Sea Shanty in G Major
Beginner > Module 1.4

In this all-level practice journey, you’ll learn this sea shanty through call-and response. The session was originally going to live workshop!

Thanks to Fiddlehed Tom for the suggestion and for helping with sheet music. You’ll just need to know the G Major scale for this one.

Learning Chunks

Specific preparation for this lesson

Here are some suggested things you can practice to get ready for the practice journey.

Learn and practice these scales:

Practice call-and-response on your own:

Go here for further ear-training: Call-and-response Central

Outline and replay

G Drone

D Drone

C Drone


  • Simple warmup/ Fiddle Yoga
  • Learn through call-and-response
  • Bow lifting
  • Key of D
  • G Major, upper octave
    • Start on A3 (D) instead of D0
    • First things first: learn the first line well in the upper octave
  • Medley with other tunes in G you know
    • Girl I Left Behind Me
    • Kesh Jig
    • Kerry Polka
    • Bile ’em cabbage down in G
      • Starting G2 or A1
    • Or pick something from the list of G Root Tunes
  • Tune/Improv/Tune
    • Play the tune, then improvise on your, then play the tune again
    • Think of the improv section as a time to creatively practice the tune or the scale
    • Idears:
      • Add Tremolo to the scale or tune
      • Alternate between singing and fiddling
      • Octave talking (play  phrase in the lower octave, then the higher octave)
      • Play like a whisper
  • Transpose to C Major, lower octave
    • Same fingering as G Major upper octave, start on D3 instead of A3
  • Challenging: C upper octave
    • You’ll need to slide the fourth finger on e string up to second position to hit the high C
    • Cheat for bars 2, 11: E4(B)-4(C)-E4(B)

Sheet music and tabs

Try not to use this at first. Learn through call-and-response as I teach you each part in the practice journey video. Refer to this if you get stuck.



1st line: (D0-0)-G0-2-D0-0-3-2 | D1-0-G2-G0

2nd line: G1-1-1-0-2-D0-0

3rd line: (D0-0)-1-1-0-G2-3-D0-G2

4th line: (G0-1)-2-D0-0-G0-1-0


1st line: G1-1-1-0-2-D0-0*

2nd line: D3-2-1-1-1-0-G2-D0

3rd line: (D0-0)-1-1-0-G2-3-D0-G2

4th line: (G0-1)-G2-D0-0-G0-1-0

*I altered this slightly from the sheet music.


80 bpm


Sheet music

Lower octave – G Major

Leave Her Johnny Leave Her with fingering

Upper octave – G Major

C Major

Practice with a C drone:


Record a video of yourself playing the tune. See if you can do something a little different or fun with it:

  • Transpose to a different key
  • Pluck it
  • Tune/improv/tune
  • Alternate singing and playing
  • Dress up like a sailor or a pirate 🏴‍☠️ ⚓️
  • Dress your dog up like a sailor or a pirate 🏴‍☠️ ⚓️ (Warning: they’ll steal the show!)

Other versions

Return to Group Lessons Central >>

Return to Module 1.4 >>

Leave a Reply

14 responses to “Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her

  1. What a beautiful, haunting tune! Jason I’m loving your teaching style, and it’s really working for me to develop my playing by ear.
    I only subscribed about a week ago, and decided to work through from the beginning. When I pick up my fiddle and log in to fiddlehed each day, it’s like a gift to myself. It’s fun too, playing along with the drones and backing tracks.
    Just wondering if Leave Her Johnny will be available as a pdf? I’ve been collecting the pdf’s from the lessons as I work through as a back up reference.
    Thanks for all your work,

  2. I loved this lesson! And I love learning by ear and especially adding in the vocals! Really wonderful! The only problems I experienced had to do with my technology…..I was coming to the lessons for the first time with an iPad and the volume was not loud enough to overcome my own fiddle in my ear. The drone was too loud for me, likely because of the iPad volume problem. Because of this, the transpositions came too fast for me. I was always playing catch up. But the call and response to learning a tune by ear is wonderful. And this is such a wonderful tune!

    I look forward to more sea shanties. And the link you provided to the choir singing this song??? It was wonderful!

    Thanks again for a creative session. ~~Cindy

  3. It was a GREAT lesson learning by ear. I’m so glad I subscribed. The lessons work better for me then me learning completely on my own. I jam w/bluegrassers and am quick at playing by ear even for songs I don’t know, but those chop chords. UGH. Is it possible to add chords to your music sheets too? We did call & response games on instruments for fun when we were kids. It really helps develop you “ear.”

  4. I really enjoyed this lesson thanks Jason! I hadn’t realised how much I rewind the video though when learning a new tune. I think I have one part, move onto the next & then immediately forget the previous! Needless to say when I woke this morning I can’t remember any of it!! I’ll print the sheet music & write out the tabs & it’ll hopefully stick!

  5. I had fun with this lesson because it’s ‘live’ , the call and respnse is challenging and seems that playing is “off the cuff” – not knowing the tune at all. Was great to be a part of the making of a lesson ! Thanks, Jason