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Learn to Play Silent Night

Updated on March 11, 2017

Who Wrote Silent Night Holy Night

The original manuscript of Silent Night has been lost, however, the music is thought to be composed by Franz Gruber in 1818 to words by Josef Mohr. The music shown is a copy manuscript from around that time - the image of it shown here is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gruber's composition was influenced by Austrian folk music. The simple melody shows this influence. Gruber obviously published various arrangements during his lifetime. One of these, the Mohr arrangement shown in the picture from around 1820, is kept safely in Salzburg at the Carolino Augusteum Museum.

Free Sheet Music With Silent Night Melody

I have created this graphic for you to play the melody of Silent Night. You could play this version of Silent Night on Recorder, Guitar or Violin. In fact, it works on any treble instrument with this range of notes. I set it out with note name noteheads to help young beginners.

It is in the standard key of C major and the chords given further down the page will fit with this tune. To be honest, this is a little high for some voices, and if singing you might prefer to use the fingerstyle guitar accompaniment in A which is further down the page.

Silent Night - Easy Melody With Note Name Noteheads - Silent Night For Recorder

This is the music to play Silent Night on any melody instruiment and there is time to practise. Feel free to download or print this image for personal use.
This is the music to play Silent Night on any melody instruiment and there is time to practise. Feel free to download or print this image for personal use. | Source

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht Worten

The German Words for Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht

Silent Night has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects and is joyfully sung all around the world. There is no doubt that it is one of the most popular carols ever written.

During the so-called Christmas truce of 1914, troops from Britain and Germany sung the carol simultaneously in German and in English across the trenches. It was one of a few carols that the fighting men on both sides knew.

I learned the carol in school in my German lessons, and it was a firm favourite. To this day I like to honour the original composers by singing it in their native tongue.

The Composer of Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht - Franz Gruber
The Composer of Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht - Franz Gruber

What Are the Simple Chords for Silent Night?

You can play Silent Night with three chords. There are also some jazz type substitutions you can make to spice it up if you like, but this is a simple way to play Silent Night chords in the more usual key of C major. These chords will fit the simple melody I have already given you here. The rhythm is a lilting feel and is best played with a running accompaniment but it can also be played as a simple waltz with just three strums to the bar.

Silent Night Chords
Silent Night Chords

Guitar Accompaniment for Silent Night in Key A major

I have a lower voice and therefore find A is a much more pleasant key for me to sing Silent Night in and possibly more pleasant to listen to. When singing this with children, I find they too are more relaxed with the downward transposition to A. This accompaniment is fingerstyle and has a lilting feel to it.

I have also produced a TAB version of this in pdf format which you are welcome to download.

Silent Night Accompaniment in TAB

You could play this with a plectrum using a form of sweep picking with chord shapes held down, but it is actually most effective as a classical fingerstyle piece. This does not contain the melody as it is an accompaniment for the song.

Chords for Silent Night

Guitar chords to Silent Night, easy version
Guitar chords to Silent Night, easy version | Source

Silent Night - Guitar Accompaniment

Arrangement of accompaniment for Silent Night in Key of A for classical guitar.
Arrangement of accompaniment for Silent Night in Key of A for classical guitar. | Source

Why Was Silent Night Written for Guitar?

Was the organ really broken?

Why did Mohr ask Gruber to write the Silent Night melody for guitar? There are many romantic legends attesting as to why Silent Night was written. The main one, that the organ was broken or that the bellows had been eaten by mice, is thought to be a later American invention. It may simply be that Mohr just wanted to play his guitar for the new song he had co-written.

Josh Groban - Silent Night - Silent Night by Josh Groban

I think my favourite voice of the moment is Josh Groban, it gives the listener a warm and friendly cuddle for Christmas. Voices don't come more mellow than his and this version of Silent Night is near perfect for those cosy Christmas evenings...

Three Versions of Silent Night for Guitar - Silent Night, Guitar Solo, Easy Trio and Quartet

Did you know that Silent Night was written for the guitar? Legend has it that the mouse had chewed the organ so it would not play properly. Hence this was written for guitar and voice. So how do you play Silent Night on the guitar? You could play the melody above, or accompany yourself with chords. I have free music for Silent Night and links to other versions of Silent Night. Here are three versions of Silent Night I have arranged for guitar.

  • Silent Night - Beginner Guitar Trio

    This is fairly easy for beginners to play.

  • Silent Night - Guitar Quartet/Ensemble

    Some of the parts here are a little harder, but it has TAB too.

  • Silent Night - Fingerstyle Guitar Solo

    This solo version of Silent Night is more for the intermediate fingerstyle player, but it does sound nice!

Anybody Else?

Who sings your favorite version of this lovely carol? Let us know here - and thanks for calling.

Classic Gospel Version of Silent Night by Elvis Presley

Who sings your favourite version of Silent Night

So who is your favourite?

See results

Your favorite version of Silent Night is? - Josh Groban? Pat Boone? Susan Boyle?

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    • profile image

      Edutopia 6 years ago

      Great song and good job on providing the transcripts for it. Every noodler should keep this in their back pocket around the holiday seasons.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      Great, Rebecca has just learned jingle bells, so I will bookmark this for her too! (her teacher says shes a natural)

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Silent Night is one of my 3 favorite Christmas Carols. I like Josh's the best, but Jackie Evancho does a sweet version, and I like Celine Dion's and Sarah Brightman's and Andrea Bocelli's versions too. You could say I have studied this song, LOL.Wonderful page, as always! Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I used to sing this song a lot when I was kid, I love it now more.

    • profile image

      Arquinn 7 years ago

      good presentation of details in playing Silent Night

      I love this song too

      thumbs up! :D

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      This is one of those Carols which can reduce me to tears because it is so beautiful - it was also mu late Mother's favourite so that adds to the emotion. Blessed by a passing Squid Angel

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @TapIn2U: Thank you :) That is very kind of you to say and I hope you have a LOT of success here at Squidoo! :)

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @JenOfChicago LM: My pleasure :) Thank you for visiting.

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 7 years ago

      I love this classic carol since I was a little girl still do. Thanks for sharing its history. Christmas is never the same when I don't hear this song played. Hey, your Tweets were one of the ones I followed from Twitter when I found Squidoo. I have just finished my first Lens and now have great ideas to add thanks to you. Sundae ;-)

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      I didn't know the history of this carol - thanks!