Silent Night (C Major): Mastering Christmas Carols on the Piano and Keyboard 54

How to play Silent Night on the piano and keyboard - mastering Christmas carols

Check out our complete series on mastering Christmas Carols on Piano and Keyboard.

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Silent Night: An Introduction

Silent Night is written and played here in the key of C Major, and has a 3/4 (waltz) time signature (as does Away in a Manger).

(See Silent Night in A Major for exactly the same tutorial in a lower key.)

Silent Night: Main Melody

Several short phrases in each verse are repeated.

The first phrase, to which the words “Silent Night” are sung, is repeated twice. The third and fourth lines have the same 4-bar melody.

Here’s the complete melody written out:

Silent Night melody line score

Those notes are: G A G : E : G A G : E : D D : B : C C : G : A A : C B A : G A G : E : A A : C B A : G A G : E : D D : F D B : C : E : C G E : G F D : C

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And here’s what it sounds like:

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Note that there are a number of places with a similar rhythm, formed by a dotted crotchet (quarter note) followed by a quaver (eighth note) and a crochet (quarter note). These take up one bar’s worth of time. Imagine that the bar is split into 6 half-beats. The first note (dotted crochet/quarter-note) takes 3 of these; the second note (quaver/eighth note) takes just 1 of these; the final crochet (quarter note) takes the remaining 2 half-beats.


Here are some suggestions:

  • Start on the 4th finger and play naturally.
  • On the D in the fifth bar, start on your 5th (little) finger and run naturally
  • Play the A of the 9th bar with your 3rd (middle) finger, the notes should then run naturally. This phrase repeats.
  • Play the D of the 17th bar with your 3rd (middle) finger.
  • You have time to move your whole hand between bar 20 and 21, to play the C with your 5th (little) finger.

Silent Night: Single Note Bass Line

Below is a simple bass line for the carol using just one note. It’s written so that you only have to play one note per bar, and in fact there are only three different notes used: C, F and G.

Silent Night bass line score

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And here’s what it sounds like:

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Silent Night: Adding Harmony And Fullness With Chords

In the third version of Silent Night, I’ve added two-note chords to the right hand, always with the melody note as the highest note. The bass line remains the same.

Silent Night basic chords score

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And here’s what is sounds like:

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Silent Night: Alternative Versions

The final two versions of Silent Night use some alternative left-hand chord structures to give the piece a different feel. They may prove off-putting if you are accompanying singers (depending on the situation) but if you are playing the carol on its own for enjoyment or performance, you may find one or both are interesting alternatives. See how you like them!

Silent Night Arrangement with Alternative Chords first version

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Here’s how it sounds:

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And here’s the second version:

Silent Night Arrangement with Alternative Chords second version

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Silent Night: Lead/Chord Sheet

Finally, here’s a very simple lead sheet for Silent Night. Notice that you only need three chords to play it: C major, F major, and G major:

Silent Night Lead Sheet

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Silent Night: Video Tutorials

View our lighted keys video.

Want more ideas and inspiration for playing simple versions of Silent Night? Check out our video:

Silent Night: Lyrics

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

That’s it for now. Happy playing!

View a range of Christmas Carols Music Books at Amazon.

Series Index: Mastering Christmas Carols on the Piano and Keyboard

54 thoughts on “Silent Night (C Major): Mastering Christmas Carols on the Piano and Keyboard

  • Megan McLaughlin

    Hi Andy,
    I just wanted to congratulate you for your efforts.
    I have read some of the nice and not so nice comments previously posted, so I wanted to give you some encouragement.
    I am a conservatorium-trained pianist and have taught for many years.
    Whilst prowling for another copy of a Schubert Impromptu, I stumbled across your website.
    Good on you for supporting the many aspiring musicians out there.

  • Andy Post author

    Hi Megan,

    Thanks for your comments, it’s appreciated.

    I’m hoping to do more of these in 2010, not just for Christmas carols. I know that they’ve been helping a number of people, despite the comments. Your encouragement helps πŸ™‚


  • Monsterific

    I was wondering who played the song on the piano!
    It was great!
    I play the piano and I love to write new songs!
    I stopped taking piano classes about 2 years ago, but I have my books and always want to play!
    I’m glad you don’t have a site where you have to download or buy everything!
    I like getting together with my family on Christmas and I wish Christmas carolers came to my street, but they never do!
    I want to learn more songs on the piano and the recorder, but I never can find anything!
    Monster girl

  • Andy Post author

    Hi Monster Girl,

    I played the piece, but I used a sequencer to ensure that it was even, for the purpose of making it easier to learn from the audio. I wouldn’t normally play it quite so uniformly live.

  • naomi

    i am lerning how to play so far all i can remember is merry had a little lamb and in the jungle but i finde after a while you dont need the sheet music ennymore somtimes my fingers played the note and i diddent even know it lol

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