A sea shanty
, also spelled chantey
, is a work song
used by sailor
s to set a consistent rhythm
when working on the rigging
. While they are still a popular form of folk music
, they are not often used for their original purpose any more; modern sails don’t require so many people working in unison, so a song to keep everyone together isn’t needed.
Among traditional shanties there are three types: short haul shanties are used for short tasks and, surprisingly, short hauls; halyard shanties are used for longer tasks which require more set-up time between pulls; and capstan shanties are used for long, repetitive tasks which don’t necessarily involve the rigging.
Shanties are great songs to sing in groups, especially since many can be done as rounds. As an added bonus, since they were designed to be sung by big, tough sailors who were busy lifting, carrying, pulling, etc., you don’t need to be a virtuoso to sing them.