Lesson 19 – Jingle Bell Blues

Jingle Bell Blues

Lesson #19: Jingle Bell Blues

It’s not even Halloween yet, so you must be wondering, ‘Where have you been with the lessons?’ and, ‘Why the hell a Christmas song?’ As some of you know, there was an equipment meltdown here at fingerstyle blues central which put things on the back burner for a while. We’re back, albeit in a limited capacity. As for the country blues style arrangement of a Christmas song just think of it this way, there aren’t many recorded Christmas blues songs worth listening too, this one has three chords and a strong melody making it fun to play, and finally, you have two months to learn it so you can impress your friends and loved ones while imbibing heavily on the ‘nog.

This arrangement has two variations for the chorus. The first has a straightforward alternating bass with melody on top. If you find the alternating bass is throwing you, brush up on some finger patterns or try approaching it with more of a Bill Broonzy style by playing a solid rhythm instead of alternating. (ex: on the E chord instead of playing strings 6-4-6-4-6-4-6-4, stay on the 6). The second has a walking bass added to make life difficult. I recommend getting the first chorus down before battling the knucklebuster second variation. As always, take it slow.

A note on the Chords used.

The chord E7(1) may be new to you, it’s a very handy position which you’ll hear often in the playing of Rev Gary Davis. Use your index finger (4th string) to mute the 5th string and you’ll never hit a wrong note. A(1) and B(2) are barre chords with the root played by the thumb. B7(3) is A(2) slid up two frets, the note on the 5th string was added to help smooth out the walking bass line. Look at page one of the transcription if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

This recording may be a little sloppy, but I feel it adds to the overall country blues feel of the piece. At any rate, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Download the transcription here[pdf 984kb]

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20 Responses »

  1. First of all, awesome arrangement. The coolest version of Jingles Bells I’ve ever heard for sure.

    Can you help me out on how the intro is being done with the right hand? I’m assuming the thumb is on the fourth. Do you strum the triad with the thumb or with a finger or should it be pinched? I’m pretty new to fingerstyle playing and I’m sure it can be done many ways but how exactly are you doing it here? I’m hoping your answer can help me determine how best to approach it.

    Thanks. I really want to learn this. I think I’ll be able to manage it by next Christmas ha ha.

  2. Thanks a lot Mike. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it and forgot how sloppy it gets. When you get it down send me your recording!

    I played it with more of a pinch, sort of like:

    t m i m t m t t
    i i i

    If that makes any sense. You could strum it as well, but try and learn the pinch, it comes up a lot in this music.


  3. Thanks, Sean. That does help.

    I’m new enough to fingerpicking, if there is no alternating thumb, I’m lost as to how to pick it. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been going between bare thumb and f and m to using a thumbpick and f and m to hybrid picking where I use m and r. My fingers are quite confused sometimes. Each way has it’s own sound and advantages though. I usually try whatever I’m doing all 3 ways and then decide on one depending on the sound.

    Thanks for all your help. I hope to see some new lessons soon. This one will probably take me a while though …

  4. “The chord E7(1) may be new to you, it’s a very handy position which you’ll hear often in the playing of Rev Gary Davis. Use your index finger (4th string) to mute the 5th string and you’ll never hit a wrong note.”

    That’s not an E7 but a diminished chord isn’t it? It has a flat 7 in it but the 3rd and fifth are both flat also.

    I’m coming back to this after a little break from it but in the meantime I did some studying. haha What I find terribly interesting is you can move this shape 3 frets up or down and it is the same chord. Try it. It sounds like something you hear often in movies and tv shows when there is an ah-ha moment. The diminished chord can also be called by any of it’s four notes.

  5. It is a d7 … after getting some sleep, I see there is a mistake on the chord chart showing the fingers fretting at the the 2nd and 3rd fret. That would make a diminished chord …

    The tab is right though and it is a d7 moved up 2 frets and fretting the root note on the 4th string.

  6. If by D7 you mean E7, I totally agree!
    Thanks for pointing out my bad charting Mike, I’m getting sloppy in my old age. We both missed that fact that it was actually Eb because I had it on the wrong fret too.

    I’m a big fan of the dim chord. I don’t know if you know this one, but another cool way to play the same chord is to flip over the E string like this:

    E7 diminished

  7. I hadn’t messed with flipping the e strings but I like it! Sounds pretty jazzy to go from the bass pedal on the open E to G at the 3rd fret.

    Now to get back to tackling this beast … this whole thing happened because I decided to reread your pointers, hoping to turn my luck around with learning this … I’m still struggling a bit with this one. Who would have ever thought playing “Jingle Bells” could be so difficult? haha

  8. Hi there,

    I’ve posted before under “mrworm”. Still at the fingerstlye guitar; your website has helped enormously. All those hours of playing the alternating thumb exercises have set me in good stead to progress at a steady rate. I’ve been playing some of my favourite songs over the past few months and gained great enjoyment out of the guitar once more.

    With Christmas approaching, I thought I would have a crack at this tune, but the link seems to be broken. Is there any chance of you re-uploading this please? I would be so grateful.


  9. hey,
    im new to finger picking and it almost seems to me like the tab is completely different from the recording (which sounds amazing).

    is this the case?

  10. Hi Oamar,

    Thanks! The tab and the recording are the same, maybe what’s throwing you off is the intro/outro licks are separated from the rest of the song? Try strumming along with the chords and see if it makes anymore sense.


  11. hey Sean!

    yep thats it πŸ™‚ i just played the chords and now it all makes sense. this piece is really quite a stretch for me but it sounds too amazing to pass up!

    Thank you!


  12. Once again , as the guys above , i must say GREAT site … i learned very much from this site … it’s christmas again and now i am learning this jingle bell blues … great arrangement and sounds so good πŸ™‚ … (just small correction in the tab , when you are playing the intro .. and hiting that Am triad… i heard the open E string … got you !! πŸ™‚ .. yes thats when you playing with the feeling πŸ™‚ you just play it without noticing or thinking what you did play or what you will play … just follow the feeling πŸ™‚ …
    once again great website and we apreciate all the work you have done … keep it coming with other fingerstyle blues songs …
    P.S. are you a professional musician or …

  13. Great! I don’t think this it is sloppy at all. I learned this clear once and now am trying to add the bluesy twist with some half muted notes. It’s perfect just like you played. Sounds like Blind Blake or Robert Johnson himself on the guitar.

  14. This is awesome! Cutting it close but trying to have it down for xmas day πŸ™‚

  15. The link to the audio is broken. I’m already getting music prepared for Christmas and would like to hear this one. Thanks!

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