Learning Frere Jacques

A while back I had the opportunity to hear the now late Buster B. Jones in concert.  Trust me, there's no way anyone can teach you how to play like him on a website.  But he did a short arrangement of Frere Jacques and the crowd loved it.  I came home and made my own arrangement and present here for you.  Below you will find a short primer on finger-style guitar followed by the sheet music of Frere Jacques and a video of me demonstrating the fingering.

If you are new to finger-style guitar playing, this should help you get started with proper form.  This solo is fairly easy to play and can be handled by most guitarists who have a couple of years experience.  If you've been playing finger-style for a while, you'll still enjoy this.  It'll only take you about an hour to figure it out and a couple of days to become proficient.  If you are experienced at finger-style, you can jump down to the relevant parts by clicking here.



First, let's talk about form.  If you are seriously going to play finger-style, you're going to need long fingernails on your picking hand.  You can start learning right away, but great sound requires properly shaped nails.  I also prefer to use a thumbpick (although there are songs where I prefer not to use one).  Experiment for yourself but give the thumbpick a try for at least four weeks before giving up on it.

Next, how you hold your right hand is very important.  If you are muting the bass strings, your hand must be slanted back so that your palm can lay across the 4th, 5th and 6th strings at the bridge.  The trick is to make sure you don't mute the 3rd string.  Since we're not muting any strings in Frere Jacques, we'll use the form pictured below:

Notice how the wrist is bent.  This is so your nails can pull straight up across the strings getting the best sound.  It may be uncomfortable at first, but you'll get used to it.

Now, as a general rule, your thumb will play the notes on the three bass strings and your fingers will play the remaining strings.  If a note is on the third string, play it with the first finger - the second string will be played with the second finger and the first string will be played with the third finger.  Your thumb should never touch your first finger.  Remember, these are general rules and you're free to break them when necessary.

Can't read music?  We'll, then you'll have to figure this out by using just the video because I'm not interested in doing tablature.  The video will help you learn the fingering, however, this is no substitute for learning how to read music.

Let's start.






Click on the picture to download the video of me playing Frere Jacques.  If you don't have Real Player, hit the icon above the picture to get the free download.

If you've watched the video, you probably noticed that the second time through there are some embellishments that don't appear on the sheet music.  That's because I'm lazy.  It's mostly just throwing in the open G - I have every confidence that your hard work will make up for my lack of initiative and you'll figure it out on your own.  As a matter of fact, you'll probably come up with something better.

Good luck in your musical pursuits.