Yankee Doodle – Chords, Tabs and Sheet Music

yankee doodle nursery rhyme

Yankee Doodle is a well-known American nursery rhyme and patriotic song with a catchy melody that has become a symbol of the American spirit. Let’s learn in this free guitar lesson at first some facts about the origin and history of Yankee Doodle and then how to play it on guitar. There are different ways to play this song but we will start with a very easy version that requires only one string of your guitar! But don’t worry, 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 Yankee Doodle

The melody of Yankee Doodle is thought to be much older than the lyrics, as it is well known throughout Western Europe, for example England, France, the Netherlands, Hungary, etc. The melody of the song may have originated from the Irish song, “All the way to Galway”.

The term “Yankee” refers typically to a person from the Northeastern United States. Outside the US, the term is sometimes used for the people of the United States in general. The term “Doodle” is thought to be derived from the Low German “Dudel”, meaning “to play music badly”, or “Dödel”, meaning “fool”. The song was originally sung by British officers to make fun of the disheveled, disorganized colonial “Yankees” with whom they had served in the French and Indian War.

But over the years, “Yankee Doodle” has evolved and become a symbol of American patriotism, often sung at celebrations and events to express national pride. The simple and lively melody, combined with its historical significance, has made “Yankee Doodle” a timeless popular traditional song and nursery rhyme.

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Tabs for Yankee Doodle

Let’s start with a fingerpicking version of the song. And we start with a very easy version where we only use one string before we move on to a more advanced version. Fingerpicking is a good exercise for beginners since you get familiar with the melody note by note. But don’t worry, we will also teach you a version with chords that is perfect to play when you sing along the nursery rhyme.

1. Level: Playing only on One Guitar String

guitar playing on 1 string

Many songs can actually be played on just one string! The song will sound pretty basic but you will recognize the melody immediately. For the first fingerpicking version of Yankee Doodle we will use just one string of the guitar! This is especially easy for beginners since they only have to focus on picking one string and moving one finger of the left hand up and down on this string. At the same time beginners get a good idea of the different notes of the string. So, let’s push down the string with the index or middle finger of our left hand. Then, pluck the string with the thumb of your right hand.

Here are the tabs for Yankee Doodle on one string:

Yankee Doodle - 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 the song.

2. Level: Playing on several Guitar Strings

guitar middle strings playing

The next step is to play the song on more than just one string. You have probably already noticed that we went quite up the guitar neck to get all the notes for the melody if we just use one string. That’s why playing a melody on several guitar strings is much more common and efficient because we don’t need to move our left hand too much along the neck of the guitar. Sure, you now have to use several fingers and pluck different strings, which might be a bit challenging for beginners but it’s good exercise!

Here are the tabs for playing the nursery rhyme on several strings:

Yankee Doodle - Guitar Tabs

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

Chords and Lyrics for Yankee Doodle

You can also play the song by using chords and strumming. This is a very common way to play a song if you want to sing along. You only need 3 basic chords, which many beginners know and which are also used for many other nursery rhymes on the guitar. It is often played in the key of G and here you will need the chords G, D and C. Often only the first verse and chorus are sung and played but the song has more than 10 verses! If you want to play them all, you can find the whole lyrics on Wikipedia.

G Chord Guitar
D Chord Guitar
C Chord Guitar

If you already master the G, D and C chord and know how to change between them it will be no big deal for to play the song! If not, practice first these three basic guitar chords individually and try to play the sequence G-C-D with simple down strums.

Beginners should always play new songs very slowly in the beginning until they get a feeling for it. So, just do a simple down strum on every chord change is sufficient. It gives you enough time for changing between the new chords without worrying too much about a strumming pattern. Same applies when it comes to singing, it is much easier to sing along while playing if you just do one down strum on every chord change. Once you master it, you can apply a strumming pattern.


GYankee Doodle went to Dtown
a-Griding on a poDny,
Gstuck a feather Cin his cap
and Dcalled it macaGroni.

Chorus:
CYankee Doodle keep it up,
GYankee Doodle dandy,
Cmind the music and the step,
and Gwith the Dgirls be Ghandy.


Sheet Music for Yankee Doodle

Sheet music combines all the information of a piece of music. It provides you the pitches, rhythms and music notes. It’s harder to read then guitar tabs but it’s worth learning to read sheet music. And nursery rhymes like Yankee Doodle are perfect for the start because they are and so is the sheet music of this song.

Yankee Doodle - Guitar Sheet Music

Free PDF Printables for Yankee Doodle

You can also download chord version, guitar tabs and sheet music free as a PDF to print out and use in class or at home for practicing.

Yankee Doodle - Guitar Free PDF Download

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