Playing Away In The Manger
I always like to break new songs down into sections. The nice thing about this is that it makes more logical sense and is easier to learn. This song will be broken down into 4 sections.
(Be sure to download the tablature for this song at the bottom of this page to play along. It also has charts to play the full chords.)
The first section is all based off a C Major chord going to an F Major 7 (Fmaj7) chord. I’m using my index and pinky fingers on my fretting hand to make the melody. The chords are fretted with my ring and middle fingers. And of course we’ll utilize open strings.
Starting with this first C, I’m adding my pinky on the third fret of the first string. Chord the C like you normally would, then add the pinky. This starts the melody. Then you’ll pinch that string along with the fifth string. Use your thumb for the fifth string. I’m using my second finger to pick the first string. But you can use your index finger if you want.
The first two bars are based on the C chord. Your ring finger and middle finger on your fretting hand can stay planted. The melody will come from your index and pinky fingers.
When you switch to the Fmaj7 chord, just move your ring and middle fingers up one string. Your index and pinky fingers are still playing the melody. Go ahead and practice the chord change a couple times to get used to it.
There’s only one real melody movement on this chord (not including your anchored notes). Then it’s back to the C Major.
Section two is two measures of G Major and two measures of C Major. It’s best to play the G Major with your ring finger on the third fret of the sixth string. It’s an easier change from the C Major, since you just need to move your ring and middle fingers down one string. Even though you won’t play the second fret of the fifth string, it can help to use it as an anchor.
When you go back to the C Major you just shift those two fingers up one string each.
Section three is identical to section one, minus the pickup note. That note is actually being played in the last measure of section two.
Go ahead and play the section just to get used to it again.
Instead of playing a G Major chord, section four starts with a G7 chord. This is a big stretch for your fretting hand, so try to form the chord a couple times. Keep your ring finger on the third fret of the sixth string, and middle finger on the second fret of the fifth string. Then get your index finger on the first fret of the first string.
Make the shape and release your fretting hand. Then make the shape again and release. Do this a few times to get used to the chord shape.
The C Major in the second bar is the same as the second bar of section one. From there you’ll go to a G Major and back to the C Major to finish the section.
Putting It All Together
The song loops very easily. Just play the pickup note before moving back to section one. I normally play the song twice.
Putting the sections together can be a little bit of a challenge. Get each section down about 80% of the way. From here you can start to piece them together. Play section one and two. Then add the third. Then the fourth.
It’s OK if you slow down and speed up a little bit between sections. This is actually pretty common in fingerstyle guitar.
One last tip is to take this slow. Once you can play this consistently at a slow tempo, you can work on speeding it up. It’s always better to play something slow and cleanly to start. Speed only comes with proficiency.
Want some more help?
I’ve created a complete short course with videos for each section that explains in detail where I put each finger. I’ve also added little tips and tricks that'll make it easier and more fun. All this plus 12 Play-Along videos, PDF downloads and a place to get coaching and advice when needed.
If you're a RGS Academy member, check out the lesson Away In The Manager | Fingerstyle Solo.
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