Amazing Grace (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Amazing Grace

Matt Brown explains how to read music in the key of F major. He uses the song "Amazing Grace" as an example.

Taught by Matt Brown in Reading Music and Rhythm seriesLength: 15:22Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:57) Lesson Introduction In the previous lesson, Matt reviewed the key of G major. You learned how this key signature is written. You also practiced playing in this key signature by working through the song "He's Got the Whole World."

In the current lesson, Matt reviews the key signature for F major as well as the F major scale. Remember that this particular key contains one flat in the key signature. According to the order of flats, this flatted note is a Bb. Matt will walk you through the melody to "Amazing Grace" to provide you with some reading practice in this key.

Steve Eulberg has also taught a lesson about "Amazing Grace" in which he applies a bluegrass interpretation to the song. Check this lesson out for some interesting tips on how to interpret the melody in this style.

The "Open" F Major Scale

Remember to start on the lowest root note in the position when playing through any scale. This F note is located at the 1st fret of the sixth string. Then, ascend to the highest note in the position. This note is G at the 3rd fret of the first string. Finally, descend the scale back down to the lowest root note in the pattern. Watch carefully as Matt plays through the ascending portion of the scale pattern. Pay careful attention to the fingerings that he uses. At 02:48, you have an opportunity to practice the full ascending and descending pattern of the scale along with him. Make sure that you can play the scale from memory. Before proceeding to the next scene, you must have this pattern memorized. You must also be able to play the scale musically along with a metronome.

Note: Tablature / Notation to the F major scale can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Proper left-hand fingerings to the scale are included in this document.

Practicing the Scale

Once you have mastered this scale pattern, apply the rhythm exercises presented in past lessons to this scale. Also, practice through the pattern using a variety of picking techniques. Use the following picking patterns when practicing all scales:

1. All Downstrokes
2. All Upstrokes
3. Alternate Picking Beginning with a Downstroke
4. Alternate Picking Beginning with an Upstroke
Chapter 2: (06:26) Amazing Grace Melody and Song Structure Remember to follow these important steps before you dive into playing a new piece.

1. Make a note of the official title and composer. The official title of this song is "Amazing Grace." John Newton composed the lyrics to this song. The composer of the melody is unknown.

2. Note the tempo and style of the piece. Since none is listed, style and tempo are left to the performer's discretion. You are probably familiar with how this song is sung in church. Or, you have probably heard some famous interpretations of this song. Use these performance examples as a basis for your own interpretation and performance of the melody. You can also listen to Matt's interpretation of the melody in this lesson as a source for interpretation ideas.

The lyrics to a song will always provide a clue as to how a song should be sung or played. The captain of a slave ship wrote this song. It was written after he witnessed the barbaric and cruel nature of the slave trade. Consequently, he wrote solemn, yet uplifting lyrics to capture this experience. When playing this melody, try to capture the solemn nature of the lyrics.

3. Note the key signature. There is one flat in the key signature, so it can be determined that this song is in the key of F major or D minor. (Minor keys will be discussed in later lessons.)

4. Note the time signature. This song is played in 3/4 time.

5. Are there any pickup notes? The first measure is not a complete measure. This measure begins with a quarter note played as a pickup into the first complete measure. The fifth of the scale, C, is the first note of the melody.

Help with Phrasing

Matt provides a performance of this melody at 02:10 in the lesson video.

Always remember to learn the lyrics to the melody if there are any. This will help with your phrasing and musicality on the guitar. It will also help you memorize the piece. The lyrics to this melody are listed below in a phrase-by-phrase fashion.

Phrase 1: Amazing grace how sweet the sound,

The third finger must roll down from the initial pickup note to the first note in the first full measure. Drill this finger roll if it is difficult for you. Since this is the first phrase, it shall be referred to as (a).

Phrase 2: To save a wretch like me.

Add a slight emphasis to the C note at the end of this measure. This note is the peak of the melody.

