In today’s video, we look at my heritage (not that I have specific boating heritage, being from the dry Canadian prairies and all) with this awesome but not oft-played tune. Consider it a lesson in culture! 🙂

Sheet music for Canadian Boat Song

Sheet Music for Canadian Boat Song – my piano arrangement

canadian boat song

Canadian Boat Song by Thomas Moore, vocal arrangement

Canadian Boat Song – Backstory

Canadian Boat Song might has Gaelic origins, and first appeared on record in the 19th century. It’s unknown who composed it, but what we do know is that Canadian voyagers sang it as they traveled on the St Lawrence River, from Ottawa to Montreal, and as far as Lake Superior at Thunder Bay. As you’ll see, the piece was written in 6/8, like boat songs around the world, because it’s got this rowing, rocking motion to it.

when to attempt this piece

So I labeled this as beginner piano, but it’s really not simple, and I recommend somewhere between 3-6 months of practice before attempting this one. The RH is highly decorated with thirds and sixths for harmony. If that is too difficult for you, you can learn it playing just the top notes, and save the harmony for a later time.

Learning points for Canadian Boat Song

    • Key Signature: There are three sharps in this piece. That’s a lot of sharps. This is indicative of the key of A major, but we’ll talk about that more in the next video (A major scale).
    • Italian: Andante, which we’ve talked about before and literally means walking speed. Or in this case, rowing speed.

Two note slurs

There are plenty of two note slurs in this piece. If you missed our discussion on how to play those, check out this video here: How to play two note slurs. They’re going to have that drop-rise effect, where the first note is played in a weighty way, and the second note is lighter and shorter.

It’s all about the details

Watch for the slurs, and importantly, the breaks between them. It takes practice to keep thirds sounding smooth, and even more practice to lift between breaks in the slur.

In the first line. You have some two-note slurs which require a drop-lift action. Since each third shares a note, the best way to make this sound smooth is to hold the E down right until the chord switches, because the C# is repeated in both, and you have to lift between them. This will make sense if you’re looking at the sheet music, or watching the video.

Getting the breaks between slurs isn’t too difficult if you follow the finger numbers correctly, because when you reposition your hand, you will naturally have to lift. The simple rhythm in the left hand 123—456 helps drive the 6/8 rhythm, and isn’t too much trouble to incorporate with the RH – but do make sure you’re comfortable with the RH first.


I know I say this a lot, but this piece is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Depending on your practice habits, you could expect it to take between two weeks to a month to fully polish.



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