Guitar lesson for

O Holy Night

by Sufjan Stevens  •  Lesson #343

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey friends! Here’s a guitar lesson for the classic Christmas song “O Holy Night”, which is probably my favorite of all holiday tunes. I’ll be basing this lesson off of the Sufjan Stevens version from 2006, and keeping things as simple as possible when it comes to chords, strumming, and fingerpicking patterns. Whether you want to do a super basic campfire (er, yule log?) version – or do something a bit more advanced with fingerpicking and incorporating the melody riff – this lesson has you covered! I hope you enjoy.

Video timestamps:

Lyrics with chords

Key of C, 6 beats per measure, 74 BPM

INTRO

    C ..... C ..... C ..... C .....

VERSE

    C        C            F                  C      C
    O-- holy night... the stars are brightly shine--ing
              C            G             C       C
    It is the night of our dear savior's birth
    C            C           F             C       C
    Long lay the world... in sin and error pine----ing
             Em              B7            Em      Em
    'Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth

PRE-CHORUS
          G          G        C             C
        A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices
            G        G       C                C    (G/B)
        For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

CHORUS
            Am    Am          Em     Em      Dm     Dm           Am     Am  (G/B)
            Fall----- on your knees------- O hear----- the angel voices
              C       G       C      F       C      G                   C          C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- when Christ was born
              G       G       C      F       C      G             C     C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- O night divine

INSTRUMENTAL SECTION

            C ..... C ..... F ..... C ..... C .....
            C ..... G ..... C ..... C .....           
                                     (played twice)

    C        C            F          C      C
    Truly he taught us to love one anoth----er
               C            G         C         C
    His law is love and his gospel is peace
    C                 C            F            C       C
    Chains shall he break, for the slave is our broth---er
               Em        B7              Em      Em
    And in his name all oppression shall cease

              G        G        C              C
        Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
            G       G       C              C    (G/B)
        Let all within us praise his holy name

            (louder)
            Am     Am         Em     Em      Dm     Dm            Am      Am    (G/B)
            Fall----- on your knees------- O hear------ the angel voice---es
              C       G       C      F       C      G                   C     C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- when Christ was born
              G       G       C      F       C      G             C      C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- O night divine

            (quieter)
            Am     Am         Em     Em      Dm     Dm            Am      Am    (G/B)
            Fall----- on your knees------- O hear------ the angel voice---es
              C       G       C      F       C      G                   C     C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- when Christ was born
              G       G       C      F       C      G             C      C
            O night-------- divine-------- O night----- O night divine


                                                      (let final C ring to end)

Guitar chords used

Here’s the chord shapes you need. You can of course tweak any of these (to simplify, to fancily, etc) if you please. For the F, I’ll use the middle-4-string version shown below to avoid having to do the full barre chord. The G/B is an optional chord used when transitioning between Am and C.

e-|---0----x----3----0----0----1---(2)--------
B-|---1----1----0----0----1----3----0----0----
G-|---0----2----0----0----2----2----2----0----
D-|---2----3----0----2----2----0----1----0----
A-|---3----3----2----2----0---------2----2----
E-|--------x----3----0------------------------
      C    F    G    Em   Am   Dm   B7  G/B

Chord progression

INTRO       | C . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |

VERSE       "O holy night, the stars..."
            | C . . . . . | C . . . . . | F . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |
            | C . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |

            "Long lay the world, in sin..."
            | C  . . . . . | C  . . . . . | F  . . . . . | C  . . . . . | C . . . . . |
            | Em . . . . . | B7 . . . . . | Em . . . . . | Em . . . . . |

PRE-CHORUS  "A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices..."
            | G . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |
            | G . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |


CHORUS      "Fall on your knees, oh hear..."
            | Am . . . . . | Am . . . . . | Em . . . . . | Em . . . . . |
            | Dm . . . . . | Dm . . . . . | Am . . . . . | Am . . . . . |

            "O night, divine..." (first time)
            | C . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | F . . . . . |
            | C . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |

            "O night, divine..." (second time)
            | G . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | F . . . . . |
            | C . . . . . | G . . . . . | C . . . . . | C . . . . . |

Strumming patterns

If you want to strum this song, here’s a few options. I recommend starting light & simple, and then dialing up the intensity as you move along toward the end. Accent & emphasize the 1 and 4 counts!

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
D           D               "DOWN..... DOWN....."

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
D   d   d   D   d   d       "DOWN down down, DOWN down down"

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
D   d u d u D   d u d u     "DOWN down-up down-up, DOWN down-up down-up"

Fingerpicking options

You can also fingerpick this song, which I’ll do by using one (or multiple) of these patterns. I generally keep my right index/middle/ring on the 4th/3rd/2nd strings, and use my right thumb on the bass note of the chord (usually 5th or 6th string). See my video lesson for a demonstration.

E –––––––––––––––            E –––––––––––––––            E –––––––––––––––
B –––––––––––––––            B ––––––––1––––––            B ––––––––1––––––
G ––––––0–––––0––            G ––––––0–––0––––            G ––0–––0–––0––––
D ––––2–––––2––––     or     D ––––2–––––––2––     or     D ––––2–––––––2––
A ––3–––––3––––––            A ––3––––––––––––            A ––3–––––3––––––
E –––––––––––––––            E –––––––––––––––            E –––––––––––––––
    C                            C                            C
    1 2 3 4 5 6                  1 2 3 4 5 6                  1 2 3 4 5 6   

Optional melody riff tab (for intro / first line of the verse)

Here’s a tab I came up with to play the melody of the first line or two – in combination with the chords that go with it. The yellow notes below represent the actually melody notes (i.e. what you’d hum or whistle or sing) – and you can optionally add any amount, or none, of the non-highlighted chord-notes I show below. If you do play the non-highlighted notes, don’t feel pressured to play all of them… in other words, its okay if you’re fingerpicking and only play the bass note of the chord, along with the highlighted melody note. See my video lesson for reference!

See PDF for tab diagram.

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