Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier is the kind of song young girls love to sing.

Haunting, plaintive, and beautiful, it has a strong melody with a melancholy story which seems to take you back to earlier times, the sad days of the Civil War, or "The War Between the States".

Here is a beautiful arrangement in 4 keys: Am, Gm, Fm, and Em.

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier sheet music

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

The song actually dates from the American Revolution, with possible roots in Ireland (it is similar to a tune called "Shule Aroon"). Because it is such an old song, you'll find lots of different versions of the tune and the lyrics.

Years ago film-maker Ken Burns produced a moving documentary about the Civil War.

Prominent among the music in the background was this song, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier. Again and again this theme came back, growing in poignancy with each repetition.

I loved the arrangement used in the movie so much that I tried to duplicate it, and this was the result. 

free vocal sheet music for Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Watch for where the music changes

Please notice that verses 1 and 3 are not exactly the same tune as verses 2 and 4. Only one measure is different (the 3rd measure of each verse), by only a couple of notes, but it is enough to throw singers off if they are not prepared well.

Not just a pretty face - there's lots of substance here

This song has lots of opportunities for beginners to improve basic technique. Even the very first word, "Here," presents difficulties for many singers. I love to use this piece to encourage long vowels..."hih" for "here," and "ah(ee)" for "I".

Watch out for "Ho-ho's"

Another challenge in Johnny is keeping the "h's" out of the syllables with two or more notes.

You know what I mean: instead of "tu-urn a-a mill," students want to sing "tu-HURN a-HA mill." There are lots of those spots in this song!

Civil War song Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

How do you climb higher without tightening the throat?

The ascending phrase toward the end of each verse FEELS higher than it really is, and some students may start to tighten their throats.

Help them relax their throats on that phrase by singing the line with such syllables as "Yah-yah-yah-yah-yah," "Lah-gah, lah-gah, lah" without moving their jaw, sirens on those notes, and other such singing warm ups.  

You need to help them open up expressively and make a slight crescendo as they ascend.  A gesture that may be helpful:

As the two of you sing the phrase TOGETHER, slowly drop one hand in an expansive movement, like a conductor, and encourage your student to envision OPENING UP and making MORE SPACE, instead of PUSHING HIGHER.

Vowels are much easier than words

I like to take the words out temporarily, so students sing the melody on "ah", "oh", "ee", "oo", "lah," etc. When the notes come easily, we put the words back in. 

Shule Aroon melody in Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Breathing for singing - it's not the same as speaking!

This free vocal sheet music also helps teach good breathing for young singers. 

The difference in regular breathing, and breathing for singing makes itself plain in Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.

I remind students that they wouldn't take a breath in the middle of a sentence if they were speaking the words to another person, and so, to make themselves understood, their goal in singing a phrase -- ideally -- is to sing the whole thing with no breaths chopping it up.

But singing takes so much more breath than just talking, and careful, measured release. Students will learn a lot as they make phrases long and smooth in Johnny.

Sometimes you want to emphasize a word

I make an exception to singing the whole phrase in verse one after the word "drop." I want the word "drop" to sound like a drop, with an audible "p" sound ...perhaps this could be seen as an affectation, but making singing expressive involves making personal choices such as this.

Help us understand you

Singers must remember that they are telling a story. Making pretty sounds is not enough. When I listen to people singing, I want to know what they are saying!

Enjoy this beautiful piece of history, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier. 



The links for the printable PDF downloads:



Download free vocal sheet music Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier in Am 



Printable free vocal sheet music "Johnny Has Gone" in Gm 



Printable Johnny music Fm version 



"Johnny" for voice and piano in the key of Em 


More Folk Songs to Sing:


Ae Fond Kiss - a love song about saying goodbye, from Scotland


All the Pretty Little Horses - a soft and repetitious lullaby, quite pretty


Ash Grove - a famous and lovely song from Wales


Auld Lang Syne - the New Year's Eve song!


Colorado Trail Song - an American tune written by a real cowboy


Come By the Hills - another popular Irish melody


Down By the Salley Gardens - a famous and pretty song, very sweet 


Green Bushes - a brisk little song that is pretty while being good for breath control training


Grenadier and the Lady - my favorite folk song of all.  Find out why


I Gave My Love a Cherry - the "Riddle Song" is very pretty


Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier - very beautiful, very moving, and a chance for your young singer to learn how to let her voice soar


Keegan's Waltz - this is a traditional Gaelic tune, but the lyrics are very new, supplied by a visitor to this site!


Lavender's Blue - this simple song is not only satisfying for beginning pianists, but also young singers who need to focus on basics.  With a lovely piano accompaniment.


Loch Lomond - the famous and sad song about never meeting again


Mari's Wedding - a singable tune with bouncy chords that is fun to play or sing


Minstrel Boy - a lovely and patriotic song about a warrior-poet


Molly Bawn - a sad story of a young hunter who thought he was shooting at a swan


Morning Has Broken - a beautiful melody made famous again by Cat Stevens


Once I Had a Sweetheart - "but now I have none!" Very pretty, and little-known.


Parting Glass - a well-known Irish tune which my singers always love


Raggle-Taggle Gypsies - a story about a young bride who abandons her wealthy new husband to go off with the gypsies. A catchy melody!


Riddle Song - the pretty song that speaks of giving a cherry without a stone, a chicken without a bone, a baby with no crying.


Scarborough Fair - an old and famous tune of lost love


She Moved Through the Fair - this sounds happy, but it is actually a bit of a love story, and a bit of a ghost story!


Shenandoah - a famous and lovely American tune with ambiguous lyrics


Skye Boat Song - a pretty song from Scotland about the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea


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


The Spanish Lady - Upbeat and energetic, this Irish 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!


The Wellerman - a sea chanty that is very singable, and very fun!


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.  I never get tired of this song. 







Interested in songs from the Bible for your students or church?  Check out my other website, SingTheBibleStory.com!

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About the Author

Dana Thynes

Hi, I'm Dana!  (Say that like "Anna".)  I'm the owner of Music-for-Music-Teachers.com, and a newer site, SingTheBibleStory.com.

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.