Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt


Guitar sheet music and guitar tab

I have TWO amazing arrangements of "Amazing Grace!"

Amazing Grace Gospel-Blues Version

This version is very fun with adventurous harmonies. It is for intermediate and advanced guitarists.

Watch me play the Gospel-Blues Version of "Amazing Grace."

And the second arrangement:

Amazing Grace Easier Traditional Version

The second version is a traditional version in three variations of increasing difficulty. It preserves the simplicity of the hymn and is meditative and gentle but powerful. Depending on your skill level, you can play only the first variation, the first two variations, or the whole thing. But you must be able to hold bar chords.

Watch me play the Easier Traditional Version of "Amazing Grace."

The Sheet Music Package Contains BOTH Versions!

Click the image to view sample pages from each version.

Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages 2 Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages 3 Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages 3 Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages 3 Amazing Grace, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample pages 3

Your sheet music package includes nine (!) versions.

  1. Amazing Grace Gospel-Blues Version in Standard Notation.
  2. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  3. The same in tab only.
  4. Amazing Grace Easier Traditional Version in Standard Notation.
  5. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  6. The same in tab only.
  7. Amazing Grace Easiest Version (Variation 1 Only) in Standard Notation.
  8. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  9. The same in Tab only.

The package is a 51-page PDF. It contains a notation key, all nine versions of the arrangement, and The Fascinating Story of "Amazing Grace," which includes all the historical information and links to the videos on this page.


This is a digital download.

The entire sheet music package (51 pages!) is only $10.00. It includes all nine versions of the arrangement, a notation key, and The Fascinating Story of "Amazing Grace," which includes links to the videos on this page.

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About "Amazing Grace"

"Amazing Grace" is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world. Estimates are that musicians, singers, and choirs perform the song about 10 million times annually. Artists have recorded it thousands of times during and since the 20th century.

In the United States, the hymn has become a song that inspires hope in the wake of tragedy. The song's music and words have special meaning at moments of profound human suffering.

With its universal message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the mercy of God can deliver our soul from despair, "Amazing Grace" is one of the most well-known Christian hymns.

Many are unaware of the hymn's history. We tend to sing its words and reflect on them in terms of our own lives — grateful for God's grace — and understandably so. But read on because knowing where the song came from allows us to appreciate it in a new and more profound way.

The Story of the Man Who Wrote "Amazing Grace"

John Newton in his later years
John Newton in his later years.

John Newton was born in 1725 in Wapping, a London suburb that thrived on shipping and the sea trade. As a youth, Newton was spiritually confused and, as he later admitted, had a severe lack of moral self-control and discipline. In his miserable and troubled early life, Newton constantly fought against authority.

His father, a merchant ship captain, was often away on sea voyages that typically lasted two to three years. When he was six years old, Newton's mother succumbed to tuberculosis during one of these absences, leaving him in the temporary care of her friends, the Catlett family in Kent. His father remarried and placed Newton in boarding school. However, Newton stayed in close contact with the Catlett family primarily because of their daughter, Mary, whom he eventually wed. Mary was the cornerstone of Newton's existence. No matter what befell him, his goal always was to return to her.

Newton's life, rife with "dangers, toils, and snares" (as he relates in his hymn), repeatedly brought him face-to-face with the notion that someone or something had miraculously spared him. On one occasion, he narrowly missed impalement on a row of sharp stakes when a horse threw him. On another, he arrived too late to board a boat carrying a group of his friends to tour a warship. As he watched from the shore, the vessel overturned, drowning everyone. On a hunting expedition in Africa on a moonless night, he and his companions got lost in a swamp. Just when they had resigned themselves to death, the moon appeared, and they were able to return to safety. Such near-death experiences were commonplace in Newton's life.

