Learn the chords and play along with 10 holiday guitar tutorials for hit songs like "Jingle Bell Rock,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Feliz Navidad.”
By Ben Nemeroff
Christmas music is just as much a part of the holiday season as twinkling lights, Santa Claus, and spending time with friends and family. Even the biggest Grinch who winces at the thought of Christmas music on the radio can’t help but crack a smile when it comes to singing holiday songs with loved ones.
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been playing guitar for awhile, you can amp up the holiday cheer by playing some easy holiday songs on guitar. From the dreamy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” -- made popular by velvet-voiced Johnny Mathis -- to the joyful Latin flavor of “Feliz Navidad,” check out some of our favorite holiday classics and learn to play them on guitar.
Fender Play Live: Holiday Edition.
Part of what makes it so easy and fun to play holiday songs on guitar is the fact that all you need to play them are a few simple chords. Some songs -- like the punchy, rockabilly-tinged “Jingle Bell Rock” and the dramatic classic “Carol of the Bells” -- incorporate riffs, but many of your holiday favorites are centered around strumming a handful of chords.
Fender Play makes it easy to learn the songs you love, breaking each one down with chords and guitar tablature. In the app, you’ll find chords, tabs, and lessons for these holiday songs:
• Jingle Bell Rock
• Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
• Feliz Navidad
• White Christmas
• Frosty The Snowman
• Winter Wonderland
• Silver Bells
• Carol Of The Bells
• Jingle Bells
• We Wish You A Merry Christmas
In addition to breaking each song down and learning to play it with the Fender Play app, you can also hear musicians play some of your favorite holiday songs in our Fender Play Live series. Get free tips and tricks from seasoned professionals and listen to them put their own spin on songs you know and love. You can apply some of these techniques to your own practice, making each song your own whenever you break out your guitar to play.
Before you start learning to play them, make sure you learn the most important chords that you’ll hear in these Christmas classics. Learning these chords and committing them to memory can help you to more smoothly transition between chords, allowing you to focus on the rhythm of the song itself:
Originally recorded by Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock” packs a stocking full of jangly chord changes and a shuffle feel -- which was a fresh take when it was first released 1957 and still gives this holiday tune spring in its step today. Note bending, double stops, and a jolly walk down make this a fun one to play.
Learn these chords to play “Jingle Bell Rock” on guitar:
Try playing the the G#dim7 chord using this chord diagram from Fender Play:
Listen to Scott Goldbaum riff out “Jingle Bell Rock” on guitar along with Abby Lyons on ukulele.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been performed by such legends as Johnny Mathis, Judy Garland, Twisted Sister, and Frank Sinatra. Each artist has put their own unique stamp on it. This chord-driven song is the perfect sentimental holiday tune to get you in touch with the joy of the season. While there are 12 different chords featured in the song, the even, quarter note strumming tempo gives you time to let the chords breathe and seamlessly transition between them. Take it slow and easy when practicing this one, listening to how the chord changes affect the mood of the song.
Here are the chords you’ll need to learn to play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on guitar:
Try playing the the Em(Maj7) chord using this chord diagram from Fender Play:
Check out a jazz-inspired version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on Fender Play Live.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Yule, “Jingle Bells” captures the feeling of a brisk winter’s day and the merriment of the holiday season. This upbeat holiday classic features just three easy chords suitable for beginners. Want to challenge yourself? Try your hand at the bass note strum technique interspersed between each chord. It’s not as tough as it seems and lends an extra festive punch to your own version of “Jingle Bells.”
You only need to learn three simple chords to play “Jingle Bells”:
“Feliz Navidad,” written and recorded by Jose Feliciano, is one of the best-selling and most popular Christmas songs of all time. Released in 1970, Feliciano’s Latin-infused style of fingerstyle guitar playing makes “Feliz Navidad” a treat to listen to and fun to learn and play. For beginner guitarists, try strumming the three simple chords that make up this holiday classic. Alternate strumming and string muting lend dynamic touches to the song and allow you to really feel the rhythm of the tune.
