I’m well into Christmas Carol territory with most of my students now. Carols are great tunes to start people off with harmonising, as they are so familiar. The melody is already there, deep in the player’s subconscious. I don’t know any other group of tunes which are so universally known by everyone, to the extent that I wish I could use them the rest of the year. But that would spoil the fun I suppose. It’s lovely to appreciate how students are progressing by seeing how much easier they find playing them each year. I have a book of Carols with tune line and easy chords, which I will make available online in the next week or so. But now I would like to focus on Jingle Bells, which is loved by all children and is so versatile for arranging.
Start with the chorus. Here’s a super simple version which uses only two chords.
If you need it even simpler, here is one with only one chord per line. This works well with the student playing just the root note of each chord in the left hand.
- Start them off by playing the melody yourself while they play the bass notes at the appropriate time.
- When they are ready, they can move to playing the whole chord underneath the tune.
- Now introduce the 1st inversion of G, so they don’t have to move so far, but make sure they understand how this relates to the root position.
- Add a chord for extra satisfaction! change the G on ‘one horse’ to a D, and put a G on ‘sleigh’.
If they are young, they can stick with the chorus this Christmas. If they’re ready for more, move on to the whole song.
The above song sheets work well for ukulele too, just make sure they play ‘G7’ when they see ‘G’ as this is much easier for beginners and sounds best too.
I have found that the easiest three chords to start guitarists with are A, E and D in that order.
Here is the simplest version for the ultra-slow chord changes of complete beginners.
Here is a simple 2 chord version.
If the have mastered that, put it in D. Now they can play the extra chord of E.
Time to play the whole song! (In D, there are no difficult chords).