I've Been Working on the Railroad
Guitar Tabs and Chords
I've Been Working on the Railroad - guitar tabs and chords in two different keys.
Though this is a traditional and old song, don't assume your students have heard this song before.
But being easy to learn, except for one surprising chord, they will be singing it in no time!
Here it is in the key of G, the version that has a tricky new chord (B).
Scroll down the page for the links to the free printable PDFs.
Please scroll down the page for the download links.
You see that B major chord at the end of line three? It might stop your students right in their tracks.
The A7 chord might be a new one as well, but that one is EASY.
So, to approach the new B major chord:
- I have my students make an "A" chord, then
- swap out their fingering to leave index finger free. Then,
- it's barre chord time!
- We slide the chord "up" one fret (meaning, closer to the sound hole, further from the tuning pegs)
- Lay the index finger down across the top fret: now we have the chord of Bb. (We could call it A# as well; but tradition and a couple of other reasons dictate that Bb is the best name.)
- Slide up one more fret. Now the index finger should be laying across the second fret.
If the rest of the fingers have behaved and stayed in place, then we have achieved a B chord!
But your young students won't be happy. Unless you have been working with them on barre chords, this may be a huge stumbling block instead of a challenge!
Therefore, I ask them,
"So do you want to play the barre chord, or just the 4-string chord for now?"
Laaaaa! The clouds part, and light is seen. Turns out that the 4-string chord is perfectly acceptable to them.
Still not VERY easy, still not very PRETTY... but it's a start.
Now here's page two; it uses just the three main chords.
But because it only uses the I, the IV, and the V chords, this seems like an opportunity for a new challenge.
Therefore, I ask the kids to tell me WHAT those 3 main chords will be, if we are in the key of G.
Holding up the five fingers of one hand, we count up, "G, A, B, C, D..." If G is "1", then C and D are the 4 chord and the 5 chord.
Our trial run through page two is GUESSING which chords are played where, as we sing it through without the sheet music. They usually do pretty well!
I like for my guitarists, even the young ones, to have an idea of how chords are built.
Therefore, we frequently find ourselves over at the piano keyboard or using a piano keyboard paper chart, especially when working on notereading or building chords.
The layout of the piano keys is the "Rosetta Stone" for musicians.
The key of C is the other option for this guitar song:
The only problem is... yes, that darned F chord. It's so hard to make it sound good! But PRACTICE makes, well, PALATABLE. Perfection will come!
Please scroll down the page for the download links.
When I was a girl, we used to pile into the back of my grandparents' milk delivery truck and head "out the road" for a fun day at a local swim hole.
Together with lots of root beer, chips, hot dogs, floatable inner tubes and COUSINS, we'd have a blast.
Half the fun was singing silly songs on the thirty-minute drive out there. We'd sing "My gal's a corker; she's a New Yorker...", "Found a Peanut," and a few other favorites.
I've Been Working on the Railroad was the one I knew best, and remembered all the words to!
Here are the links to the free sheet music with guitar tabs:
Download I've Been Working on the Railroad guitar tabs in the key of G
Download Railroad song with guitar tabs in the key of C
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Dana! (Say that like "Anna".) I'm the owner of Music-for-Music-Teachers.com.
Like some of you, I've been playing the piano since early childhood, and 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.