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Uke Spotlight: Christmas Songs By Ear

Posted on: November 23rd, 2011 by dville
It happens every year.  You plan on learning some Christmas songs, but before you know it the holidays have come and gone and no one wants to hear The First Noel in March.  But, if we start now you’ll have a few weeks to get your Christmas song repertoire together by December 25th while at the same time learning something about how songs are constructed.  But, before you run out and buy the book 1001 Christmas Songs Arranged For Ukulele try learning a few of the songs below without a book.  A great place to start is songs that only use the I-IV &(V7) chords.
There are just three chords (I-IV-V) in Joy To The World and the first part of the melody is nothing more than a descending major scale.

Speaking of The First Noel, it has just three major chords and learning it by ear it a great way to familiarize yourself to the sound of the V-IV-I cadence.  This is also a fun song to run the melody up and down the major scale.

White Christmas also uses the I-IV-V chords.

Jingle Bells is a pretty straight forward I-IV-V7 song except in the chorus where it also uses a II7 chord.
Play through the chorus and you’ll hear exactly where that II7 shows up (look in the sleigh).
Silent Night uses just three major chords and I bet you can guess which ones (Hint: I-IV-V).

For all you Santa fans, Up On The House has an easy I-IV-I-V7 chord progression.

Deck The Halls utilizes those same three chord plus a vi minor (Key of C: A minor) during the
Fa-La-La  La-La-La La La La part in the bridge.
Angels We Have Heard On High is basically a I-V-I song (Key of C: C-G-C) except in the bridge where it does this:
I Glo..VI7..o..ii..o..V..o..I..o..IV..o..V..oria (Key of C: C-A7-Dm-G-C-F-G)
I in V ex cel IV sis V Deo.  (C-G-C-F-G)I Glo..VI7..o..ii..o..V..o..I..o..IV..o..V..oria
I in ex I cel IVsis De I o.
Remember, if you put these songs in your head musically, you’ll retain the information about them much better than trying to memorize the chord progressions from a piece of paper.  Good luck and Happy Holiday tunes!
Thanks to Chris Fonda who suggested the idea for this post.

One Response

  1. Shawn says:

    Wow! Where can I get that 1001 Ukulele Christmas Songs book??? Lol…thanks Jim..have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas!Shawn

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