Since the holidays are upon us and I’m getting requests for Christmas songs, I thought I would post a solo guitar arrangement of The First Noel. This is an intermediate level piece as it combines melody and chords, moves into higher positions on the neck, and uses some familiar chord shapes in different locations on the neck. It’s in the key of D and begins with pickup notes on the third beat before the first complete measure of the song. Check out the video example below.
Let’s take a look at the chord shapes in the diagram below. Note that the root notes are shaded in black. Think of the root as being the note that names the chord. If you’ll notice, the three chords in the third measure (Bm, A, G) all have the root notes on the second string. It’s just a matter of placing the shape at the correct fret to get the desired chord. For example the Bm chord has the root note played with the 3rd finger at the 12th fret on the note B on the second string, the A chord right after it has the root note played with the 3rd finger on the note A at the 10th fret on the second string, and the G chord has the root note played with the 3rd finger on the note G at the 8th fret on the second string. Notice that these chords are all the same shapes as the D and Dm chords that we are already familiar with except that they are played in different locations. Once you realize that shapes and patterns played on the guitar that do not involve open strings can be transposed to different chords, scales, etc… simply by moving them to another location on the neck, it opens the doors to new possibilities and you realize that you actually know more than you think you do. Use this same concept for the chords based on the E shape, such as the A chord in measure 2, and the A shape, such as the D chord in measure 4 and the Em chord in measure 6. Try not to over complicate it. All the chords in the song are just variations of the open position chords that you probably already know.
You can play this finger style or with a pick, whichever works best for you. Just remember, the highest notes in the chords are your melody notes so only play what is indicated in the transcription. I have included notation as well as tablature. So, grab an egg nog, your guitar, and take it measure by measure until you can play the whole song from start to finish. Have fun with it, and let me know how you do.