Mary had a little Lamb – Chords, Tabs and Sheet Music

mary had a little lamb

Mary had a little lamb is one of the most popular and well-known English nursery rhymes from the 19th century with its origin in the US. It’s actually a pretty nice song because it has a nice background story and teaches kids about moral. The song has a very catchy melody and is pretty easy to play on guitar. That’s why Mary had a little lamb is also so popular for music classes! In this free guitar lesson we will learn first about the origin and history of the song and then how to play it on guitar. There are many ways to play this song and we will start with a very easy version that requires only one string of your guitar! But we will also show you how to play the song with some basic guitar chords and offer you some free PDF printables that you can use for your practicing or lessons!

History and Origin of Mary had a little Lamb

The nursery rhyme has been written as a poem by Sara Josepha Hale and it has been first published in 1830. Just a bit after, Lowell Mason set the nursery rhyme to a melody adding repetition in the verses. And a little fun fact: Mary had a little lamb was the first audio recorded by Thomas Edison when he invented the phonograph in 1877, followed then by the second recoding of the famous traditional French song Au Clair de la Lune.

It’s likely that the author of the rhyme has been inspired by an actual event. And the real story starts even before where nursery rhyme begins. The nine-year-old Mary helped her dad on his farm where they discovered one day a sickly newborn lamb that had been abandoned by her mother. Mary wanted to take care of the lamb but her dad was not happy about this idea. After a lot of pleading, she was finally allowed to keep the lamb and was able to nurse the lamb back to health. And that’s why the lamb followed Mary everywhere where she went.

It’s said that the story of the nursery rhyme has been taken place at a small school in New Hampshire. Sara was working at that school and was surprised one morning that a little girl called Mary came to school with her pet lamb. The lamb couldn’t remain in the class room and had to wait outside. When Mary finished school, she went to her lamb outside and the lamb was running to Mary. The other young kids asked the teacher why the lamb loves Mary so much and she just replied because Mary loves the lamb. So, it’s about giving and taking, and mutuality.

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Easy Song Sheets designed for Kids
easy guitar songs for kids

Tabs for Mary had a little Lamb

There are many ways to play a song, from easy to advanced fingerstyle arrangements. But we want to concentrate on simple arrangements. We will explore both, fingerpicking the strings and strumming with chords. You will have the flexibility to choose the approach you prefer and learn your favorite version. However, all versions are worth experimenting with and guitar teachers may find it beneficial to start with the easiest version and progress to more advanced renditions.

1. Level: Playing only on One Guitar String

guitar playing on 1 string

So, we start with the fingerpicking version. For the first version we only need one guitar string because we find all music notes on one string! This is a pretty good exercise for beginners since they need to focus only on picking one string and moving only one finger of the left hand up and down on this string. At the same time we get more familiar with the notes of the string that we use. Push down the string with your index or middle finger of your left hand. Pluck the string with the thumb of your right hand.

How to read Guitar Tabs

Using horizontal lines as strings and numbers on those lines to represent the fret you should play, tablature gives us the guidance we need to start picking away at songs and their melodies. The strings are “upside-down”, meaning that the high sounding E is the highest line on your tablature. A zero (0) means you play the string open without any fingers on any frets. Learn more about reading guitar tabs!

Here are the tabs for Mary had a little lamb on one string:

Mary had a little Lamb - Guitar Tabs One String

Below is a recording of how it should sound. You can play along and if it’s too fast, just slow it down.

You can actually play the same pattern on any other guitar string as well. Try for example the 6th string (low E string) to have a pretty low version of Mary had a little lamb.

2. Level: Playing on several Guitar Strings

guitar 2 strings

The next level is to play the song on several string of your guitar. For the song Mary had a little lamb it still remains easy because we just need two string! This is actually also much more common and efficient. The big advantage is that you don’t need to move your left hand too much along the neck of the guitar. Of course, you now have to use several fingers and pluck different strings, but this is an excellent exercise.

Here are the tabs for playing the nursery rhyme on the first two strings:

Mary had a little Lamb - Guitar Tabs

Again, you can listen to the recording to check your playing and see how it should sound.

Chords for Mary had a little Lamb

Fingerpicking is a pretty good exercise on the guitar and it’s beginner-friendly way to get familiar with the melody of a song. But if you want to sing and play at the same time the song then you should try playing it with guitar chords. You can find different ways to play this song by chords but we want to start with an easy version. This means we are using basic guitar chords and the key of G, which is also easy to sing for most of the people.

The chords that you need for Mary had a little lamb are the chords G and C.

G Chord Guitar
C Chord Guitar

If you already master these two chords and changing between both chords is not a big deal for you, you are good to go! If not, practice first the two chords individually and try to play the sequence G-C with simple down strums.

As a beginner we should always start playing a new song slowly. So, for each chord change we make at first just a simple down strum. This gives us enough time for changing between the chords without worrying too much about any strumming pattern. Also, singing is much easier in the beginning if you just do one down strum on every chord change. Once you master it, you can apply a strumming pattern.

CMary had a little lamb,
Glittle lamb, Clittle lamb.
Mary had a little lamb
Gwhose fleece was white as sCnow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
GMary went, CMary went.
Everywhere that Mary went,
the Glamb was sure to Cgo.


2. He followed her to school one day,
school one day, school one day.
He followed her to school one day
which was against the rules.

3. It made the children laugh and play,
laugh and play, laugh and play.
It made the children laugh and play
to see a lamb at school.

4. And so the teacher turned it out,
turned it out, turned it out
and so the teacher turned it out
but still it lingered near.


5. He waited patiently about,
patiently about, patiently about.
He waited patiently about,
till Mary did appear.

6. “Why does the lamb love Mary so?
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
the eager children cried.

7. “Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,
the lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,
Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
The teacher did reply.

Sheet Music with Notes for Mary had a little Lamb

If you are not a beginner and you know how to play the guitar and understand music theory, then you probably know how to read sheet music as well! It provides you the most important of a musical piece, the pitches, rhythms and music notes. Even if you don’t know how to read sheet music or you want to teach it during your classes then easy nursery rhymes like Mary had a little Lamb are perfect exercise.

Mary had a little Lamb - Guitar Sheet Music

Free PDF Printables for Mary had a little Lamb

Feel free to download the Chords, Tabs and Sheet Music for free as a PDF for practicing or for your guitar lesson!

Mary had a little Lamb - Guitar Free PDF Download

Interested in instruments other than the guitar? You can also find a free lesson on how to play Mary had a Little Lamb on the piano or recorder.

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