The Best Way To Learn Silent Night Chords

Silent Night is a classic holiday song – Let’s explore the chords together!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • The easy way to play Silent Night on guitar
  • The intermediate way to play Silent Night on Guitar
  • Tips for incorporating melody into your playing
  • 3 standard chords that you can use anywhere!

Build Up Your Holiday Songbook with Silent Night Chords!

In early October, we begin to approach our local retailers with some extra caution.

At any moment, we may become bombarded with the sounds of holiday music.

  • To a consumer, that holiday music means one thing: get out your wallet and start knocking out that present list.
  • To a musician, however, those Christmas carols in October mean that it’s time to get out your song list and start dusting off your holiday repertoire!

Overcoming the feeling of being utterly sick of a song is one of the hallmarks of professionalism in music, and if you’re not there yet, this is the ideal time to start!

Silent-Night-Chords

Whether you are currently lining up holiday gigs, preparing for worship group holiday activities, or not even thinking about your office Christmas party yet – you can get a head start now on the songs you’ll need to help everyone end another glorious year.

  • Today, you’re going to learn the famous Silent Night chords and melody on the guitar.
  • This lesson has Silent Night chords for the absolute beginner, as well as embellishments and arrangement ideas you can use if you’re more experienced.
  • Slap on your Santa hat, or maybe just your guitar for now, and let’s get going!

Silent-Night-Chords

Silent Night For Guitarists

First day on the guitar? The approaching holidays are such a great opportunity to learn a lot of songs on the guitar with just a few beginning versions of chords!

Below are some very easy Silent Night chords for you to try out.

If you are ready for full-on versions of basic chords, there’s a set of Silent Night chords here for you as well. Everybody can play this lovely tune!

Silent Night Chords For Absolute Beginners

All songs have a set of three chords – sometimes only two, but in this case three – that support the melody.

Those songs go together in families, or ‘keys.’ We’re going to play Silent Night in the key of G, because two of the three chords are so easy that they only require one finger!

Here they are:

G (xx0003)

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

C (xxx010)

D (xx0230)

Practice changing from the G chord to the C chord. Then practice changing from the G chord to the D chord.

The faster you get these chords into your fingers’ muscle memory, the easier it will be to play the song, so go ahead and spend a couple minutes going back and forth.

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Silent Night Chords For The Not-Quite-Beginner

For the not-quite-beginner guitarist, you’ll still be playing this song in the key of G, for a couple of reasons.

Even though the full versions of the G, C, and D chords are a little trickier than the versions above, they appear together all the time in the key of G.

  • That means by learning these three chords, you’re learning not only the “Silent Night” chords, but the chords to all of the songs ever written in the key of G.
  • That includes Rock and Roll, Folk, Blues, Holiday, Worship, and Classical songs.

If you are ready for full versions of the “Silent Night” chords, here they are.

G (320003)

C (x32010)

D (xx0232)

D7 (xx0212)

When we get to the chord progression, you can use the D or the D7 interchangeably.

That’s part of the magic of the seventh chord!

Silent-Night-Chords

“Silent Night” is a 24-measure song. It’s easy to memorize these Silent Night chords in order if you think of it in three parts.

Let’s unpack that below.

Silent Night Chords – Progression

Silent Night is a really good demonstration of the way chords tend to stick around the I chord, which is the chord of the key you are in.

As you play, listen to how that works differently when the G chord goes to the D chord, and when the G chord goes to the C chord.

The chord progression looks like this.

G G G G

D D G G

C C G G

C C G G

D D G G

G D G G

When learning new songs, it helps to try to break them up into chunks.

You can begin playing these Silent Night chords by strumming each chord just once while you sing.

Silent-Night-Chords

The Rhythm of Silent Night

If you are ready to play these Silent Night chords with some kind of rhythm, the first thing to know about the song is that it is in 3/4 time.

  • That means that instead of four counts to every measure, you’re playing three counts to every measure.
  • This can take a little bit of getting used to.

In order to practice, let’s start by getting a steady downward strum going and count as follows:

ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three

Strumming a little louder on the downbeat (the first beat in every measure) helps you to get the feeling of playing in 3/4 time.

Silent-Night-Chords

Once you have that steady strum going, you can start adding to your rhythm by hitting the strings on one or more of the upward strums in each measure.

  • Try to perform a ‘swung strum’ – where the down strum is a little longer than the up strum.
  • This song flows really nicely with a swung strum.
  • It also works with a straight strum, where the down and up strums are equal in length, but it’s always good to swing when you can!

Try these combinations for your strumming pattern until you come up with your own!

Down, down, down-up

1                2           3

Down-up, down-up, down

1                      2                   3

Remember, you’re under no legal obligation to maintain the same strumming pattern throughout the entire song.

Rhythm is a part of musical expression, so if you feel a different rhythm somewhere in the song, go for it!

Silent-Night-Chords

Pro-Tip: Have you gone out and gotten yourself a capo yet? You can eliminate the need to learn the Silent Night chords or any other song in a different key just by learning how to use a capo.

