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Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring is one of the most recognizable pieces of music in history. It has been recorded in numerous arrangements and styles and makes a great solo guitar piece. My arrangement stays very faithful to the original but is playable by intermediate guitar players. It requires a few stretches and good control of hammer-ons and pull-offs, and presents many parts where notes need to be sustained through movement in another part.
The piece is really a combination of different themes, some in the style of a Prelude and others more like a Chorale, commonly done by a choir singing in harmony. We will break this down into small chunks, starting with the first Prelude Section (measures 1-8).
The first section (Measures 1-8) establishes the 9/8 feel that carries on throughout the piece, but this can also be thought of as 3/4 time with the beats broken up into triplets. Attention must be paid here to holding down bass notes through the hammers and pulls, keeping your fingers firmly in place while executing the slurs.
Part 4 starts with the chorale melody, which does require holding a few notes while you stretch into some changes. There are also a few spots where you need to use your end fingers (3 and 4) for notes that might seem easier with middle fingers. This is a good excuse to get those fingers more involved and on equal footing (handing?) with the rest.
Measures 24-31 up the difficulty level a bit as the piece modulates from G Major to A Minor. It is really important to start the octave Ds with your second and fourth fingers, and work diligently on the hammer-on that follows. Measure 25 includes an unusual crossing of rhythms with four eighth notes (duplets) played underneath six equal eighth notes in the melody.
Part 6 (Measures 32-44) modulates to the key of C Major and is still somewhat challenging, like the A Minor section. There are some position changes that need special attention to come out smoothly, mostly done with good finger independence.
The last two parts of Jesu cover the end of the piece and some last thoughts.