Old Gospel Guitar Tabs

Thomma Lyn Grindstaff
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Traditional gospel music lends itself well to the guitar and if you love to play in this genre, you'll want to get your hands on some gospel guitar tablature. Gospel music enjoys a rich tradition, bridging the gap from earlier African forms to the blues, bluegrass, R&B, and even rock and roll. Gospel music got its start in the deep south and the hills of the Appalachian Mountains. From the Carter Family to Mississippi John Hurt, the guitar holds a respected position in the history of gospel music in America.

Where to Find Tabs for Traditional Gospel Music

Yet another reason to be grateful for the internet is the wealth of guitar tab and chord resources it provides guitarists. You'll find plenty of material online for fruitful and fun practice sessions.

Internet Sources

The following songs are some of the most famous gospel charts ever written. Most of these songs follow simple structures so beginners can quickly learn enough to lead a campfire sing-a-long. The music is so rich, however, that advanced players will be inspired to embellish the basic charts and explore the sonic potential of these beautiful songs.

  • Down to the River to Pray - The traditional hymn Down to the River to Pray was introduced to a new generation through its inclusion in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? where it was performed beautifully by Alison Krauss.
  • This Little Light of Mine - A song that began as an African-American spiritual, This Little Light of Mine became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement, and it later evolved into a popular children's song. Paul Robeson recorded a famous version of the song in 1983.
  • Amazing Grace - Perhaps the most famous traditional hymn ever, Amazing Grace is credited to John Newton, an Englishman who wrote the lyrics in 1772. This song's power lies in its simplicity, and the chords would be appropriate for the most novice guitarist.
  • I Saw the Light - This gospel standard was written in 1948 by the legendary country songwriter Hank Williams, and I Saw the Light has been covered by some of the greatest gospel, country, and bluegrass musicians in the years since.
  • Keep on the Sunny Side of Life - A classic gospel song made famous by The Carter Family, Keep on the Sunny Side of Life has become an old-time gospel standard. Doc Watson and Flatt & Scruggs have performed popular versions of the song.
  • In the Garden - A timeless favorite, In the Garden has inspired the faith of numerous generations.

Gospel Songbooks

While the internet is an excellent, inexpensive source for chords and tabs, guitarists who want songbooks will be glad to know several great choices are available.

  • The Gospel Songs Book - This Hal Leonard publication features over 100 gospel songs for easy guitar. If you're a beginning guitarist, you'll love the huge selection of tunes in this volume. As you advance in skill, you can continue to use this songbook as a foundation to embellish and improvise.
  • Great American Gospel Guitar - Another Hal Leonard title, Great American Gospel Guitar has easy tab arrangements for over 60 gospel spirituals, including Sweet By and By, Church in the Wildwood, and Wayfaring Stranger.
  • Stephan Grossman's Early Masters of American Blues Guitar - Mississippi John Hurt is one of the most distinctive, accomplished guitar players who ever lived. Though it's not intended for the beginning player, Early Masters of American Blues Guitar will take the more accomplished player through some of John Hurt's best known blues and gospel arrangements.

Timeless Classics

Learning old gospel songs can be a tremendously rewarding experience for guitarists. Since these songs have been interpreted and recorded in so many ways, a contemporary guitarist has a wide range of choices when it comes to the arrangements she wishes to learn. From the simplest version of Amazing Grace to Mississippi John Hurt's advanced version of Since I've Laid My Burden Down, gospel music offers something for guitarists of all levels.

Old Gospel Guitar Tabs