The Ants Go Marching
Lyrics & Sheet Music

The Ants Go Marching lyrics & sheet music, with a new Middle C arrangement for first-year students!

I offered this song to a little boy today, and he shouted, "I know this!"  Always a good sign...

The Ants Go Marching piano music for beginners

The thumbs will be side-by-side, so the top finger of the right hand can reach A above Middle C.

Easy arrangement for piano, Ants Go Marching

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Chord symbols are provided for that duet your student will soon be playing, with you or another student!  The chords of Ants Go Marching are powerful and exciting.  And kids LIKE IT. 

A lead sheet

The lead sheet below is EASY to read, with a single melody line and chord symbols. Very fun!  But not as easy as you might think - stretching the hand position isn't a natural thing to do.

The Ants Go Marching lead sheet piano music

* Listen to an audio of the lead sheet Ants Go Marching *

Wait - isn't this "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again"?

Yes, this is the same tune as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, Hurrah! Hurrah!"  For years, I've tried off-and-on to interest students in that piece, with very little success.

But I recently set the music with the lyrics to the well-known kids' song, "The Ants Go Marching," and suddenly that is the PREFERRED CHOICE of every student I showed it to last week! (And they had a couple other pieces presented to them.)  I warned them that this was the HARDEST one, because of the finger replacement.

To my surprise, they all worked through the fingering issues easily and were keen to continue playing it at their lessons.

The easiest-to-read solo

Here it is in a "helper" version, using letters inside some of the note-heads.

The Ants Go Marching Lyrics song for piano with chords and melody

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

I do believe that the lead sheet look of the piece is far less intimidating to kids than two staffs... and they don't have to GUESS where to strike the chords, because the chord symbols are placed precisely where they occur.  

Usually, of course, a chord symbol appears just one time and is assumed to continue until there is a different chord... but then you have to GUESS where to place the chord rhythmically.

The two instances of dashed lines (----) indicate either a STRETCH of the fingers, or a lifting of the hand to move to a new position.  See if you can spot those suggestions in lines 1 and 4.

Coaching kids through the fingering

The first thing I ask kids to do (after hearing me play through this song two or three times, and singing a bit of the Ants Go Marching lyrics together) is to place their right hand in a "B position."  That is, their bottom finger - finger 1 - is on a B, and the other fingers follow all in a row, C, D, E, F.  Then, I tell them to STRETCH their thumb down to the A next to B, but leave all the other fingers in place.

This simple approach is way easier than just telling them to put their thumb on "A" and stretch up to C with finger 3.  Try it!  I was amazed at how well it works.

The next challenge, after repeating that exercise two or three times, is to understand the finger replacement that occurs at the beginning of line two.  But by now, their confidence is up, and they are game to try it!

After that, it is pretty much clear sailing until the last line.

The last line might surprise them

Because this is a traditional song, you're going to have variations in the melody from region to region.  I already told my student that, when we started the song.

But the last line might be REALLY different from what they're used to.  If they want to change it, I'm okay with that, as long as it is rhythmical.

I tried a number of different left hand accompaniments for the final line, and ended up really liking a parallel melody.  That means that the bottom hand will be playing the exact same notes as the top hand, down an octave or more.

The chords

For this level of student, I'm suggesting plain open chords - that is, an open fifth.  That is, left hand fingers 5 and 1!  See Mary Had a Little Lamb for chord descriptions and ideas.

You could also have them try just a single bass note.  That is very easy for them, and sounds amazing.

Have your students be the chord backup to your melody - like a duet - before they try it hands together (if you can restrain them long enough - all of my students want to play the two hands together RIGHT NOW).

Personally, I like starting the song with deep chords - the low Dm chord two octaves below Middle C - then at the end of line two, move the left hand up an octave, as the chords move down step-wise to A.  That's what I did in the recording (here it is, again):

* An audio of The Ants Go Marching, the lead sheet *

The key of Em

Here it is in the key of Em, with no AlphaNotes.  This is an excellent key for violin players, and guitarists as well (although some may be resistant to the B chord).

Ants Go Marching lead sheet for piano in the key of Em

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Enjoy this famous melody with your students!

The link to the shared hands melody for beginners:

The Ants Go Marching in Middle C position

The links to the lead sheets:

Download Ants Go Marching lyrics & sheet music lead in Dm

Download The Ants Go Marching song, lead sheet in Em

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About the Author

Dana Thynes

Hi, I'm Dana!  (Say that like "Anna".)  I'm the owner of, and a newer site,

Like some of you, I've been playing the piano since early childhood, and have added a few other instruments along the way, plus an interest in arranging and composing music.

You can find out more about me and the reason for this website at my About Me page.