This phrase begins the same as the first phrase. However, the ending is different. Consequently, this phrase is labeled (a'). This phrase label is pronounced "a prime."

Phrase 3: I once was lost but now am found,

The third phrase features some completely new melodic material. As a result, this phrase is labeled (b).

Phrase 4: Was blind but now I see.

Notice how this phrase is very similar to the first phrase. This phrase omits the last two notes in the first phrase. Instead, the final phrase ends on tonic to give the melody a definite sense of finality. The last phrase is labeled (a''). This label is pronounced "a double prime."

There are no rests between any of the phrases. Instead, each phrase ends with a long sustained note. Cut each ending note slightly short to define where one phrase ends and the next phrase begins. This technique will imitate the sound of a vocalist taking a breath between phrases.
Chapter 3: (01:36) Melodic Differences To learn some ways of interpreting this melody, watch Steve Eulberg's lesson pertaining to "Amazing Graze." Steve provides a bluegrass interpretation of the melody in this lesson. Compare Steve's version of the melody to the way that it is notated in the "Supplemental Content" section. Matt provided an exact performance of what is listed in the "Supplemental Content" in the previous scene.
Chapter 4: (02:44) Playing at Tempo "Amazing Grace" is typically performed at a moderately slow tempo. Matt has chosen to set the metronome at 83 beats per minute for the practice session in this scene. Begin by practicing the melody at a slower tempo if necessary. Then, work up to the tempo that Matt has chosen. Once you have reached this goal tempo, practice the melody along with him. If you make a mistake while playing through the song, do not stop. Simply keep going. After the song is finished, go back and address any mistakes that you have made. JamPlay instructor Steve Eulberg always compares this scenario to being chased by a bear through the woods. If a bear is chasing you and your shoe falls off, what do you do? You do not want to stop and put your shoe back on. Just keep running! Go back to find your shoe at a later time.
Chapter 5: (00:37) Final Thoughts In the following lesson, Matt will jump back to the key of G major for some additional reading practice in this key. "Shoo, Fly," the melody presented in the next lesson, will be the most difficult yet.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

waldo48waldo48 replied on November 4th, 2013

Matt, I am enjoying your lessons very much and find your comments about song structure, phrasing and accentuating notes very helpful. Could you tell what the notation"S-Gt" at the beginning of the music for Amazing Grace means thanks Peter

mattbrownmattbrown replied on November 6th, 2013

Hi Peter! Thanks for checking out my lessons! Glad you're finding them useful. The abbreviation you're talking about just means "steel guitar." It's one of the audio playback options in Guitar Pro, the program that we use for almost all of the notation/tablature on the site. So, if you download the GP file and play the audio, it will sound more like a guitar for steel (actually phosphor-bronze) strings.

waldo48waldo48 replied on November 7th, 2013

Thank you Matt

mattbrownmattbrown replied on November 8th, 2013

No problem! I check these comments pretty often, so just yell at me if you ever need help with something. ;)

esanjayrajesanjayraj replied on August 24th, 2012

Hey Matt can u teach us how to read chords from staff notation.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on August 24th, 2012

Well, reading chords in standard notation just takes practice. If you can read and play melodies from standard notation, you can read and play chords too, since a chord is nothing but individual notes played/written together. As you get more practice reading chords in standard notation, you'll begin to immediately recognize certain chord voicings by sight.

panama400panama400 replied on January 26th, 2011

Why is it not proper to say were playing this in c major since were not using the b flat

mattbrownmattbrown replied on January 27th, 2011

Good question! The melody of this song is taken from the F major pentatonic scale. You can think of this scale as an F major scale with the 4th and 7th notes omitted. Here are the notes in an F major scale: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F. Here's F Major Pentatonic: F, G, A, C, D, F. As you can see, the Bb is taken away from F major pentatonic. Also, even though a Bb is never used in the melody, the tonal center, or note that the melody gravitates towards is an F. So, that puts us in some sort of F tonality rather than the key of C.

panama400panama400 replied on January 28th, 2011

Thanks again Matt, I'm sure I will have more questions as I work through this lesson set.

