Old MacDonald Had a Farm – Chords, Tabs and Sheet Music

old mac donald had a farm guitar

Old MacDonald had a farm is one of the most popular children’s songs. The lyrics are easy to remember and very catchy. It’s a great nursery rhyme to build activities on. The song is about a farmer called Old MacDonald and his many animals that he keeps on his farm. Why is this song so much fun for children to sing? Because each verse of the song changes the name of the animal and its respective noise. In this free guitar lesson we will learn about the origin and history of this nursery rhyme and how to play it. There are many ways to play this song and we will start with a very simple version that requires only one string of your guitar! But we will also show you how to play Old MacDonald with some basic guitar chords and provide you free PDF downloads like the sheet music for your practicing or lessons!

History and Origin of Old MacDonald

The writer and the origin of the song is not known. It has been published the first time in a soldier’s song book called “Tommy Tunes” in 1917, a collection of world war I era songs. The song had the title “Ohi” and the lyrics were very similar to the version we know today. However, the nursery rhyme has to be older than that. References to earlier versions of the song have been found and it has been even published in the UK before. There are indices that a song, which is quite similar to the Old MacDonald had a farm, has been used in operas in the 17th century.

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Make Playing Guitar more Fun!
Easy Song Sheets designed for Kids
easy guitar songs for kids

Tabs for Old MacDonald had a Farm

There are many different ways to play a song, from simple to more advanced fingerstyle arrangements. Our main focus will be on simple arrangements, but we will also explore a variety of playing techniques. We’ll look at both fingerpicking the strings and strumming with chords. You will have the flexibility to choose the approach you prefer and learn that particular 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. Since we find all the needed music notes for Old MacDonald had a Farm on one string, we can learn this version first. This is a very good exercise for beginners since they have to focus only on picking one string and moving only one finger of the left hand up and down on this string. We also 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.

Here are the tabs for Old MacDonald had a Farm on one string:

Old MacDonald - 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 string as well. Try for example the 6th string (low E string) to have a pretty low version of Old MacDonald had a Farm.

2. Level: Playing on several Guitar Strings

guitar 3 strings

Let’s play the song now by using more than one string. This is actually also much more common and efficient. The advantage here is that you don’t have 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 a very good exercise and you will get used to it!

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

Old MacDonald - Guitar Tabs

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

Chords for Old MacDonald had a Farm

Fingerpicking is a very 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 simultaneously the song then you should play guitar chords. And here again, you can find many 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 a key, which is also easy to sing for most of the people.

The chords that you need for Old MacDonald are the basic chords G, C and D.

G Chord Guitar
C Chord Guitar
D Chord Guitar

If you are already familiar with these chords and you know how to play them and changing between them is no big challenge for you, then you are good to go. If not, practice first the chords individually and try to play the sequence G-C-D with simple down strums.

As a beginner we should start playing a new song slowly. So, for every chord change we make at first just a down strum. This gives us enough time for changing between chords without worrying too much about strumming. 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.

GOld MacDonald Chad a Gfarm. E – I –D E – I –G O.
And on this farm he Chad some cGhicks.D E – I – E – I –G O.
With a cGhick, chick, here, and a chick, chick there.
GHere a chick, there a chick, everywhere a chick, chick.
GOld MacDonald Chad a Gfarm. E – I –D E – I –G O.

Sheet Music with Notes for Old MacDonald

Sheet Music is the language of music. It defines the pitches, rhythms and music notes of a song. However, sheet music is nothing for a new beginner because it requires some knowledge and learning in order to read it. That’s why guitar tabs or lyrics with chords are used for kids and beginners. But, it’s worth learning reading sheet music and if you know how to read them, then playing Old MacDonald had a Farm with the music notes is the right way!

Old MacDonald - Guitar Sheet Music

Free PDF Printables for Old MacDonald

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

Old MacDonald - Guitar Free Download

Interested in instruments other than the piano? You can also find a free lesson on how to play Old MacDonald had a Farm on the piano.

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