There Were Three Ravens

There Were Three Ravens Sat On a Tree in five different keys!  Am, Gm, Fm, Em, Dm... there is a key to suit everyone.

This is a melancholy tune, with melancholy lyrics!  But beautiful nonetheless.  It tells the story of a slain knight, surrounded by those loyal to him.

There Were Three Ravens Sat On a Tree, vocal line plus piano accompaniment in the key of G minor.

Please scroll down the page for the links to the free printable music.

Who are the loyal ones?

His hawks, his hounds, and a fallow doe  - which I believe represents his leman (his mistress or lover -poetry of this time rarely spoke of husbands and wives).

A beautiful rendering of this ballad

A male voice starts, then two, then female singers as well.  This is the Lumina Vocal Ensemble:

Differing versions, different notes

With careful listening, you will notice that the version sung in the video above uses a raised sixth step, giving it a very fresh sound - or archaic, depending on your point of view!  

I like the sound very much, but did not put those altered notes into my music.  They would be easy to change...

Additionally, the fifth above or below the tonic is possible for the pickup notes that occur in measure 7, and even the very first note.

Where are the lyrics?

I have placed all the lyrics on page two because I wanted to transpose this song into five different keys, and I knew from experience that it would take MUCH extra time to place the words beneath the notes!

And I do mean MUCH EXTRA TIME!  Sorry, I know that it is tricky for your singers not to have the lyrics directly below the notes.

Not for beginners

I believe this song takes an intelligent singer.

As the lyrics are not going to start with the pickup note in the same way each time, the vocalist has to anticipate the words and the correct syllabic emphasis.

Either that, or mimic very well as the instructor (or video) makes it obvious where to place the syllables!

British song lyrics and music

Please scroll down the page for the links to the free printable music.

A closeup look at page one, in G minor:

Piano and vocal score

Compare the range of the key of Gm, above, with Dm, below:

A closeup look at The Three Ravens in the key of Dm.

Shorten up this song if you like

Regarding the Three Ravens lyrics, my arrangement shortens them up CONSIDERABLY by avoiding repeating the first line over and over.  Modern ears (and lack of patience) persuaded me to cut the repetition.

But the singers in the video above are singing the LONG version, which I assume is the original way to sing it, back when minstrels and musicians were very highly prized and doted on.  

In the days before TV...

With little other entertainment to compete, it was surely wonderful to hear the musicians sing on and on.

And then, the lyrics would look like this:

The original lyrics

There were three Ravens sat on a tree, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe.
There were three Ravens sat on a tree, with a downe.
There were three Ravens sat on a tree, They were as blacke as blacke could be
With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.

Then one of them said to his mate, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe.
Then one of them said to his mate, with a downe.
Then one of them said to his mate, O, Where shall we our breakefast take?
With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.

Downe in yonder greene field, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe.
Downe in yonder greene field, with a downe.
Downe in yonder greene field,  There lies a Knight slain 'neath his shield.
With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.

...and et cetera!



The links for the vocal score PDF downloads:


Download There Were Three Ravens in Am


Download Three Ravens in Dm


Download the raven song in Em


Download Elizabethan song in Fm


Download Three Ravens Sat On a Tree in Gm (shown above)



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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.