Yet, no matter how many times fate spared his life, Newton relapsed into his old habits of headstrong disobedience. Newton became known for his wild behavior and openly mocking faith. He seemed as far away from God as he could get. Newton ridiculed religion and attempted to dissuade others from their beliefs. Of all of the sins to which he later confessed, his habit of chipping away at others' faith remained heaviest on his heart.

In 1744 when he was 19, Newton was press-ganged—taken by force into service in the Royal Navy. Discipline was harsh. God seemed far away and uncaring. When he tried and failed to escape, the ship's captain gave him a flogging of 96 lashes. Life aboard the ship nearly broke Newton's spirit. He contemplated killing the captain and committing suicide, but he recovered, both physically and mentally.

He was disgraced, relieved of his post, and transferred to the Pegasus, a merchant slave ship where he became involved in the brutal 18th-century slave trade. The work was horrific and cost many human lives. Yet, at the time, it was legal and lucrative.

But once again, Newton found himself in tough straits. The crew so hated him that the captain left him in West Africa with a slave dealer. The slave trader forced him to be a servant. He was at the mercy of the slaver's native mistress, who mistreated and abused him as she did her other slaves.

Finally, a sea captain friend of his father rescued Newton. On the return voyage to England aboard the Greyhound, Newton gained notoriety as one of the most profane men the captain had ever met. In a culture where sailors habitually swore, Newton was admonished several times for using the worst words the captain had ever heard and creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery. In March 1748, while the Greyhound was in the North Atlantic on the way back to England, a violent storm came upon the ship. The winds and rain were so intense that a crew member, standing where Newton had been moments before, was swept overboard.

Newton and another shipmate tied themselves to the ship's pump to keep from being washed overboard, working for several hours to empty water from the boat. Newton rested briefly before returning to the deck to steer the ship for the next eleven hours.

Newton realized he might die and cried out to God to save them from the storm. Newton thought about the state of his life. He knew he had run from God, hurt other people, and made a wreck out of his situation. He had even ridiculed the Gospel. Would God still be forgiving, even after Newton had rejected Him? Newton recalled what his mother had taught him from the Bible: God shows mercy even to people who feel they are beyond redemption. Finally, Newton asked for God's help for the first time in years.

Newton and the rest of the crew survived the storm. For him, the near-death experience and their salvation sparked a spiritual awakening. Newton took the first step—albeit slight—toward accepting religion. In the words of his hymn, this incident marked "the hour I first believed."

Upon his safe return home, Newton immediately wrote to the Catlett family to plead his case for Mary's hand, although he could offer her no financial security. When Mary herself replied that she would consider his proposal, he returned to slaving to better his fortunes.

Newton finally wed Mary Cartlett in 1750. Although he claimed to be a changed man, he soon accepted the helm of a slave ship bound for Africa. However, this time, Newton encouraged the sailors under his charge to pray rather than taunt them for their beliefs. He also began to insist that every member of his crew treat their human cargo with gentleness and concern. But it would be another 40 years until Newton openly challenged the trafficking of slaves.

Before each journey, Newton found it more and more difficult to leave Mary. After three voyages in the slave trade, the shipping company promised Newton a position as ship's captain with cargo unrelated to slavery. But at the age of thirty, three years after his marriage, he collapsed and never sailed again. In time, Newton interpreted this as another step in his spiritual voyage. He assumed a post in the Customs Office in the port of Liverpool and began to explore Christianity more fully. It soon became apparent that the ministry was calling him.

Since Newton lacked a university degree, the church could not ordain him through normal channels. However, in Olney in Buckinghamshire, England, the parish landlord was so impressed with letters Newton sent him about his conversion that he offered the church to Newton. The Anglican church finally ordained him in June 1764.

The vicarage in Olney
The vicerage in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England

Olney was a village of about 2,500 residents whose primary industry was making lace by hand. The people were mostly illiterate, and many of them were poor. Newton's preaching was unique in that he shared many of his own experiences from the pulpit. He was involved in his parishioners' lives and was much loved, although his writing and delivery were sometimes unpolished. But his devotion and conviction were apparent and forceful, and he often said his mission was to "break a hard heart and to heal a broken heart."

