Christmas carols come in many flavors. Some are joyous and anthem-like, others are solemn and introspective. They also come in just about every musical style you can imagine. There are some that rock, others that swing, some that seem naked without a full gospel choir, and still others that are best suited to a single singer.
Some are best described as lullabies. “Away in a Manger” is probably one of the best known carols in this style. But just as beautiful, although not as quite well known here in the United States, is the traditional Catalan Chirstmas song titled “El Noi de la Mare,” which translates as “The Child of the Mother.” For those of you who may not know, Catalonia is the region of Northeast Spain, which contains the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Some of you may already know another traditional Catalan Christmas Carol, “Fum, Fum, Fum.”
Structurally, “El Noi de la Mare” can be broken down into four lines, each containing four measures. To make matters even simpler, the first two measures of the first two lines are identical and the first two measures of the third and fourth line are close enough to being practically identical. If you’ve never heard the song before, you may want to skip ahead to the last MP3 example in the lesson to hear the complete arrangement before starting in on learning it line by line.
We’ll be playing this song in the key of C, which sets out the chords of the first line as being one measure each of C, G, Am, and then G again:
The very first measure sets up how the lullaby-like accompaniment will play out through the piece. The first beat will involve a pinch of the melody note along with the bass note (usually the root note of the chord). This will be immediately followed by two notes of the measure’s chord played on the B and G strings and then two more notes of the melody.
In the first measure, start with an open position C chord. While you strike the open G string, shift your index finger for the F note at the first fret of the high E string. Your pinky should get the G note at the third fret of the high E string and stay put when you start the second measure. Here you can use whichever finger feels most comfortable playing the G note in the bass (third fret of the low E string). Keep sliding your pinky up the neck to get the other melody notes in the second measure.
For the third measure, barre your index finger across the three high strings at the fifth fret. Use your pinky for the C note at the eight fret of the high E and your ring finger for the B note at the seventh fret.
Even though the fourth measure is essentially a G chord, you’re only fretting notes on both the high and low E string. It may be easiest to do so using your first finger on the low E and your pinky at the fifth fret of the high E. This will allow you to use either your ring or middle finger for the G note at the third fret of the high E string that finishes this measure.
As mentioned earlier, the second line of “El Noi de la Mare” is almost exactly like the first one. The only difference comes at the very end of the third measure:
The chord at the very end of the third measure of the second line is a D9 and it looks like this:
Most guitarists play this by barring the ring finger across the three high string at the fifth fret while using the index finger at the fourth fret of the D and the middle finger at the fifth fret of the A string. If you’ve not tried this chord shape before, it can be a little tricky at first. Keeping the ring finger parallel to the fret, to the point where you can feel the metal of the fret along the edge of your finger, usually helps in getting the other two fingers into place.
With the third line, the first measure remains the same as it did with the other two lines you’ve learned:
The second measure of the third line starts out with a Dm7 chord, which is essentially a beginners’ F chord with the D string still open. Additionally, the note at the start of the measure is G, which means your pinky probably has the best position on playing it at the third fret of the high E string.
The chord in the last measure of third is E augmented (“Eaug”) and it looks like this:
The fourth line of “El Noi de la Mare” starts out with the same melody of the third line, but the C chord of the first measure is replaced by Am, while the second measure is an exact repeat of the second measure of the third line:
Here it’s the last two measures that will require the most work. The chord that starts the measure is an F6:
Set this up by using your pinky for the third fret of the B string, your middle finger for the second fret of the G string and your ring finger for the third fret of the D string. This leaves your index finger free to get the F note in the bass (first fret of the low E). This also allows you to keep both the pinky and ring finger in place when you play the last chord in this measure. Simply lift off your index finger and shift your middle finger to the G note at the third fret of the low E and you’re good to go.
Here is a single-sheet PDF of our arrangement, as well as an audio file of the whole carol. As always, your forgiveness for my (many) mistakes is appreciated:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson. I very recently learned this carol (Christmas Day, in fact) and thought it would be a quick and relatively easy one to teach here at Guitar Noise.
As always, please feel free to ask any questions, either here right on the lesson in the comments section, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to sharing another lesson with you again very soon.