Easy Silent Night Piano Sheet Music
Silent Night is one of the most iconic Christmas songs in history. This article teaches you its origins and how to play it on piano.
You know you’ve written a hit when your song was translated into 300 languages and performed in almost every genre imaginable. Silent Night is a Christmas song that has swept the earth with its haunting melody and spiritual sentiments. The song carries the perfect balance of depth and simplicity, making it easy for musicians and non-musicians to connect to and enjoy.
In this article, we let you in on the incredible story of its journey from a small town in the Austrian countryside to becoming a worldwide wonder. We also give you some easy-to-read sheet music with our tips on playing the song on the piano.
- A brief history of Silent Night.
- What are the chords of this song?
- Is this an easy song for beginners?
- Silent Night piano sheet music.
- Some tips for playing Silent Night on the piano.
- Silent nights and musical days.
A brief history of Silent Night.
Let us set the scene for you — an Alpine town, Mariapfarr, in the Australian countryside, 1816. The town was in a state of disaster after twelve years of the Napoleanic wars and a year without summer caused by a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. There was political and social unrest, bitter cold, famine, and disease. With nowhere else to turn, a young Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr, writes a six-verse poem, hoping to restore the town’s faith in God’s unconditional love and benevolence.
Mohr was a talented violinist and guitarist but felt that this special poem required the musical touch of a friend. He became a parish of St Nicholas in the town of Oberndorf in 1817, where he collaborated with organ player Franz Xaver Gruber to compose the six verses of Silent Night. They crafted the music in a style known as “siciliana,” which is supposed to mimic the movement of water and waves in its rhythmic momentum. This was perfectly fitting for the audience of Silent Night’s debut, who were mostly fishermen working on the Salzach River in Mohr’s new hometown.
Mohr and Gruber performed the song for the community in the church – they sang together while Mohr accompanied on guitar.
In an age where viral videos didn’t exist, the song was destined for a long, gradual journey of dispersion and growing popularity. It first caught the people’s attention in the nearby Zillertal Valley, where two traveling families of Folk singers, the Rainers and the Strasser, decided to incorporate it into their show.
Eventually, it found its way across Europe, winning the masses’ hearts and peaking in 1839 when the Rainers sang the song on Wall Street. On the other side of the globe, German missionaries spread Silent Night from Tibet to Alaska, where it was translated into different languages and slowly entrenched into local Christmas canons.
More than a Christmas song
But Silent Night is more than just a Christmas song – its uplifting and magical melody became a song of hope and faith for all the world’s peoples to connect to across many cultures and religions.
The height of Silent Night’s spiritual healing qualities was demonstrated in 1914 during the Christmas truce, where German and British soldiers on the front line of Flanders laid down their weapons and sang the song together.
Silent Night has become an icon of the power of music – to connect us to our humanity and overcome all the different forms of conflict and hatred which divide and destroy us.
Not to mention that it’s such a rocking tune. Everybody has wanted to cover it in every possible genre and language. Check out this prog-rock version in Polish, this death metal adaptation, and this mesmerizing acapella rendition, just to name a few!
What are the chords of this song?
The simplest version of the song has only three chords, but here are a few extra in C:
If you need some extra assistance with chords, you should read up on Piano Chords for Beginners.
Is this an easy song for beginners?
Silent Night is a classic song for beginners to learn. Its melody is diatonic, meaning that all the notes are strictly within a key. For example, if you play Silent Night in C major on the piano, you only have to use the white keys. If you’re just starting to learn about chords, Silent Night is fun and accessible because you can play the whole song with just three chords.
Want to learn to play Silent Night on the piano?
Silent Night piano sheet music.
Here is some easy-to-read, easy-to-play sheet music for Silent Night on the piano:
Some tips for playing Silent Night on the piano.
Though Silent Night is an appropriate song for beginners at the piano, there are a few tricky things to look out for.
Notice that the third line of the melody (“All is calm” in the first verse) is much higher than the first two lines. There is a big interval jump, from an E to a higher D. This is a minor 7 interval, which can be challenging for a beginner to execute. It takes the hands a while to adjust to playing big intervals, so make sure you stretch your fingers before playing. Try to release any tension from the wrist and play with a relaxed and comfortable hand.
The minor 7 intervals can also be difficult for beginners because it is not a very popular interval for the untrained ear. The best way to familiarise yourselves with this sound is to practice playing dominant 7 chords, like C7 and G7 (which we broke down for you before). The distance from the root note to the top note is a minor 7 interval, and the chord’s sound has an iconically minor 7 sound.
6/8 time signature
Silent Night is in a 6/8 time signature. This is known as compound time and contains some interesting rhythmic patterns. Look at the left-hand part in the lower staff of the sheet music above – you’ll see that most of it comprise a classic 6/8 rhythmic combination: a dotted eighth note, a sixteenth note, and an eighth note. This is three eighth notes or one dotted quarter note. It’s not the easiest rhythm to play, but it becomes intuitive and groovy with some practice! If you need a reference point, just think about the song’s first line, with the words “Silent night” – this uses the same rhythmic pattern.
Check out these 10 Best Piano Exercises for Beginners to refine your piano chops!
Silent night dynamics
Another thing to pay attention to is the dynamics. There is a piano symbol on the sheet music at the beginning of the melody. The first couple of verses is soft, gentle, and haunting. However, don’t get stuck on the piano dynamics. If you’re playing all six verses of Silent Night, it’s only natural to add more drama, intensity, and volume as the song continues. Use your musical intuition and unique voice to add character and energy to the song. After all, that’s the magic of songs like Silent Night! It is hundreds of years old but can be reborn repeatedly by every performer who injects it with their soul.
One piece at a time
As you can see in the sheet music, there are three staffs – the top is the melody, and the bottom two are the piano accompaniment. These are lots of moving parts – how should you approach it? We advise learning the melody first, playing it slowly and carefully in your right hand. This helps the music sink into your mind and feel familiar under your fingers.
Once this feels good, try learning the chords which appear in the upper staff in your right hand. Use our chord breakdown above to help you out. Then isolate the left-hand part, and practice it until it is steady and smooth. When you can play each part comfortably and fluidly, try putting it all together, one bar at a time – with the chords in your right hand, the bass part in your left hand, and the melody in your voice. With patience and persistence, you’ll be playing this Christmas classic for your family or your whole community before you say, Santa Klaus!
Silent nights and musical days.
There is no better way to have a quiet, restful night of sleep than to have a joyful day of music and song. Find time every day to spend at the piano, whether it be learning worldwide classics like Silent Night, practicing your music theory, or even writing your own music. You never know what kind of musical magic could make its way out of your fingers. And even if you’re only playing other people’s creations, music is medicine for the soul – it will send you soundly to sleep when the stars come out. Sweet dreams.