Newton's wife, Mary Catlett, died in 1790, after which he published Letters to a Wife (1793), in which he expressed his grief. Plagued by ill health and failing eyesight, Newton died on December 21, 1807, in London at the age of 65. He was buried beside his wife in St. Mary Woolnoth in London. In 1893, the Church of St. Peter and Paul reinterred them in Olney.

Image of John Newton in Stained Glass
A stained-glass image of John Newton from the Church of St. Peter and Paul, Olney, Buckinghamshire, England.

The Former Slaver against Slavery

In 1788, four decades after the near-shipwreck that sparked his spiritual awakening, Newton wrote a pamphlet entitled Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade and sent it to all Members of Parliament. In it, he said, "It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was, once, an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders."

Newton greatly influenced William Wilberforce, the English lawmaker whose passionate, 20-year struggle to end slavery resulted in the 1807 law that ended the trade of enslaved people in the British West Indies.

The law passed the year Newton died. Because it didn't affect the status of those enslaved before its passage, a later law in 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act, freed over 800,000 enslaved people in the British West Indies and South Africa, plus some in British Canada.

The Story Behind the Music of "Amazing Grace"

John Newton wrote the text of "Amazing Grace" in 1772. It describes Newton's very personal journey out of spiritual blindness into the light of God's grace. He describes the joy and peace of a soul uplifted from despair to salvation through the gift of grace. Newton's words are also a vivid autobiographical commentary on how life spared him from physical and spiritual ruin. It relates the happy ending of the tale of a defiant man who manages again and again to escape danger, disease, abuse, and death, only to revert to "struggles between sin and conscience."

The inspirational words were part of a sermon called "Faith's Review and Expectation." He presented it to his congregation at the Anglican Church in Olney, England, on New Year's Day 1773. In 1779, an anonymous publisher printed the text of "Amazing Grace" in the "Olney Hymns in Three Books," a compilation of dozens of hymns Newton wrote with poet William Cowper.

Page 53 in Olney Hymns, the verses that would become known as Amazing Grace.
Page 53 in Olney Hymns, the verses that would become known as "Amazing Grace."

In the United States, between 1789 and 1799, four versions of Newton's hymn appeared in Baptist, Dutch Reformed, and Congregationalist hymnodies. By 1830, both Presbyterians and Methodists also included Newton's verses in their hymnals.

The history of the melding of the hymn with the melody we know today is complicated. When used initially in Olney, it is unknown what music, if any, accompanied the verses written by John Newton. Contemporary hymnbooks did not contain music and were simply small books of religious poetry. The first known instance of Newton's lines joined to music was in A Companion to the Countess of Huntingdon's Hymns (London, 1808), where it is set to the tune "Hephzibah" by English composer John Husband. It is not the tune we know today.

Hymns of the time were interchangeable with various melodies. More than twenty musical settings of "Amazing Grace" circulated with varying popularity until 1835, when American composer William Walker paired Newton's words with a traditional song called "New Britain."

William Walker
William Walker

That version appeared for the first time under the title "New Britain" in Walker's songbook, The Southern Harmony. The collection was enormously popular, selling about 600,000 copies all over the United States when the total population was just over 20 million.

The Southern Harmony
The 1847 publication of Southern Harmony, showing the title "New Britain."

In the early 1800s, a vast religious movement called the Second Great Awakening swept America. There was tremendous growth in the popularity of churches and religious revivals. Unprecedented gatherings of thousands of people attended camp meetings where they came to experience salvation. Preaching was fiery and focused on saving the sinner from temptation and backsliding. Hymns were essential to the meetings, and "Amazing Grace" was frequently sung. These prayer meetings propelled "Amazing Grace" to immense popularity across the country. The song became a staple of religious services in many denominations and regions.