 

If they look confusing and/or useless at present, check out this lesson! How to Use a Capo.

Singing & Playing “Silent Night” Chords

Working up your holiday repertoire puts you on a collision course with the uncomfortable fact that the parts of all these songs that everyone knows is about 45 seconds at best.

If you’re playing for or with others during the holidays, in order to fill just a half hour with lovely holiday music, you’re going to have to learn about 25 songs! Unless…

  • Most holiday songs have a chorus and maybe one verse that everyone knows.
  • Having the words to the extra verses handy can turn your tiny little song snippet into two or more minutes of Christmas cheer, just like that.
  • Here are the words to go with the Silent Night chords you now know.

Silent-Night-Chords

Figuring Out Where to Start Singing

It’s happened to all of us… we start strumming the first chord of the song, begin singing, and within a few seconds, it’s become clear that we’ve started singing on the wrong note.

That need never happen to you!

Here is how to figure out where to start singing Silent Night.

  • We’re playing in the key of G, but that does not mean that the first note we sing is a G.
  • Songs can start wherever they please, and it’s on us to get it right.
  • This is where the idea of scale degrees comes in handy.
  • This isn’t something you have to have figured out; it’s just something to be aware of.

For “Silent Night,” you’re going to start on the fifth degree of the G scale (the key you’re in). Count up the musical alphabet with G as your 1, and you land on D as your 5. It’s that simple.

How-to-play-silent-night-on-guitar

Now all you’ve got to do is find a D on your guitar, start singing the melody on that note, and you’re off!

There are a few Ds on the guitar – there’s an open string, for example. Very low singers, basses and baritones, can start singing on that D.

  • The D you’ll want to start on, particularly if you have a high tenor, alto, or soprano voice, is the one you find on the B string at the third fret.
  • If you find that the open D string is too low for you, or that the B string third fret D takes the melody higher than your voice can comfortably reach, it’s not your fault!
  • That just means that the key of G is not a great key for you to sing “Silent Night”.

Let’s deal with that!

guitar-chords-silent-night

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Silent Night Chords in Other Keys

There are a couple ways to put these Silent Night chords into other keys to make it more comfortable for you and/or your singers to sing.

You can use a capo! It is the simplest way to shift keys in a song because of the magical way that it works.

As you may know, each fret on your guitar raises the pitch of the string or strings by one half-step. So when you place the capo at the third fret, for example, you have raised the pitch of the song by three half-steps.

If the song is too high for you to sing, a good way to experiment with the capo is to put it on the fifth or seventh fret, and then play the open D string to find your first note.

You can adjust from there to find a comfortable range for playing and singing Silent Night.

beginner-silent-night-guitar-lesson

You can also transpose (change the key of) these Silent Night chords by converting the chords into numbers. This concept works seamlessly with the scale degrees we’ve already learned about!

In the key of G, G is the I chord, C the IV chord, and D the V chord, so Silent Night looks like this:

I I I I

V V I I

IV IV I I

IV IV I I

V V I I

I V I I

Using this same sort of musical alphabet-Roman numeral decoder-ring method, you can start on any chord you like. Assign the number I, find IV and V, and see whether you like those Silent Night chords better!

In the key of D, for example, our Silent Night chords would look like this:

D D D D

A A D D

G G D D

G G D D

A A D D

D A D D

How-to-play-silent-night

Playing the Melody

Another way to beef up your arrangement of Silent Night is to play the melody.

Adding some rounds of melody in between the verses that you strum and sing breaks up the song nicely and gives your singers a break to look at the lyrics to the next verse.

Learning the melody also gives you a jumping-off point for improvisation, because by learning the notes on the guitar that go in the melody, you are also learning the notes that will work over the chord progression when you play them in a different order.

Here is a handy piece of tablature that you can use to play the “Silent Night” melody in the key of G.

National-Guitar-Academy

There are other ways to play the melody over our Silent Night chords, but this one seems the easiest.

  • Just match the notes on the tablature to the melody you have in your head, and you’ll have it in no time – even if you’re not a fluent tab reader just yet.
  • If you’d like to try an arrangement that is a little more intricate and sprinkles the Silent Night chords with the melody, check out this version here.

Pro-Tip: “Silent Night” is a song that was first performed on the guitar on Christmas Eve 1818 when a church organ broke in Obendorf, Austria.

 

The song was meant for the guitar! Try playing it at different tempos; it still works as long as you can sing it!

Working Up Your Holiday Repertoire

Now that you’ve got a handle on these Silent Night chords in the key of G, find some other holiday songs in the key of G.

Sharing a common key helps one song to flow to the next when you are playing for (and with) others.

Take your guitar out caroling this year!

Recommended Resources

Here’s some more National Guitar Academy lessons you may enjoy!

How To Tune A Guitar: A Guide For Beginners

Open Chords Guitar: The Ultimate Guide

How To Play In Time On Guitar

Rhythm Guitar Lessons For All Guitarists

How To Read Guitar Tabs

Guitar String Notes – The Ultimate Guide

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