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Piano Fact

Week 21: Easy Christmas Songs

As a special treat for the holidays, we’d like to present a short list of songs that can be played using only a few chords. And at the same time, you’ll get some experience in actually playing by ear.

The rules are simple.

We’ll stay in the key of C. When trying to find the correct chord to play with the left hand...

  • If it’s a two chord song, you will select between C (major) and G7.
  • If it’s a three chord song, your chord choices will be from among C, G7, and F.
  • If it’s a four chord song, your chord choices will be from among C, G7, F, and D7.

For each song, begin with the melody. Using a trial and error process, see if you can pick the single note melody out on the piano. Hint: In every case the first note of the melody will be either C, E, or G. (Remember we’re talking about notes here — not chords. The chords come later.)

Once you have the melody picked out, you’re ready to start adding the chords. In every song, the first chord will be C which you will play with your left hand. Keep on the C chord until you sense the chord needs to change. When it does, you use a simple trial and error process with the other chords on your list. With a two chord song, there is no guess work. You start with C major, and when the chord changes, it invariably goes to G7. When it changes again, you go back to C major.

The final chord of each song will be C.

Ready? Here’s the list.

TWO CHORD SONG (C major AND G7)

  • Oh Christmas Tree

THREE CHORD SONGS (C major , G7 and F major)

  • Silent Night
  • Away In a Manger
  • Joy to the World
  • The First Noel

FOUR CHORD SONGS (C major, G7, F major, and D7)

  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

You may wish to remember that one can play these songs using a greater number of chords to produce a more sophisticated arrangement. But you can always get by for the time being with just a tiny repertoire of chords. Have fun, and Merry Christmas!

 

Further relevant information and more challenging Christmas songs can be found in How to Play Piano by Ear.

Also of interest: Pop Chord Style Piano (to learn the four basic chords) and The Season (a collection of 16 all time Christmas favorites with playing suggestions.)

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