Sea Shanty in E Aeolian - Beginner
Module 1.10

Here’s a lesson on The Wellerman to guide you on your fiddle journey. Arrr.


Here’s a sort performance of the song.


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Learning chunks 


Warm up by playing the E Minor Scale: D1-2-3-A0-1-L2-3-E0

Use this drone track to practice the scale at your own pace.

Learning The Wellerman

Here’s a routine to help you learn this and any song.

Listen to the first Chunk. 

There once was a ship that set to sea,

Then Sing it on your own.

Next, play the first note: D0

Then Chain the first two: D0-1

Keep chaining until you have the first musical Chunk

Subtitle: D0-1-1-1-1-3-A1-1-1

Go slow, allowing the fingers to easily reach their destination.

Then Loop on that Chunk until it flows. 

Repeat the process for other chunks.

Then Chain the Chunks into bigger sections until you have the whole song.


Further learning

If you liked this lesson, you may also like these sea shanties:

Other versions

Song history

“The Wellerman” originates from the early 19th century, specifically from New Zealand. It was sung by the whalers of the time, and its name refers to the Weller Brothers’ whaling station, which operated out of Otago, a coastal region on the South Island. The song tells the story of a whaling ship’s crew battling a “right whale” and eagerly awaiting supplies from a “Wellerman,” a supply ship owned by the Weller Brothers.

The song’s repetitive, catchy chorus and rhythmic verses encapsulate the camaraderie, hopes, and struggles of the whaling crews. In recent times, “The Wellerman” gained renewed popularity through social media, introducing a new generation to the rich heritage of sea shanties and their role in the maritime history of the Pacific.


Audio loops 🔈

70 bpm

This alternates between fiddle melody and vocal with fiddle chords.


Use this once you learn the tune to test your skills and learn it more deeply.

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Jam Mix – 70 BPM

This alternates between the melody and chords (without fiddle). Use the chord sections to practice the basic melody, vocals, chords, variations or improv.

Just Backup

Use this to freely practice the song once you learn it.


There once was a ship that put to seaThe name of the ship was the Billy O’ TeaThe winds blew up, her bow dipped downOh blow, my bully boys, blow (huh)
Soon may the Wellerman comeTo bring us sugar and tea and rumOne day, when the tonguing is doneWe’ll take our leave and go

Sheet music 🎶

Here’s a learning version with finger notation, brackets, and color-coded repeating patterns.

Here’s a “performance” pdf without finger notation but with chords. Use this to practice reading sheet music or chord backup.

Sheet music video

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