My name is Jim Nailon. I started playing guitar in 1972 when I was 20 years old. Initially self-taught, I was blessed to have talented teachers to develop my style, technique and repertoire. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in classical guitar in 1976, but soon realized my dream of becoming a classical virtuoso would never be realized. I have rather slow fingers and was unable to play the lightning fast scales demanded by the advanced classical repertoire. Hopefully, I am becoming the guitar player God meant me to be.
For most of my life I have been a church musician (Southern Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and now, Catholic), both as a guitarist and singer. I also love to write music, especially music for God and love songs for my wife. I’ve always been drawn to folk and classical fingerstyle guitar and have almost always been a solo performer and never a musician in a band. Over the years, I began playing some of my favorite hymns on the guitar in keys that I believe made them the easiest to play. I began to get pretty good at coming up with arrangements either by ear or just off of the chords in a song. In 2001, I began sharing some of my hymn arrangements online in what I call the Liturgical Guitarist Hymnal (LGH).
About my arrangements
I began what I call the Liturgical Guitarist Hymnal (LGH) project in 2001. I had a guitar student who wanted to learn some of the hymn arrangements I was playing at church for preludes before Mass. I come up with my own arrangements by just working out the melody over the hymn’s chord structure. That is just basic chord/melody style playing. Then, I try to make the arrangements a little more interesting by adding bass runs, arpeggios and melodic fills and variants that I’ve picked up over 50+ years of playing folk and classical guitar. I’m no guitar virtuoso and I strive for a balance between musical interest and ease of playability that puts most of my arrangements within the reach of a good intermediate level guitarist.
I think of my arrangements as musical sketches that may be altered by the player to fit their style and ability, rather than classical compositions that should be played exactly as written. So if something is unplayable for you, try to find a simpler workaround in your style. And if you are a great guitarist, feel free to add your own touches.
My arrangements are not flashy, but I have been told by many parishioners over the years that they do fulfil my intended desire: to support the prayers of worshipers before Mass as congregants kneel in prayer and prepare their hearts for worship. My personal belief is that a flashy virtuosic performance of hymns before Mass would likely distract people from their prayers. The Church teaches that, “Music is the handmaiden of the liturgy,” so I am there to serve rather than perform. I don’t think there is anything wrong with creating beautiful music for worship as long as I try to direct my efforts to God and remember I am a servant to the congregation and not a performer.
At my former student’s request, I started writing out my arrangements and eventually purchased Sibelius music engraving software. Then, I thought other church guitarists might find my work helpful, so I built a little do-it-yourself website on Yahoo and shared the few arrangements I had. Over the years, that list has grown to over 100 free arrangements and I have made tutorial videos on YouTube for over half of my arrangements.
In the videos, you’ll notice I am not the most charismatic guitar teacher on the internet. You may also notice I try to keep the camera focused on my guitar and fingers. I have mild Tourette’s syndrome and I don’t want my facial tics to be a distraction. I also apologize for the frequent throat clearing, which is also a tic.