Learn how to play a metal version of the Wellerman sea shanty

19th century schooner
(Image credit: Greg Pease / Getty)

Now, admittedly, we can’t imagine that guitar, amp and pedalboard featured too highly in most 19th century sailors’ luggage – we’ll concede that. 

Still, we’re not going to let that stop us from plugging in and rocking out with our own version of Wellerman, the 150+ year-old sea shanty which recently became Nathan Evans’ sensational viral TikTok hit and number one single in the UK chart. 

An unlikely and unfathomable new trend it may be, but this traditional tune has endured thanks to its strong, instantly memorable melody line. As with What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor or a trad. folk tune like The Wild Rover, one listen to Wellerman and it’s in your head for good! 

So, here we present our own version of this traditional tune. There are only two four-bar sections to learn, but we’ve let rip during the last eight bars to give you some ideas for your own version, and tabbed it all out for you. 

(Image credit: Future / Charlie Griffiths)

The main Wellerman tune is made of two four-bar sections (bars 1-4 and 5-8 here), so work on those parts primarily. We’ve written another eight bars of music, taking the melody higher up the fretboard and adding a few flourishes. 

Learn the bare bones of the melody, have a go at our shreddier licks, then try making up your own version.

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Charlie Griffiths

Charlie Griffiths plays guitar in acclaimed prog-metal outfit Haken, and has a wealth of experience handling corporate and session gigs for genres as diverse as rock, heavy metal and pop. He has been a regular contributor to Total Guitar, Guitar Techniques, and Guitar World for over a decade, and released his debut solo album Tiktaalika in 2022.