Guitar lesson for

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

by John Lennon  •  Lesson #35

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

This video is an acoustic guitar lesson for the song “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’ll show you how to play it, whether you’re looking for simple strum-along version or a more advanced arrangement full of flourishes to capture the melody you hear in the album version. This lesson includes a playthrough, explanation of how to play each chord, overview of the chord progressions needed, strumming patterns – I cover it all! I created this tutorial for Songnotes, which is my personal music lesson web project (video and text-based lessons).

Video timestamps:

Lyrics and chords

           A                              Bm
So this is Christmas... and what have you done?
             E                            A
Another year over... and a new one just begun

                   D                             Em
    And so this is Christmas... I hope you heard from
                     A                            D
    The near and the dear ones... the old and the young

                     G                            A
        A very Merry Christmas... and a happy New Year
                          Em         G                D      E         
        Let's hope it's a good one....... without any fear

               A                                           Bm
And so this is Christmas (War is over)... for weak and for strong (If you want it)
                 E                                          A
For rich and the poor ones (War is over)... the world is so wrong (Now)

                 D                                            Em
    And so happy Christmas (War is over)... for black and for white (If you want it)
                   A                                            D
    For yellow and red ones (War is over)... let's stop all the fight (Now)

                     G                            A
        A very Merry Christmas... and a happy New Year
                          Em         G               D      E
        Let's hope it's a good one...... without any fear

               A                                           Bm
And so this is Christmas (War is over)... and what have we done? (If you want it)
             E                                        A
Another year over (War is over)... and a new one just begun (Now)

                 D                                            Em
    And so happy Christmas (War is over)... we hope you heard from (If you want it)
                     A                                          D
    The near and the dear ones (War is over)... the old and the young (Now)

                     G                            A
        A very Merry Christmas... and a happy New Year
                          Em         G               D      E
        Let's hope it's a good one...... without any fear

A              Bm        
War is over... if you want it
E              A
War is over... now-----------

Chord shapes

Here’s how to play the chords needed in this song, in their simplest form:

E |–––0–––2–––0–––2–––0––––3–––
B |–––2–––3–––0–––3–––0––––0–––
G |–––2–––4–––1–––2–––0––––0–––
D |–––2–––4–––2–––0–––2––––0–––
A |–––0–––2–––2–––––––2––––2–––
E |–––––––––––0–––––––0––––3–––
      A   Bm  E   D   Em   G

Chord progressions

Big picture, there are these three progressions you’ll need to play the full song. Important note: you’re on each chord for 12 counts! And furthermore, you can optionally play a few variations of each chord within those 12 counts – more on that in the tabs below.

Progression #1

"So this is Christmas, and what have you done..."
A . . . Bm . . . E . . . A . . .

Progression #2

"And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun..."
D . . . Em . . . A . . . D . . .

Progression #3

"A very merry Christmas, and a happy new year..."
G . . . A . . . Em . G . D . E .

Strumming pattern

The key to approaching the strumming is to look at things in terms of 3 counts per measure. This is, as opposed, to looking at 4 counts per measure - which is usually the norm for popular music. Written out, this would sound like this (DOWN… down up down up). If you can, try to accent (give emphasis) to the 1 count of each measure.

1 + 2 + 3 +              D = down strum
D   D U D U              U = up strum
>                        > = add accent & emphasis

If you want a simpler version, use the same counting but only do downstrums. With this said, still try to add accent to the 1 count if you can.

1 + 2 + 3 +              D = down strum
D   D   D                U = up strum
>                        > = add accent & emphasis

Given the patterns above, you want to play 4 measures of each chord (3 beats per measure X 4 total measures = 12 counts total).

Adding fancy chord variations for each progression

This is where this song gets fun to play, though also a bit challenging! Specifically, I’m talking about how each chord can itself be turned into 4 separate chords, with a melodic through-tone. Play the strumming pattern I showed above one time for each of the 4 chords shown in each group below.

Fancy chords for progression #1

“And so this is Christmas…”

E |––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––
B |––––2–––––––0–––––––3–––––––2–––
G |––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––
D |––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––
A |––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
       A     Asus2   Asus4     A

“And what have you done…”

E |––––2––––––2––––––0––––––2––––––
B |––––3––––––2––––––3––––––3––––––
G |––––4––––––4––––––4––––––4––––––
D |––––4––––––4––––––4––––––4––––––
A |––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2––––––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
       Bm   Bmsus2 Bmsus4   Bm

“Another year over…”

E |–––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0–––––
B |–––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0–––––
G |–––––2––––––1––––––1––––––1–––––
D |–––––2––––––2––––––4––––––2–––––
A |–––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2–––––
E |–––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0–––––
      Esus4    E    Eadd9    E

“A new one just begun…”

E |––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––
B |––––2–––––––0–––––––3–––––––2–––
G |––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––
D |––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––
A |––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
       A     Asus2   Asus4     A

Fancy chords for progression #2

“And so this is Christmas…”

E |––––2––––––0––––––3––––––2––––––
B |––––3––––––3––––––3––––––3––––––
G |––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2––––––
D |––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0––––––
A |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
       D    Dsus2  Dsus4    D

“I hope you have fun…”

E |–––––0––––––0––––––2––––––0–––––
B |–––––0––––––4––––––0––––––0–––––
G |–––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0–––––
D |–––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2–––––
A |–––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2–––––
E |–––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0–––––
       Em   EmMaj7  Emadd9   Em

“The near and the dear ones…”

E |––––0–––––0–––––0–––––0–––––––––
B |––––3–––––2–––––0–––––2–––––––––
G |––––2–––––2–––––2–––––2–––––––––
D |––––2–––––2–––––2–––––2–––––––––
A |––––0–––––0–––––0–––––0–––––––––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
     Asus4   A   Asus2   A

“The old and young…”

E |––––2––––––0––––––3––––––2––––––
B |––––3––––––3––––––3––––––3––––––
G |––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2––––––
D |––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0––––––
A |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
       D    Dsus2  Dsus4    D

Fancy chords for progression #3

Note, this one is easier! You stay on most of the chords for 12 full counts.

“A very merry Christmas…”

E |––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B |––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G |––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D |––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A |––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E |––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––

“And a happy new year…”

E |––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B |––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G |––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D |––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A |––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

“Let’s hope it’s a good one…”

E |––––0––––––––––––3––––––––––––––
B |––––0––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
G |––––0––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
D |––––2––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
A |––––2––––––––––––2––––––––––––––
E |––––0––––––––––––3––––––––––––––
       Em           G

“Without any fear…”

E |––––2––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
B |––––3––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
G |––––2––––––––––––1––––––––––––––
D |––––0––––––––––––2––––––––––––––
A |–––––––––––––––––2––––––––––––––
E |–––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––
       D            E

After this final E, you start over with progression #1 (resolve to an A).

Good luck!

I hope this helped. Let me know if you have any questions.

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