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“Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” by Mel Torme & Bob Wells – Solo ukulele arrangement by Ukulele Mike Lynch

December 3, 2013

Chestnuts Blog Pic

According to Wikipedia “The Christmas Song” (commonly subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or, as it was originally subtitled, “Merry Christmas to You”) is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by musician, composer, and vocalist Mel Tormé (aka The Velvet Fog), and Bob Wells. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool”, the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song was born.
“I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil”, Tormé recalled. “They started, “Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob (Wells, co-writer) didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. “I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.”
The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole’s behest – and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records – a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Nat King Cole’s 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive, and in 2004 was the most loved seasonal song with women aged 30–49, while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.

Below is a performance/tutorial of “CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE” by Mel Torme and arranged for solo ukulele by Ukulele Mike Lynch

I play my arrangement with just the right thumb. No fingerpicking is involved. The opening segment presented below is just a simple vamp with the thumb playing the 4th then the 3rd, 2nd and 1st string for each chord change. Notice the Ebdim7 and Gm7 chords. These are both what we call “jazz” chords. They have a delicious distinctive sound that sets them apart from normal major and minor chords. Adding that 7th to the chord is the secret ingredient. If these chord shapes are foreign to you, it will take no time to get use to them and you’ll treasure them forever in your playing. This song is a great introduction to some of these “jazz” chord voicings.
Music 1

Another “jazz” chord is found in the example below . . . The Abmaj7 . . . I like to play it by barring the 3rd fret with my ring finger while my index finger plays the 1st fret of the 4th string. If you find another fingering that works better for you, go for it.

Music 2

Below notice the first chord is Bb but it’s only played with 3 strings. Therefore, it eliminates the need to barre the first 2 strings as you typically would with a normal Bb chord. Makes it pretty easy.

Music 3

The tablature notation for CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE is only available as a single tab. It’s not included in my rather large UKULELE CHRISTMAS eBook. It can be purchased for $5.39 by paying through the paypal donate button on my website:
Once purchased it will be emailed to you within the day.

Below is a link to a recent blog I did detailing my COMPLETE ENTIRE CATALOG of Solo Ukulele instrumentals currently available:

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