What Is a Sea Shanty?
Shanties are the work songs that were used on the square-rigged ships of the Age of Sail. Their rhythms coordinated the efforts of many sailors hauling on lines. Much loved by modern sailors and folk musicians, they are rarely used as work songs today. This is because modern rigging doesn't require many people to be working in the same rhythm for long periods.
Traditional shanties can be grouped into three types: short haul shanties, for tasks requiring quick pulls over a relatively short time; halyard shanties, for heavier work requiring more setup time between pulls; and capstan shanties, for long, repetitive tasks requiring a sustained rhythm, but not involving working the lines.