By Acoustic Guitar Staff
Given the right atmosphere and mood, the acoustic guitar has a power to evoke a singalong that few other instruments possess. Here are three fun, simple versions of holiday favorites to get you and everyone in the room (or virtual room) singing this year. Notation and videos are included for each link.
‘Deck The Halls’
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. The song became so popular that it forced the creation of a holly breeding program in the 1940s to avoid decimation of the plant.
Thankfully, today the plant that brings us that festive combination of vibrant green leaves and red berries endures as much as the tune it is featured in. Maurice Tani’s arrangement here 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. —Adam Perlmutter
‘Little Drummer Boy’
Originally known as “Carol of the Drum,” “The Little Drummer Boy” was based on a traditional Czech song and was written in 1941 by the American composer and pianist Katherine Kennicott Davis. Bryan Sutton makes it his own with this straightforward version, in the guitar-friendly key of C major.
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In working through the notation, Sutton recommends being particularly attuned to rhythm, tone, and dynamics—what he calls the “flatpicking flow.” He explains, “We’re traveling through a piece of music, and we want the steps to feel trustworthy, predictable, and connected.” —Adam Perlmutter
‘Auld Lang Syne’
Bob Minner, the ace flatpicker and Tim McGraw sideman, records the traditional New Year’s tune “Auld Lang Syne” each year. “It’s a way of expressing my gratitude for having played guitar for a living again this year, while looking forward to the opportunities and projects that will come along next year,” he says.
In his 2019 version, Minner used the all-mahogany Collings 01 12-fret T that he affectionately calls Piglet. He tuned the guitar to dropped D, which allowed him the big-sounding I (D) chords in the arrangement’s key of D major, and took things at a stately pace. “This is one of those tunes that’s so melody-driven that there’s not a whole lot of room for variation,” Minner says. “You don’t want to get too far off the melodic path, so it’s best that you slow down when you play it, and really give space to let in breathe.” —Adam Perlmutter