Easy Guitar Songs
The Water is Wide

Easy guitar songs that are as beautiful and well-known as The Water is Wide are true treasures. Download these free printable easy guitar songs for yourself or your students. 



This is one of those pieces of folk sheet music that it seems everyone I know sang in high school! 

Easy guitar song The Water is Wide for guitar


Download free guitar sheet music The Water is Wide in the key of G 


One arrangement we sang employed an echo effect, like this: "The water is wide (the water is wide), I cannot get o'er (I cannot get o'er)..." This is very pretty and not too hard. 

Easy guitar song The Water is Wide with guitar tabs  in Key of D


Download folk sheet music The Water is Wide for guitar in the key of D 

Something I like to do with my guitar students when reading the tablature is to hunt for all the eighth notes, by looking in the staff above. When we spot the "fast" notes, we take a pen or pencil and "hook" the tab notes beneath together to make them look like the eighth notes in the staff.



The Dsus (D suspended) and Asus (A suspended) chords are interesting and beautiful -- quite unlike other beginner chords -- and it is usually in this song that my guitar students are first exposed to them. 

D sus chord for guitar, illustrated

The way I have illustrated the suspended chords may be different from how you have seen them shown in other chord charts:

I tell my students that the basic root of the chord is still there, plus one finger added that will lift off when the chord "resolves" into the root chord.



That's why you see one string with two fingers on it: just build a regular D or A chord, then add your pinky (finger 4 for guitarists) to add the sound of "suspense." The longer this chord is held, the longer the listener is waiting with expectation for the beauty of the resolution into the regular chord. 

A sus guitar chord, illustrated

I own two great folk song books that include this song, except the name given in both of the books is "O Waly, Waly."

Both booksFolk Songs by William Cole ("Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales" edited by William Cole with music arrangements by Norman Nomath), and One Hundred English Folksongs by Cecil Sharp, have 8 verses of lyrics, of which 3 verses are almost identical to the lyrics I have used here.

The book by William Cole is especially handy, because it has simple piano accompaniments, and chord symbols for guitarists, giving you lots of easy guitar songs!

The book edited by Cecil Sharp has some wonderful songs in it, but no chord symbols, and the piano accompaniments tend toward being a bit heavy, even difficult, and maybe somewhat "Romantic" in flavor. Not so suitable for playing along with a fiddle, for example. 

If you have never sung or played this English folk song before, get ready for a treat for yourself and your students. A little secret: GIRLS LOVE THIS SONG! 

Folk & Traditional Songs

Ae Fond Kiss - not strictly a folk melody, but it is old - and very lovely!

Ash Grove - an elegant melody that sounds more classical than folk, the lyrics are old-fashioned and poignant

Cat Came Back (for early singers) - a fun and silly song that can be pared down to JUST 5 NOTES for kids who have trouble matching pitch, there is much repetition in the melody (good for finding pitches)

Colorado Trail - a genuine cowboy song, just one verse, surprisingly lovely

Down by the Salley Gardens - this pretty song from England is a setting for a poem by William Butler Yeats about trying to hurry love

Erie Canal - a vigorous minor melody that kids like, with lots of repeating phrases

Green Bushes - a fast, light, pretty melody that speaks of false-hearted love, and feels very "English" in both lyrics and chord progressions

Grenadier and the Lady - Number One with me!  So beautiful, somewhat sad. Lots of opportunities for expressive singing.

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier - Lovely.  Important for breath control and learning to mold a phrase.

Lavender's Blue, a pretty song that is VERY simple to sing!  Perfect for young girls.

Loch Lomond, the most famous song of all from Scotland.  Still beautiful.

Mari's Wedding - lots of energy in this Scottish tune, which sounds great with guitar and fiddle backup

The Minstrel Boy - though rather difficult with its long phrases, this Irish song about the love for one's country is very moving and beautiful

Molly Bawn - So sad, but so IRRESISTABLE.  Lovely and evocative, and requiring good air support, it is educational as well as being satisfying to the musical soul.

Muss i denn or Abschied (Wooden Heart) - from Germany by way of Elvis, an adorable folk tune!

Once I Had a Sweetheart - another sad, pretty, and image-arousing song, once sung by Joan Baez

Parting Glass - There are many versions of this GREAT Irish melody.  Download mine free, then check out others!

Scarborough Fair - an old favorite from England, still lovely

She Moved Through the Fair - a strange, shifting melody, with almost creepy lyrics that will haunt you

Shenandoah - So pretty, and genuinely American.  Long phrases, good breath control practice.

Skye Boat Song - a singable old Scottish song with a great tune about the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden

Spanish Ladies - a minor key sea chanty that swings energetically along - boys like singing it too!

The Spanish Lady - Upbeat and energetic, this song is fun to perform with a group.

Star of the County Down - LOTS of fun to sing and play!  An excellent ensemble piece.

Waltzing Matilda - an unusually pretty melody from Australia; you know this one!  Very popular with kids.

The Water is Wide - a very pretty song about disappointed love.  You might have sung this one in high school!

White, Orange and Green - though not widely known, this charming melody about fighting for the right to carry the flag of Ireland has stirring lyrics and soaring phrases. A favorite of my vocal & guitar students.




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The Water is Wide: Christmas words! 
Thank you for a great site with lots of ideas ... I'll be coming back often! My choir sings an arrangement of "The Water is Wide" with the …

Reminds Me of High School 
I sang a song very similar to this one when I was in High School. It was "Across the Wide Missouri" (the version as sung by Ray Price), and you're right, …

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