Lesson 10: Merry Christmas! "Silent Night"

Posted December 3, 2007

Christmas is a joyous season, rich with musical tradition.  Can the banjo fit in?  You bet it can!  In 1982 I published a collection of Christmas solos called "Yuletide Banjo" which has made a generation of pickers participants in the Christmas music scene.

This arrangement of "Silent Night" is for students of any level.  Memorize the exercises and watch the left hand, keeping the eye one jump ahead of the fingers.

Fingering:  Use 3rd finger on the 1st string for all the double notes.  This will be your guide finger, sliding from one position to another.  When the notes are the same fret, like double 5's, or double 7's, the 2nd finger is used on 2nd string.  When they are a fret apart, like 3 and 4, or 8 and 9, the 1st finger takes the 2nd string.  Small numbers above the staff are left hand fingers.

Artistic considerations:  On the numerous double notes in this arrangement, the 1st string is the melody and should be a little stronger than the harmony note on 2nd string.  For many players, the index finger gives a stronger tone than the middle, and the melody is weak.  My solution is to offset the notes a tiny bit with the index leading the beat and the middle right on the beat.  Listen for this effect and apply it to your playing.

Good news:  No "faster" audio links on this lesson.  It's all about smoothness and flow.  Enjoy!

Exercise 1

Fret the 5 with 2nd finger.  Listen for the melody and emphasize those notes. 

Audio:   Play


Exercise 2

The guide finger, 3rd finger on 1st string, don't lift it off the string.   Lead with your eye, looking where you want the finger to land next.

Audio:   Play


Exercise 3

C chord lick.  Practice the double notes alone first, then add the right hand roll and fill notes.

Audio:   Play

Exercise 4

Listen for the guide shifts adding just a hint of slide sound.  This enhances the flowing feel.

Audio:   Play


Solo:  Silent Night

Remember, it's all about the flow and expressing the melody.  Note:  The third line is repeated.

Audio:   Play

RiverDogs play Silent Night

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you at enormous expense... Edward Wing and Robert Lovett of the fabulous RiverDogs!  Robert's guitar part is played in the key of A, and my banjo is capo 2.  If you would like tablature for Robert's lovely guitar solo, send me an email. 

The banjo backup is simply a forward roll, TIMTIM, with thumb playing sometimes 3rd and 5th strings, sometimes 4th and 3rd. 

Audio:  Play  (This is a 4-minute arrangement, be patient on the download.)

Merry Christmas, folks.  In my course, The Banjo Experience, Unit Two, lesson 7, you will find an excellent beginner's arrangement of "Jingle Bells."  Check it out in the General Store.

Good Luck Pickin'!

Edward T Wing

Pick'n'Grin, Knoxville, Tennessee