Here are the three chords you’ll need to know to play “Feliz Navidad”:
Hear Fender Play Live’s Scott and Dylan jam together on an acoustic and electric fingerstyle playing rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
Written by Irving Berlin in 1942 and popularized by Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” was featured in the 1954 musical film of the same name. Conjuring childhood holiday memories brimming with glimmering trees, snowy hills, and fond wishes for loved ones, “White Christmas” consists of only five chords, making it great for new players to learn. Syncopated strumming and tempo changes (half note and eighth note strumming) add to the wistful tone of the song.
Learn the following chords to play “White Christmas”:
“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is a traditional favorite, with roots in England. As carolers would come door to door, wealthier members of the community would give them treats with everyone offering wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy new year. Made up of a few basic chords -- all in the open position with finger patterns you may recognize, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” gets its warm holiday feel from alternate strumming patterns. While transitioning between chords may seem challenging at first, the relaxed tempo of the song makes it easy (and satisfying!) to play this holiday tune.
Here are the chords you’ll need to know to play “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”:
“Frosty the Snowman” was originally recorded by country legend Gene Autry in 1950 before it was repopularized by comedian Jimmy Durante, who sang it in the 1969 Rankin/Bass animated special of the same name. To play “Frosty the Snowman,” you’ll need to know six chords you may already be familiar with. The even, half note strumming pace makes this cheerful holiday tale of a snowman come to life all the more fun to play.
Start practicing these chords to play “Frosty the Snowman”:
While most holiday songs focus on the joy of gathering with family, “Winter Wonderland” has a playful, romantic feel.The song has been covered by a host of musical luminaries, including Dean Martin, Robert Goulet, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Selena Gomez, Perry Como, and Michael Buble. The possibilities to mold this song to fit any genre are evident when you hear Ella Fitzgerald’s jazz-tinted version of “Winter Wonderland” and Radiohead’s more subdued alternative rock version. Master the chords used to play this song and the quarter note strumming technique to put your own spin on this holiday classic!
To play “Winter Wonderland,” you’ll need to learn the following chords:
Try playing the the A7b9 chord using this chord diagram from Fender Play:
The beauty of holiday songs is that there are so many different interpretations of them. While Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Silver Bells” is arguably the most famous version, the song has been covered by artists like Michael Buble, Dean Martin, and country music veteran Alan Jackson. While “Silver Bells” is often played in a slow, ambient fashion, check out Fender Play to learn how to play the song using just three chords with a shuffle feel.
All you need to know to play “Silver Bells” are these three chords:
For different twist on “Silver Bells,” check out this version featuring electric guitar and ukulele from a Fender Play Live session.
Written near the turn of the century in 1914, “Carol of the Bells” has a dramatic, orchestral feel to it. However, it translates beautifully when played on either an acoustic or electric guitar, using just five chords -- all of which are 5th chords. Whether you’ve heard the lyrics to “Carol of the Bells” or are just familiar with its instrumentation, the song delivers endless possibilities for guitarists of all levels. Beginner guitarists can learn to master and transition between the different fifth chord changes, while intermediate level guitarists can try their hand at techniques like string bends, pull offs, and palm muting.
Want to learn to play “Carol of the Bells”? Learn these chords:
Listen to a Christmas mashup of “Carol of the Bells” as interpreted by the Fender Play Live crew.
With friends and family scattered across the country -- or even the globe -- holiday and Christmas songs can be a wonderful way to come together, whether you’re celebrating with loved ones near or far. So, if you’re strumming a few chords after a family get-together or breaking out the guitar to stage a holiday jam with friends via Zoom, there are tons of songs to play on guitar that can put you in the holiday spirit.
Learning to play guitar takes time, practice, and patience. Try your hand at these holiday tutorials and unlock a full library of songs and lessons with a free trial of Fender Play today.