From the November/December 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Adam Perlmutter

For generations, the traditional yuletide song “Deck the Halls,” with 1862 lyrics by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant (1799–1873), has been reminding listeners to “deck the halls with boughs of holly” in celebration of Christmas and the new year. In America, this old European holiday tradition led to the widespread decimation of wild native holly by the 1920s—not unlike what would happen with forests supplying Brazilian rosewood, ebony, and other prized tonewoods.  

American hollies have generally been more well-managed and cultivated since then, thanks in large part to a breeding program started in the 1940s with the Holly Society of America, and “Deck the Halls” continues to evoke those vibrant green leaves and red berries. 


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Maurice Tani’s arrangement, like all in this series, includes just a few common chords—in order of appearance, C, F, G, Am7, and D7. As usual, make sure these are all under your fingers before playing the song. Note that you could play the F as a full barre chord, but you might find it easier to wrap your thumb around the neck to fret the note F on string 6, as Tani does in the video.

Though you could get away with playing any basic 4/4 strumming pattern for the song, try copping Tani’s boom-chuck approach. As shown in the notation, play a chord’s root or fifth on beats 1 and 3 and strum the upper strings on 2 and 4. But most important, go for an energetic and festive feel.


This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.