How to play Greensleeves: Beginner Piano



Hi all!

Today on pianoTV, we’re going to learn how to play Greensleeves, a good ol’ classic from the 16th Century. In today’s video we delve deeper into syncopated pedaling, and use a broken chord pattern in the left hand. Enjoy!

How to play Greensleeves: Sheet Music

Sheet Music for Greensleeves

And in case you missed it, here’s the video on syncopated pedaling, an important precursor to today’s video.

Greensleeves – Backstory

Greensleeves has been around for a long time – since the 16th century at least. In Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, written around 1600, Greensleeves is mentioned several times, implying that even then it was a well-known tune.

The version many of us now know is associated with Christmas, since as early as the 1700s this tune has been associated with Christmas music and lyrics, most famously in “What Child is This”.

Using the Damper pedal

Hopefully you’ve built up a little bit of pedaling know-how by now, because sometimes arrangers get lazy and instead of putting in those handy pedal marks, they just write “con pedale”, Italian for ‘with pedal’.

If a piece of music says this, it basically means pedal in the normal way, which is syncopated pedaling from the last video. If you need the visual aid, feel free to print off the sheet music and draw in the pedal marking like so. Doodles on sheet music is highly encouraged!

Greensleeves learning points

    • Key signature: No sharps or flats, so that’s either the key of C major, OR it’s minor doppelganger, A minor. Here’s the video on how to tell the difference between them: Major and Minor Keys. So looking at this music, I think it’s pretty obvious right away – look at the first chord – Am. And the last chord, just to be safe, is also Am. So this tune is in the key of A minor.
    • Rhythm: This song uses the dotted quarter note/8th note team, which you can learn more details about in this video on the dotted quarter note. The least you need to know is that the dotted quarter note gets 1 and a half beats, and the following 8th note is playing on the last half of the second beat (in-between the LH quarter notes).

A note on chords in Greensleeves

One last note, and this is about chords. Sometimes your chord symbol will be slashed with another letter, like this:


All this means is you’re playing the A minor chord as usual, but instead of playing it in this order, A – C – E, you play it in this order instead, C – E – A, with C as your bottom note. So it’s like saying A minor with a C on the bottom.


Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on how to play Greensleeves – it’s a great tune (especially around Christmas), and is a good way to practice chords and the syncopated pedal technique.



Allysia has been teaching piano in Canada for nearly a decade, and has her Grade 10 RCM certificate. She especially enjoys nerding out to music history and theory. When she’s not making videos or teaching, she’s reading, writing, and jamming in a rock band.

2 thoughts on “How to play Greensleeves: Beginner Piano

  1. Pingback: How to use the Damper Pedal, part 2: Syncopated Pedal

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