Christmas Classics: Learn Three Unique Fingerstyle Arrangements

Learn sophisticated solo-guitar arrangements of "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Joy to the World," and "Silent Night."

Here are three holiday songs for acoustic guitar, arranged for fingerstyle or solo playing. These pieces are excerpted from our book Holiday Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar by Sean McGowan, available in our web store. Each link includes notation and a video lesson.


Check out more holiday songs from Acoustic Guitar

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‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’

This solo-guitar arrangement of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” moves twice through the song’s simple verse-chorus form, set in the key of E major. The first verse features contrapuntal motion with inner lines moving under the melody. While the majority of the chords in both verses are diatonic chords in E major, there are also several non-diatonic passing chords that offer additional color and texture to the melody.

‘Joy to the World’

Prominent 19th-century American church musician and educator Lowell Mason composed the music for the tune based on melodic strains and motifs from George Frideric Handel’s oratorio mas­terpiece Messiah. While this song is typically performed with a large chorus of singers accompanied by an organ, it works beautifully for solo fingerstyle guitar.

This arrangement is set in dropped-D tuning in the key of D major, adding power to the melody and chords with a resonant low-D pedal. Try to imagine your guitar as a chorus of singers, and allow the two open D strings to sustain and ring out like the sound of a church organ.

‘Silent Night’

This solo-guitar arrangement of “Silent Night” is set in the key of A major. The melody starts on the open E string, setting up a sustaining, lyrical approach to the song.

Learn to play holiday songs and christmas carols on acoustic guitar
Sean McGowan
Sean McGowan

Sean McGowan's work focuses on jazz, fingerstyle, composition, and injury prevention for musicians. He is a professor of music at the University of Colorado Denver and has authored several instructional books.

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