The Twelve (‘Ukulele and Guitar) Solos of Christmas, Part I

This December, I set out to post a video of a solo holiday arrangement every day from December 1 up until Christmas, or a total of 25 songs. Well, that proved to be a little too ambitious, but I definitely think I’ll be able to finish at least twelve (for the “Twelve Days of Christmas”! Get it? Sigh.) Here are the first six—three solo guitar arrangements and three for ‘Uke. These are all solos that are suitable for intermediate fingerstyle players. In most cases, I have written out a chart of my arrangement, so get in touch if you’d like a copy:

I. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”

I arranged this traditional carol for solo ‘Uke in the key of D minor with lots of repeated “block” chords in the right hand.

According to trusty [Wikipedia] the song has been around for over 500 years! Did they play it on the ‘Ukulele back then? Probably not, as the ‘Uke wasn’t invented until 1879!

II. “What Child is This?” (aka “Greensleeves”)

Another real “oldie”, “Greensleeves” originated around the time of Shakespeare. New words were added in the 1860s to create the carol “What Child is This”.

The arrangement here is in A minor, similar to what you will find in several beginning/intermediate guitar methods. Don’t just play this one at Christmas—It sounds great year-round!

III. “Jingle Bells”

Fun facts: J. Pierpont’s classic was originally written as a Thanksgiving song in 1857!

My ‘Uke solo employs repeating thumb notes on the fourth string, a technique I use quite a bit to give the rhythm some forward momentum. There’s also a descending counter-line underneath the melody in the chorus. Clever, eh?

IV. “Edelweiss”

Again, not a holiday song per se, “Edelweiss” is nonetheless often associated with the Christmas season.

A lot of folks think “Edelweiss” is a traditional Austrian folksong, but it was actually written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the classic 1959 musical The Sound of Music.

V. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

This hugely popular song was originally a story by Robert L. May published by the Montgomery Ward company in 1939!  Ten years later, May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks composed the song.

My solo ‘Uke version includes a fair amount of campanella, a technique that involves playing scalar melodies across different strings so that the notes overlap and ring into each other.

VI. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”

One of my personal favorites, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” was first performed back in 1934. In my solo guitar arrangement I incorporate thicker, “jazzier” chord voicings and even a couple of blues licks!

Well, there you have it, the first six solo arrangements of at least twelve I hope to produce this holiday season….

If you like what I’m doing, please subscribe to my YouTube channels, Learn Guitar With Doctor Cline and ‘Ukulele for Self-Improvement.

I’m currently accepting new students, so if you would like to study with me, please get in touch.

all the best to you!
-Doctor Cline