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Keeping Up With The Changes

Gary Murphy (3498) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Keeping Up With The Changes

One of the important textures of western music is harmony. When I think of harmony, I think about groups like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Mommas and the Pappas, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, or the Eagles. I don't necessarily think about interesting chords, but harmony and chords are closely related.

Deck The Halls

The traditional Christmas song, "Deck the Halls," shown on the next page, is arranged for four-part harmony: Soprano; Alto; Tenor; and Bass (SATB). To play the guitar for this song, you must determine what chords to play that go with the melody (Soprano part) and all of the harmony parts (Alto, Tenor, or Bass).

This simple and familiar song presents a challenge to most guitar players. The harmony changes with every note. Should you change chords for every note? Changing chords quickly presents no problem for most competent piano players, however, changing chords quickly is not easy for most journeyman guitar players. It is difficult to play cleanly even with practice and it is even tougher to sight-read.

I said a song like this isn't easy. I didn't say it is impossible. There are guitar players among us who can keep up with any changes anyone could throw at them. There are players who could read a complex jazz chart and embellish it with even more complex chords that change on every beat and keep the bass walking between beats. Eldon Shamblin was a master at fast chord progressions. This lesson strives to give the rest of us something to play that passes for music when the chords change quickly.

With the disclaimer about the existence of guitar gods out of the way, let's get back on track by looking at "Deck the Halls." There are several ways to approach this song as a guitar player. Listen to the sequence with all three parts: Main sequence; second sequence; and groove. There is a lot happening, so lets analyze it.