and you’ll still have a lovely version to play in front of the fire.

You can also download a PDF here.

We hope that you’ll have some fun with these two arrangements and that your family will enjoy a performance of these during the holidays. We’d love to see you play these arrangements, so feel free to share a video of you performing this on social media by using the hashtag #ThaliaSilentNight and tagging Thalia Capos on your platform of choice.

Happy holidays to all!

Thanks to François Lamoureux and Jeff Logan for reviewing my chord melody arrangement before posting. Your help was greatly appreciated!

By Kevin Daoust - instagram.com/kevindaoust.gtr

Kevin Daoust is a guitarist, guitar educator and writer based in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. When not tracking guitars for artists around the world, or writing music-related articles around the internet, he can be seen on stage with Accordion-Funk legends Hey, Wow, the acoustic duo Chanté et Kev, as well as a hired gun guitarist around Quebec and Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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