Many Christmas carols and songs are a bit tricky to play on guitar; they sound better played on a piano or by an orchestra. However, they are so lovely to sing, and so well known, that it's worth trying to find or work out some "easier" versions. They are often slow, so are good for novice guitar players!
Here are some of my favourites. I'll add more as (or if) I get time. I have adjusted some of them to make them easier to play, and I have put them in a key that is relatively easy to play and also easier for singing, in my opinion (many carols especially suit very high voices).
You can always use a capo if these songs are too low for you (see Folk Guitar Basics if you're not sure what a capo is - they are a very handy "extra" when you play songs).
Opening and/or downloading these song sheets uses bandwidth, which I have to pay for, so if you are using more than half a dozen or so of the sheets, and if you have a few dollars to spare, you may like to donate a little bit to help with the site costs (but please don't feel obligated in any way, the songs are here for you to enjoy).
- G, A7, D7, C - a couple of quick D7>G changes, but otherwise easy to play.
3/4 timing (One, 2,3 , One, 2,3 etc.)
Here's an easy version of this beautiful song. Don't be put off because it's Level 12; these are actually very easy chords, and the changes are not too fast.
I've done it in the key of A, as the chords are easy and it's not too high. It may be too low for you to sing, so you may need to use a capo to raise the pitch.
You can just do a gentle strum (One, 2, 3, One, 2, 3) or you can pick the strings with your fingers: a simple arpeggio of B32123, B32123 sounds good. Note that B= the bass note- this is the string shown a bit darker on the chord diagrams (A- 5th string, D- 4th string, E- 6th string).
This song is a favourite at our Melbourne Carols by Candlelight, usually sung by Marina Prior, if I remember correctly. The chords are easy, with slow changes. I've left in the spoken part as in the Johnny Mathis version, but this is optional.
An suggested Right Hand "finger picking" pattern for this song is to pluck the strings 5,3,2,1, 4,3,2,1 in a repeated pattern. Use your thumb for the bass strings (5 or 4) and use your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers for the other strings so it's an easy pattern to play.
The chord changes in the chorus are fairly fast, but the chords themeselves are not too hard. The rhythm is a brisk One, 2,3,4, One,2,3,4.
L.8. Deck the Halls - G, D7, C, Em, Am - NEW DEC. 2011 - this traditional song has a fairly brisk pace, but no hard chords. Timing: 4/4
L.8. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas - G, D, C, Em, Am - NEW DEC. 2011 - a lovely, slow song with no hard chords. Timing: 4/4
- G, D7,C, Am, C7, F, G7, Dm
-this looks like a long list of chords, but F is the hardest one and there are no fast changes, so take it easy and enjoy this song- it's a lovely song to sing in a group. I've put in the second part- I think it's fairly accurate.
3/4 timing (One, 2,3 , One, 2,3 etc) but if you like, you can just strum the first beat of each bar (the One count).
- D, A7, G, E, E7, A
This song is quite a brisk pace, with steady chord changes but the changes are not too fast and the chords are all easy except for G (do the one-finger G if you need to), so it's not a hard song, and it's lots of fun.
L.12. Once in Royal David's City - A, D, E7
I have simplified the chords for this lovely song. The changes are fairly frequent on the second two lines of each verse, but the chords are easy and the song has a slow pace.
You may find it easier to form the A chord with your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers for the changes to and from E7- try it out to see.
- A, D, E7
This is also a simplified version, without the F#m and Bm and with fewer chord changes, although there is a few quick changes. The chords themselves are easy though, so give it a go.
The second verse is optional- the words are very old-fashioned, so if I'm singing this song with children, I just do Verse 1 and 3.
The rhythm is 4/4, so you can do a relaxed "down, down-up, down, down-up" strum pattern.
L. 12. The 12 Days of Christmas - D, A7, (A), G, E7
The chords and changes in this song are quite easy. Note the change of tune when you get to the "5 golden rings" part.
The A chord is optional- it just sounds better.
This is a fairly high key to sing in. If you like, you can change to the key of C, but the chords and changes will be a bit harder.
Harder Christmas Songs, Level 11+
- Am, E7, C, G7, Dm, F
This song has a constant progression of chords, so it can be tricky if you're not a confident player. Take it nice and slowly, and don't worry about the right hand rhythm too much- a steady, slow downbeat works well for this song.
