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Lesson Subject: Holiday Guitar
What you learn: Deck The Halls
Teacher: Storm Stenvold

lesson sample

Storm: Welcome to our series on Holiday guitar. In this lesson I've arranged the old chestnut classic 'Deck the Halls' in a Travis picking/country style. This song is perfect for using a country style because of its use of a continuous bass note pattern while keeping a melody on top. Here's a Travis picking pattern for you to warm up. We will be playing this fingerstyle throughout the song.

Travis Warm-up 1

Storm: This is a typical 'Travis' picking pattern. You cover the bass notes with the thumb while playing constant 8th or 16th notes. Your index finger will play notes on the 3rd string, middle finger for the 2nd string and ring finger on the 1st string. The arrangement has many examples of using bass note patterns and thumb-finger combinations. My advice is to break them up into bar and half bar patterns to work them out and then make up your own variations.

Storm: Here are the 1st two bars of "Deck the Halls'.

Storm: No Travis picking yet because we're just starting. Notice we start with single notes, then adding harmony '6ths' in the second bar.

bars 3-4

The last two beats of bar 3 and bar 4 introduces the idea underlying the arrangement of using melody notes while being supported by a active bass part. Now for the Travis picking patterns for bars 5 and 6.

bars 5-6

Travis picking typically uses the bass notes on every 8th note. For this song you use 16th notes. The Kansas classic 'Dust in the Wind' is another song example that uses this technique in a 16th note feel. A good practice method is to work on the thumb by itself, rehearse the melody by itself and then practicing both parts together. It's kind of like 'patting your head and rubbing your tummy' at the same time. Two easy techniques aren't always as easy to do at the same time, but if you break them down separately then it's just a matter of practice. The places where the thumb and fingers strike together are considered a 'pinch'. Here's the next two bars:

bars 7-8

Notice at the beginning of the song the melody was up high on the 1st string. Then it moved down to familiar chord shapes in open position. At the end of bar 8 I move the melody up an octave. This octave displacement is a common arranging trick used for solo guitar. It allows for more variety in the chord changes. This 'octave higher' is continued in the next two bars.

Storm: The next two bars also introduce the 16th note syncopation in the fingers. Try using this picking pattern as another warm-up to develop the feel for this technique.

Travis Warm-up 2

Notice that the melody on the 3rd string falls between the 8th notes in the bass. In bar 9 I have the thumb playing the alternating pattern on the 4th and 3rd strings. The index and middle fingers move to the 2nd and 1st string, respectively.

bar 9

Bar 9 comes out of a D chord shape in 5th position and then to D7. In bar 10 the alternating pattern moves from the 3rd to 4th string. The index and middle fingers play again on 2nd and 1st string.

bar 10

The melody moves back down an octave for the remainder of the arrangement.

bars 11-12

Here is a cool run that I substituted for the 12th bar where the D chord is held.


Storm: The idea here is to replace a note in the scale or run with an open string whenever possible. The run comes out of the G major scale.

Storm: Replacing the fretted notes with open strings gives a 'harp' effect. Chet Atkins uses this technique often. Here are bars 13-14:

Bars 13-14

And now for the last two bars:

bars 15-16

Storm: Bar 15 uses a 16th note pattern for the E note. I move the right hand index and middle fingers to the first string to accomplish this. The last notes shown at the 5th fret are actually harmonics, sounding 2 octaves above the open D-G-B strings. I play this with either a slap of the fingerboard at the 5th fret with the right hand index finger or pointing the finger at the 5th fret by extending my ring finger and raking back from the 2nd to 4th string.

Storm: It might take all 12 days of Christmas to practice this song. Practice and, most of all, have fun!.

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