A Silent Night on the Western Front

Christmas tunes go wonderfully on the harmonica.

For the sake of your friends and family, I suggest playing them sparingly, as everyone gets bombarded with all kinds of cheesy songs around Christmastime. However, "Silent Night" is a classy start. Try playing it on a cold, clear night, where the long, slow tones can be heard a long ways.

This tune was written in German by Josef Mohr, an Austrian priest. A headmaster from the local village, Franz Gruber, composed the music. The song was first played on the guitar in the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf in the year 1816, on Christmas Eve.

The song was destined to play another important role on another Christmas Eve almost 100 years later. On Christmas Eve of 1914, soldiers in the bitter cold of the Western Front sung the tune, as it was one of the few songs that soldiers on both sides knew. They shouted Christmas greetings to each other from across No Man's Land.

The truce lasted through Christmas Day.

Silent Night (mp3)

The example is played on a Lee Oskar Major Diatonic in the key of C.


Silent Night

Part 1

7B 7D 7B 6D 7B 7D 7B 6D 8D 8D 7D 7B 7B 6B

Part 2

6D 6D 7B 7D 6D 6B 6D 6B 5B 6D 6D 7B 7D 6D 6B 6D 6B 5B

Part 3

8D 8D 9D 8D 7D 7B 8B 7B 6B 5B 6B 5D 4D 4B


This song is played with a much higher pitch than most of the other examples. It is possible to play it on the lower end of the scale, in two ways: the most simple solution is to find a harmonica in a lower key (G is the lowest), or by bending the notes. However, this method will not keep the notes as pure as if you were playing the harmonica normally.

You can find links to bending techniques under the "Further Resources" page.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the song history)