- Am, C, F, Dm, G7, E7
This song has couple of tricky chords if you're not used to Dm and F, with fairly constant chord changes throughout, but I've cut out some of the chords so the changes are not as fast, and you can play the song at an easy, relaxed pace.
The rhythm is 4/4, so a steady "Down up down up" strum works well.
- G, Em, C, D, D7, A7, Bm
The only really difficult bit in this song is the Bm chord, if you're not used to it. Bm (B minor) sounds best as a bar chord (where you put your first finger across all the strings as a "bar") but there is an easier version shown, too, where you only play the "top" 4 strings - just don't strum the 2 "lowest" (thick) strings.
If you like this song, have a go at it. Don't be put off by the Bm chord- it's only in a couple of places, and the rest of the song is easy so it's a good chance to practise playing Bm. It's not a very hard change from C- your fingers don't need to move much; just pull them back a bit and add in the 4th finger. Practise this change before you play the song.
I've put a link in to a Youtube clip of this song. If you have a capo, you can put it on the first fret and play the chords a semitone up so that you can play along with the clip if you like - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=066EwtrkmRs&feature=fvw.
Level 16 Santa Claus is Coming (Hi 5) - added to this list Dec 2014 - This is a catchy song performed by children's group Hi 5 - a link to the YouTube clip is on the song sheet. I've made up some chords to go along with it... including a couple of bar chords (C, Am, G, Dm, F, Fm, A, A7, Gm).
Level 18+ Christmas Island NEW DEC. 2011 I heard this song whilst shopping and fell in love with the laid-back sound - this is my version, somewhat simplified but it sounds OK to me. It has a couple of bar chords but it's not too hard. The timing is best picked up from a recording of the song; you can strum something like “and- a-ONE, and- a-ONE” (down, up-DOWN, etc)
– see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG5ge0vgXPA for a recording by the Andrews Sisters with wonderful harmonies.
More sites for Christmas Songs-
You can find most songs if you Google "lyrics, chords" and the song title. Most will be free to copy, and some will have a key changing option. Most have lots of ads everywhere, and can be a little confusing to navigate. My favourites for Christmas songs (so far) are:
http://www.classic-country-song-lyrics.com/Christmassongslyricschords.html Notes- good site, easy to navigate, chords on all verses, option to change key (copy and paste). Ads not too intrusive.
http://www.guitarsongs.info/xmas.htm Notes- scroll down past the ads for the list of songs. The formats vary- some songs have the cords inset, and some have the chords at the end of the line- not so good if you don't know where to change them.
FREE ONLINE KEY CHANGER-
If you find songs with the chords inset [in brackets], or in a font such as courier with the chords written above the words, you can copy and paste into the online key changer at http://www.logue.net/xp/ - just choose your new key and the chords will be magically changed. Brilliant!
Note- The online key changer works with fonts like courier because all the letters are spaced evenly, so the chords don't get moved as the text expands. It also works with chords inset in brackets. I use Verdana for my songs as it's easy to read, so my songs won't work in the changer - but if you need to change the key, you can use the chord transposing wheel or use a capo to raise the pitch a bit.
FREE CHRISTMAS CLIP ART-
I had a lot of trouble with searching for free Christmas images- many were copyright, and several were "free" but all of a sudden, my computer was "infected with viruses", according to the window that popped up! There were some other nasty surprises in the Google image search, too. In the end, I found a few good sites with a range of free Christmas clipart. These are the sites I can recommend (most have other themes, too):
http://www.clipartpal.com/clipart_pd/holiday/christmas/christmastree1.html -good range of free Public Domain clipart for Christmas and other topics- check the index on the right side of the page
http://clipart.edigg.com/Christmas_Clipart/ -good range of free Public Domain clipart for Christmas and other topics
http://www.christmas-graphics-plus.com/ has clip art and animate gifs
http://www.watton.org/clipart/cliparttextlinks.shtml list of picture descriptions, different topics - mainly religious theme
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/religion-CM079001947.aspx free clipart of 3 wise men, nativity etc
You can find a range of free images that I have adapted to use as "eCards" for different occasions at http://free-fun-n-games.com/ecards.htm