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Arranging Q's: O Holy Night


(@fprintf)
Active Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

First, a disclaimer: I am trying to learn my wife's favorite Xmas carol, O Holy Night, in time for this holiday season. I am hoping to play it at our annual holiday party, so I need to practice it from this point on if I am to get it right.

I have been using David Hodge's lessons to understand a bit about arranging. I have been trying to use the method outlined in the lesson titled "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" yet I don't really get it. With a tune like O Holy Night, also one of the most well known carols, you think it'd be easy to develop a fingerpicking routine!

So I have the melody all planned out, pretty much all up the high E-string with the first note starting with open E (I can't tell you yet what key this is, it goes E-E-F-G GG-AA-G-A-C-B etc.). Playing from the open E string it goes all the way up beyond one octave. So I am figuring I need to play the song on the upper frets so that I don't have to slide up and down the fretboard so much. How do I figure out what Bass notes go with the melody notes?

In fact, perhaps this is a question for David in the lessons forum, how do we know what chords to use throughout the song when all we know is the melody? Any lessons I should be learning first? The good thing is I have 4 -5 months, so I can plod through quite a few lessons before actually getting down to the arranging.

Thanks!


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(@ovation_player)
Trusted Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 55
 

Well, I am no expert at this but I think there are several ways to approach this.

One way may be to buy the sheet music or get a tab from the internet
The sheet music or the tab should have the chords listed on there. Once you get the chords you can figure out a finger picking pattern.

But be aware that the sheet music or tab might not be in the same key you're playing the melody in. So you may have to transpose the tab/sheet music chords to the key you are playing in.

Another way would be to figure out the key you're playing it in and mess around with the diatonic chords from that key.

From the notes you listed there were no sharps or flats so the key of c comes to mind.

The diatonic chords in c

are cmajor dminor eminor fmajor gmajor(or g7) aminor and bdiminished

Is the f in the melody f natural or f sharp?

since the melody begins with e and the other notes are natural I'm thinking eminor might be the key except in the key of eminor f would be sharp

in eminor the diatonic chords are

eminor f#diminished gmajor aminor bminor cmajor dmajor(or d7)

Try some of those chords Hope this helped rather than confused you

"This song starts off kinda slow then fizzles out altogether" Neil Young


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

I can't suggest much as I really know very little about transposing a song to fingerstyle.
The very basics I learned from my teacher are take the bass line (just basic, no more than one bass note per beat) from the chord progression (use the Root note of the chord, if the same chord repeats multiple bars in a row you can mix up the Root with the 5th or even 3rd) Play the molody line over the bass line (you can usually get a good melody line from vocal sheet music) That's about it, very basic.
When you do get an arrangment put together could you post it in the easy song database or, going out on a limb, email me your version.
I do like that song but don't want to go through the trouble of transposing it myself.


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 vink
(@vink)
Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 722
 

Or .. you could buy a book.

Mark Hanson's Fingerstyle Christmas Guitar: 12 Beautiful Songs & Carols for Solo Guitar (Paperback)
Amazon Link

Does not seem to be a beginner book though, so the arrangement could be difficult.

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


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(@aaron-munson)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 16
 

I'm trying to arrange Silent Night the same way. I have the melody down on the High E and I am sorting out wich roots to go with the different parts of the melody. I am sort of trying to do it all by ear too. It's not very fast for me to do it that way, but I seem to enjoy it more that way. And my ears need LOTS of training:) I worked out the melody and a few of the roots for "Star Spangler Banner" that way earlier in the summer and it was fun to do. Luckily Silent night is a fairly simple song.
Good Luck


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(@aaron-munson)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 16
 

I suppose the quick way would be to buy the book or lead sheet to find the roots/chord proggression. Are you aiming for a chord-melody approach or a melody line, filler stuff, bass line arrangment?


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

Come on guys - we can do better than this.

fprintf - as the melody goes from the open E string to the 8th fret on that string, rework it so that you're playing with your 1st finger at the 5th fret, and use the E and B strings to deal with the melody.

Then post the tab here and let's see what we can do with it next...

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Alan's right... we should be more help here.

The arrangement needs to fit the feeling of the song. Listen to that one, and you've got a 12/8 feel, so you'll want a triplet pattern. Listen closely, and the orchestration for most arrangements will be arpeggios backing the vocal line.

Next, key. The notes you wrote out are ABCEFG - no D, but no sharps or flats. Only the keys of C and Am have no accidentals, so you're probably in one of them. Both the C and Am chord have an E note, so it's somewhat trial and error... but it sounds like it's more major than minor. That's probably a better fit.

Now we've figured out style (arpeggios) and key (C major). The next step is to map out the melody and figure out where the chord changes are going to fall:

Chord: C F C
Melody: E E A G G A A F A C G
Lyric: O holy night the stars are bright-ly shi-ning

Now let's start to translate that melody into chord positions. As Alan mentioned, you can move the notes to keep them in the same position... but I'm going to take a different tack, keeping them on the 1st string to start with. That first C chord is played against notes on frets 0-5-3; the F chord is played against notes on 5-1, the second C against 8-3.

You don't want your hand jumping all over the place in an arrangement. The first C chord needs to be done somewhere between positions 2-4, but the F and second C can't stay in a single position - so I'd move the F note to 2nd string 6th fret (playing F in 5th position) and the G over the second C chord to 2nd string 8th position (playing C in eighth position).

Now you can start to lay out an arrangement. Here's a real simple one:

-0-----0-----5-3-----------3-5---5-----5-8----------------
-----------------------------------8----------8------8-8--
-----5-----5-------5-----5-------5-----5----9------9------
---5-----5-------5-----5-------7-----7---10-----10-----10-
-3-----3-------3-----3-------8-----8----------------------
----------------------------------------------------------

Missleman's comments on the bass line are often very helpful to writing an arrangement - I'm currently arranging "Georgia on My Mind" in just that way - but this one's a simpler tune. I'd just go with chord forms, arpeggios, and top notes.

Have fun with it!

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@fprintf)
Active Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

Thank you so much to everyone for the help. I have a *lot* of work to do digesting what has been posted already. I played around some more with it last night and figured how to do the "up the neck" C chord that NoteBoat posted before he posted. It seems like I am on the right track... possibly because I have two versions of the song, both by TransSiberian Orchestra, to listen to while I arrange my version.

Thanks, this is opening up a whole new world on the guitar for me. Good thing I have a few more months... lessons at the community college are next on the agenda.

edit:
Just to add a slight correction to the melody:

Chord: C F C
Melody: E EE G G A A F A C G
Lyric: O holy night the stars are bright-ly shi-ning


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

Let's go a step farther, I am aiming this at Alan and NoteBoat.
Yes this song is absolutly an arpeggiated song (I can hear it playing in my head right now)
But it is only recognizable if someone is singing.
What if I wanted to play an instrumental version?
I am thinking of 2 ways, both utilizing the arpeggio, that may work.
Obviously you would need at least part if not all of the melody included somehow.
I (just off the top of my head) would add the melody notes where needed and either drop the corresponding arpeggio notes or play doudle stops to keep the arpegios intact (I would lean toward the double stops with emphases on the melody notes)
Am I anywhere close?


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Yep, you're dead on.

If you look at the part I tabbed out at the end, I just added the vocal melody notes to the arpeggios - so they'd be double stops at some points (and squeezed in between the arpeggio notes in others)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

I gave Noteboat's Tab a quick run through - it has a "Cavatina"-like feel to it.

How is this going to end up? It would be nice to see/hear more than just a few bars.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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