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November 2012 Free Flatpicking Lesson
Flatpicking Guitar Magazine

"Christmas Eve"

Arranged for Flatpicking Guitar Magazine by Mickey Abraham

Hello and welcome back to FGM’s free lesson portion of our monthly newsletter.  I hope you all have had a wonderful year filled with eight hours a day of guitar practice. But seriously, I’d like to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, and a happy new year!  I hope your holidays are once again filled with family, food, and fiddle tunes!
     With so many Christmas tunes to choose from and countless guitar arrangements of them all, I opted to go in a different direction. Instead of presenting a classic Christmas melody, I though it might be interesting to teach a tune that is not a Christmas standard, but rather a cool tune that somehow began to be associated with Christmas.  “Christmas Eve” is from the Irish fiddling tradition and was taught to me by fiddler Aisha Ivey.  The melody is not a take off on any Christmas tune, rather it just evokes an overall joyous quality and, over the years it began to be called “Christmas Eve.”  Other names of the tune include The Christmas Eve, The Christmas, Oíche Nollaig, Oiche Nollag, Oiche Nollaig, and Tommy Coen's.
     The tune is made up of three parts all of which are repeated.  This means that the from is AABBCC.  There are many chord options for a tune like this but here are the ones that I have included on the lesson mp3.  I use the same chord progression for all three parts!

////   ////    ////  //    //
G    G    G    Am D
////   ////   // //  //  //
G    G    G C D G

    Then, on the repeat of each section, I use this cool descending chord progression that often works over tunes in the key of G major.  I like the way the descending chords add movement to the melody before going into the next section.

////         ////         ////          //       //
G          G          G          Am    D
//    //     //     //    ////         //       //
G G/F# Em D    C          D       G

When picking the melody, I tend to go between first, second, and third positions.  Sometime I like to play the first fret with my index and other times with my middle.  In some cases, you will have to play in second position (to reach the fifth fret).  When these fiddle tunes were written on the fiddle, the composer did not take into account guitar fingerings!  What is the seventh fret to us is actually still first position and home base to a fiddle player.

To me, this tune really demonstrates the magic of these old Irish tunes.  I love how the melody comes directly from the G major scale and mostly from the G major pentatonic scale (only five notes).  One could realistically play back-up to this melody with only one chord, G, with perhaps a D thrown in at the end of a line.  It’s easy to get blown away by a bunch of hot licks and complex chords, but every now and then it’s great to explore a new melody, get it under your fingers, and expand your tune base beyond Blackberry Blossom and Salt Creek.

I hope you enjoy working on “Christmas Eve” on Christmas Eve!  If you find yourself with any questions, comments, or concerns, just drop me a line at michabraham@comcast.net .

"Christmas Eve"