tedted3tedted3 replied on October 24th, 2008

Just wanted to comment on the Gibson. I have always been more of a Fender kind of guy but that Gibson sounds nice. I have really enjoyed you last few lessons.Keep them coming. Thanks Matt

VinnyBVinnyB replied on October 22nd, 2008

Rocking the Ministry shirt, hell yeah!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on October 21st, 2008

Thanks so much! Glad you like the lessons. There are about four more of them that are already filmed and edited. You should see them in the following weeks. Also, I'm filming about four more Reading and Rhythm lessons on Tuesday.

rj surfsrj surfs replied on October 21st, 2008

This is a great series. Keep adding more lessons. Thanks Matt!

Reading Music and Rhythm

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Matt brings all of his years of education right to you with this fantastic series on how to read music. You will start with the very basics and work up to some very advanced concepts.

Lesson 1

Intro to Reading Music

This introductory lesson will walk you through the basics of reading music and reading rhythm.

Length: 15:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Reading Music

Learn how to identify notes, the key signature, and the staff. Implement your reading skills by playing a few simple tunes.

Length: 43:32 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 3

Rhythm and Time Signatures

Learn the basics of notation and time signatures. Practice these concepts with a few timing exercises.

Length: 22:01 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

3/4 Time Signatures

Now that you've learned a bit about 4/4 time, it's on to 3/4 time.

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Reading Music Practice

Now that you know the basics of reading music, it's time to put that knowledge to work with some exercises.

Length: 25:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

On Top of Old Smokey

Get some more practice reading music and rhythms during your rock fest rendition of "On Top of Old Smokey".

Length: 15:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

He's Got the Whole World

Matt Brown reviews the G major scale and teaches "He's Got the Whole World".

Length: 13:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Amazing Grace

Matt Brown explains how to read music in the key of F major. He uses the song "Amazing Grace" as an example.

Length: 15:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Shoo, Fly

Matt Brown teaches the song "Shoo, Fly" as another excellent rhythm and reading example. This song is in the key of G.

Length: 14:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Scales and Key Signatures

Matt Brown returns with the 10th installment in his Reading and Rhythm series. In this lesson, Matt discusses key signatures.

Length: 14:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Minor Key and Aura Lee

In this lesson Matt Brown covers the first minor key song in this series, "Aura Lee".

Length: 12:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Scarborough Fair

In this lesson, Matt introduces the A Dorian mode. He applies it to the song "Scarborough Fair".

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Second Position

In lesson 13, Matt Brown discusses and demonstrates second position.

Length: 29:52 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14


Lesson 14 is all about rhythm. Matt Brown discusses its importance and provides several exercises.

Length: 20:17 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

On Top of Old Smokey Review

Matt Brown reviews "On Top of Old Smokey". This time around, the melody is played in second position.

Length: 7:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Reviewing Angels We Have Heard On High

For lesson 14, Matt Brown reviews "Angels We Have Heard On High". The melody is now played in second position.

Length: 12:02 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Shoo, Fly Review

Matt Brown reviews the song "Shoo, Fly" in second position.

Length: 8:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Rhythm Strumming

This lesson covers right hand rhythm technique. Matt introduces syncopated strumming patterns.

Length: 25:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Down by the Riverside

Matt teaches the melody to "Down by the Riverside". This tune is used as preparation for learning accompaniment techniques.

Length: 15:02 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20


Matt uses the song "Down by the Riverside" to teach accompaniment techniques for rhythm backing.

Length: 12:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Fur Elise Pt. 1

Matt teaches the classic tune "Fur Elise" in a two part series. For Part 1, Matt demonstrates the melody section.

Length: 24:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Fur Elise Pt. 2

In lesson 22, Matt teaches the accompaniment sections to Beethoven's "Fur Elise".

Length: 13:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

The Entertainer Pt. 1

Lesson 23 starts a 2 part series on the classic tune "The Entertainer".

