Free Guitar Tabs & Lead Sheets

Shenandoah is one of America's most beloved and famous songs in the folk tradition.

Chances are you might have sung it in school choir! The song (according to some) tells the story of a settler who loves the daughter of an Indian chief, and wishes to come back for her, after his journey.

As with most folk songs, there are different versions of the words.

This is a beautiful song with or without guitar. I have it here with guitar tabs (down the page) and also as a vocal or solo instrument lead sheet, in seven different keys

Shenandoah for solo voice or instrument

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

This violin version of Shenandoah from Celtic Woman (A New Journey) is so beautiful...

What's the best key to play Shenandoah in? That depends on who is singing the song!

I helped one of my young singers and her guitar-playing friend perform this song for a folk recital last year, and we had to make some adjustments for the singer. Her naturally high voice sounded best singing this song in the key of F -- her high notes just soared! -- but in a lower key such as C, the musical excitement was much diminished.

Therefore, we used a capo and raised the song 5 keys -- (think: C, C#, D, D#, E, F! For the guitar, that means 5th fret). For students who have never used a capo before, this is really fun!

But it is also a bit hazardous; the two girls kept forgetting to use the capo!

Not until the singer approached the word "A-a-way...." would the truth dawn on her that, Oops, they had forgotten the capo, once again. As for the guitarist, she was happily oblivious until the singer just stopped singing.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in the public performance, too, in spite of much practice and preparation.

It was (I hope) a useful lesson to my students. Whenever you perform with another musician (almost always the case for a vocalist) you must also know the other performer's role, to an extent.

What could have been a thrilling performance was just OKAY.

Here is a free guitar tabs version for guitarists who wish to know the melody, as well as play the chords... lots of open strings (and no 4th fret!) make these easy guitar tabs approachable for beginners.

However, the timing of Shenandoah is NOT easy for beginners to feel.  I would recommend not being terribly strict about the rhythm, unless you have an ensemble playing together:

Free Easy Guitar Tabs for Shenandoah

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

In actuality, will your guitar students use the tab melody?

Yes, initially, they should, to learn the tune of Shenandoah, but after that, they will probably just always play the chords... and sing or hum along, either aloud or in their head.

So I don't push too hard here for a beautifully-performed melody; I am just interested that they know the way the melody is supposed to sound, in order to be a good back-up for the singer. 

This song lends itself to several different strumming rhythms (one I like is "1-2-rest-4, 1-2-rest-4), but four verses of the same thing can be tedious.

Sometimes we choose the three favorite verses and just sing those, with the first verse being a soft strum, the second verse accompanied by a picking pattern, and the third verse a stronger strum.

The simplest finger-picking pattern of all works pretty well with the tempo of Shenandoah: a slow P,I,M,A, P,I,M,A, (that is, thumb, index, middle, ring) just one stroke per beat (according to how I have written the time signature -- you might find it with eighth notes somewhere else).

However, in a big room, this pattern may get swallowed up and be inaudible, unless miked (and I try really hard not to have to mic my singers). So the same pattern twice as fast may be more effective if your student can handle it. It is especially nice if they understand how to alternate the thumb between two different strings, for example, using a C chord:

  • Thumb on string 5, Index on string 3, Middle on string 2, then Ring on string 1, then:
  • Thumb on string 6 (the Left Hand finger covering fret 3 on string 5 will have to move to string 6 and cover fret 3), then Index, Middle, and Ring play as before on strings 3, 2, and 1.

A chord effect I like very much with Shenandoah when finger-picking is to use the same bass note for the pattern when changing back and forth between the I & IV chords.

For example, after changing from the C chord to the F chord, keep a C note (string 5 fret 3) as the first plucked sound of the F chord, instead of using F for your initial note. (This musical effect is known as "pedal point.")

A bit of walking bass is not too hard to do in Shenandoah, at least in the keys of C and G (which is one reason I favor the key of C here, in spite of the difficult F chord) -- when moving from the C chord to the Am chord, use beat 4 to pluck a "B" note (string 5 fret 2) just before playing "A" (string 5 open) of the Am chord.

Look at my Scarborough Fair guitar tabs if you need a written tab explanation for that.

In the key of G, you will be moving to an Em chord at the point in the song. On beat 4 (after playing 3 beats of the G chord), pluck an "F#" (string 6 fret 2), then the open E (string 6 open) of the Em chord in the next measure. This walking bass adds depth to the accompaniment, and more dimension.

To play the melody in the key of D, ask students to try "SECOND POSITION." Instead of the finger numbers matching Left Hand fret numbers, place finger 1 on fret 2, finger 2 on fret 3, and finger 3 on fret 4. That makes the F#s a lot easier than having to use the "pinky" or 4 finger.

This is a nice slow song in which to practice what may be a new technique for some kids. (Although most kids start out their guitar career WANTING to use just finger 1, with some occasional help from finger 2, for ALL notes, and hopefully have been weaned off of this bad habit by the time they get to Shenandoah.)

It is even better if they are using the staff notes and not the tablature for this.

Enjoy this beautiful folk song... 

The links to the lead sheets:

Download Shenandoah lead sheet in the key of A

Download in the key of Bb

Lead sheet in the key of C

Download lead sheet in the key of D

Download in the key of Eb

Lead sheet in the key of F

Download lead sheet in the key of G 

The links to Shenandoah with guitar tabs:

Download folk song with guitar tabs in the key of C

Guitar tabs in the key of D

With guitar tabs in the key of G 

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. 

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Interested in songs from the Bible for your students or church?  Check out my other website,! clickable logo link

Songs Old & Songs New

All the first-year material I give my beginner students. 

Piano keyboard sheets, scales, chords, note-reading exercises, and over 256 pages of music!

The Story of Esther - a Bible opera!

Queen Esther in the Bible

This beautiful song book for piano & voice "Esther, For Such a Time as This",  available as a digital downloadtells the riveting story of the time when  Jews in ancient Persia faced a foe named Haman, and how a  brave young queen risked her life to save her people.

A good choice for a singing story-teller, an operatic group, a short theater production, or a class of children!

This book is also available from Amazon as a paperback.

Just the Black Keys, a piano song book for young beginners.

Just the Black Keys

This book is available as a digital download  from this site.  Visit this page to see some free examples from the book.

It is also available from Amazon as a paperback!

This is the perfect easy start for little pianists.

And when they start reading white-key notes on the staff, this is a fun easy resource to say each week, "Choose a new black-key song at home this week and figure it out to show me next lesson!"  They will be spending more time at the piano.

The Adventures of Tonsta, Volume 1, is a book about a young boy travelling over mountains and fjords from village to village, encountering trolls and helping folk in distress.

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for little boys or girls. 

The Adventures of Tonsta highlight the travels of a very young boy with a good heart, who goes about helping folk in trouble.  

With a red cap on his head and a sack of tools slung over his shoulder, Tonsta seems to meet people in distress wherever he goes.

Lots of trolls in this book - including one who gives him a Christmas gift!

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You are awesome. Thank you. I'm a voice and piano teacher and to have so many pieces in one place- for many different levels- is a Godsend. Thank you for the time and effort you have put in to make this so easily available to all of us stressed music teachers!!!

... I watched your video "Wondrous Love" with your eight gals - Magnificent! So refreshing to see good harmonies sung a capella these days; it seems to be rare!

A thousand thanks for your beginning piano and guitar songs.

I've already printed several for my children, including the Pretty Little Horses TAB and Carol of the Bells for piano. What a wonderful resource!

150 American Folk Songs to sing, read, and play music book

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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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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.