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Christmas Songs in the Guitar Class

The Christmas time is here and every guitar teacher know, that a lot of children every year wants to play their favorite Christmas Songs with the guitar.

To make this activity as successful as possible, I want to tell you some possibilities and reasons to play these songs with the kids.

First of all: even if you already get tired to practice „Jingle Bells and Co..“ you have to admit that these melodies are beautiful and easy to remember.
1.) Like other children and folk songs you can learn with them how our western music is working . That is because these songs have mostly an easy structure and using the most common musical language
2.) The most important things in these songs are the famous three chords: Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant. It is very important to learn listening this basic chords and changings.
3.) In these songs you can hear the changings of the chords very clear even if you have no experience .
4.) And because the children already mostly knows the melodies, they can pay more attention to things like : playing clean, playing by heart, playing with feeling and so on.

So I am using the Christmas Songs to let my students learn the basics of our western musictheorie. And because this musictheorie is like the grammar of western music, it helps so much to deepen the knowledge and the ear of the students.
– Let them learn the melodies by heart and
– transpose it in other tunes or octaves.
– Use easy grasp chords to accompany the melodie and
– let the students accompany by ear.
– Let them find the same melody, but in another barree…and so on.
– Explain what is a scale and let them improvise to the chords or find the „second melody“.

At the German School I have to teach big groups with young beginners. For the beginners who just have started in September I use a song with only three notes and another song with only two chords. I let the eight year old beginners play the three notes song in two different octaves. One is on the sixth string and on is on the first string. Of course they learn to read and write the notes they are playing. The other song I made with them, has two chords. I use G and D7 with only three strings, so that they already can sing and accompany this song even if their fingers are still not accustomed to play chords.

Why I tell you that? Because I know that a lot of guitar teachers are afraid of the Chritmas time where they always have to practice the same songs with their students. I think we teachers should take that more possitive!

And what I am writing about the Christmas Songs today, count for other Children and Folk Songs too and also for a lot of Pop Songs.

Siegfried Behrend: Peternas de la Mancha

This weekend one of my students has birthday and I decide to make him a small present. He is playing Peternas de la Mancha from Siegfried Behrend and so, I ve recorded his music for him and made an exercise and analysis.

Peternas de la Mancha is an easy piece played mostly in the first Barree and with only a few chords: Am, E, G, F, Dm, C and G7. It is a good piece for learning something about form and improvisation. And it has a nice rhythm changing between 3/8 and 3/4 .

The Form:

Am E Am| G F E|
Am E Am| G F E|

Am E Am| Am E Am|
Dm Dm E

Am E Am| Am E Am|
Dm Dm E|

C G7 C| C G7 C|
G F E|
E E A| Dm Dm E

Am E Am| Am E Am|
Dm Dm E|

C G7 C| C G7 C|
G F E| G F E

Am E Am| Am E Am|
G F E| G F E

The Improvisation:

you can use the material of the C-Major scale for the whole piece. But if you already have a little bit experience you will feel that it is more the Phrygian mode in E and the Aeolian (and Harmonic) mode in A .

My improvisation is not perfect – I know it sounds a little bit too classical.
The fact is, that I am always thinking in motives and don`t use the scale like a jazz-guitarist. But it is just an example. Hope you will make it better and most important: you have fun!

First listen to the original version (without improvisation): lamancha.mp3

and then listen for the improvisation example: manch1.mp3

And now your exercise: use my form notice and your ear to play the original version. If you already have the sheet music you can try to make your own improvisation after recording the piece by yourself. And you can use colour to make the form more evident. The same parts with the same color. Then try to make a new piece with the same chords but changing the succession.

The Jazzsamba

To show you a typical Jazz Samba I choosed the Chega de Saudade from Antonio Carlos Jobim. I recorded that piece two times. First I played the chords and the next time I played the melodie. To make sure, that I am always using the same speed, I ve recorded with metronom. That you can hear in the backround. With the audacity software I put melodie and chords together. I ve only recorded the part one of the piece, without part two and improvisation:

Chega de saudade MP3

Typical for the Jazz Samba are the Chord patterns (see my instructions about Samba) and the form. The Song is written as a leadsheet. That means the melodie is written exactly and in notes, but the chords are written in chord symbols . So its up to the musicians what they are making with the chords. There are different possibilities and if you listen to different recordings from different artists you will see, that the same song every time sounds very different.

The Form: The thema has two parts a 32 bars. The first part is in C minor with 32 bars: 8 + 8, 8 + 8. Part two (a bridge a 8 + 8 and the theme in C major with 8 + 8 (+2) bars) is in C major. After that, the form should come again with the improvisation. After the improvisation it should turn back to the original. I am saying “should”, because that deepends of the decision of the musicians. For example: Dizzy Gillespie:   he don`t play part one again at the end. He only repeat part two. But during the improvisation he used the whoole form.

The Jazz and Popmusic like the old classical music use very clear and strict forms which can be divided in eight bar parts. So we have 32, 16, 8 . That is, because the music originally is written for dancing.

The Samba from Jorge Cardoso

There are a lot of Latinamerican pieces composed for the accustic guitar. I want to introduce the Samba composed by Jorge Cardoso and compare it with the Samba for Jazz guitar. 

First you can listen to the music: Jorge Cardoso:Samba.mp3

The Samba is a group of dances in Brasilian, but took its rise from Afrika and was originally a dance of the Bantuafrican to celebrate the inauguration

of the soldiers. It was danced between burning torches and broken glas. As ballroom dance the Samba was known in Europe after the first world war.

The Samba is played quickly and in 2/4 rhythm.(Riemann, Musiklexikon) 

The Samba is quicker than the bossa nova, but the rhythm patterns of the bossa nova can be used in the samba, too. Here are some patterns for guitar, if you want to accompany in a band you can use them:

 Rhythm Patterns

(These patterns are from the book of Frank Haunschild, ”modern guitar styles”) 

Now to the Samba from Jorge Cardoso:

 The Form: 

The piece has 53 bars, is divided in two parts A and B. A is 29 bars, B is 24 bars. (Normally one part is 32 bars, every part is divided in 8+8+8+8.) The first part`s theme is a sequenz over four bars with a small four bars cadenz as well, so it has eight bars as usuall. Then the repetition of this eight bar theme get a change and comes in the subdominant, what is pretty speciall. And it only uses the first part theme with the sequenz what comes now over eight bars. The third eight bars only uses the sequenz part as well and goes further in the quint circel up to G major. So it is impossibel to separate the form from the harmonic context. The last “eight bars” are only five bars and make a cadenz back to the tonika (E major). So you can understand why this Samba only needs 29 bars for his first part. Its not so unusual as it seems at the first. 

As the first part is in E major, the second part starts in the paralell key C#minor. Here we have the opposite  appearance: The second part starts with a unregular 6 bar introduction  then be followed from the theme which is nine bars and is repeated without variations (except the last chord, what don`t count.).

 The Harmonic: 

The first part mostly use the dominant connections, so it drives very strong forward. The second part also use II – V – I constructions and a lot of b5 and b9 extentions what is typicall for minor parts. Here you can take a look

on the harmonic plan