Length: 16:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

The Entertainer Pt. 2

Lesson 24 completes the two part series on "The Entertainer". You will learn the accompaniment in this lesson.

Length: 14:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

Sea to Sea Pt. 1

Matt starts another 2 part lesson, this time on the tune "Sea to Sea" by William G. Leavitt.

Length: 20:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Sea to Sea Pt. 2

Lesson 26 completes Matt's 2 part series on "Sea to Sea".

Length: 10:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Stars and Stripes Forever Pt. 1

Matt introduces the B flat major scale and teaches the song "Stars and Stripes Forever".

Length: 21:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Stars and Stripes Forever Pt. 2

Matt completes his two part series on "Stars and Stripes Forever" by teaching the accompaniment.

Length: 7:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

D Major in First and Second Position

Matt Brown teaches the D Major scale in both first and second positions.

Length: 17:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

Danny Boy Pt. 1

Matt Brown demonstrates "Danny Boy" in both first and second positions.

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Danny Boy Pt. 2

Matt Brown teaches the accompaniment to the "Danny Boy" melody.

Length: 12:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Silent Night Pt. 1

Matt teaches the Christmas classic "Silent Night."

Length: 18:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Silent Night Pt. 2

Matt teaches the accompaniment to the "Silent Night" melody.

Length: 4:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Funiculi Funicula Pt. 1

Matt Brown teaches "Funiculi Funicula" as an exercise in reading and playing in 6/8 time.

Length: 14:39 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Funiculi Funicula Pt. 2

Matt Brown teaches the accompaniment to "Funiculi Funicula".

Length: 16:40 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 36

Strumming Triplets

In lesson 36, Matt provides exercises to help you strum triplet patterns.

Length: 23:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Strumming Sixteenth Note Rhythms

In lesson 37, Matt Brown demonstrates how to strum sixteenth note rhythms.

Length: 17:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

Song of the Volga Boatmen

Matt Brown demonstrates the melody and tips for playing the Russian folk tune "Song of the Volga Boatmen".

Length: 11:33 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

Song of the Volga Boatmen Pt. 2

In lesson 39, Matt teaches the accompaniment to "Song of the Volga Boatmen".

Length: 8:35 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Dance of the Ukraine

Matt Brown teaches and demonstrates "Dance of the Ukraine."

Length: 15:37 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 41

Dance of the Ukraine Pt. 2

Matt demonstrates the accompaniment to the "Dance of the Ukraine" melody.

Length: 13:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 42

Etude by Ferdinando Carulli

Matt Brown teaches an etude for classical guitar by Ferdinando Carulli.

Length: 21:20 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 43

Morning Pt. 1

Matt Brown teaches the melody section to "Morning" by Edvard Grieg.

Length: 18:44 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

Morning Pt. 2

Matt teaches the accompaniment for Edvard Grieg's "Morning."

Length: 8:08 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 45

Bach's Minuet Pt. 1

Matt Brown teaches Bach's classic Minuet.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 46

Bach's Minuet Pt. 2

In lesson 46, Matt Brown covers the accompaniment section to Bach's Minuet.

Length: 5:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 47

Little Prelude in C Pt. 1

Matt Brown teaches Bach's "Little Prelude in C."

Length: 16:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 48

Little Prelude in C Pt. 2

Matt Brown teaches the accompaniment to "Little Prelude in C" by Bach.

Length: 7:49 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 49

Clementi's Sonatina

Matt Brown teaches the 2nd guitar part to Muzio Clementi's famous "Sonatina."

Length: 23:46 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 50

Bach's Invention #1

Matt Brown teaches Invention #1 composed by J.S. Bach.

Length: 21:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 51

Third Position

Matt takes a look at playing in third position. This lesson will set up future reading lessons that require the third position.

Length: 7:16 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Lesson 52

Third Position Practice

Matt Brown has you working through Jean Philippe Rameau's Minuet for third position playing in lesson 52. He provides a play along and accompaniment to help your sight reading and playing.

Length: 15:11 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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