Brian Hefferan – Sailor’s Hornpipe

Brian Hefferan – Sailor’s Hornpipe (Tab)

Oh, the long, lonesome nights spent at sea blowing the sailor’s hornpipe.

Brian Hefferan (of The Fabulous Heftones) has for the last few months been uploading some staggering finger-picking uke pieces on YouTube. I couldn’t resist trying to work some of them out. Here, with the help of the man himself, is the first tab.

What I enjoy most about his playing is the way he takes full advantage of the re-entrant tuning of the uke. He plays with great economy in his left hand and seems to be able to produce a barrage of notes without moving his fingers at all. This allows notes to ring into each other producing a harp like effect which is particularly striking when used to create a cascading sound such as in bar 4 of this piece. This bar could have been played in a linear fashion such as this but would sound comparatively thin.

Don’t be too dejected if you find this tab too difficult to play, even Brian himself describes the YouTube version as being, “pretty much impossible for me to play cleanly.” He suggests a couple of variations which make this song easier to play – very important if you’re playing live rather than recording. The first is for a twelve fret uke with a slight adjustment in bar two:


Here’s another subtle variation of bar 2:


It is this version that Brian usually plays on his extended fretboard ukes.

Discussing these variations with Brian has been very interesting to me. He says that, “To me, finding the right fingerings can really make it easier to get a smooth sound and good speed,” and I entirely agree with him. In tabbing this piece I tried a number of ways playing the phrases and have settled on a way of playing it different to any of these mentioned so far.

One of the beauties of the uke is the huge range of possible variations of playing the same notes. I’d recommend with any piece of tab you try out new ways of playing it to see which suit your style and fit under your fingers.


Many thanks to Brian for his help in putting this together.

View Comments


  1. Uke Hunt » Popeye the Sailor Man July 26th, 2007 5:36 pm

    […] can mix it up with this tune and everyone who hears it will instantly fall in love with […]

  2. Uke Hunt » Gilligan’s Island Theme August 22nd, 2007 8:12 pm

    […] There are many American shows I know only by their parodies on other American shows. The Captain and Tennille, Laverne and Shirley and Gilligan’s Island: I’ve sat, stone-faced, through parodies of them all. So when I was asked to tab out the intro to Gilligan’s Island I was a little reticent. Until I heard it and realised it contained a snippet of one of my favourite tunes to play on the ukulele. […]

  3. elvira August 18th, 2009 8:19 am

    it fantastic!!! great man!!!

  4. Woodshed August 19th, 2009 10:59 am

    elvira: Yeah, Brian’s an excellent arranger and player. He doesn’t put up videos as often as he used to. But when he does they’re well worth watching.

  5. Ward-alele January 13th, 2011 7:38 pm

    great tab, the guy looks awesome. cant get the cascading bit quite right but he makes it look really pish. any tips?

  6. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 10:46 am

    Ward-alele: Lots of practice.

  7. Popeye March 9th, 2012 5:23 pm

    Thanks rrrr for playin’ me song argh! argh! argh!

    Miss Oil is sick of hearing it, but not me……….

  8. Woodshed March 12th, 2012 6:44 am

    Popeye: Hahaha!

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