This free printable piano music might be your student's favorite for a long time! Here are four different arrangements of What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor... two of them are new, for young beginners.
What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor is a sea shanty: a sailors' song sung to the rhythm of their working. (Also known as shantey, chantey, or chanty.) Like most songs of folk origin, you'll find many variants of it. This version is the one I know.
Below is the long version, full of sound and fury. The surging energy created by the LH of this easy piano sheet music keeps it driving till the very end.
Lots of repetition - but be careful of the fingering
The LH is easy open chords, the same pattern every verse. The RH, too, is almost unchanging from verse to verse, but each repetition has a bit of a twist, or a register change that gives it a fresh feeling. I have found that the fingering needs to be insisted on from the very first (especially with aural learners).
Turn practice into a game
A good way to make sure this happens is to set a goal for them: by next week, be able to play the melody of part 1 --no LH-- with their eyes closed! As soon as I announce this challenge, they try to accomplish it right then -- and some do it! This goal is much more fun to work at than "Have this memorized by next lesson," and it also improves their tactile relationship with the melody.
Dynamics change for contrast
On repetition 3, both hands jump up high. This is a good opportunity for contrast -- a pianissimo moment in the midst of all the commotion!
A new skill - Right hand crosses over the left hand
On page 2, the RH crosses over the LH down to the bass clef -- I hope that's clear enough in the music. The LH stays just where it was, but appears temporarily in the top staff. Then at the last repetition, the hands must fly apart quickly as RH goes right again, and LH drops deep into the bass.
A version with no change in left hand
Now here is an even easier version of Drunken Sailor:
What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor lyrics:
I did not include all the lyrics for this printable piano music. If you watch the Irish Rovers' Youtube video of What Will We Do with a Drunken Sailor, you can see that some of the lyrics are the kind of words you might not want to be explaining to your small music students!
The speed will come
Remember what I said about the energy driving this piece? Once the hand coordination is developed in this sea shanty, your students will be flying along... and the pounding might become a bit of an issue for their parents! (Then it will be time to talk about refinement and musicality, if you haven't already.) This song is VERY fun.
Do you have a funny story about this music, or does it remind you of something you'd like to share with other readers? Do you have a question? I'd love to hear it!
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