James Lord Pierpont, the son of a Unitarian Church pastor in Medford, Massachusetts, USA, composed "Jingle Bells" around 1840. From childhood, he played the church organ and sang in the choir and, as an adult, continued to develop his musical skills.
The piece was originally named "One Horse Open Sleigh" and composed for the annual Thanksgiving Service (traditionally held in November). Pierpont's inspiration derived from watching and enjoying the local sleigh races that were popular at the time. The completed arrangement was sung by Pierpont and his choir for Thanksgiving and it was so warmly received that a repeat performance was requested for the following Christmas service. This is probably the reason the tune became associated with Christmastime.
Some years later, Pierpont moved to Savannah, Georgia, no doubt finding new audiences for his song. He found a publisher for his song in 1857 and it rapidly became popular as a Christmas song under its new name of "Jingle Bells". The song's rural setting of snow, sleighs and jingling horse bells soon became an enduring part of Northern Hemisphere Christmas imagery that has persisted to this day. The worldwide appeal of "Jingle Bells" has been greatly enhanced by the large number of famous musicians who have recorded it.
This original arrangement for guitar is by Glenn Jarrett, a regular contributor to mfiles. After a brief four measure introduction comes the verse. This is meant to be played with the fingerstyle technique associated with guitar legends Merle Travis and Chet Atkins - known generally as Travis-picking. For the chorus that follows, the tempo slows to accommodate a more jazz-oriented, chordal style in contrast to that of the verse. Download sheet music and audio files for this arrangement using the links in the left hand menu, or check out our full catalogue of Christmas Carols.