Although "Amazing Grace" set to "New Britain" was famous, other versions still existed regionally. Revival leaders often switched out melodies and borrowed verses from other hymns. They used choruses and refrains that people could learn quickly. Primitive Baptists in the Appalachian region often used the tune "New Britain" for other hymns. Sometimes they sang the words of "Amazing Grace" to other folk songs, including titles such as "In the Pines," "Pisgah," "Primrose," and "Evan." For a short time, in the late 19th century, worshippers sang "Amazing Grace" to a tune named "Arlington" as frequently as to "New Britain."

Evangelist Dwight Moody with singer Ira Sankey heralded another religious revival in the United States and England in the late 1800s. Moody's preaching and Sankey's musical gifts were significant; their arrangements were the forerunners of gospel music, and churches all over America were eager to acquire them. Moody and Sankey began publishing their arrangements and compositions in 1875, and "Amazing Grace" appeared three times with three different melodies giving it even more international exposure. Hymns were typically published using the incipits (first line of the lyrics) or the tune's name, such as "New Britain" as the title. Moody and Sankey were the first to publish the song under the title "Amazing Grace" in an 1877 edition of their Sacred Songs and Solos.

This version of "Amazing Grace" set to "New Britain" became even more popular when prominent publisher Edwin Excell published it in a series of hymnals for urban churches. Excell altered some of Walker's music, making it more contemporary and European, giving "New Britain" some distance from its rural folk-music origins. Excell's version was more palatable for a growing urban middle class. Excell published several editions between 1900 and 1910, including arrangements for larger church choirs. His version of "Amazing Grace" became the standard form of the song in American churches.

In the 20th century, the song became a staple for gospel and folk artists. With the advent of recorded music and radio, "Amazing Grace" began to cross over from primarily a gospel standard to secular audiences. While publisher Excell sought to make the singing of "Amazing Grace" uniform throughout thousands of churches, records allowed artists to improvise and make the words and music specific to each audience. The song took on hundreds of different forms in the 20th century due to the recording process and the recording companies' ability to market the records to specific audiences. The United States Library of Congress has a collection of 3,000 versions of and songs inspired by "Amazing Grace."

Why It Matters:
The Significance and Timelessness of "Amazing Grace"

Its religious appeal

John Newton's words carry a much deeper meaning than a sinner's mere gratitude. The song's music and words have special meaning at moments of profound human suffering. Close to death at various times and blind to reality at others, Newton would most assuredly not have written "Amazing Grace" if not for his tumultuous past. And many of us would then be without these lovely words that so aptly describe our relationship with Christ and our reliance on God's grace in our lives.

If we wonder whether God can forgive us, Newton's words answer with a resounding, "Yes!" He wants us to open our hearts to Him so that we can be free from the weight of our past, experience His "Amazing Grace" for ourselves, and realize our part in His plan.

Its secular appeal

James Basker, an English historian, explains the song's secular appeal. "Its words appeal without any narrowness," he says. "There is no specific condition; there's no specific religious faith, there's no specific cultural context." It is about two things that all human beings share—pain and the imaginative yearning for a better life. "And this is the thing about human beings. We are able to imagine and yearn for joy and peace—for relief from the miseries of this world."

In the United States, the hymn has become a song that inspires hope in the wake of tragedy, becoming a sort of "spiritual national anthem." Gospel singer Marion Williams summed up its effect: "That's a song that gets to everybody."

My thanks to the following writers for their insights on "Amazing Grace:"

The Inside Journal from "Prison Fellowship"

Sharon McDonnell from

Julia Franz from "The World"

Oregon Catholic Press

Library of Congress

Pianist Terrance Shider

My Gospel-Blues Version of "Amazing Grace" is based upon an arrangement/improvisation by pianist Terrance Shider. Shider was born with autism and has a mild form of cerebral palsy. He is legally blind and plays entirely by ear.


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Douglas Niedt is a seasoned, successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.

He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.