What is it about hymns and gospel music that so engages us across philosophical lines? Surely it is not their theology, for that does not explain their wide appeal to nonbelievers. In fact, sometimes the music speaks movingly despite the seeming implausibility of the message. It requires no religious sentiments to make the tears well up as we encounter these words and their musical rendering. All it takes is that we be human. The comfort, nourishment, and inspiration that the old hymns deliver are no mere matters of consumption; these songs engage us at our very core.

These arrangements in Gospel Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar range from intermediate to very advanced. The slow part of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” for example, is at the intermediate end of the spectrum; the fast part, on the other end. The slow part shows how much beauty one can create on the guitar with a combination of passion and intermediate-level picking skills. All lessons include tuning info, background information, technical tips, and humorous asides, as well as access to in-depth instructional videos performed by the author.

Try this excerpt below from Down By the Riverside.



As you explore the arrangement, take notice of the inclusion of a very useful single-string “pinch” technique in measures 3, 8, and 11. The thumb proceeds as though on autopilot (a very important ingredient of most alternating-bass tunes), but the index finger interjects a quick pluck immediately preceding the thumb on the same string. This maneuver can be a bit tricky, but it is a great skill to have when the melody falls on a string that the thumb is about to strike. You can often get away with fudging it, but getting it to emerge clearly and without a rhythmic glitch can provide quite a triumphant feeling!

"Down by the Riverside" musical notation and guitar tablature, part I
"Down by the Riverside" musical notation and guitar tablature, part I

This text, along with the music notation for “Down By the Riverside,” is excerpted from Gospel Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar.