Good Christian Men Rejoice: Mastering Christmas Carols on the Piano and Keyboard


See the complete series of Mastering Christmas Carols.

Good Christian Men Rejoice: An Introduction

Good Christian Men Rejoice is written and played here in the key of E Major, and has a 6/8 time signature. It has been sung in a variety of keys, however E major is quite a comfortable one to sing in, and makes the music less complicated to play.

The tune is In Dulci Jubilo, a traditional Christmas carol originally written in a mix of Latin and German.

Good Christian Men Rejoice: Main Melody

Look at the music to see several repeating (or near-repeating) musical patterns. First we have bars 1-3 and the near identical similar bars 4-5. Then there’s bars 6-9 and 10-14, with minimal changes.

The rhythm of the melody is made primarily from a quarter note followed by an eighth note. As there are six beats in each bar, this makes for two such patterns in each bar. Occasionally there are notes held for a dotted quarter note (three beats). This gives the carol its distinctive feel and sound. The notes do not have to be played rigidly in time, there is scope for adding a little ‘swing’ to help things flow.

Fingering is fairly straightforward. Be aware of the end of bar 5 into 6 where you switch from a 4th to a 2nd finger on the B, to make it eaier to play the following run of notes. Also the end of bar 9 into bar 10 there is a physical jump from the G# on 3 to B on 2, because of the slight awkwardness of the black notes in this E major run.

Here’s the complete melody written out:

Good Christian Men Rejoice melody page 1

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And here’s what it sounds like:

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Good Christian Men Rejoice: Single Note Bass Line

Below is a simple bass line for the carol using just one note at a time.

Each note is a dotted half note, taking an whole bar each. Nearly all of the notes are either an E or a B, with an A and G in bars 14 and 15.

Good Christian Men Rejoice bass line page 1

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And here’s what it sounds like:

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Good Christian Men Rejoice: Single Note Bass Line Extra

Below is a slightly enhanced bass line for the carol using just one note at a time.

Each note (except the final one) is a dotted quarter note, taking half the bar and so having two notes in each bar. Note the low Bs being used.

Good Christian Men Rejoice moving bass line page 1

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And here’s what it sounds like:

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Good Christian Men Rejoice: Adding Harmony And Fullness With Chords

In the final version of Good Christian Men Rejoice, I’ve added primarily three-note chords to the right hand.

Initally this may look much more complicated, and indeed, with the carol itself being quite fast in tempo, it will need some dexterity to play the chords correctly and in time. However, many of the chords only vary by one note from the previous one, or maintain very similar shapes, with few large jumps except that in bar 15 which is probably the largest. The last chord in bar 17 is an octave interval from the highest to lowest Es.

Note that although the melody has some repeating parts, the accompanying chords do change slightly from first to second time around, in order to provide interest and some alternative harmonies.

Good Christian Men Rejoice chords page 1

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And here’s what is sounds like:

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See the full range of Christmas carol lessons we’ve published.