Farther On is a little-known, beautiful old Shape-Note hymn in the Sacred Harp tradition.
Now with a new Middle C arrangement for beginner piano, you can also download this free hymn sheet music as an ensemble arrangement, guitar tabs, or lead sheet.
The first time I heard Farther On sung was at a performance of homeschool children and families in Juneau, Alaska. (Since then, my own students have been singing it.) The Zahasky family, homeschoolers as well as being a professional music group known as the Alaska String Band , gave a moving performance of this apparent "new find" among old gospel hymns. (See them in the video above.)
I was immediately captivated and knew I HAD to have that hymn.
Farther On is apparently from the Shape-Note tradition, but it didn't show up in any searches I did the year when I first heard the hymn. However, another kind soul apparently felt the same way as I did about Farther On, and put the Zahaskys' video on Youtube so the whole world can share in the experience.
A couple of beginning vocal students who are also beginning piano players was the real impetus for me to make up this easy piano version of Farther On - I wanted them to work on something familiar, with a small range. This is such a sweet, old-timey hymn - a treasure among church songs. And the message warms the heart.
Please notice that I have placed no fingering in the music, but I suggest thumbs side-by-side on Middle C (left thumb) and Middle D (right thumb) so that the whole octave range of the melody can be played without lifting the hand.
Here are guitar tabs for Farther On, in the key of G only.
Here is the vocal ensemble, in two keys. Unlike the other settings of Farther On, this arrangement is FOR SALE.
For $3.75 USD total, you may download and print eight copies for your ensemble or church choir!
See pages 1 and 3 in the key of F, and pages 2 & 4 in the key of G, shown below:
I have arranged the ensemble in the manner in which the Zahaskys performed it. Beginning with a solo joined by the group at the chorus, it turns into a duet, then the group at the refrain again, the group all together on verse 3, then back to a solo on verse 4 (where the music says "De capo al Coda"), and then on to the Coda at page 4, where the Zahaskys turn it into one of the most riveting a capella hymns I have ever heard. Page 4 really has nothing different from any of the other choruses, except 2 extra notes in the tenor line.
Here is a lead sheet with guitar chords (or piano chords) in 4 different keys: D, E, F, and G. What's interesting is that the Zahaskay family is singing it in the key of Gb, using a capo on the guitar. It is a nice key for the daughter's voice, and a great key for piano.
Farther On lead sheet in the key of D
In the key of E, as pictured above
In the key of F
And finally, in the key of G
I like to use the lead sheet version of this Shape note music for piano students who are learning to add left hand chords to simple melodies. Once they have nailed that, then (if they are advanced enough) we start adding right hand harmony by adding chord tones under the melody in the right hand. This is only fun for the student when they really love the song -- so I don't press it.
If anyone knows more about this story, please let me know through my Contact Form. I want to be accurate. I would also like to know how these words came to be attached to Farther On.
The more I hear, play, and sing this hymn, the more beautiful and poignant the words and music seem to become. I can imagine that this song would be memorable among very comforting graveside, memorial or funeral hymns.
Do you have a story or a question about teaching guitar? Do you think it is a hard instrument for beginners, or easy? What have been your challenges?